Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Truth About Saddleback's Convictions

Rick Warren is posting a two-part article on the "12 Saddleback Convictions about Worship" at Christian Post.com. Due to the popularity of this man and what I see as errors in his theology of worship I feel compelled to point some of them out. I don't want to be overly critical, but sometimes it is necessary to make a point.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get past the first paragraph where he states:

Jesus’ ministry attracted enormous crowds. The Bible tells us that crowds followed him wherever he went. I believe that a Christ-like ministry still attracts crowds today. You don’t need gimmicks. You don’t need to compromise your convictions. You don’t need to water down your message. If you minister to people the way Jesus did, they’ll want to be around your ministry like they did his.
While it is true that Jesus attracted great crowds it is not a fair comparison to modern day worship for a few reasons: 1) Jesus was not holding worship services. Jesus was preaching the gospel of the kingdom calling people to repentance. Worship services today are just that, they are an opportunity for the believers to assemble and worship. The primary motive of the assembling of the believers is not to evangelize, but to worship 2) Jesus often attracted crowds by His performing of miracles, something which we do not see today in worship services at Saddleback. 3) Jesus also attracted people because of His powerful message and claim to be the Messiah. Many people were attracted to Him, because of what they thought He could do for them (i.e. after the feeding of the 5,000).

However, with points 1-5 in the article I won't nit-pick. It is accurate that to say that only believers can worship God, you don't need a building to worship, there is no correct style of worship - I would like to hear him elaborate more on this, unbelievers can watch believers worship, and worship is a powerful witness to unbelievers.

I do wonder why he uses multiple translations to communicate what HE wants to say. Some of the translations he uses are not translations at all, but are paraphrases. And what preacher has time to reference 50 translations to find the translation of a verse he wants to use? In the article on the first 6 convictions he quotes from the HCSB, NAS, TLB, and the NIV.

But conviction #6 is where I must take issue. Warren says, "God expects us to be sensitive to the fears, hang-ups, and the needs of unbelievers when they are present in our worship services." In which translation did he find that?? Where in the Bible does God say He expects believers in their worship of Him to be sensitive to the fears, hang-ups, and needs of unbelievers when they are present in a worship service?

His quote of Colossians 4:5 is only a partial quote of the verse. The verse is not speaking at all about our worship services, but of our testimony and usage of time in making Christ known. I didn't read in Acts, which Warren referred to in his article, where the early Church was sensitive to the unbelievers at Pentecost. Quite the contrary! They called on them to repent. Peter preached to them how they murdered their long-awaited Messiah! That is not being sensitive. That is preaching the Truth!

The only regard that I can see in Scripture for unbelievers in a worship service is to call them to repentance. Not to seek to be sensitive to them, and water down the truth so they don't feel uncomfortable.

Warren states at the end of his article, "Whenever you hear people talk about being sensitive to unbelievers, that is not watering down the gospel. It’s called love. You’re just being nice to them." What? How are you being loving to an unbeliever if you alter your worship service and tone down the Truth of the gospel? How are you being nice to them if you don't tell them they are a sinner and need to repent? To alter our worship and tone down the message is not love, it is damning! Of course we need to be loving and show the love of Christ, but that doesn't mean we alter our worship or gospel proclamation. To do so is to be offensive to God!

God is the focus of our worship. Therefore any change in our worship to Him, because of the presence of an unbelieving visitor is to make the visitor the object of worship and not God Himself!