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The Purpose Driven Life

Part I... Introduction, The Purpose and Reinvention of PDL, and Why 40 Days?

Carol Brooks

Also See Seeker Friendly, Church Growth Failures in The Bible


    You Are Here 001orange PART I... Introduction to Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life, which is alive, well, and being reinvented for a whole new generation. So what is the Purpose Driven Life about, and why 40 days?

PART II... Who is The Purpose-Driven Life's target audience? A shallow incomplete gospel that cannot save. Theology that falls somewhere between determinism and free will. A plethora of questionable Bible versions that actually alter the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek text.

PART III... Some of the problems in Chapters 1-10

PART IV... Some of the problems in Chapters 11-20.

Part V... Chapter 21 (unity at all cost) and Saddleback’s Member Covenant

Part VI... Some of the problems in Chapters 25-40

Part VII... Quoting Some Highly Questionable Authors, The Catholic Mystics, Contemplative Prayer, and The Four Temperaments. Oh yes! And lets not forget the introduction to a well known New Age leader.

Part VIII .... Summary and Conclusion. What you will find in PDL is a wide variety of, potentially, very destructive people, ideas, and practices, and the deliberate and blatant twisting of Biblical text taken to a whole new level. On the other hand, any mention of repentance, discernment, and holiness are glaringly absent from a book that claims to be the "Windows system of the 21st-century church."


An Introduction To Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life
PDL is Alive, Well, and Being Reinvented
So What is The Purpose Driven Life About?
Did God Really Take 40 Days To Prepare Someone For His Purposes?

Introduction... Rick Warren
Virtually all Christians have heard of Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback, a Southern Baptist Church in Lake Forest, California. What many may not realize is that Saddleback Church, rose from it's humble beginnings in 1980 with just one family (that of his real-estate agent), to being one of the nation's largest congregations...  a mega-church "averaging 22,000 weekly attendees, a 120-acre campus", with "more than 300 community ministries to groups such as prisoners, CEOs, addicts, single parents, and those with HIV/AIDS" [1]. It is also said to have "an annual budget of $19 million" and 330 people on it's payroll [2]

Wearing two hats, Rick Warren is not only known as a theologian, but a "global strategist"

    As a global strategist, Dr. Warren advises leaders in the public, private, and faith sectors on leadership development, poverty, health, education, and faith in culture. He has been invited to speak at the United Nations, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the African Union, the Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, TIME’s Global Health Summit, and numerous congresses around the world. TIME magazine named him one of "15 World Leaders Who Mattered Most in 2004" and in 2005 one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” Also, in 2005 U.S. News & World Report named him one of "America's 25 Best Leaders.”

    As a theologian, Dr. Warren has lectured at Oxford, Cambridge, the University of Judaism, the Evangelical Theological Society, and numerous seminaries and universities [1]

Purpose Driven

Rick Warren, who is often called "America's most influential spiritual leader" and "America's Pastor", catapulted into the national spotlight with the publication of two books.

    The first, The Purpose-Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission was first published in 1995, and quickly became very popular with church leaders, since it addressed, and offered a possible solution to a large problem faced by many churches today.... lack of growth. The book outlined the principles used by Rick Warren to establish and expand his church, and suggests that these same principles will lead other churches out of stagnation. In other words The Purpose Driven Church is a manual for church growth.

    Rick Warren's second book, The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? (often referred to in this article as PDL) was first published in late 2002.The book which is divided into 40 chapters, takes the reader through a 40 day 'spiritual journey' designed to explain the five purposes of a Christian's life. Rick Warren believes everyone has a purpose in life; it is up to each person to find, and pursue, that purpose. The Purpose Driven Life is primarily used as a study guide for small church groups (often assisted by small group study guide called 40 Days of Purpose) regardless of whether the church is denominational, or non-denominational.

There is no question that Rick Warren is tremendously influential, but unlike the tele-evangelists, he does not focus on directly reaching a vast audience. Instead he works with pastors from all over the country (and even some from other parts of the world), all too man, thousands of whom have implemented Warren's program of church growth in their own churches, and/or have carried his message of personal transformation to their congregations. According to His website, Rick Warren...

    "leads the Purpose Driven Network of churches, a global coalition of congregations in 162 countries. More than 400,000 ministers and priests have been trained worldwide, and almost 157,000 church leaders subscribe to the Ministry ToolBox, his weekly newsletter. His previous book, The Purpose Driven Church is listed in "100 Christian Books That Changed the 20th Century.” Forbes magazine called it "the best book on entrepreneur ship, management, and leadership in print.” [1]

Forbes Magazine. Really? the "best book on entrepreneur ship, management, and leadership in print"? Really?

Warren actually compares his message with the reformation, saying

    "The first Reformation clarified what the church believes--our message and doctrine. The current Reformation will clarify what the church does--our purpose and activities on earth."

Others not only seem to agree, but exhibit considerable devotion. Pastor Kelly Walter from Rockbrook Church, in Belton, Missouri has made the trip to Saddleback every year for the last decade, and has been quoted as saying "The place just oozes grace" [2]. He was a guest speaker at Saddleback as recently as 2009 [3]. In his words...

    "This is like being alive in the day of Martin Luther--and being able to meet him." [2]

Rick Warren is certainly not bashful about stating what he thinks the importance of the Purpose Driven Life is. A Christianity Today article quoted him as saying

    "Personal computers have brand names. But inside every pc is an Intel chip and an operating system, Windows. The Purpose Driven paradigm is the Intel chip for the 21st-century church and the Windows system of the 21st-century church." [4]

And, like Windows and the Intel chip, an updated version of The Purpose Driven Life is about to be released.

PDL is Alive,Well, and Being Reinvented
Judging by how many copies it sold, The Purpose Driven Life was immensely popular.

     According to a 2003 article in the Seattle Times, "Warren's philosophy has been officially embraced by an estimated 30,000 churches in America that now describe themselves as "purpose-driven." [2]

     A March 2007 ABC news report [5] stated that it had been translated into 56 languages, and had sold over 30 million copies in it's first five years.

     Rick Warren's website says it "has sold 25 million copies and is the best-selling hardback book in American history, according to Publisher’s Weekly" [1]).

     The Purpose Driven Life is also said to have been on the New York Times Best Seller list for advice books for one of the longest periods in history, topping both the Wall Street Journal best seller, and Publishers Weekly charts.

However, after more than a decade, I presumed that the church must have long moved on to it's next fad, and The Purpose Driven Life was more of a distant memory than an ongoing affair therefore, needed no time wasted on it. 

I couldn't have been more wrong. It was recently brought to my attention that, in January 2011, Thomas Nelson announced the 100 Best-selling Christian Books. As they said [Emphasis Added]

    Surprisingly high on the list is Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life (Zondervan), ranking 16th several years after the peak of its popularity. [Thomas Nelson announces 100 Best-selling Christian Books. [6]

So The Purpose Drive Life is still very popular and, apparently, selling very well.

Additionally, since it is painfully clear that we are living in the time that Paul spoke about in 2 Timothy 4:3, when people refuse to have anything to do with "sound doctrine", but "according to their own lusts" are heaping up for themselves teachers who will tickle their ears, I tend to view anything that is so immensely popular with a very wary eye. The fact that a Seattle Times article says both "Christian churches around the world" and "individual worshipers as well" see Rick Warren as a "spiritual superman" [2] (probably very largely true), does not give me a very warm feeling. Nor does the fact that it is warmly endorsed (back cover of the 2002 hardcover edition) by several well known Christian leaders, none of whose opinions I have very much faith in. 

    Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ, says this book is life-changing, and that Rick Warren is absolutely brilliant at explaining our real purpose on earth.

    Billy and Franklin Graham urge people to make sure they are not missing the point of their lives, and add that the Purpose-Driven Life will guide them to greatness.

    Max Lucado says that Rick warren as written a masterpiece of wise counsel, and that god can use these [Pg.s to place your feet firmly on the right path regardless of whether you are a seeker, a new believer, or a seasoned saint.

    Bruce Wilkinson, author of The Prayer Of Jabez, calls the book a "ground breaking manifesto" which was set millions of people free to lead the lives God intended.

In our day and time, discernment, and knowledge of what the Bible teaches, are both at an all time low in both pulpit and pew. Much of the modern church has deviated so far from what the Scriptures teach, that large swathes of it, cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, call itself "Christian". Not only is today's fad driven church pushing the tacky, the trashy, and the trivial, but the Gospel message has been virtually erased by a slew of demonic practices masquerading as Christian. [See The Contemporary Church... The Devil’s Playground]

However, there is more.

Expanded and Revised Version Due Out In The Fall of 2012
In a video on his site [7], Rick Warren says he wants to talk for a few minutes about how the listener can help his church be "stronger, healthier, more stable and experience exponential growth". He goes on to say that he is often asked what the single most important ingredient is in the growth of Saddleback Church... what the one thing is that made the biggest difference, a question that he answers very surely..... the power of the annual campaign.  So he began to think, and write down, all the things he has learned in the last ten years since they did 40 Days of Purpose. In his words.

    "Out of that began to emerge a whole new sermon series, a whole new small group curriculum, several new chapters for the revised and expanded version of A Purpose Driven Life, and a whole set of 42 individual messages to help people with the 42 chapters in the book".

The site says this "transformative" book "has been expanded and re-imagined with 2 new chapters, a new cover, and free online extras that address the crucial needs of a new generation". It also talks about the The What on Earth Am I Here For Campaign, which it says is...

    "..an all-new 6 session video & workbook teaching from Pastor Rick Warren. Inspired by the original Purpose Driven Life small group study, this all-new curriculum is designed to unite and ignite small groups in your Church.  The What on Earth Am I Here For? National Kickoff is February 3rd, 2013."

As Rick Warren says in the video "There's a whole new generation that needs to know the answer to what on earth am I here for".

And, as I see it, there is a whole new generation that is going to read, and follow, his 40 day program.

So What is The Purpose Driven Life About?

The goal of The Purpose Driven Life is to answer the question "What on earth am I here for?" [Pg. 15]. Since the question applies to both the believer and the unbeliever, it may, in part, explain the book's broad appeal.

An Editorial Review by a Gail Hudson on Amazon.com [8] says "The spiritual premise in The Purpose-Driven Life is that there are no accidents---God planned everything and everyone. Therefore, every human has a divine purpose, according to God's master plan". In other words, everyone has a purpose in life; it is up to each person to find, then pursue that purpose. In order to help people achieve that goal, Warren lays out a 40-day spiritual journey, during the course of which, individual Christians are encouraged to examine their lives and to take up the challenge to become more mature and Christ-like.

He also offers quite a bit for your $14.95. The opening chapter Getting The Most From This Book starts with the words

    "This is more than a book; it is a guide to a 40-day spiritual journey that will enable you to discover the answer to life's most important question: What on earth am I here for? By the end of this journey you will know God's purpose for your life and will understand the big picture -- how all the pieces of your life fit together. Having this perspective will reduce your stress, simplify your decisions, increase your satisfaction, and, most important, prepare you for eternity." [Pg. 9].

He goes on to say

    One reason most books don't transform us is that we are so eager to read the next chapter, we don't take the time to seriously consider what we have just read. We rush to the next truth without reflecting on what we have learned. (Pg. 10)

The book then lays out a step-by-step, 40-day plan by which a person can discover what God's purpose for their life is. Warren urges readers to read only a single chapter a day, so they have the time to think about it's implications for their lives, and reflect on what they have just learned. To further develop this process, each chapter ends with a point to ponder, a verse to remember, and a question to consider. Warren further suggests that readers interact with the book, underlining it and writing their own thoughts in the margins.

    "The next 40 days will transform your life." [Pg. 10].

40 Days?
But why 40 days? Because, Warren says that "The Bible is clear that God considers 40 days a spiritually significant time period. Whenever God wanted to prepare someone for his purposes, he took 40 days:

    Noah's life was transformed by 40 days of rain.

    Moses was transformed by 40 days on Mount Sinai.

    The spies were transformed by 40 days in the Promised Land.

    David was transformed by Goliath's 40-day challenge.

    The entire city of Nineveh was transformed when God gave the people 40 days to change.

    Jesus was empowered by 40 days in the wilderness.

    The disciples were transformed by 40 days with Jesus after his resurrection.

    The next 40 days will transform your life. [Pg.9]

While it is true that 40 days was, more than once, a significant period of time in the Scriptures, none of the examples above show that God took 40 days to prepare someone for His purposes. Rick Warren has taken every 40 day event in the Bible that he could find, and put his own spin on them, making it seem that, over and over again, people were somehow prepared, or transformed, in this particular number of days.

(As an aside, I wonder what we are to make of the fact that Genesis 50:2-3 tells us that the Egyptians used to take 40 days to embalm a body )

Warren's claim is made in an effort to convince the reader of how very Biblical, and therefore very important, the book is. Unfortunately, for the most part, it seems to have worked, since few seem to be aware of the exact circumstances of each of these 40 day periods. Here they are, but please read them with an open, word-for-word translation of the Bible in hand.

Noah: The forty days and forty nights of rain was judgment on the world, not a preparation period for Noah, who had already found favor in God's sight [Genesis 6:8] being, as Peter said, a preacher of righteousness. "If he (God) did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness and seven others.” (2 Peter 2:5). Additionally, Noah obeyed God and spent many years building the ark, then stocked, and populated it before the 40 day period. Now if Warren were to have said that everyone else's life was transformed by the 40 days of rain, he would have been far more accurate, since they all died. Moses merely waited out that time period.

Besides which, this was not the only time the number 40 was associated with judgment.

    Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, so that the LORD gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years. [Judges 13:1 NASB]

Moses: twice spent forty days and forty nights on Mt. Sinai. The first time he received the law [Exodus 24:18] and the instructions for the construction of the sanctuary [Exodus 25-31]. However, he broke the tablets when he saw the golden calf the Israelites had made and were worshipping [Exodus 32], and had to go back up the mountain so God could inscribe the tablets for a second time. The only transformation described in the Bible is when Moses descended from Mt. Sinai the second time, the skin of his face shone from speaking with God. [Exodus 34:29 NASB]. (On Page 222, Rick Warren says that God took 80 years to "prepare Moses", including forty in the wilderness).

The Spies: The spies did spend 40 days spying out the land of Canaan. However, we need to remember that of the 12 men who did so, only two, Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, believed that the Lord would bring them into this land that was flowing with milk and honey. The other ten spies said that the inhabitants of the land were too strong for them, and they would not be able to defeat them. In fact, the entire congregation of Israel was very inclined to stone Joshua and Caleb, so much so that the Lord once again lost patience with the people, threatened to smite them, and start all over again with Moses. [Numbers 13-14]

David: Goliath spent 40 days challenging the army of Israel to choose a man who would fight him, and if this man killed Goliath then the Philistines would become the servants of Israel, but if Goliath defeated his challenger, the situation would be reversed. David, who was not a warrior, but took care of his fathers sheep, was sent to take supplies to his older brothers who were in the army, and did not arrive at the scene until the end of the 40 days. It seems pretty apparent that he killed Goliath the same day he first heard the challenge. [1 Samuel 17].

Elijah: While there is no question that Elijah traveled forty days and forty nights to Mt. Horeb on the strength of a single meal provided by an angel, he was just as afraid and disheartened when he got to Horeb, as he had been before. The meal and the 40 days walk did nothing to change his despair...

    Pre-meal: But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers." [1 Kings 19:4 NASB]

    Post-meal: Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." [1 Kings 19:9-10 NASB]

It was only after the Lord spoke to Elijah and told him that victory would come to Hazael, Jehu and Elisha, and that he, Elijah was not alone, but there were 7000 in Israel that had not bowed the knee to Baal, that he took courage and set off to do what the Lord commanded, which was to anoint Hazael king over Aram; Jehu king over Israel; and Elisha prophet in his own place. [1Kings 19]

Nineveh: was given 40 days to repent or be destroyed. However, it certainly doesn't follow that they were 'transformed' over this period. The story simply tells us that the people of Nineveh believed what God said, called a fast and put on sackcloth. The king covered himself with sackcloth and issued a proclamation which instructed the people to turn away from violence and wickedness, and call earnestly on God that He would turn, relent, and withdraw His burning anger, so that they would not perish [Jonah 3]. There is absolutely no indication whether this happened on the first, the seventeenth, or the thirty ninth day after they heard God's ultimatum.

Jesus: Rick Warren says Jesus was "empowered" by 40 days in the wilderness. However, there is no indication of this. On the contrary, although Luke's account says that ” Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14), we know that the Spirit came upon Jesus at his baptism (John 1:32-34), not during the 40 day wilderness experience. So what was the 40 days in the wilderness about?

The Bible says that Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. There are both parallels and contrasts between the temptation of Jesus and that of Adam, so many centuries earlier. Adam's caving into Satan's lures introduced sin into the world, and started mankind's separation from God. Jesus' resistance to Satan's offers, at the very outset of His ministry was His first victory over Satan, which began opening the way for mankind to return to God. As said by Allen Ross of bible.org

    The introduction, the first couple of verses, tells us a couple of very significant things. First, that He (Jesus) was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. This is the same Spirit that just descended on Jesus at His baptism. Almost immediately this Spirit forces the temptation. This has to be given some careful thought. What it indicates is that it was the plan of God for Jesus to begin His ministry with this challenge--and that it was not the devil's doing. The devil was willing to tempt Jesus, to be sure; but it was the Spirit of God leading Jesus to it. The devil could tempt Jesus with every power he had, but he would not succeed. The temptation episode was God's way of showing that Jesus was the perfect man, that He could resist sin, that he could defeat Satan. [9]

The Disciples: There is no question that Jesus appeared to the disciples over a period of forty days, during which He spoke of the things concerning the kingdom of God.

However, the disciples were commanded to tarry at Jerusalem “for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4) which they did. Jesus Himself told them that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them; and they would be His "witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." [Acts 1:8 NASB]. They did not have long to wait. The coming of the Holy Spirit occurred on the next Jewish holiday when Jews from different countries came to be in Jerusalem to celebrate the completion of the harvest season. This annual feast was none other than Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, which came fifty days after the festival of First-fruits, which is when Jesus rose from the dead. In other words, it was on Shavuot or Pentecost that the disciples were transformed from timid, fearful men into bold preachers of the word. [See The Seven Feasts of Israel]

It is both conceited and foolhardy to insist that, because certain events in the Bible occurred over a period of 40 days, reading The Purpose Driven Life's 40 chapters, over 40 days, means that the book will transform your life.

Besides which, there have been a few really excellent books written by believers over the centuries, the best of which gave the reader a greater depth of understanding of, and insight into God's word. However, none of them ever were capable of "transforming" lives, a privilege that is reserved for the Scriptures alone. One has to wonder whether all the millions of people, who bought PDL and followed 40 day plan, have had their lives transformed.

Considering the extremely bad start PDL has gotten off to, I have to wonder if it can be considered even a passably good Christian book. I do know that, had I bought PDL as a Christian wishing to further my relationship with God, I would have, by this point in time, lost all faith that Rick Warren had any idea of what he was talking about, and would probably have relegated the book to the nearest re-cycle bin.  But, under the circumstances, my curiosity was piqued as to how much else was equally carelessly handled, misapplied, misquoted, and/or misused.

I didn't have very far to look.

Starting with the question of who The Purpose Driven Life is aimed at, and going on to why Warren uses so many Bible versions.

CONTINUE ON TO PART II... Who is The Purpose-Driven Life's target audience? A shallow incomplete gospel that cannot save. Theology that falls somewhere between determinism and free will. A plethora of questionable Bible versions that actually alter the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek text.



[1] http://www.rickwarren.com/about/rickwarren/

[2] William Lobdell (Los Angeles Times). Pastor with a purpose: Pragmatic look at faith draws critics, converts.

[3] http://www.purposedriven.com/mc/ms/94b0/

[4] Purpose Driven in Rwanda. Rick Warren's sweeping plan to defeat poverty. Christianity Today

[5] Rick Warren and Purpose-Driven Strife Pastor's Unconventional Approach Inspires Some, Alienates Others. By Martin Bashir And Deborah Apton. http://www.religionnewsblog.com/17672/rick-warren-and-purpose-driven-strife.
See video http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video?id=5245399

[6] http://www.christianretailing.com/index.php/newsletter/latest-etailing/22532-thomas-nelson-announces-100-best-selling-christian-books

[7] http://purposedriven.com

[8] http://www.amazon.com/Purpose-Driven-Life-Rick-Warren/dp/0310205719

[9] Allen Ross.The Temptation Of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11) From the Series: An Exposition of the Gospel of Matthew

Index To The Purpose Driven Life