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Seeker Friendly, Church Growth Failures in The Bible

Carol Brooks

Whether you know it or not you, like every other human on the face of this planet, have one overwhelming, stupendously important need - to be forgiven for the sins you have already been condemned for and released from the death sentence that you have already been sentenced to.


PART I - Churches Must Appeal To The Unchurched
People Rarely, If Ever, Realize What Their Most Crucial Need Is
Christianity Already Offers The Unbeliever "Something They Cannot Get Anywhere Else"

Churches Should Be Made As Attractive As Possible

Advertising Should Be Geared To The Unchurched

PART II - Jesus' Approach
Can "Anyone" Be Won To Christ?
Did Jesus' Really Start With People's "Felt Needs"?
What Do You Want Me To Do For You?

Jesus' Approach... As Related in The Gospels

Did The Early Apostles Start With People's "Felt Needs"?

Church Growth Failures in The Old Testament

Was The Gospel First Preached Only To The Jews Strategic Evangelism as Rick Warren Says?
Or Was It The Privilege of the Firstborn?

If Warren's Theory Is Right Jesus' 'Strategy' Failed Miserably

 Summary and Conclusion

PART I - Churches Must Appeal To The Unchurched

In his mega-seller book The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren makes several statements centered around his belief that churches must appeal to the "felt needs" of the unchurched (the assumption being that anyone unchurched is an unbeliever). He maintains that offering them something they cannot get anywhere is an important part of winning them to Christ.  To that end churches must be made as attractive as possible, the unregenerate should be made to feel comfortable, and church "advertising" must be written from a non-believer's viewpoint.

 Warren claims these ideas are straight out of the New Testament which he says he has read "over and over"...

    "... studying it with 'church-growth eyes,' searching for principles, patterns, and procedures. The New Testament is the greatest church-growth book ever written. For the things that really matter, you can't improve on it. It's the owner's manual for the church.. [01]

Therefore the secret to effective evangelism is to " not only share Christ's message but to follow his methodology". According to him, Jesus modeled timeless principles of evangelism that will still work today if only we would apply them.

And what are these timeless principles?

According to Warren, Jesus' approach to preaching was to first "establish a beachhead for evangelism", often by asking the person what He could do for them then meeting all their needs, including physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial.

Give or take, this is pretty much the viewpoint of seeker friendly churches everywhere. But is this true?

The answer is a short one.. It is not.

I have no idea what book Rick Warren was reading with the words "New Testament" printed on the cover because most 'seeker friendly' ideas (including his)  are as far from New Testament methodology as heaven is from earth.

For example, the number of times Jesus asked someone what He could do for them has been wildly exaggerated. Jesus certainly healed people but, as an objective reading of the Gospels will show, He never ever began with anyone's "felt needs". Much to the contrary from the very outset of the conversation He almost always emphasized the cost of discipleship something that often caused people to walk away and even provoked rage. And, as this article shows, the New Testament authors followed suit.

 However, in regards to "felt needs" I have an observation which is that...

People Rarely (If Ever) Realize What Their Most Crucial Need Is
In summary the "felt needs" of the unregenerate is the determining factor in what the church does and says. This means the church is expending time and energy in order to attend to people's self-perceived needs.

The problem being that if they haven't actually murdered anyone most people believe themselves to be "good" people who will eventually get to Heaven. Thus they do not consider themselves in need of salvation, or a Savior. In light of which hearing the Gospel is not usually anyone's "felt need".

Most do not realize that they have one overwhelmingly need that surpasses all others and that is to be forgiven for the sins they have already been condemned for, and released from the death sentence that they have already been sentenced to.

And, yes, I certainly do understand that for a large number of people who live below the sustenance level, warm meals, adequate clothing, and a roof that doesn't leak may well sound far more attractive than eternal life. However Christianity does not offer only eternal life, but eternal life in the utopia everyone else only dreams of. See What and Where is Heaven?

And as far as offering the unchurched something that cannot be found elsewhere....

Christianity Already Offers The Unbeliever "Something They Cannot Get Anywhere Else".
Rick Warren says

    "The only way a church can capture the attention of the unchurched today is by offering them something they cannot get anywhere else.

At Saddleback, we take seriously the task of meeting needs in Christ's name. That's what "ministry" is all about; meeting needs in Jesus' name. The first line of Saddleback's vision statement says, "It is the dream of a place where the hurting, the hopeless, the discouraged, the depressed, the frustrated, and the confused can find love, acceptance, guidance, and encouragement. Written into the bylaws (See Note Below) of Saddleback Church is this sentence: "This church exists to benefit the residents of the Saddleback Valley by providing for their spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, and social needs." Our objective is to minister to the total person. We do not limit our ministry to only the so-called "spiritual" needs. We believe God cares about every part of a person's life. People cannot be compartmentalized. Their needs spill over onto each other. [02]

    Bylaws? Seriously? Bylaws are laws or rules governing the internal affairs of an organization. The church is supposed to be a group of believers who meet together to partake of the Lord's supper and for mutual edification, encouragement, teaching and admonishment. The only reason the church needs by-laws rather than the Holy Spirit led guidance of an elder, is because it has been turned into a hierarchal organization controlled by those at the top of the chain. The church was never intended to become what it is today.... a formal institution run by paid professionals who make the rules and officiate at services, which are a spectator event for everyone else. See The Church... Then and Now.

There is no question that most people are more likely to listen to what you have to say if you have established some form of rapport with them. They are very likely to be more receptive if you have been kind, helped them in some way, or just been a friend, However, although the need definitely outweighs the supply, there are both religious and secular organizations that do a tremendous job of helping those in need, whether it is food, clothing, medical assistance, or 'how to potty train your toddler' classes. 

However, Christianity alone offers the unbeliever "something they cannot get anywhere else" - eternal life in a crime/disease/disaster free world without the fear of death is NOT an offer you will find anywhere else.

If that doesn't grab someone's attention, I am not sure what will because when it comes down to it virtually all humans have two things in common.

    1) Almost everyone is searching for a 'better life. Most people are constantly striving to make their living happier, healthier, and less difficult. We grasp at every shred of happiness we can find but frequently find that it slips from our grasp often through no fault of our own.

    2) No one wants to die. Through the centuries men have tried to penetrate the veil of death and find out what, if anything, lies beyond. Our spirit rebels at the thought that no matter what we have accomplished in our seventy odd years here on earth, we are eventually going to become worm food. Fighting the inevitable most humans will cling to the last shreds of life.... even if that life has been far from perfect.

The Gospel tells us how we can have both....

The problem is that most salvation messages that often amount to little more than "Believe in Jesus Christ" or "receive Christ as your Savior", never seem to go into essential detail... such as what it is the person needs to be saved from and what they gain by being "saved". Additionally, although the Bible labors the point that God is good to those who trust, follow, and obey Him, both Testaments do not shy away from warning about the reality and terror of God's wrath towards sinners.

Yet we rarely seem to remind non-believers that they need saving from the wrath of the Father Himself. [See Salvation]

Churches Must Appeal To The Unchurched
When we read the Scriptures we have to be make sure we are reading objectively. That we are not trying to read pre-conceived idea into the words nor looking for something we are hoping to find, but letting them speak for themselves. In other words, we cannot to go to the Scriptures to find support for what we have already decided to believe.

Returning to what Rick Warren said about how He read the New Testament i.e he read it "over and over, studying it with 'church-growth eyes,' searching for principles, patterns, and procedures". [03]

And it is very likely that this is how the problem crept in.

I suspect that, as many Christian preachers and teachers do, Warren went to the New Testament searching for anything that will support his beliefs rather than letting the words dictate his theology. In Rick Warren's case he studied the NT with what he said were 'church-growth eyes searching for "principles, patterns, and procedures"

 In other words, he took every incident that could be used to 'prove' his theories (including wrenching them from their context) patted himself on the back because the New Testament 'supported' his ideas, then set himself to convincing as much of the Christian world as possible that his ideas were Biblical.

Here is an outstanding example,

Making Churches "Attractive"
Part 4 of The Purpose Driven Church is entitled "Bringing in a Crowd" and an important part of that means having "clean, safe nurseries", "clean rest rooms", and a church building that fits the community that surrounds it. Warren says

Visitors may forget the sermon, but the memory of a foul smelling restroom linger on - and on - and on! ... The goal in all that we do to brighten up the environment is the same as what Paul said in Titus 2:10 

    "... so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." (italics added) [04]

This sentence was sandwiched between his explanation of how one of the things they did was to vacuum every classroom twice on Sunday and the heading of the next paragraph "Create An Attractive Atmosphere"

Context. Context, Context
What ever happened to reading verses in context? Understanding the context is is hugely important because the true meaning of a verse or passage can only be determined by it's context or the text that surrounds the passage or verse. The reason is because no Biblical author strung together a number of lofty sounding phrases disconnected from one another. Each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make which means that no one should read (much less base their beliefs on) stand alone verses. For Details See Context is CRUCIAL

In this case the context of verse 10 has absolutely NOTHING to do with making the atmosphere of the church attractive.

Read it for yourself.

Even a cursory reading of the chapter will show that pleasant surroundings were miles away from Paul's thoughts when he wrote this epistle.

The second chapter of the book contains instructions to Titus as to how different groups in the church should behave.  For example, older men were to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise were to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good (Vs. 2-3).  Young women were to love their husbands and their children. They were to be sensible, pure, work at home, kind, and subject to their husbands. Young men were likewise to be sensible. (Vs. 4-6)

Paul then turned to bond servants telling Titus that he was to teach them how they were to behave as Christians. They were to be subject to their masters - pleasing, not argumentative.  He further added in verse ten that Titus was to teach them that they were not to steal in any way including holding back a portion of anything sold on their master's account.

     Urge bond slaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. (Titus 2:9-10 NASB)

Paul was specifically saying the servants are not to appropriate to themselves what belongs to their masters so that they might "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior". In other words show that their religion had made honest men of them which, in itself, would be impressive as bond servants were very often known to pilfer.

In summary Paul was urging believers to conduct themselves in such a manner that they would be "beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us" (Vs. 7).

Advertising Should Be Geared To The Unchurched
In another chapter entitled Developing Your Strategy, Rick Warren says

    "If you look at most church advertising, it's obvious that it was written from a believer's viewpoint -- not from the mind-set of the unchurched. When you see a church ad that announces, "Preaching the inerrant Word of God!" who do you think that ad appeals to? Certainly not to unbelievers! Personally, I consider the inerrancy of Scripture as a non-negotiable belief but the unchurched don't even understand the term. If you're going to advertise your church you must learn to think and speak like unbelievers. The spiritual terminology that Christians are familiar with is just gibberish to the unchurched." [05]

And, a few pages later in a chapter entitled Preaching To The Unchurched, he goes on to say

    If you scan the church page of your Saturday newspaper, you'll see that most pastors are not attempting to attract the unchurched with their sermon titles. A sample of intriguing sermon topics from the Los Angeles Times includes: "The Gathering Storm," "On the Road To Jericho," "Peter goes Fishing," "A Mighty Fortress," "Walking Instructions," "Becoming a Titus," "No such Thing as a Rubber Clock," "River of Blood," and "The Ministry of Cracked Pots."

    Do any of these titles make you want to hop out of bed and rush to church? Would any of them appeal to an unchurched person scanning the paper? What are preachers thinking? Why are they wasting money advertising titles like these? [06]

However, no aspect of the church service is meant to attract the unchurched or for evangelism.1 Corinthians 14:26 clearly states that everything done in a church assembly is done for edification which, as the meaning of the word shows, means the building up of believers.

    What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26 NASB)

"Edify" which was translated from the Greek oikodome, means to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement.  The weekly assembly exists for the benefit of the body of Christ because they need to be encouraged, taught, and even admonished.

There are plenty of New Testament examples of believers engaging in evangelism outside of church meetings. The gospel was commonly preached in the places frequented by unbelievers such as in the synagogues and market places, with not a single example in the NT that shows any church gathering was for the purpose of telling unbelievers the good news or getting people to join their "church".

See Chapter III of The Church Then and Now - Why Did The Early Church Meet?
The two main reasons most Christians gather together for 'church' today are for corporate worship and to hear a sermon. In fact, the   sermon, has so taken over center stage, that the very meeting is judged by the quality of the message. Yet, neither by word or example does the New Testament ever give either of these as a reason for the church assembly

And, as a by the way, the early church never had to sit quietly listening to a sermon.

and Chapter IV - Is The Church Supposed To Be a Largely Spectator Event?
 The New Testament teaches that gathering together with other Christians is to be a participatory and interactive event with each person using his God given spiritual gifts for the benefit, or building up, of the congregation as a whole.

PART II - Jesus' Approach

Warren's claim that "anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the felt needs to his or her heart" is as unbiblical as it gets. Not only did Jesus say...

    "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14 NASB. Emphasis Added)

But He did not do a very good job of winning people over via their felt needs or the key to their hearts.

Did Jesus' Really Start With People's "Felt Needs"?

Rick Warren says (All Emphasis added)

     "People crowded around Jesus because he met their needs - physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, and financial. He did not judge some needs as being " more legitimate" than others, and he certainly did not make people feel guilty for their needs. He treated each person with dignity and respect.

    Jesus often met a felt need in order to establish a beachhead for evangelism in a person's life. I pointed out earlier that Jesus frequently asked people, "what do you want me to do for you?" God use all kinds of human needs to get people's attention.  Who are we to judge whether persons interest in Christ is for the right reason or the wrong reason?  It doesn't matter why people initially come to Jesus, what matters is that they come. He can work on their motives, values, and priorities once they enter his presence....

It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the felt needs to his or her heart. That key to each person's heart is unique so it is sometimes difficult to discover. It may take some time to identify it. But the most likely place to start is with the person's felt needs. As I pointed out earlier, this was the approach Jesus used... Before you can share the Good News of salvation with someone, you have to get his or her attention"... [07]

In another chapter Warren wrote (Emphasis Added)

    Today "preaching to felt needs" is scorned and criticized in some circles as a cheapening of the gospel and a sell-out to consumerism. I want to state this in the clearest way possible: Beginning a message with people's felt needs is not some modern approach invented by 20th century marketing! It's the way Jesus always preached. It's based on the theological fact that God chooses to reveal himself to man according to our needs! Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with many examples of this." [08]

Let's not, as so many are wont to do, take Warren's or anyone else's word for it. Instead we need to carefully examine all instances of Jesus' preaching to see if what Rick Warren claims are accurate. He claims that Jesus "frequently" asked people what they wanted Him to do for them.

What Do You Want Me To Do For You?
There are only four recorded instances of Jesus asking someone this question. However, in spite of minor discrepancies in the text, it is a strong possibility that three of the passages refer to the same incident.

Incident 1: The first time was when two of Jesus' disciples came to Him asking if one of them could sit on His left and the other on His right in the coming kingdom. Please note that their request was not granted. Instead they were told that they did not have any idea what would be involved in that request and, in any case, what they wanted was not Jesus' to give.

    James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You." And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" They said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. "But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." (Mark 10:35-40 NASB)

Incident 2, 3 and 4?: The tenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark relates the incident of a blind man outside Jericho who kept calling out to Jesus "Son of David" to have mercy on him and would not be hushed. Jesus asked the beggar what He could do for him and upon hearing that the blind man wished to regain his sight, healed him.

    Note This incident is repeated in Luke 18:35-43, except that Luke said the healing occurred as Jesus was 'approaching' Jericho.  Read more about the alleged discrepancy which amounts to not being aware of all the facts. target="_blank" onClick='alert("ON-site link will open in a new window. To return here, simply close the new browser window.")' HERE

 Matthew on the other hand tells of two blind men whom Jesus healed outside Jericho adding that Jesus touched them, a detail that h was not mentioned by either Mark or Luke. Thus it is entirely possible that Matthew recorded a separate event in which two men were healed.

The question of how many blind men is a subject that had been brought up and discussed frequently... often used to 'prove' the unreliability of the Gospels. Regardless of how many blind men Jesus healed and which way He was headed when He did so, the fact remains that there is no evidence that Jesus "frequently" asked people what He could do for them. (unless, of course someone understands "frequently" to mean more than once). The Gospels indicate that He did so only twice, and possibly three times including the one occasion the request was not granted..

So let's take a realistic look at how how Jesus dealt with most people He came in contact with.

Jesus' Approach... As Related in The Gospels
Luke 4:25-29
One Sabbath, after He read from the book of Isaiah in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth, Jesus anticipated that the people would ask Him to work the same miracles in Nazareth as He had done in Capernaum,

    And He said to them, "Undoubtedly you will be declaring to Me this parable: 'Physician, cure yourself!' 'Whatever we hear occurring in Capernaum do here also in your own country.'" (Luke 4:23 CLV)

However, in response He called attention to two cases where God's prophets had so little honor in their own country that through them God showed more favor to two Gentiles than to many Jews in the same circumstances.

    But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. (Luke 4:25-29 NASB)

In other words, to use a popular expression of our day, Jesus said "not going to happen" - He would work no miracles in Nazareth. In view of the fact that they immediately tried to kill Him we can safely assume that they took great offense to what He said.

Luke 14:25-28
Luke also tells us of an occasion when "large crowds" (the KJV says "great multitudes") were following Jesus. If Rick Warren was right Jesus should have encouraged the crowd and worked on their "motives, values, and priorities" later. Even a cursory reading of the account shows that this is not what happened.

The first thing Jesus did was to tell the "great multitude" they would have to completely rearrange their priorities. To become a disciple meant their relationship with Him would have to take precedence over all other human relationships and all their possessions. He then went on to warn the crowd that they needed to count the cost of following Him before they made the decision to do so.

    Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

    "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? "Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? "Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:25-33 NASB)

And warned over and over again to count the cost of following Him before doing do because it would be no easy matter. They would have to

    Deny themselves (Luke 9:23-24)

    Daily take up their crosses and follow Him (Luke 9:23-24)

    Be willing to give up their worldly possessions (Mark 10:21-22)

    Be willing to die for His sake (Matthew 10:34-39)

Very clearly, in complete opposition to what Warren teaches, Jesus made it clear from the very outset that He did not want on-lookers or casual followers but dedicated disciples who were aware that discipleship came at a very high price. He did not want them to commit themselves to a course they would never complete.

Mark 10:17-25
Perhaps the most telling example is found in the tenth chapter of Mark (also see Matthew 19).

    As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. "You know the commandments, 'do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, *said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus *answered again and *said to them, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:17-25 NASB)

Note several things about this encounter. The young man who came running and knelt before Jesus obviously had great respect for Him. He asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life adding that he had kept all the commandments from his youth. Jesus' reply was the young man only lacked one thing - He needed to sell all he had, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Jesus.

Considering the fact that Jesus loved the young man one would imagine that He would have been satisfied with the fact that the had kept all the commandments but wanted guidance as to how to obtain eternal life. Surely Jesus should have been happy to count this young man as one of His followers and work on his "motives, values, and priorities" in time.

Quite to the contrary, Jesus immediately zeroed in on the one thing the young man lacked.. the fact that his treasure was in his earthly possessions  which he was not willing to give up. Seeker friendly thinking would mean that Jesus absolutely blew it... especially when the saddened young man left and Jesus let him go completely losing an opportunity to make a disciple of what seemed to be an honest seeker.

Now either Jesus had no idea that He (and, by extension, us) could win people over by discovering the key to their hearts, or Rick warren is totally off base.

John 6
In the early days of His ministry after He fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish (Vs 5-13) the crowd, believing Jesus was "truly the Prophet who is to come into the world", (Vs 14) followed Him to Capernaum where they asked Him how they "may work the works of God" (Vs 28).

But after listening to Jesus' discourse on Him being the bread of life from heaven the Jews, including many of His disciples, began to grumble among themselves saying "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" (John 6:60). Not only, as verse 66 says, did many of His disciples withdraw and did not walk with Him anymore, but John went on to say (Emphasis Added)

    After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. (John 7:1 NASB)

Jesus didn't take a poll to determine what the Jews in the community were looking for. He made no effort at all to water down His message to avoid offending unchurched Harry and Mary. He didn't keep it light, He didn't make it fun, and there is no evidence of Him appealing to people's felt needs.

So why did Jesus perform miracles? While there is no question that some healing took place simply because Jesus had immense compassion for those who were suffering, most of the miracles He performed were to done to authenticate His person and mission (He was doing things that the prophets predicted would be accomplished by the Messiah at the coming of the Kingdom). He Himself declared his miracles to be evidence he had come from God and was God.

    "The works which the Father has given Me to finish the very works that I do  bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me"  (John 5:36)

However, for the most part Jesus focused what was really important - the soul

    "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26 NASB)

In fact, not only does it seem that Jesus forgot to take along His copy of the Purpose Driven Church on the dusty roads of Israel, He can be counted (by modern standards) as one of biggest church growth failures of all time.

Did The Early Apostles Start With People's "Felt Needs"?
John The Baptist
Let's start with John the Baptist, the man who paved the way for the Messiah, about whom Jesus said...

    ".. among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! .... (Matthew 11:11 NASB)

Does anyone remember that John the Baptist took one look at the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to to be baptized, called them "offspring of vipers" and asked them who had warned them to flee from the wrath to come?  In fact John didn't stop there. He also warned them not to take false comfort in the fact of their that they had Abraham for a father which would not save them. If they truly repented they needed to bear good fruit or would be cut down and burned. .

    Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? "Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. "The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:5-10 NASB)

The Twelve Disciples
When Jesus summoned the twelve disciples and sent them out in pairs, Mark tells us that they echoed John the Baptist's 'unfriendly' message that men should repent...

    They went out and preached that men should repent. (Mark 6:12 NASB)

There is absolutely no record of them attending to the "felt needs" of the population nor getting their attention by other means.

Peter on Pentecost
In fact Peter's message to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost was rather accusatory. (Emphasis Added)

    "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:22-23 NASB)

    "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified." (Acts 2:36 NASB)

He then went on to urge them to repent and be saved from a perverse generation... words that certainly had an effect on three thousand people in the crowd who were immediately baptized

    And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:40-41 NASB)

Nor did Peter seem to tone his message down over time...

Peter on Solomon's Porch
In Acts 3, Peter and John met a man who because he had been lame from birth was set down at the temple gate every day to beg. He asked the two disciples for alms but instead miraculously received the use of his legs. He then joyously entered the temple with the two disciples, walking and leaping and praising God.

Amazed at this miracle done to someone the Jews were all familiar with they gathered around the man who was clinging to Peter and John. Peter's first words to the crowd echoed His sermon on Pentecost. He said (note the parts I have emphasized)

    But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, "Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. "But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. "And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:12-19 NASB)

He then got even more direct.

    "Moses said, 'the Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 'And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' (Acts 3:22-23 NASB)

Paul At The Areopagus in Athens
When Paul was in Athens, the Bible tells us that his spirit was provoked at the city full of idols. Consequently he reasoned daily with the Jews in the synagogue and with God-fearing Gentiles in the market place. As a result some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, wondering what the new teaching was which Paul was proclaiming, took him to the Areopagus (near the Acropolis in Athens, which functioned as the high Court of Appeal for criminal and civil cases). However, as the Bible tells us it was also where Athenians and visitors used to spend their time telling or hearing something new.

While it is possible that Luke has recorded but a mere summary of Paul's discourse, it is obvious that his speech was calm, dignified, and respectful. It was also very direct. Although he did not denounce the Athenians he very quickly got to the heart of the matter giving them the essential principles of the nature of God and Christian theology, ... (Emphasis Added)

    "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31 NASB)

It didn't take Paul long to warn the Athenians to repent, or face the judgment. And, as usual, a few believed and became followers, including someone presumed to be one of the judges in the Areopagus. (Emphasis Added)

    But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. (Acts 17:34 NASB)

Church Growth Failures in The Old Testament
Since 2 Peter 2:5 says that Noah was a "preacher of righteousness", it is more than likely that Noah spoke to the public about God's impending judgment. But, if he did, all his efforts fell on deaf ears. No one but him and his immediate family were saved from the flood.

Note: Jesus' words do not indicate whether the people of Noah's day were unaware of the coming judgment or that they simply ignored Noah. In either case it is certain that the timing of the flood took them by surprise, as will Jesus' second coming.

    "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. NASB

Jeremiah, a young man of undeniable courage, was one of the most prolific of the Old Testament prophets. He was the author of the book that bears his name and Lamentations. Additionally, although one cannot be completely certain, many scholars believe Jeremiah was also be the author of 1 and 2 Kings.

He was the last prophet that God sent to preach to the southern kingdom of Judah, a kingdom that was rapidly hurtling towards its rendezvous with judgment. Jeremiah was called to tell the nation that unless they repented and turned from their evil ways (among many other things they were sacrificing their own children in the valley of the son of Hinnom), God would give their lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (27:6) and send them into exile.

Perhaps they will listen and everyone will turn from his evil way, that I may repent of the calamity which I am planning to do to them because of the evil of their deeds. (Jeremiah 26:3 NASB)

See more about the valley of the son of Hinnom - the infamous Gehenna that Jesus spoke about HERE

Yet, from the point of view of church growth, after Jesus Jeremiah was probably one of the most unsuccessful prophets/preachers in the Bible. Jeremiah's mission lasted around 40 years through the reigns of the last five kings of Judah and into the first years of the Babylonian captivity. In all that time he never even once saw any real changes in the stubborn, idolatrous people he was preaching to. His people whom he unceasingly pleaded with for years refused to listen to him. Instead, Jeremiah's constant warning of judgment seemed to do little but anger the people who rewarded his efforts with rejection and persecution. For example...

    When, according to the Lord's instructions Jeremiah stood in "the courts of the Lord's house" and said the words that the Lord commanded him to speak, that if they did not heed the Lord, and walk in His law, He (God) would make the temple like Shiloh and the city a "curse to all the nations of the earth" (Jeremiah 26:2-7), the priests and officials of the land wanted to have him executed, a fate he was saved from by one man (Vs. 24).

    The king burned a scroll of Jeremiah's prophecies, and commanded that Jeremiah and Baruch be seized, but the Lord hid them (36:26).

    Jeremiah was later accused of trying to defect to the Chaldeans and was beaten and jailed (37:11-15).

Jeremiah prophesied that the city would be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and that the person who stayed behind in the city would die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who went out to the Chaldeans would live (Jeremiah 38:2-3). Hearing this the officials wanted him put to death and had him thrown into a cistern of mud (Vs. 38: 4-6). Jeremiah would have died there, had he not been rescued by Ebed-Melech, an Ethiopian eunuch in the king's palace who convinced the king that Jeremiah must not be allowed to die, then subsequently oversaw the rescue (38:7-13).

Much of the book of Jeremiah can be described as a lament about the refusal to turn from their sins and the tragic fate that awaited them if they did not do so. So much so that the English word "jeremiad" which means "a prolonged lamentation or complaint" or "a literary work or speech expressing a bitter lament or a righteous prophecy of doom" stems from his name.

Was The Gospel First Preached Only To The Jews 'Strategic Evangelism' as Rick Warren Says?
According to The Purpose Driven Church

    The secret of effective evangelism is to not only share Christ's message but to follow his methodology. I believe Jesus gave us not only what to say but also how to share it. He gave us a strategy. He modeled timeless principles of evangelism that still work today if we'll apply them.

Matthew 10 and Luke 10 are two revealing accounts of Jesus' strategy for targeted evangelism. Before Jesus sent out his disciples to evangelize, he gave them specific instructions about whom they were to spend their time with, whom they were to ignore, what they were to say, and how they were to share it."  [09]

He went on to say that because there wasn't enough space for a detailed exposition of all the instructions Jesus gave he would "identify five fishing guidelines for evangelism found in Jesus' instructions to his disciples". Saddleback's "evangelism strategy" was built around  these five principles.

Because there is neither time nor space to examine all five of his "fishing guidelines for evangelism" supposedly found in Jesus' instructions to his disciples i will focus on the first principle " know what you are fishing for". Warren wrote (Emphasis Mine)

    When Jesus sent his disciples out on their first evangelistic campaign, he defined the target very specifically: they were to focus on their own countrymen. " These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel". (Matthew 10: 5-6). They may have been several reasons Jesus narrowed the target, but one thing is certain: he targeted the the kind of people the disciples were most likely to reach - people like themselves. Jesus was not being prejudiced, he was being strategic.  As I mentioned in chapter nine, Jesus defined the disciples target so they'd be effective, not in order to be exclusive. [10]

This is as far from the truth as one can get

"Strategy" or Privilege of the Firstborn?
As we all should know, almost from day one the Jews played a crucially important role in the history and fate of mankind.

2) God's Covenant Was With Them
God made a covenant with Abraham, telling him that it would be by his descendants (the Jews) that all the nations of the earth would be blessed by.

    "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." (Genesis 22:18 NASB)

    "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; (Genesis 26:4 NASB)

3) They Were Entrusted With The Oracles of God And Given The Honor Of The Temple Services.
The nation of Israel was entrusted with the Law, the temple, and the promises which gave them an advantage... to them belonged the adoption as sons

    Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1-2 NASB)

    I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. (Romans 9:1-5 NASB)

1)They Brought Forth The Messiah

It was the Jews who were chosen to bring forth the Messiah who was to be the light to the nations and the salvation of the world...

    I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, (Isaiah 42:6 NASB)

    And now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the Lord, And My God is My strength), He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Isaiah 49:5-6 NASB)

    "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. "For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. "Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3 NASB)

As Jesus told the Samaritan woman

    "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22 NASB)

4) The Nation Of Israel Was The First Born

    "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord "Israel is My son, My firstborn. (Exodus 4:22 NASB)

    "You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. "For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 14:1-2 NASB)

    "With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, On a straight path in which they will not stumble; For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn." (Jeremiah 31:9 NASB)

    When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. (Hosea 11:1 NASB)

In other words, the Israelites were the first born sons. The Gentiles were, as Paul told the Romans, later adopted into the family of God.

    For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15 NASB)

With All The Ensuing Privileges
Peter's discourse to the Jews who were amazed at the healing of the man lame from birth who sat outside the temple begging alms, ended with the words...

    "It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' "For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways." (Acts 3:25-26 NASB)

Paul, who knew the Scriptures, consistently took the Gospel to "the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles"... the synagogues proving an ideal forum for preaching the gospel to the Jews, whom he called "his kinsmen according to the flesh".

    Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures (Acts 17:1-2 NASB)

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 NASB)

And it works the other way around as well

    There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, (Romans 2:9 NASB)

If Warren's Theory Is Right Jesus' 'Strategy' Failed Miserably

... because the Jews largely rejected Him as the Messiah.

This largely because they, immensely proud that they were the 'sons' of Abraham, believed this somehow conferred righteousness on them and made them better than every one else. It is readily apparent that they thought they already had a corner on the market when it came to salvation.

Jesus once asked them whether they had ever read the Scriptures (specifically Psalms 118:22) which said...

    'the stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. (Matthew 21:42-43 NASB)

    Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46 NASB)

Summary and Conclusion
I completely agree that we should follow Jesus' methodology. However, must have a realistic and unbiased grasp of what His methodology was.

Contrary to what Rick Warren claims, there is  NO evidence that Jesus did or said anything other than telling people the pure unvarnished truth. There is NO evidence that He ever eased anyone into the Gospel nor that He was particularly concerned with numbers. Much to the contrary, at times Jesus literally repulsed large crowds of seekers by being as blunt as any man has ever been.  In fact, none of Jesus' preaching can possibly be labeled seeker-friendly. Although He had great compassion for the hurt and the sick, His basic message was the same straightforward unambiguous one preached to the Ninevites - 'repent or you will be destroyed'.

There is no question that as we get to know an unbeliever we are likely to find out what makes them tick and as a result more likely to be able to reach them. But this can only be done on a one to one basis, not in the usually very impersonal atmosphere of a large church.

Seeker friendly churches will tell you that in order to reach people you have to first entice them into the church by what ever method necessary. Among other things the church must be made as attractive as possible, and the person orp persons concerned must be made as comfortable as possible. Again there is NO evidence in the New Testament that any of the apostles did this. On Pentecost, not only did Peter preach to complete unbelievers but, as said before, his message was very blunt. He told them that they had crucified the Savior (Acts 2:36, 22-23), then urged them to repent and be saved from a perverse generation. Those who repented and believed the gospel were added to the church. (Vs. 38-42)

None of this means that we ever give up on preaching the Gospel. What it does mean is that

    1) We follow the New Testament pattern of preaching the Gospel outside the church. If and when those we are preaching to become believers, they are added to the church.

    2) we do not modify the assemblies of the faithful to cater to the unsaved.

That few heed the Gospel message does not mean that we have to search for new methods to reach the unregenerate. It simply shows that the Bible knows what it talking about when it says few will find the narrow path. Regardless of how many people we entice into the church with various programs formulated to meed "felt needs", these programs are designed to appeal to what Paul calls the "natural man". However, the things of God are "spiritually appraised".

    But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB)

See Why The Fire Hasn't Fallen

We need to faithfully proclaim the Gospel message, to as many as we can and let the God who knows the heart of all men, convert those who would be saved.

To be noted however, is that proclaiming the Gospel message does not mean conveying any of the highly inaccurate, versions that are heard in so many churches today. For example, many in the modern church will tell you that in order to receive salvation and life eternal, you merely have to "Believe in Jesus Christ" or "Receive Christ as your Savior".

Unfortunately, although the words come from the Bible, by themselves these instructions are horribly abbreviated. They neither tell the person what they are saved from, and what they gain by being "saved". Nor do they accurately convey all that is involved in a person being saved. Diametrically opposed to most modern methods of preaching the Gospel, the message should begin with the wrath of God. The bad news has to come before the good news. Telling someone that they can be saved is completely ridiculous if they neither know they are lost, nor what it is they need to be saved from. (See Salvation)

Seeker friendly churches like Saddleback and who knows how many hundred others will tell you that their methods are winning people - their membership numbering in the thousands. The problem is we are confusing people who attend church with those who are true disciples. As Tozer once asked, What are we winning them to

To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world's treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no. [11]

Church attendance cannot be confused with "coming to Jesus". Coming to church DOES NOT, and I repeat DOES NOT mean entering into God's presence. A person who merely plants himself in a pew every Sunday, sings along with the rest of the congregation, and puts his ten dollar bill in the offering plate is not necessarily a follower or disciple of Christ.

Although Jesus Himself clearly showed that He was only interested in those that had counted the cost of following Him and did not want hangers-on or mere spectators, we are busying ourselves with winning members to a social organization called 'the church', which is a far cry from winning disciples of Christ.  See Why The Fire Hasn't Fallen

End Notes
[01] Rick Warren. The Purpose Driven Church, Zondervan Hardcover. 1995. Pg. 18

[02] ibid. Pgs. 219-220

[03] ibid. Pg. 18

[04] ibid. Pgs. 268-270

[05] ibid. Pg. 18

[06] ibid. Pg. 299]

[07] ibid. Pgs. 219-220

[08] ibid. Pg. 295

[09] ibid. Pg. 186

[10] ibid.

[11] Tozer. The Dwelling Place of God. Chapter 29. Religious Boredom.


Index To The Contemporary Church