What’s Wrong with the Purpose Driven or CGM (Christian Growth) Movement?

Let me begin by saying that I have no axe to grind against ‘Mega Churches’, rapid growth or men who are great visionaries. In fact, I have been very slow to criticize this movement at all. After all, what could be wrong with reaching the unchurched and presenting worship in a way that is exciting to those who have no connection with the church traditions of the past? When I began to hear a handful of people criticizing it, I believed it was most likely a resistance to change from traditions and had nothing to do with doctrine or scripture.

I know several men and women who have gone through studies incorporated by the CGM and have had no objections at all – in fact, they highly recommend it to others. These people are friends who appear to be very solid in their faith. My real objection began when I saw the change of focus in those who attended CGM conferences as they abandoned a scriptural foundation and put all their focus on business-like goals. Other than a few pet verses taken out of context, they gave little heed to the Bible at all.

What is the CGM?

I believe that the best way to inform believers about this movement is to define the movement, its objectives and compare these with scripture. Even though there are a handful of high-profile church leaders at the forefront of this movement, I don’t believe these leaders are the problem. Their ideas and message are symptoms of a greater problem. My hope is that each person reading this will see the error and turn away from it; however, my goal is to provide information so that each person can make an informed decision. As Christians, we cannot force submission, but we are obligated to be the watchman on the wall who guards the truth.

If you are not familiar with the CGM (Church Growth Movement), it is a modern church development process that is heavily backed by big churches like Saddleback Community Church and Willow Creek and big names like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels among others. The most popular book promoting the CGM philosophy is The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren. In a nutshell, this book teaches how to build a church from the inner circle (or core) out to the community. The core group is a committed group of members that become the foundation of the church and are entrusted with lay ministries directed from the pastor. Their goal is to support the pastor’s programs with the purpose of getting noticed in the community. The visitors who attend are called the ‘crowd’. The crowd is taught the church’s core values through a membership class and then transitioned into the congregation. Members who show commitment, work their way into the core which will then seek out the community again.

This is adopted from a purely business model and not a scriptural model. While using methods external to the Bible are not necessarily wrong, it can become harmful when we put marketing and human effort into the place God has said can only be fulfilled by His Spirit. I find it disconcerting to see that very little scriptural reference is given to building the church and very little emphasis (if any) is placed on the Spirit of God drawing unbelievers to Himself or the need for believers to surrender and follow the will of God. The Bible does not say the church is built on marketing, programs or a good core group. Jesus said, “on this rock I will build my church”. He is that rock and He must be the central focus of the church or it ceases to be the true church.

The CGM adopts very unbiblical methods to gain opportunities to introduce their belief system. Look at these quotes from CGM leader Doug Murren, director of Square One Ministries. This is from his book entitled, Leaders on Leadership:

“Arnold Mitchell, a social psychologist from Stanford, has spent years studying the attitudes and behaviors of Americans. He contends that three ingredients are necessary for change to occur. First, Mitchell notes that change comes from dissatisfaction…. Effective change agents assess the chances for change by evaluating the level of dissatisfaction within the group. If dissatisfaction is strong, the potential for change exist….

“To be effective, a leader must also deliberately develop dissatisfaction. …

“Preparing people for change sometimes takes what seems like forever…. I shared startling or even embarrassing statistics about where we were as a church body and where we needed to be, seeking to create the right level of dissatisfaction….

“Positive change rarely intimates ‘returning to the way it used to be.’ Most positive change I have witnessed has been about creating a better future rather than returning to a cherished past.” (Pages 204-206).”

While scripture condemns creating conflicts (Proverbs 6:14-16), the CGM embraces it. This has very little difference than the ‘change agent’ applied to open the cultural doors to communism. One of the main points of Marx is to bring about change through conflict. Communism seizes opportunity created by a crisis or they manufacture a crisis to use as a catalyst to open the door for change. This CGM leader has a strikingly similar ideology. Another important note is that communist leaders (and even cult leaders) present a very different public face that may be contrary to their true agenda. The CGM philosophy also uses this method. They stress the importance of ‘standing firm’ on scripture and ‘change without compromise’ to the gospel, yet when you examine their methods and doctrine, it is quite different than the public face presented.

Doug Murren is not alone in this teaching. Jim Dethmar of Willow Creek said:

“Change only occurs when there is significant disillusionment with the status quo. This is ‘Change Theory’ “. So, that is what begins to happen. Tearing down subtly begins. Jim Dethmar gives a suggestion on how to do this when he says, “…a simplified view of how to do change is to find something that is wrong, it might be a little one, and rub it raw, irritate it”. {Willow Creek Seminar Tape}

What passage can we find that remotely justifies creating irritation within the church for the purpose of making the congregation discontented and therefore willing to accept change? Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”(Matthew 7:15). If Jesus compared false prophets to wolves disguising themselves as sheep, why should we be surprised if these teachers pretend to have orthodox beliefs but practice unbiblical methods?

Why do these leaders teach pastors to create dissatisfaction and conflict within the church when God clearly warned that this is something He hates. Look at Proverbs 6:16:

“These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.”


The CGM takes a world-styled cultural approach to a new church start that is quite different from scripture. New church planting pastors are invited to attend a church start or a growth conference that is highly charged with emotions and a new ideology is communicated. Appealing through emotions are extremely effective in communicating a message. As we saw earlier, leaders of existing churches are often encouraged to appeal to negative emotions in order to create an openness to change. The opposite is also true. Comedy, drama, music, and a charismatic presentation are powerful tools to make people susceptible to messages they would not have accepted otherwise.

If you take the average pastor and try to teach him new age visualization, most would reject the notion. However, if you begin with energized music, success stories and create an atmosphere of celebration, you can communicate that same message by using Christian jargon and receive very little if any resistance. Once the mood is right, the teacher can begin by appealing to what all new pastors want – a successful, growing church. Step by step, pastors are walked unknowingly through visualization techniques hidden behind Christian sounding terms.

“Faith is thinking big!” the pastor is told. “You are free to dream big!”

“See your church the way God sees it! If it is a God-thing then it will explode with growth – but you have to have faith”.

“See your church as the largest church in your region! See the church. See it filled with thousands of people. See its programs. See its music, worship and sanctuary. See the building. Confess that it has already happened and believe. That is faith! What you picture, believe and confess – God will perform!”

In reality, this is not faith at all. New Age, Eastern visualization is pagan to the core and has found its way into many so-called Christian circles. This pagan ritual is taught and practiced in many so-called Christian leadership seminars around this nation. Examine this excerpt from 20/20 Vision: How to Create a Successful Church with Lay Pastors and Cell Groups, by Dale E. Galloway:

“Before a vision can become a reality it must begin to be verbalized in spoken words of faith. Visions verbalized in words of faith release the creative powers of God to work through our lives, to bring into existence that which was not”. p.40. [Also See Can OUR ‘Positive Confession’ FORCE God to Change Course?]

Compare to the New Age doctrine of visualization

We BELIEVE what our eyes see. This is true for visual seeing as well as mental seeing. As you create an image in your mind, your brain believes it is happening and real. Repetition of the visions causes the image to become more real. Your mind begins to believe it actually has happened. It’s an event that has taken place. Combined with affirmations, it becomes a powerful tool to create what you want.

Affirmations are statements of acceptance that one uses to allow the manifestation of your destiny. They are powerful and positive thoughts and statements sent out to the universe. To do positive affirmations, you need to eliminate the negativity around you. You must first believe that YOU CAN manifest your destiny. It must be a positive, powerful belief not just ‘maybe I’ll try and see if this works”. Together with Visualizations, you can create the life you want. – “Seeing is believing: New Age Visualization”

The New Age shaman says we create reality by seeing, believing and speaking words of affirmation; the CGM teacher says we must visualize our new programs and buildings and then speak faith words. Both teachings are identical and teach we are the creators of reality but the CGM visualization is disguised with Christian jargon. Where is God? Under the ‘New Paradigm’ church movement we are the creative power behind the church. With empty words the CGM lowers the guards of skeptics by claiming to be fundamental, but in practice they are everything but fundamental. This is the original sin of Satan and the same lie that caused the fall of man in the beginning. With sinful pride, Satan said, “I will be like the Most High” but instead he was cast down from the glory that God gave him. With a lying tongue Satan told Eve, “You will be like God”. She was drawn by the desire to be like her Creator and Adam with her. Instead of being exalted, they were cast down as well. (See Article on Visualization)

New Age Connection to the CGM

CGM leaders such as Rick Warren quote and praise heretical teachers and New Age philosophers such as Yonggi Cho, Robert Schuller, C. Peter Wagner, and Bernie Siegel among others in the ‘Purpose Driven Church’ and other publications. Warren Bennis quotes from many New Age resources including Carl Jung, Norman Lear, Tom Peters, Alvin Toffler and publications such as ‘The New Age Journal’ and ‘The Aquarian Conspiracy’. There are many New Age connections to the CGM, but this should provide ample evidence for those who wish to examine these sources and verify this for themselves. What man of God could use anti-Christian sources to influence the Christian church?

Rick Warren (Author of the ‘Purpose Driven Church’) has also received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. This Seminary is an ultra liberal institution that puts more emphasis on the ecumenical movement than biblical doctrine. Fuller has professors that are on the record denying the reliability of scripture and has hosted and endorsed the World Council of Churches and paganism on their campus. Below are some examples:

IPS Note: C. Peter Wagner, who came from the academic halls of Fuller Theological Seminary, has proclaimed himself “presiding apostle” of a coalition of 200 “true” apostles by forming the “International Coalition of Apostles”. This strategically places him into the middle of an international network of “Christian” activities to help implement, organize and dominate a Global Church, largely based upon a post-millennial view of the End Times, in which Christ will return to earth after the thousand year reign of God’s kingdom. Christians alone are Biblically mandated to ‘rule’ the earth subduing every enemy of Christ before He can return as King. He founded the idea of the “New Apostolic Reformation” where apostles and prophets are rising up to take control of the Church. Christians outside of the Dominionist system are considered to be in spiritual bondage and not bona fide members of the Kingdom of God. Therefore a “civil war” will have to be fought to remove the cancer (Their words, not mine). They, as the true Church will inherit the earth, and rule the nations… all before Christ comes back. Where the rapture, tribulation, end time apostasy and literal Antichrist fit in (if at all) is anyone’s guess. See Section on Dominion Theology

Paul Jewett was Professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Seminary. In 1975 he published Man as Male and Female. In the book Man as Male and Female, Fuller professor Paul Jewett admits that he has been influenced by modern biblical criticism and claims that the Bible contains error because it was written by men:

“Historical and critical studies of the biblical documents have compelled the church to abandon this simplistic view of the divinity of Scripture [the traditional doctrine that the Bible is the Word of God without error] and to take into account the complexity at the human level of the historical process by which the documents were produced. Instead of the simple statement, which is essentially true, that the Bible is a divine book, we now perceive more clearly than in the past that the Bible is a divine/human book. As divine, it emits the light of revelation; as human, this light of revelation shines in and through the ‘dark glass’ (1 Cor. 13:12) of the ‘earthen vessels’ (2 Cor. 4:7) who were the authors of its content at the human level” (Jewett, Man as Male and Female, p. 135).

The foreword of Paul Jewett’s book was written by Virginia Mollenkott, chairman of the Department of English at William Paterson College in New Jersey. In 1994, Virginia Mollenkott wrote a the book, The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female, Mollenkott calls God the “One Mother of us all” (p. 19) and suggests that the Lord’s prayer might be addressed to “Our Father/Mother who is in Heaven” (p. 116).

In 1978 she co-authored (with Letha Scanzoni) the book entitled Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? In this book Mollenkott praises her own Homosexuality as a divine gift and denies that homosexuality was condemned in the Bible. [See Feminism and The Christian God   and Section on Homosexuality]

Charles Scalise is associate professor of church history and academic director of Fuller Theological Seminary in Seattle’s M. Div. program. He authored the book From Scripture to Theology: A Canonical Journey into Hermeneutics (InterVarsity Press, 1996). In this book he denies the historical accuracy of scripture, claims that Moses did not author the Pentateuch but it was written centuries later, and he challenges the infallibility of scripture throughout the book. [See Section A Remarkable Book Called The Bible]

Siang-Yang Tan, director of the Doctor of Psychology program at Fuller Seminary, was one of the attendees of the national conference on Personal Spiritual Renewal in October 1991. It was hosted by Renovare, an organization founded by Richard Foster. Speaking in the evening sessions, Foster praised Pope John Paul II as a “powerful asset of the Catholic movement” and called for unity in the “body of Christ” through the “five streams of Christianity: the contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice and evangelical.” He promoted occultic meditative techniques such as guided imagery and visualization. Another speaker was Renovare Steering Committee member Sister Bernard, a Catholic nun who is involved in the Buddhist-Roman Catholic dialogue. Fuller professor Tan “stressed the need to integrate psychology with spirituality” and “advocated inner healing, healing of the memories, and other occultic visualization techniques” (Christian Information Bureau Bulletin, December 1991). [Also See The Two Faces of Catholicism]

Fuller / Council of Churches

The Fuller Theological Seminary also hosted the World Council of Churches in 1995. Some excerpts from this follow: (See More On The World Council of Churches)

Goddess Worship

The WCC-sponsored conference featured a standing ovation for a group of some 100 “lesbian, bi-sexual, and transsexual women” who gathered on the platform. On Sunday morning the conferees joined together in repeating a prayer to Sophia: “Our maker Sophia, we are women in your image. … Our guide, Sophia, we are women in your image.” (Sophia is a goddess worshipped in New Age circles.. [See Section On Goddess Worship] Chung Hyun Kyung spoke at the conference saying,

“My bowel is Buddhist bowel, my heart is Buddhist heart, my right brain is Confucian brain, and my left brain is Christian brain. … If you feel very tired and you don’t have any energy to give, what you do is … go to a big tree and ask it, ‘give you some of your life energy.’”

Chung Hyun Kyung also summoned the spirits of the dead and “the spirit of Earth, Air, and Water.” Chung said, “I also know that I no longer believe in an omnipotent, Macho, warrior God who rescues all good guys and punishes all bad guys.”

Megatrends For Women, by Patricia Aburdene and John Naisbitt, is endorsed and sold in the Fuller library and in its online bookstore (http://fulleripac.fuller.edu/#focus). This is a blatantly New Age occultic book that challenges biblical Christianity and promotes Goddess Worship. The Fuller online catalogue once promoted this book with the following quote:

“To hell with sexism : women in religion — The menopause megatrend –Collaborative couples — Fashion : top down to bottom up — The family revival — The goddess reawakening — Save the world : women as social activists — Women in the new world order.”

The inside cover flap has the following promotional comments:

“Whether theologians or nuns or New Agers, women are transforming both religion and spirituality by rejecting the notion of a male divinity and embracing the archetype of the Great Goddess.”

It is not difficult to recognize that the Fuller Institute is training its leaders to reject scripture and adopt pagan beliefs and practices through the ecumenical movement (merging all religions as equal), academic training and literature. It should not be surprising to see graduates such as Rick Warren embrace New Age philosophers and authors as he drives deep into the Christian culture with a new church model that draws from sources that reject historic Christianity and a salvation that is found in Jesus alone.

Self-Exaltation in the CGM

In CGM conferences, after charging new pastors with emotions, a subtle but effective shift is introduced. Instead of being a church plant, the focus is shifted to a launch. The Purpose Driven / Church Growth candidate is lead away from a scripturally based foundation and toward a business model built on marketing and big events. A new church plant I attended was persuaded to spend $25,000 on a ‘get noticed’ community campaign that was called ‘The Big Event’. The church went into debt, hired three different bands, spent thousands on food, carnival styled attractions, tents and food. God was not in it and the net result was a sapped bank account and a tired and discouraged small congregation.

This is not a unique scenario. The ‘new paradigm’ teaches that communities should be shaken with the noise of the new church launch. Attention getting community events, marketing and other creative ideas are to coincide with the launching of the new church.

The shift from planting a church to launching a church may seem subtle at first glance, but beneath the surface there is a tremendous philosophical difference. The CGM has adopted from the culture of the world while quietly slipping away from the principles of scripture. Before we examine these two diametrically opposed systems, let’s lay a bit of the ground work by comparing CGM philosophy to an example from scripture.

Does The End Justify The Means?

Peter Wagner is quoted favorably by Rick Warren in ‘The Purpose Driven Church’. Read this quote from C. Peter Wagner from the book, “Your Church Can Grow – Seven Vital Signs Of A Healthy Church”:

“… we ought to see clearly that the end DOES justify the means. What else possible could justify the means? If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good method. If, on the other hand, my method is not accomplishing the goal, how can I be justified in continuing to use it?”

Is this true? Does the end justify the means? Can we use any method we choose if our goal is accomplished? The world would say that it does, but God clearly does not agree with this philosophy. A very good example of this can be found in the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6. One day King David decided to move the ark of the covenant as he prepared for battle. As an acknowledgment of dependence on God to go before them, Israel would take the Ark of the Covenant as they marched to war. David commanded that the ark be placed on a cart pulled by an ox. However, God gave clear and specific instructions for transporting the ark that represented His presence with the people. The ark was only to be transported by priests from the tribe of Levi and carried by hand using acacia wood overlaid with gold through the rings on the sides of the ark.

Even though these rules were clearly spelled out, it was easier just to load the ark on the cart. It would make little difference because the end result would be the same and the ark would make it to its destiny with greater efficiency. David was absolutely sincere as he worshipped before God and rejoiced as the ark moved forward. Absolute sincerity is still disobedience if it is contrary to God’s word. To make this point clear, God allowed the ox to stumble and the first person to touch the ark was struck down before God.

God was not pleased with the dancing, music, celebrations or worship of the people. God was not pleased with the progress they were making toward their goals or the success of the battles. God’s anger was kindled because of the disobedience of His people and the means in which they thought they were serving Him. Nothing has changed today. Jesus made it clear that God seeks only those who worship in Spirit and truth. Spirited worship that compromises truth is not acceptable to God. God’s Spirit must inhabit our praise and our worship must be solidly founded upon truth or it has no relevance to God and our religion is in vain. Also See Does Picking Up Sticks Deserve the Death Penalty?

God’s Ways or the World’s?

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”( Isaiah 55:8)

God’s ways are not the world’s ways. So many times the Bible is completely counter culture to the world system. There are three ‘ministry opportunities’ that the Purpose Driven / Church Growth emphasizes that need to be examined: 1. Lift your Banner high; 2. Draw the crowds by marketing and programs; 3. Keep visitors by appealing to their ‘felt needs’.

1.      Lift your Banner high

This draws us back to the church plant verses church launch question. CGM trainers teach pastors not to want to do a church plant by asking, ‘Do you want to plant or launch’? Of course this question is asked after the answer has been driven home through an emotional conference. The world looks at ‘big’. Success is lots of money, large numbers, big buildings and many other physical measurables. One very important thing we should note is that none of these are presented with a scriptural foundation. They are only founded upon emotions and the appeal to the pastor’s desire for measurable success. The scripture paints a different picture for the plan of God. Look at John 12:23-25:

“But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Jesus is our example to follow. How was Jesus glorified? His glory came through dying. Like a grain of wheat, He died, was buried and glory was in His resurrection. He then tied this to our lives by making it clear that we also must lose our lives in this world and we will gain it for eternity. As long as we are living for our purpose, we remain alone. We may be in a crowd but the Spirit of God is not in anything we do until we die to this life and allow God to raise us as a new creation focused on Him alone. We must seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Only then do we have the promise that our needs will be added to us.

Unlike the world, we don’t lift our banner high to be noticed, we humble ourselves before God and submit to His will. It is God’s role alone to lift us high. A ‘church launch’ puts the focus on ‘look at us’. A ‘church plant’ gives us the focus of dying to ourselves and allowing God to raise us up to the level where He desires us to be. I would rather have a small congregation of disciples obedient to God than 10,000 members that are focused on world-centered objectives.

The CGM paradigm says that we should exalt ourselves in the community. The Bible teaches a different message. Look at the following passages:

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

Matthew 23:12 “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 1:50 “And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.”

1 Peter 2:21 “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;”

Matthew 21:5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ “

Our example is Christ. He did not lift Himself up, but humbled Himself even to the point of death on the cross. Philippians 2 tells us that this mind should also be in us. If we are the builders of the church instead of Christ, we are lifting ourselves up. CGM marketing efforts may succeed in building numbers in some churches, but it fails in the areas that God shown are our real focus.

2.      Draw the crowds by marketing and programs

Big events, marketing and man-made efforts are the focus of the new church growth paradigm. This is also the antithesis of God’s way to build the church. Look at these passages:

Acts 2:47b … And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Matthew 16:18b …on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

John 6:42 …No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;

The church is not a man-made institution nor is it built by the efforts of man. While the CGM focuses on programs and methods, the true church remains focused on Christ and the commission He gave us. It is not events that add to the church, but God that adds those who are being saved. God alone builds the church and no one can come to Christ without the Spirit of God drawing him. Launch events may draw ‘the crowd’ to the church building, but they do not draw people to Christ – only God can do this.

3.      Keep visitors by appealing to their ‘felt needs’

One of the more disturbing elements of the CGM is the complete shift away from the true message of the gospel. The Church Growth Movement teaches that we must be seeker sensitive by doing two things: insure that visitors are not offended and answer the ‘so what’ question. The ‘so what’ question is explained by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church:

“The messages must have high user value… When unchurched Harry comes out here for a service, he’s going to be asking, ‘What value does my being here have for my life?’ So in preparing messages, we keep asking ourselves, ‘So what? Jesus Christ was born to a virgin – so what?’ That’s the question Harry’s going to be asking.”

In CGM theology, the message of the gospel must meet the felt needs of the unchurched visitor. The focus of each message must be able to answer ‘what’s in it for me’? This sounds good if you are talking about business, but is quite contrary to the true gospel message. Salvation in Christ has already answered that question. The gospel exposes sin to show man his need for a savior and reveals the love and forgiveness of God through the cross of Jesus Christ. At this point we are not called to ask God what more he can do for us; instead we are called to have faith and become a follower of Christ. Look at this extremely important passage in Luke 9:23-24: “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”

This is quite a contrast in world-views. The CGM teaches pastors that to gain followers of Christ they must provide a value added service. Jesus teaches that if we desire to follow Him we must deny ourselves – not ask what is in it for us. The sad reality is that most of the world will reject Christ because they are unwilling to live for Christ. The man walking in the flesh only lives to satisfy his own desires. No one can be discipled by continuing to appeal to the self-centeredness of the carnal man.

Our primary concern is not to prevent people from walking away because they are not made comfortable and happy. Our highest priority is to lift up the biblical Jesus, teach people to trust in God’s promises and by faith, lay down their life and seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Look at Matthew 7:13-15:  “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.!

The gates of heaven are open to anyone who will follow Christ in. However, it is and always will be a narrow gate with a difficult way. Under the guise of ‘seeker friendly’, the Church Growth Movement has built a gate that is wide, yet contrary to the true gate. You can get the masses to go into the wide gate, but destruction is behind it. After giving instructions to seek the narrow gate, Jesus followed up by warning that false prophets will disguise themselves as sheep. Many leaders will come that look like Christians, talk like Christians but are wolves that will attempt to devour those looking for the gate. The only way to know is by looking at their message. The message of CGM is clearly contrary to scripture. They sound good; they have big churches, spirited music and use Christian terminology. However, the message they teach is a self-centered gospel.

To be a God-thing it Must be a Big Thing

When a business decides to go public with a stock offering, it is vital to make a lot of noise so that you are noticed and people get excited and buy company stocks. Recently the popular internet search engine, Google, made their initial public offering. For weeks they marketed their product with news feeds, forecasts and any type of publicity that would bring attention to themselves. The public waited with anticipation and the demand quickly drove the price up 10% higher than the first year’s target estimate.

The CGM has adopted this same philosophy. A church must launch with a great noise and public fanfare so the unchurched world will rush in and get in on this new public offering. On the surface it sounds good because this appeals to our human nature. Unfortunately, God does not reach out to mankind by appealing to human nature but rather calling us to put to death the flesh and live by the Spirit. Galatians 5:17 explains: “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

The flesh and the Spirit are in direct opposition to each other. The church’s role is to go into the world and make disciples of Christ by teaching others to be transformed by God – not by transforming the church into something that is palatable to the flesh. Instead of calling for the world to imitate Christ, the church has adopted a role of imitating the world. When the crowd began to follow for the wrong reason, Jesus forced them to abandon the ‘show’ to see if they would follow Him. In John 6, Jesus forced the crowd to choose the show or Him. His words offended them. John 6:66 says: “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

If Jesus was not afraid to lose disciples who were following for the wrong reason, should we cater the church model around the concept of avoiding offending those who we fear will turn away?

Jesus even condemned those who came just to be filled. It is ironic that the CGM’s whole focus is on helping ‘seekers’ to have their want filled, yet Jesus made it clear that those who follow Him for ‘what’s in it for me’ are better off turning back and ceasing to follow Him.

It is also a misconception to think that God only works ‘big’. A popular Sunday School training book made the statement that we must do things so big that only God can perform it. In reality, big things can be achieved without divine intervention. Jesus made an effort to avoid making a show of His ministry. Many times when He would do a miracle, He would instruct the person not to publicize the event (Matthew 8:4, Matthew 16:20, Mark 7:36, Luke 8:56). This is illustrated very clearly in the story of Elijah. Look at 1 Kings 19:11-13: “Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”

God was not in the great and strong wind; God was not in the earthquake; God was not in the raging fire. God was in the still small voice and is only found by those willing to stop and hear His call. God’s ways are not our ways. Man wants a show and to make lots of noise, but those who find God listen to His voice. If anything, the big show encouraged by the CGM makes it more difficult to stop and listen to God. Are we leading people to the Master, or are we drowning out His voice with our ‘Big Launch Events’?

Beware When All Men Speak Well of You.

The Church Growth Movement makes a great effort out of appealing to the masses. It has been called a ‘New Awakening’ and a modern day revival. Is getting large numbers into a building a great revival? In truth, the masses have never gone after God. Jesus said that there are few who will find the narrow gate leading to life. The door may be opened to everyone, but few are willing to leave behind this world and follow the ways of God. In the Bible, the masses only became involved when paganism was introduced into their religion. The masses worshipped the golden cow after God delivered Israel from bondage. The masses went after Baal worship and various pagan doctrines. In Revelation the masses will worship the false prophet and the beast.

In history, the masses followed after Hitler, Islam, Hinduism and various other religions and causes. The only time we see the masses turning to God is when fear knocks at the door. Even then, it is short lived. Once people become comfortable, they immediately turn back from God unless they truly are seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ. 87% of Americans claim to be Christian yet only 15% attend church weekly and fewer than this allow God to influence their daily walk.

When the masses jump on a bandwagon, it should raise a flag and we should proceed with great caution. Look at Luke 6:26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

When the masses are singing praises, it should cause us to stop and beware. This passage does not mean every single person will speak well of the false prophet. This is a figure of speech that warns us that when the crowd is behind us, we are likely on the wrong path. The crowds follow human nature and the things that appeal to human nature. The false prophets speak to the people with words that appeal to their desires. When someone is saying what you want to hear, you always think highly of them. Look at 2 Timothy 4:1-5:  “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

We are commanded to remain focused on preaching the word, not preaching to the masses. We are to preach in season and out of season to convince, rebuke, exhort and teach with patience. It is important to understand that people will not always be open to the true gospel, but this does not change the message. The measurement of success is not numbers, but faithfulness. Jonah preached a simple message of repentance and God did a mighty work. Yet Noah preached for 120 years and only his family was saved. Isaiah complained that no one believed his report of God’s word. The leaders complained to Amos for his message and questioned his right to preach without qualifications. Micah was thrown in jail for preaching an unpopular message. Throughout the scriptures we are given many examples of prophets who preached faithfully out of season.

We are out of season today. The crowd is not looking for someone to teach, rebuke and exhort, they are looking for teachers that will teach them according to their own desires (felt needs). The CGM trains pastors to preach to the audience’s feelings and not to strive to convince them to follow and obey God. The primary sign given for the end times is that the church will join the world. The world has seasons of accepting and rejecting the gospel. The faithful preacher remains consistent throughout these seasons in history. However, the sign of the end is that the church will fall away from the true gospel. Only then can the man of sin be revealed. Look at 2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.”

The Bible does not say that the church numbers will diminish, only that the church will fall away from the faith. In the end times, the church will have “a form of godliness while denying its power” (2 Timothy 3). The CGM model fits this to a tee. The CGM leaders definitely have a form of godliness: they talk about a non-offensive Jesus, God, and use select passages or phrases from scripture. However, they have no power in their message. Their message is numerical growth and marketing, not the call for repentance and laying down our lives to follow Christ.


The Church Growth Movement deviates from scripture on leadership hierarchy in the church. Pastors are the unquestioned authority that receives a vision directly from God (often via CGM seminars) and they are keepers and protectors of the vision. They sit at the top and instruct those below them. To question the vision keeper is to lack faith in God. Anyone who does not get on the bandwagon is often labeled as weak in faith. The CGM leadership structure is the pastor on top of the pyramid who hands down vision and specific tasks to lay ministers. Lay ministers execute the pastor’s direction through church programs and small groups. Like a business, leadership is centralized. At the top is the CEO who has a handful of inner circle executives reporting to him. The executives carry out the instructions of the CEO and pass it down to directors, managers and so on until it reaches the entry level worker.

The CGM model has the pastor as the CEO who hands down his instructions to the inner circle / lay ministry team. The lay ministers pass the pastoral instructions to small groups and other point men within the church and the process goes on until it reaches down to the members, congregation and crowd. I have heard many pastors who model the CGM philosophy state that they are accountable to God alone. This is not the biblical model of leadership.

Jesus gave the model of leadership for His disciples in Matthew 20:25-28:

“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The leadership model handed down to the disciples is a two part message – you will not lord over one another and to lead you must serve. In Revelation 2:6 and 2:15, Jesus said that He hated the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The word Nicolaitans means to rule over the laity. They had several erroneous doctrines but the root cause was a ruler over the church handing down his will to the people. Without accountability and checks and balances, the ruling pastor cannot be questioned. Those who question will be condemned and often pressured into silence or departure from the group. Those who do not question will unwittingly receive any errors in doctrine the Nicolaitan pastor passes down.

God condemns this because this is not His design for the church and this opens the door to error. God’s plan for the church is to decentralize authority. A pastor is indeed a valuable role in God’s plan, but the pastor is not the ultimate authority in the church. Even the apostles showed the example Jesus gave in Matthew 20. They never ruled over the church nor did they expect to go unquestioned. Elders appointed in the local body were given the same authority as the pastor and many of the same authorities of the apostles. The apostles were first in the church, but they were not rulers over the church.

In Acts 15:2-6, when a question about doctrine arose in the church, the apostles gathered with the elders to discuss and reason out the dispute according to scriptures. The apostles did not dictate the doctrine but worked with the elders to resolve the matter. The same principle is repeated in Acts 16:4. Throughout the New Testament church in Acts, elders, bishops and apostles shared authority and leadership in the church. If godly men are appointed as elders according to God’s plan, leadership will have godly accountability and the church will not be dependent on one man to set the direction of the church. If one is at the helm and he drifts off course, the whole congregation is lead off course. If God’s plan is followed, the entire leadership will confront anyone who begins to go in the wrong direction.


In conclusion, it is vital that the church follow the scripture as their eternal compass. Is it so far-fetched to allow scripture to be the vision of the church? God has laid out His plan for the church and if we deviate from it, we are questioning the wisdom of God. Very little supporting scripture is presented in the CGM model and when it is presented, it is a phrase or a verse taken out of context. Frequently the CGM books choose translations that word a passage in a way that they can use. CGM leaders love non-literal and paraphrased Bibles such as The Message.

Following is a chart that summarizes some of the differences between the Church Growth

Movement / Scripture Chart

Church Growth Movement doctrine Scriptural doctrine
God is in the big things God is in the still small voice
Seeks to answer ‘what’s in it for me’? To follow Christ, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him
Avoids doctrines that offend Rebuke, exhort, instruct according to scripture.
Avoid being associated with absolutes that the world sees as foolish God saves through the foolishness of the message preached
Open the door to the masses Few will enter the narrow gate
Fashion the church so the world can accept the message Woe when the world speaks well of you
Leadership is based on business CEO model You will not be as the gentiles in leadership
Create change by stirring up dissatisfaction and create irritation The Lord hates those who sow discord among the brethren
Visualize and create reality Trust in God
Seek to build a large church Seek God’s kingdom and righteousness
Lift your banner high Humble yourself before God and He will lift you up.
Begin by launching You begin by dying to self
God is seen in the community by making a big scene or a great noise God is found in the still small voice
The end justifies the means To obey is better than sacrifice
Success is measured by numbers, buildings and programs Faithfulness belongs to man but the outcome is determined by God


The entire CGM philosophy is addressed and refuted in a single passage of scripture. Please take the time and read this entire passage with great care. Look at 1 Corinthians 1:18-29:  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.

The CGM is diametrically opposed to this passage and human effort provides success and glory for its leaders. God only acknowledges what He accomplishes through us so that no flesh should glory in His presence.

Proverbs 14: 12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

A sermon by http://www.exchangedlife.com

About Truth in Reality

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