Key Links: Welcome | Favorite Movie Quotes | Guestbook | XML | Contact Us

Monday, July 11, 2005

Does Saddleback Really Suck?

I'm generally leery of mega-church icons like Rick Warren at Saddleback church, but I saw something today which actually impresses me greatly (assuming its true):
Saddleback is unique in that 78 percent of the members of our church had no religious background prior to joining the church. It is a church of conversion growth. We've baptized about 14,000 adults in the last eight years. So that means this is not a church that grew at the expense of other churches.
That statistic is extremely significant, and definitely commendable. As Reformed folks, I think we sometimes get a bee in our bonnet and assume that if someone's theology is not "as correct as ours," then there's no way God's Spirit could possibly be working there. So we run around taking great pride in our theological accumen, even though we see very little conversion of unbelievers in our own churches.

At the end of the day, it's not our theology that saves us - it's faith in the resurrected Christ. Of course sound theology is vital for growing and maturing in our faith - many of those Saddleback converts will probably end up in other churches down the road. But we need to be very cautious about blasting those who are less "enlightened" than we are, especially when we see real evidence of the Holy Spirit working via conversion.

Just a little call for humility to start the week...

(Hat tip: Adrian Warnock)

6 Comments:

At 12:29 PM, July 13, 2005, Blogger goodnight moon said...

AMEN! It's refreshing to hear this from a WTS guy...let's continue to break that stereotype of being the "frozen chosen." =)

 
At 1:27 PM, July 13, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Hey, thanks. It's refreshing to be found refreshing! :-)

Wouldn't it be fun to attend a presbytery meeting where in addition to the Name/Church info on their badges, all the delegates had to also include "number of baptisms last year" and "percentage of which were from unchurched backgrounds"?

It would be interesting, to say the least... :-)

 
At 10:25 PM, July 19, 2005, Blogger Dan McGowan said...

I just returned from the Saddleback Worship Conference. I have been to Saddleback before and, because of some negative past experiences working for a pastor who was a Rick Warren "wanna-be" I had a bad taste in my mouth for the place. But this conference was, by far, the BEST worship conference I have ever attended. I have been totally refreshed and renewed - AND - the Lord has given me some specific action points to attempt to implement at my current church.

I was telling a fellows staff member just today - that, yeah, people are critical of Saddleback. But, they must be doing SOMETHING right - and I believe God is blessing their efforts. I don't think I agree with the need for 9 different worship service venues, or the need for 17 weekend services and a few other things. But if you read their info on their website, really, I think it's what we are ALL called to do. Have they got everything right? Nope. Do I? Nope. Do you? Nope. Do ANY of us? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But they are deeply passionate about their love for Jesus and for each other - and it totally shows throught the entire campus (which is more like a good-sized outdoor shopping mall than a typical church.)

I am not a "Saddleback-ian" nor a "Rick Warren Wanna-Be." But I am a Christian who shares their passion for loving God and loving each other - and wishes other churches could do the same thing, the way God has called and designed them to do!

 
At 10:35 PM, July 19, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Well said, Dan! Thanks...

 
At 2:13 PM, December 31, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a few comments that would need clarifying:

You said:
Saddleback is unique in that 78 percent of the members of our church had no religious background prior to joining the church. It is a church of conversion growth. We've baptized about 14,000 adults in the last eight years. So that means this is not a church that grew at the expense of other churches.That statistic is extremely significant, and definitely commendable.

My comment:
First, IF it is true that 78% of the Saddleback crowd had no religious background prior to attending, that would not only be note-worthy, it would be unheard of. I would need to see the details of that number. Does it mean no religious background EVER, RECENTLY, or IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS? How is religious background defined?

The statistics cited by William Chadwick in his book "Stealing Sheep" are that fast-growing churches are typically made up 75% to 90% transfers from other churches. Chadwick, by the way, is a church-growth true believer.

You said:
At the end of the day, it's not our theology that saves us - it's faith in the resurrected Christ. Of course sound theology is vital for growing and maturing in our faith -
Isn't the teaching of Christ's death and resurrection theology?

My comment:
This is a false dichotomy. Personal faith and theology cannot be divorced from one another. There can be no personal faith without theology. Theology is simply what God says about Himself in His Word. This is like saying, "It's not the message of the Cross that saves us, it's faith in that message." Nonsense.

Theology is necessary for faith period.


You said:
many of those Saddleback converts will probably end up in other churches down the road. But we need to be very cautious about blasting those who are less "enlightened" than we are, especially when we see real evidence of the Holy Spirit working via conversion.

My comment:
This isn't a question of enlightenment. It's a question of orthodoxy. The Holy Spirit makes no promise to work through false teaching.

This just another way of saying, "Hey they claim a lot of conversions, they must be doing something right." The Mormons claim a lot of converts too.

What we need to be very cautious about is attributing what Warren is teaching to the Holy Spirit, and simply assuming that these are conversions.

 
At 2:35 PM, December 31, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

I take it you think this means that Saddleback does indeed suck? :-)

As for the 78%, it sounds like your argument is with the article cited, not with me. My original point was simply that if they are indeed seeing conversions of unbelievers (to the point that they are willing to be baptized and embrace the name 'Christian') - then maybe something good is going on there.

I am also saying that I think one of the criteria for how _any_ church is doing is "conversion of unbelievers". And my guess is that there aren't many where that is happening.

I don't believe that's a deficiency in the gospel or in our culture - I think the fields are ripe for harvest here. So I'm suggesting that one of the marks of the true church should be conversion of unbelievers.

As for what saves us - theology or faith in the resurrected Christ, I'm afraid I've got to stand by what I said previously. I don't think it's a dichotomy. I believe someone can have extremely messed up theology and still be saved because they are putting their confidence in Christ. Likewise, I think many can actually have a very good theological understanding of who Christ is and what he did (and maybe even be able to express it in very orthodox terms!) - and still not be saved.

I am NOT saying that theology doesn't matter, btw.

I AM saying that Christ alone saves us, and that we are united to Christ through faith, not our theological orthodoxy.

I think I'm in pretty good stead on that one too (Calvin and Luther to name a few).

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home