Sometimes it is important to step back and review, reflect and summarize your work and look for valuable lessons learned.
I've spent some time this weekend doing just that. I've been hosting my radio program for almost 2 years. One of the daily features of my program are the sermon reviews. Each week I review 3 to 4 sermons from seeker-driven / purpose-driven churches. I review them in their entirety and am generally mortified and disappointed at the shallow self-help / felt-needs seminars that have replaced true in depth Biblical preaching in so many of these church's pulpits. After reflecting on the sermons I've reviewed from such churches as Saddleback, Willowcreek, Granger, NewSpring, Elevation, Fellowship Church, LCBC, South Hills, Fellowship of the Woodlands, Mosaic, The Orchard, and National Community, I set out to find one question that could tie all these sermons together so that I could identify the common theme in all of them. Here's the question I came up with:
If I were an unbeliever and I attended these churches and listened to all their sermons week after week, how would I define the term "Christ Follower"?
Here's the answer I came up with after reviewing the sermons preached at these seeker-driven / purpose-driven churches over the last 24 months:
Christ Follower: Someone who has made the decision to be an emotionally well adjusted self-actualized risk taking leader who knows his purpose, lives a 'no regrets' life of significance, has overcome his fears, enjoys a healthy marriage with better than average sex, is an attentive parent, is celebrating recovery from all his hurts, habits and hang ups, practices Biblical stress relief techniques, is financially free from consumer debt, fosters emotionally healthy relationships with his peers, attends a weekly life group, volunteers regularly at church, tithes off the gross and has taken at least one humanitarian aid trip to a third world nation.
Based upon this summarized definition, I've come to the conclusion that the world is full of people who can fit this definition but who've never repented of their sins and trusted in Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins. This definition could easily apply to Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. In fact, it could apply to Emergent Heretics, Unitarians, Muslims and practicing Jews. The reason why this definition of a Christ Follower could be applied to those outside of Christianity is because this is a definition based upon deeds NOT creeds. (Which is precisely what Rick Warren's so-called "second reformation" is all about.) Even worse, Rick Warren frequently admonishes the pastors that he trains to measure a person's spiritual growth by their obedience. If obedience were the true measure of one's spiritual growth then Jesus would have held the Pharisees up as an example of the most spiritually mature Christ Followers on the planet. Instead, Jesus called down woes on the Pharisees because they were outwardly obedient to the demands of God's law but inwardly their hearts were far from Christ. Plain and simple, the Pharisees despite their obedience didn't have FAITH. (Matt. 23:25-28, John 5:39-40).
It is frightening but absolutely true that ANYBODY can modify their actions, just like the Pharisees, so that their behaviors conform with this purpose-driven definition of what it means to be a Christ Follower without ever believing the creeds of the Historic Christian faith and without ever trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins.
Tradgically, the "Jesus" that is presented in the sermons that promote this definition of being a Christ Follower isn't the savior of the world who died on the cross for the sins of the world and calls all nations to repentance of their sins and the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on the Cross. Instead, the "Jesus" that is presented in these sermons is a "life coach", a training buddy and the supreme example of an emotionally well adjusted risk taking leader who lived the ultimate life of significance and purpose. This purpose-driven "Jesus" is there to help you achieve what he achieved and invites you to follow his examples and methods so that you can be Christlike too.
This seeker-driven / purpose-driven definition of what it means to be a Christ Follower is fatally flawed and I fear that there will be many people who appear before the judgement seat of Christ saying, "Lord, Lord, we were emotionally well adjusted self-actualized leaders who lived a life of significance and purpose, took risks, enjoyed healthy sex lives in our marriages, celebrated recovery, tithed, volunteered at church and helped dig fresh water wells in Africa" and Jesus will say to them "Depart from me, I never knew you!" (Matt. 7:21-23)