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Akira Kurosawa

I couldn't agree more with you about self help sermons that are not Biblically based...but...

That is not what Rick Warren is talking about in this article. He is talking about the exact thing that you are Chris, net fishing. He is encouraging people to not use Christian terms, or theological terms to reach the lost, but learn the lingo or the language when you go out evangelizing.

He is discussing NET fishing, not bait fishing. Worships services aren't even mentioned.

Now, you can say that bait fishing is what Warren actually does on Sunday, and you might be right. But you are taking an article about evangelism and twisting it to be about worship. I think that is kinda dishonest, Chris, because I think that you are smart enough to realize the difference.


I think this is well put. The analogy of "luring" a fish has some very dangerous implications.

However, inferring the analogy of "net" with the Gospel can be dangerous too. Fishermen spent a great deal of time making and maintaining their nets. I'm not sure that we're supposed to have the same dedication to our hand made mechanisms.

Dedication to scripture, yes. Dedication to the Gospel? Yes. Dedication to truth? Yes. But as always it's way too easy to graft these onto man made things and lose the mission.

I believe Paul's technique of becoming "all things to all men" for the sake of the Gospel is the correct balance. There's no deception (as with a lure) but there's no lack of perspective (as with our own nets).

Bill Hillyer

Right on the money! You are absolutely right about the wrong bait being used. Rick Warren is just showing what he really believes in (man's power over the Holy Spirit's power). I used to be a pastor in a large pentecostal denomination, and actually had another pastor at a megachurch tell me I was crazy for trying to reach people with the Gospel alone. He said we had to promise them health and wealth - or "why else would they come to church"????
Thank God He threw a net on me with the Bible and the Book of Concord and drug me into a true Gospel proclaiming church body. It is so much more exciting to see the Holy Spirit call, gather and enlighten people into the one true faith.

Paul L.

Amazing post, Chris!

Chris Rosebrough (@PirateChristian)


The article that I am quoting from is lifted almost word for word from the book the Purpose-Driven Church. I'm sorry but the fact is that this is an article meant to reinforce seeker-driven methodolgies that are modeled for other churches by what Warren's been doing at Saddleback for 30 years. He's not talking about NET fishing he is absolutely talking about bait fishing. Read the fuller context in PDC.


I agree about seeker-sensitivity in general, but I do think the Bible tells us to seek out financial freedom, red-hot sex, and (to some degree) reduced stress, and even gives us advice on achieving these objectives.

Akira Kurosawa

I won't argue that this is the could be the methodology presented in PDC. However, the article you link to is NOT discussing church methodologies. It is discussing evangelism. This means that you are twisting the meaning of the article to fit the point that you are trying to prove.

You accuse Warren of scripture twisting, and lifting scripture out of context. You are doing the exact same thing... only with a much less sacred source :)


I believe Chris is pointing out the fact that church services are exactly where many Christians believe that seeker-sensitive evangelism is to take place. In the article Chris quotes, Warren is talking about pastors advertising church services.

The thing that jumped out at me was Warren's comments that a believer thinks in totally different ways than an unbeliever. It is true that those with the mind of Christ think differently in many ways than those without. But I am also reminded of an activity our Christian fellowship group in college did at one of our retreats, involving role-playing various casual scenarios of "evangelizing" friends. Those Christians who played the role of unbelievers created the grossest stereotypes of crass, immoral idiots. I put it down to living in a bubble. Do these people even know any non-Christians? They're not exactly a different species than we are. They aren't brain dead, needing to be spoken to very slowly in words of one syllable. Making things understandable to a person is not the same thing as dangling a carrot under their nose and saying "Here, boy!" How patronizing.

Drew: What??


In fact, those practical aspects of doctrine (Proverbs, Song of Solomon, the Sermon on the Mount and reminders about heavenly rewards) are almost the antithesis of seeker-sensitivity. And those three passages I mentioned are hardly the only places that teach those ideas.

Seeker-sensitivity isn't at all about training Christians how to be wise with their finances or how to handle stress in a godly way or how to get along with the opposite sex. Seeker-sensitivity is about how to cram the bare saving-gospel message -- along with very modern and watered-down worship songs -- into every single service in the hopes of saving a few straggling unbelievers who wander into the church.

Obviously I would hardly belittle, or say that learning how to deal with the opposite sex is somehow better. They both have their place. The gospel is for the people who, hopefully, do NOT make up a significant percentage of your church. For Christians, Hebrews 5-6 tells us to move on to better things and not to continue wasting time dwelling on elementary matters like baptism and repentence from legalism.

Phil Hodge


Excellent description of the seeker sensitive model. It doesn't matter where the "bait and switch" method is used. It is still deception!


Better things than the Gospel. Gotcha. That explains all the preaching of suburban moralisms these days. The Gospel isn't for Christians anymore. All we get is the "better stuff": pure Law in the form of house rules and do/don't lists.



Paul stated that he was under the law of Christ. Jesus said that if we love him we should obey his commands. John defined sin as "lawlessness" (and also pointed out that Christians may still sin). Peter said that we should "add to" our faith in order to receive a rich welcome. James mentioned that Jesus will deal with Christians based on the "law of liberty." Hebrews mentioned that the Father disciplines his (presumably disobedient) children. We are not under the mosaic law and we certainly aren't saved from hell by living good lives or obeying any of these sanctifying laws, but it doesn't make much sense to suggest that Christianity is opposed to all law (much less opposed to all wisdom, which is what these teachings would tend to fall under).

And if you're defining the term "gospel" as the saving message -- as most people do nowadays -- then the gospel is NOT for Christians, except when the Christians get confused or otherwise need to be reminded of it. The saving message is ultimately for the unsaved. There is little value in asking a Christian to accept Jesus as his Savior -- because he's already saved. (In reality, I think the Bible sometimes uses the term "gospel" to refer to the entirety of Christian doctrine, so in that way the gospel is never something we can grow beyond. It's all good news. But that's not how people usually define the term nowadays.)

Anyway, I don't really want to get off on a tangent from the main point of the thread. I agree that seeker-sensitivity is bad, but I think if you're actually teaching practical doctrines from the Bible then that's not seeker-sensitivity. Seeker-sensitivity would mean just preaching a Billy Graham-style message every Sunday. Obviously doing Billy Graham-style sermons might help reinforce Christians better on the bare essentials, but it wouldn't help them grow much.

So that's why I made it a point to disagree about the criticisms listed in the original post. It seemed like Chris was criticizing the practices which were actually consistent with his own non-seeker-sensitive position. For example, whereas the Bible does not guarantee a stress-free life, Jesus does advise us not to worry, and the Bible actually tells us rejoice when we are persecuted for a good cause. Rejoicing is pretty much the opposite of stress. The Bible also tells us not to grieve about death like the world grieves, tells us to forgive people and not to hold grudges, advises us to pray to God for assistance and wisdom, and commands us to abstain from various sins that frequently induce stress, such as crime and sexual promiscuity. If you taught all these doctrines under the title of "Reducing Stress," that would not be seeker-sensitive in the slightest.


"...It doesn't make much sense to suggest that Christianity is opposed to all law"... Amazing that that's what you heard from my comments, that Christianity is some kind of state of pure anarchy in which we are to aggressively oppose God's Law.

I completely reject the notion that the "saving message of the Gospel" = "Ask Jesus into your heart." The saving message of the Gospel is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. And yes, Christians need to hear that as much as non-Christians. Paul certainly seemed to think so in his letters to the churches. But your comments are reflecting what most Reformation Christians would consider a confusion of Law and Gospel. The Law has to do with God's commands and demands, and also shows us our sins. It's summed up with "Love your neighbor as yourself"; it's not just the ceremonial laws of Moses. The Gospel, on the other hand, is pure gift. Failing to distinguish between the two leads to absolute chaos.

The "stress reduction" message is just silly because not only is it not the point of what Jesus and Paul were getting at, but it noticeably panders to American consumer values ("Got too much on your plate? Jesus can help you out"). Jesus advises us not to worry because it indicates a lack of faith, and also is ultimately stupid-- not because having lower blood pressure and feeling relaxed is inherently more spiritual or Christian. Everything the Bible says about grieving in death, forgiveness, prayer, and avoiding sin has nothing to do with trying to make us feel less stressed. It has to do with trust in God as we live under the cross. It may be that trusting God will affect our stress levels at certain times. But to present God's Word as "Do this and you'll feel better" emphasizes stress relief as the idol that it is in this world. That's typical in seeker sensitivity: find out what people want, and present Christianity as something that will give them what they want.


I'm pretty sure I distinguished EXTREMELY clearly in that last post between the law and the gospel, so I don't know what you're talking about.

As far as spiritual stress-reduction being an "idol," that's just silly. An idol is something you bow to in place of God, whereas stress-reduction is a motive for turning to God. You might as well argue that heaven is an idol because it's a motive for us to accept Christ, or that our physical lives are idols because they're motives for us not to engage in violent crime. Motives for right living are not idols. It doesn't matter one bit whether the term stress-reduction is a Western concept. Jesus said that he came to bring us abundant life. That's not talking about heaven.


"Abundant life" isn't talking about stress relief or any other worldly perks that God hasn't really promised us, either. You're the one fixated on heaven-- I never claimed that "abundant life" meant that, either. It does matter indeed if we're imposing our own cultural values on the words of Scripture. We will come to interpret "abundant life" as meaning "comfort, pleasure, and the American dream," as many prosperity preachers do.

An idol isn't just a statue; it's anything we fear, love and trust in more than God. Anything can be an idol. Motives for right living can certainly be idols. If you're trying to get an unbeliever to become a Christian by offering them a "motive for accepting Christ," making an idol is exactly what you're doing. You're telling people they need to turn to God in order to get something carnal that they want (stress relief in this case). You're telling them to use God for their own personal ends. People do the same thing with heaven when they tell an unbeliever to trust God as a means of fire insurance. That's self-preservation and bartering, not true love of God. Any unbeliever can follow good laws to keep themselves out of harm's way. There's nothing "Christian" about that. The only God-pleasing motive for doing right is Christ in us, which is exclusive to Christians.

That's why it is believed by many here that Scripture teaches that a man does not come to God to obtain salvation from him; God comes to man and gives him salvation freely. Man would like to strike deals with God and come to Jesus for bread and circuses, like the crowds in John 6. God would like to deal with us according to his grace, and he doesn't share his glory with idols.

I saw nothing about the Gospel in your previous post except some vague thing about the "saving message," which is for unbelievers, presumably consisting of "accept Jesus" which Christians don't need to hear. There was nothing but Law in what you wrote. Law and Gospel are both important, but I'm not sure you know what each of those things are.

cynthia curran

What is interesting is Rick Warren in his Purpose Driven Church mention that he mainly aimed at upper middle class whites in his area. Not the heavy hispanic areas of Santa Ana and Anaheim which are also in Orange County because they don't relate to him. He is not their kind of pastor. This means his fishing net aims at a more limited pool of fish. So, a lot of the MegaChurches aim at audiences that they relate to not the general population of their areas.

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