The Bible Teaching Ministry of David Hocking
“The Word of our God shall stand forever” Isaiah 40:8


It is not the purpose of HOPE for TODAY to attack people who love the Lord and His Word. We will not hesitate to confront heresy that denies the major doctrines of our Lord and His salvation. Our major focus is on Bible Prophecy and the Nation of Israel in God’s prophetic program.

We have received hundreds of requests to comment about the best-selling books “The Purpose-Driven Life” and “The Purpose-Driven Church” authored by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California.
Pastor Warren has been seen several times during the past few months in high profile interviews such as “Larry King.” He is writing articles to help people in major magazines, including “Ladies Home Journal.”

By his own profession, Pastor Warren is committed to the Bible as the inspired Word of God and believes that salvation and eternal life is only found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

His plans have included a global outreach to help suffering countries around the world in meeting their basic needs of food, water, and medicines. He certainly needs to be commended for his vision and his concern for the needs of people. We are assuming that he also intends to reach people with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have attended the services of Saddleback Church and have observed “firsthand” their ministry and talked to some of their staff and key leadership. They seem united and excited about what God is doing in their ministry. We heard nothing of complaint, criticism, and attacks on those who may disagree with their approach.

This church and its Senior Pastor have been concerned for many years with the “traditional” approach of churches to reaching people in today’s world. They speak about it quite often. They tried something different and it began to draw people. They have eliminated a great deal of negative preaching and teaching and have tried to design their services to enable non-believers to feel “comfortable” in attending, thus giving the church the opportunity to make contact with them and seek to win them to faith in Jesus Christ.

In terms of numbers of people, the story of Saddleback Church is indeed amazing. Some report that in actual numbers it is the largest attended church in North America. It certainly is a part of the top five largest churches in attendance. The church has multiple services in order to reach the numbers of people who are coming.

Many churches are following their plan of ministry and use the program known as “40 days of purpose.” We commend them for their desire to glorify the Lord and reach people with the true gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So, why are so many churches and pastors criticizing their approach? In visiting many web sites on this matter, we have come up with a list of “concerns” about the “Saddleback approach” to ministry.

1. The removal of Biblical terms dealing with salvation – such as sin, death, hell, etc. “Fire and brimstone” preaching is out – a softer approach is in.

2. The use of multiple translations that support the speaker’s point of view – rather than expositional and exegetical teaching of what the Bible is actually saying. (We found this criticism in almost every article)

3. The desire to make non-believers “comfortable.” Certainly we would all agree that having comfortable chairs, well-equipped nurseries, clean rest rooms, and excellent sound and video systems are all worthwhile goals of ministry. But, this point deals with the way non-believers are being addressed. Nothing is offensive, and any person would easily identify with the messages that seem to focus on “getting your act together” or “finding your real purpose in life” etc. Some suggest that I Corinthians 14:24-25 teaches that non-believers are “convinced” or literally “convicted” and as a result – respond in repentance to the message of God’s Word.

4. The emphasis on self-esteem and worth to the neglect of the true gospel. This criticism is often presented on various web sites, and statements made by Pastor Rick Warren are “pulled” from a wider context in order to prove that he is teaching incorrectly. One of the characteristics of the “perilous times” that are coming (II Timothy 3:1-5) is that people will be “lovers of themselves” instead of “lovers of God.” Personal esteem and worth begins with the gospel when we become “new creatures in Christ.” Our worth is established through creation in God’s image and redemption through the work of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. The “natural man” apart from the work of Christ is not going to understand true Biblical worth and esteem. I Corinthians 1:18-2:5 clearly reveals that God’s eternal choice of believers was not rooted in their ability, understanding, approval by others, or any other achievement – it is based on God’s sovereign will and choice. The simple truth of the gospel is that people are “sinners” and need to be “saved” – and that comes through faith in what the Lord has done for us – NOT the result of our works, ability, performance, money, or so-called worth!

5. The best-selling book of Pastor Warren entitled “The Purpose-Driven Life” has become one of the most talked about books of this or any other generation. From a literary and graphics point of view – it is well stated and presented in “easy-to-understand” terms and arguments. It could be used in any motivational program to encourage constituents to have a stronger goal and purpose in life. However, mature believers have been deeply concerned that this kind of teaching would now replace the faithful expository preaching and teaching of pastors who are to “equip” believers for their ministry and service for our Lord. The Bible makes a strong case for the centrality and importance of the Word of God in all we say and do (II Timothy 3:14-17).

The book is interesting and enjoyable to read, but it lacks depth and clarity from a Biblical point of view.

6. The use of secular and contemporary music styles. This criticism has been around for a long time. Believers disagree sharply on the kind of musical styles that should be used in worship. Many believe that music today is “too loud” and uses drums and guitars too much. Many believers have been used to organs and pianos for many years and are finding the changes very difficult to accept. Many believe that the desire to identify with the world in order to reach them has gone from “cultural adaptation” to “compromise” with the world in order to be accepted. There are thousands of believers who have great difficulty with the use of secular songs and music in the context of the worship of Almighty God in the services of our churches. This criticism of the Saddleback ministry could also be applied to thousands of others who are doing the same.

For what it is worth, we do not believe that this approach to ministry and church life is Biblical. We are concerned that it substitutes for the power of God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit. We still believe that the greatest need in our churches today is the faithful preaching and teaching of the Bible itself – we believe the motto should be: “The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.”

Thanks for listening, and for your questions.

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