I used to be a fairly consistent church going person, but in recent years, I started to observe some things in my church and others in general, that disturbed me. I went through my younger years attending and being a member of a fairly large church in California. The services were never dull, as there was very strong messages from the pulpit, and very "moving" music, and worship. This was back in the 70's. I was basking in this wave of the Jesus movement, and since then gradually started to wonder if this is really the way God/Jesus intended it to progress. I'm not questioning the omnipotence of our creator to make it correct, but I wonder if the American, Evangelical, and even main stream Protestant church is following a scriptural track in how they present the Gospel, or Good News. As church attendance has dropped considerably in most churches across the U.S., there have been some anomalies, to that trend, such as a large church called Willow Springs in Illinois, and Saddle Back Church in Southern California. These two churches have been adding membership at a breath-taking pace, and the Saddle Back's Pastor, Rick Warren has written a couple books on how to have this phenomena happen in your church too. One book is basically intended for non-lay people and is called, "The Purpose Driven Church" and the other for both non-Christians, and Christians, is called, " The Purpose Driven Life". As mentioned before with the overall decline in membership, churches, both large, medium, and small(congregation-wise), have been clamoring to find answers to this situation. Rick Warren's formula for stimulating membership growth has been embraced by literally thousands of churches across the U.S., Canada, and Australia. I don't have enought space to detail his formulae, but basically it involves making churches "Seeker Churches" or more comfortable for those that aren't believers, or Christians. In other words, traditional church services are being scrapped in favor services that make less reference to biblical terms, and more towards secular entertainment that will attract the masses. Warren feels that the service shouldn't emphasize too much biblical terminology, as this will turn away those that aren't Christians, and of course, shouldn't the church be doing everything possible to attract the "lost". Of course the term, "lost" is also not emphasized because this would upset, and turn seeking folks away. Warren, believes the music in the local church needs to reflect the present time and culture also, and as a result, much of the traditional hymns of the past, "Amazing Grace", "Rock of Ages", etc. should be taboo in worship, and replaced with contemporary music that un-churched folks like.......Again the emphasis to to be light on the Jesus references and other biblical terminology. In fact, "sin" is really taboo, with Warren's style of attracting the "lost". Now, I am not advocating a return to stark, cold, traditions, with benedictions, and memorized prayers, and "hell" and "damnation" sermons where the preacher's spit flies into the front rows of the church. I am wondering if the early church, right after Jesus's ressurrection followed Warren's methods? Because a church starts to lose attendance, there will be an obvious loss of revenues via tithing, and that means the church must tighten their financial belts. Large churches have large budgets. Facilities that house services, have large heating and A.C. bills. There's upkeep of all kinds, as well as salaries to be met with the normal staffs of these mega-churches. These churches have a Senior Pastor, numerous Associate Pastors, Office personal, Custodial, and others to keep this non-profit megolith running. Rick Warren, has offered a type of "salvation" for these churches that are literrally, in panic mode with their dwindling flocks, and the expected loss of moneys to maintain the "status quo" atleast. Now, my concern is mostly this. If faith, is the driving force of the Christian religion(please don't split hairs with me over calling it a religion, please), then where does this clamoring or panic for a way to grow the congregations back up and even beyond come from? Jesus said to His disciples to go forth into all the nations and tell them the Good News, and then there would be a harvest of souls as a result. Jesus also said that not all would believe, or accept this Good News. I'm concerned that the present day church in America, has in some way adopted the corporate mentality to survival and lost it's roots, or has atleast shelved or placed those early roots for it's existence in the background. Warren's philosophy, is supported in his books with numerous bible verses, of numerous translations, and many have questioned some of his applications of these verses in supporting what he teaches. Is the purpose of the church to make church more attractive to the non-believer by creating an atmosphere that is secular in order to bring them in? Is the church losing it's roots in faith, that "All things work together for good .........."(Romans 8:28) through grabbing for all kinds of ways to build up membership/attendance? Is a fast growing church a "sign" that it is following biblical methodology? Is a church that loses membership, not following biblical methodology necessarily? Does man in the end control the church, or is the church truly owned by the Creator of all things? Is Rick Warren's phenomenal church with literally thousands of members a result of growth via standing upon biblical principles, or might it be a "hodge-podge" of secular, and biblical to give it credentials before the Christian world? If a church hasn't the facilities to produce Broadway-like musicals as worship entertainment to attendees, is it missing something crucial? Rick Warren isn't doing crazy antics.....ala Benny Hinn, or Kenneth Copeland, but is greatly respected in the main stream evangelical movement. In fact, even some Catholic churches, and Episcopalian churches as well as main stream Protestant denominations are applying his methods to stimulate growth in their respective churches. Yet, Warren's books are on the best seller list, and now many Christian books stores sell, "Purpose Driven Lives", paraphernalia, such as shirts, booklets, and trinkets. This is becoming in itself a large industry. Because Warren's teachings are embraced by a multitude of churches, does that validate his teachings as biblical, and God-ordained in direction? I remember somewhere reading in the bible that there was a wide road and a narrow road, and that many would take the wide road. Also I remember something about the bible warning about some teaching would tickle the hearer's ears, and sound awfully good, yet be awfully false. Wide roads are easy to follow, and narrow roads metaphorically hint at a "tight squeeze" to navigate them. As I remember, Jesus, and later his Apostles, told us more than once that the Christian road was not going to be easy. There would be ups and downs. Yes, Jesus would make the "yoke" lighter for our lives, and in a monumental way, would give us liberty through his life passed to us by faith in Him. At the same time, His life imparted to us, would also mark us for ridicule, respect, disdain, and many other inflictions as a result of standing for His principles. Where does Rick Warren's methodology fit into this? I'm tired of having my ears tickled with Christianized entertainment. In fact the Home Church movement is starting to sound rather nice, yet I know that even those type of churches that emphasize getting back to "Book of Acts" methodology, may be missing the real focus too, yet in a different way. I don't think Jesus came to show us how to mimic His Life, but to allow His life to be displayed through us, like a lamp. We are the container for the light source, but not the source. I'm concerned that Warren's methods, are more man's attempt at helping God out, and God definitely doesn't need our help. We are referred in the bible as vessels to be used.........not originator's of brilliant schemes to help ourselves out of a pinch, and disguise it as helping God. I'm looking forward to all of your opinions.