Alt. Names: Seeker Sensitive Movement, Seeker Driven Movement, Purpose Driven (Life) Movement, Church Growth Movement
Recognised Leaders: Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Bob Buford, David Yonggi Cho, Keith Miller, Don McGavran, C. Peter Wagner, Michael Fletcher, Charles Simpson, Michael Fletcher, Gary McIntosh, Dag Heward-Mills
Key scripture: Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 29:18
Description: The PDL Movement has its roots in the 1948 New Order of the Latter Rain (NOLR) cult. Among many restoration heresies that emerged from the NOLR were that of the ‘New Apostolic Paradigm’ and the ‘New Thing’ doctrine. Proof of one’s apostolic authority was there popularity and number of ‘converts’. This gave rise to doctrines surrounding church growth, (a field of study that began in 1955 by Donald McGavran in his book ‘Bridges of God’). As the NOLR developed their apostles through the Charismatic Movement, the New Order pushed a ‘New Wine Skin’ model of church so that the ‘new way’ of ‘doing church’ could receive the ‘New Wine’ of God. The book ‘The Taste of New Wine’ by Keith Miller helped give rise to the ‘New Wine’ Magazine and also affected influential apostolic church countless growth gurus (C. Peter Wagner, David Yonggi Cho, Bob Buford, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren); and helped inspire the Vineyard Movement, New Wine Movement (UK) and other like-minded revival experts.
Rather the idea of churches being for believers, gurus/architects/apostles decided to craft the entire church service as being for and meeting the felt needs of unbelievers. This was intentional and on purpose, their mantra often being “Doing church for the unchurched”. That means they were doing church for the so-called “seeker”. Although the PDL cults came out of the NOLR/NAR and are synonymous with NOLR/NAR beliefs, Rick Warren’s book ‘Purpose-Driven Life’ bolstered him to fame in Christendom and the world. However, by shaving off the spiritual extremisms in the NAR, Warren presented a ‘new way’ of doing church by emphasising to the non-believer the idea that God wants to give ‘seekers’ of truth a purpose. What came with his Purpose-Driven exploits was his advice on church growth, emphasising ‘relevant’ ways of doing church. Thus, PDL cults emphasise purpose, dreams, causes, goals, visions and ‘faith’ in people’s lives and entice people into their churches through cultural/technological/innovative gimmicks. They are often anti-scripture and anti-gospel. This can be head in their phrases such as, ‘Deeds not creeds’, ‘preach the gospel – use words when necessary’ or ‘love God, love neighbor’. By downplaying the gospel and the bible, they sacrifice Christians on the altar of relevance to only grow the worldly in their church.
Issues: The problem is that the scriptures teach in Romans 3 that “no one seeks after God. No not one”. The only true seeker in scripture is Jesus who seeks and saves the lost. This means the entire ‘seeker sensitive’ church model is built off the idea that the church needs to be made irresistible to the ‘seeker’. This often results in these leaders mocking or dissing churches that continue old practices like singing hymns, preaching irrelevant sermons (generally expository preaching). They often redefine love, the church, the role of the pastor, the role of worship and so on to entice and feed the goats on life or purpose-driven messages. What is often rejected is the proper feeding and nourishing the sheep with God’s Word.
The PDL cults are very similar to the Cult of Personality as both have an unhealthy view of the apostolic teachings of the early church . The minor difference is that the COP is not necessarily as obsessive with church growth. However, the PDL have no biblical foundation for teaching leaders how to grow a church. Essentially, these leaders are usurping the power of God and play God when they teach they do the growing and not God (See 1 Corinthians 1, Mark 4:26-29).
(NOTE: There is also some cross-over between Liberal/Emergent thinking and the PDL movement in that they are both postmodern in how they approach ‘seekers’. The Liberal/Emergent church though has adopted kind of the hard postmodern worldview whereas the Seeker Driven movement has a softer version of postmodernity. Nevertheless it’s postmodernism.)