Thursday, March 08, 2007

That Purpose-Driven Scandal And a Ghost Story

I tried to go to sleep early last night, but I thought it very possible that my segment would air on "Nightline" so I gave up around 11:00 and turned the light back on.

I saw immediately that I wouldn't be on, as they were featuring some scandal about Rick Warren called "The Purpose-Driven STRIFE" (cue ominous music).

This story gave me such a bad fit of the giggles I almost threw out my back. Here's what it was about: churches that are growing by leaps and bounds by using Warren's "purpose-driven" model are actually experiencing some conflict.

I'll give you a moment to get up off the floor. I know, I was amazed and astounded, too. Conflict in churches? Especially ones that go from an average of thirty worshipers to three hundred? The mind fairly boggles!

This was so great. The reporter was very earnest as he interviewed a man who left a "purpose-driven" congregation in North Carolina because -- please hold onto your coffee cups now -- they were hardly playing any traditional hymns anymore.

Just as I was reeling with this news -- what? Good church-going Americans are disagreeing about music??? --- they showed footage from purpose-driven church services where people responded enthusiastically to praise music and the minister preached with heartfelt intensity about applying gospel lessons to our actual lives. The critical man considered this "mixing psychology" into religion. My God, what's next!!?? Suggesting outright to church-goers that the ancient spiritual teachings of Christ might have direct relevance to their contemporary lives? This has to stop. Rick Warren, are you listening to me? How dare you grow the church by millions of people according to this nefarious method?

I finally quit my giggling and went back to sleep. An hour or so later, I was awakened by a deep thudding noise from downstairs. I figured it was the jacked-up bass from a sound system of a passing car on Main Street, and then I heard it again. A few more times.

Must be the cat. Just as I was about to call for her, I heard the sound of someone climbing the stairs. Heavy footsteps, but calm and sure, like a father coming to check on his sleeping child. As my neckhairs began to prickle ("Boy, Ermengarde sure sounds like a human climbing those stairs"), I saw that the cat was not coming up the stairs -- she was awake and listening at the foot of my bed. Instead of being terrified, I was flooded with the most amazing sense of blessing and protection I have had in years. Maybe ever. The cat didn't seem too disturbed, but she very quietly and stealthily padded across the mattress to curl up closer to me. When I woke up this morning, she was still there--sleeping in a little striped ball just inches from my nose.

This house has been occupied by the ministers of my church since 1875. I have always felt a lot of love from "my boys," -- I'm the first female pastor in the congregation's 365 year history -- and I wonder if one of them stopped by to minister to me.

Maybe it was my Dad "breaking on through from the other side," as Jim Morrison once sang. I've missed him a LOT lately.

Maybe it was a little episode of psychosis brought on by too much prayer and openness.

Whatever it was, I still felt like I was in the presence of angels when I woke up this morning, that "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

Hey ghost, thanks for stopping by.


Blogger Doug Muder said...

Hosts of news programs should all have a curmudgeon side-kick who consistently asks, "So why is this news exactly? Is there really a story here?"

Blogger ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes said...

PeaceBang, I am very interested in your positive assessment of Warren. I think you have a vantage point to see some good; my insider status (I am in the same tradition as Warren--he's evangelical; I'm Liberal) has given me big blindspots to what he does. My suspicions are that the angry parishioner who left Warren's church left over matters of taste, not theology. My concern with Warren is that his movement, in the end, reinforces fundamentalist prejudices. Stylistically, he's quite different. But, substantially, The Purpose Drive Life's assumptions kind rub me wrong. And I get the feeling that Warren's approach to XN actually closes minds, rather than opens them. (and his fashion--real problems).

Now, about that ghost!! What do you really think that was? Really!

Blogger robiewankenobie said...


Blogger robiewankenobie said...


Blogger Shaktidas said...

Great post. I'm glad you enjoyed the ghost, too.

Anonymous Matt Stone said...

Thanks PeaceBang. That was amusing.

In response to ElhananWinchester in Pinstripes, I am no great fan of Rick Warren but I would not describe him as fundamentalist. Evangelical yes, but fundamentalist no. I don't think it's helpful to reduce everything to a reified fundamentalist vs liberal debate. The scene is more complex than that.

Matt Stone


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