What's Wrong With the 21st Century Church?

by Dr. Robert Klenck

There is a phenomenon that is taking “mainstream Christianity” by storm, however, it is by no means Christian.  Touted as church growth, purpose- or mission-driven, disciplemaking churches, cell – or meta-churches; a “new way of doing church”, and the 21st Century church; this movement should be of deep concern to anyone who consider themselves to be Christian.

What is this “New way of doing Church?”

 This movement can be defined as

The utilization of modern marketing techniques by the church, in order to draw and hold large numbers of people (by meeting their "felt needs").   The church then “converts” them, and “disciples" them through the use of modern organizational management [Total Quality Management-style] techniques, so that they can effect "change" in the community, and the world.

 The church members, thus become agents of social change, or “change agents”.  This treatise will reveal the origin and direction of the “change” that the church is being taken through, and then replicating in the community and the world.

 “Pastors are probably the most underrated groups of change agents today.” Rick Warren1

 Most of these type of churches are “planted” after a survey is taken of the surrounding community.  The “felt needs" of the community are then compiled, and the church is tailored around meeting those needs.  Two of the most prominent proponents of this style of church, the Rev. Bill Hybels, founder of Willowcreek Church in So. Barrington IL, and Dr. Rick Warren, founder of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Mission Viejo, CA, both readily admit to being influenced by Dr. Robert H. Schuller, founder of the Crystal Cathedral in Orange, CA with regards to their utilization of these community surveys2,3.   Dr. Warren, admits to being only interested in meeting the needs of unbelievers in his surveying, when he states:  “I didn’t want to color the survey with believers’ opinions.”4  The question thus arises:  Is it acceptable to pattern a church after the felt needs of unbelievers, when the Apostle Paul states that the function of the church is to perfect and to edify the saints?  [Eph 4:11 – 12] 

Furthermore, are we to use worldly surveys and techniques to become more attractive to the masses? [1 Cor 1:20, and Rom 12:2]             

What else is seen in these churches?  Special parking for first time visitors, and numerous “greeters” (a la Wal Mart).  Why?  Because surveys have shown that people decide in the first eight minutes, whether they will return to that church or not, so first impressions become very important.  

How about the presentation and the message?  The churches are often devoid of any religious symbols, such as crosses, stained glass windows, and pews, so as to make the unbelievers more comfortable, and the environment “less intimidating.”  Remember:  the cross is an offense [Galatians 5:11], and the preaching of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness [1 Corinthians 1:18].  The environment is visually stimulating, often with multiple video screens, drama, dance, and skits to portray “Biblical concepts”.  The pastors often wear polo shirts to set the audience at ease, pace back and forth as they speak, wearing mobile microphones – in all, a very distracting environment.  The pastors give handouts with fill-in-the-blanks to be utilized during the message – this results in people rarely bringing Bibles to church.  Multiple Bible versions are used, in order to put the right “spin” on the message, and the King James Version is usually avoided due to the “difficulty in newcomers understanding it”, and the “hard truth” message that it brings.  The messages are significant, in that much is left out, and with all of the distraction that is occurring, it is difficult for one to discern what it is that is missing.  Jesus’ love and grace are emphasized, often His deity is minimized, and the fact that He is a righteous judge is usually avoided.  Sin is often characterized as “wrongdoing”, “wrong choices”, and “mistakes.”  In Rick Warren5 and Bob Buford’s6 books, the personal pronouns He, and Him, when referring to Jesus in mid-sentence, are not capitalized, once again diminishing His deity. Rick Warren stated how he prepares a sermon:

He first considers: “To whom will I be preaching? … Then, I consider what are their needs, hurts, and interests, and I ask a second question:  ‘What does the Bible say about their needs?’” … Once he examines what the Bible says about the subject, he asks himself:  “What is the most practical way to say this?  What is the most positive way to say this?  What is the most encouraging way to say this?  What is the simplest way to say this?  What is the most personal way to say this?  What is the most interesting way to say this?”

 In other words, he puts his “spin” on the Blessed Word of God in order to tickle the itching ears of his audience. This is a reversal of God’s plan; His plan is to send His truth down to sinful man through His messengers (pastors).  The word pastor can also be translated as messenger.  The true pastor is to act as a messenger from God, bringing God’s truth and message to the people, regardless of whether it is what they want to hear.

The end result is a watered-down message, with “feel good” half-truths, and no condemnation/conviction of sin for the listeners.  Those who “accept Christ’ are not accepting the Christ revealed in the blessed Word of God, but rather a false Christ, a Christ of grace and love, and not of judgment, who exists to meet their needs and heal their hurts.  Jesus becomes a servant of theirs, rather than them becoming servants of Him.  


Once someone professes faith in Christ, and wants to become a member of one of these churches, they are placed on a path of “discipleship.”  Often, the path has four stages 101, 201, 301, and 401.  Usually a model consisting of concentric circles, or a baseball diamond are utilized.  Covenants are signed at each level – signing covenants is not Biblical [Matthew 5: 33 – 37].  People are required to swear that they will not gossip [critical evaluation of the programs being implemented in these churches is considered to be gossip], and to unquestioningly follow the leadership:

                “If you’re helping row the boat, you don’t have time to rock it.”

-Rick Warren8

“Spiritual Gift Assessments” are performed, which are nothing more than psychological profiling.  Proponents Warren, Bob Buford (founder of the Leadership Network), and Peter Drucker all believe that God uses people in their areas of strength, so the idea is to identify strengths, and then direct people into appropriate “ministries.”

“The pastor, as manager, has to identify their strengths and specialization, place them and equip them for service, and enable them to work in the harmonious and productive whole known as the body of Christ.”

- Peter Drucker9

At best, this is merely a matter of fitting people to the task, which is not led by the Holy Spirit.  At worst, it is manipulation.  God uses people in their areas of weakness, not strengths, that He might be glorified [1 Cor 12:8 – 10].

Church members sign covenants requiring them to participate in small groups.  Small group “Bible studies” are not didactic teaching sessions with an instructor, but rather dialectic “facilitated meetings” in which solid Biblical absolute truth becomes a casualty.  This will be discussed further shortly.

There are a couple of other phenomena  that occur in the small groups.  The first is bonding, so that people feel “plugged-in” to these generally large or mega-churches.

 “Small groups are the most effective way of closing the back door of your church”

-Rick Warren10

 Secondly, participation in so-called “accountability” groups, is often required by the signed covenants.  The regular, complete confession of all sins to an accountability leader or partner has two effects: First, the temporal accountability to another man leads to a shift in the thinking of the confessor away from the notion that he/she is in the constant presence of God and is accountable to Him and Him alone, to concern about what the accountability partner will think or say about any given thought or action.  Secondly, there is a brainwashing that occurs with confession, leading to submission on the part of the confessor.

“Something intrinsic in communism makes this confession phenomenon indispensable to it; it can’t exist without it … The meaning in confession then, as the Reds now use it, is agreement with the rules laid down and hence submission to the existing hierarchy.”                 

- Edward Hunter11

In James 5:16, we are commanded to confess our faults one to another – in broken-heartedness, admitting to our sinful nature, but we are not to confess all of our sins on a regular basis to another man.  “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus:[1Tim 2:5].” 

Rick Warren admits that he has used his church as a human research laboratory:

 “Saddleback is kind of the Research and Development department of the church at large.  We’re not afraid to fail.  We’ve always tried more things that didn’t work than did.  Every once in a while we find – usually by accident – something that works.  Then we teach the seminars and pretend like we planned it all along, when really it was just the result of trial and error. “(Laughter)12

The Leadership Network/Peter Drucker

The Leadership Network is a large church consulting firm which actively promotes the “21st Century church.”  Its founder is Bob Buford, who also founded the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.  Mr. Buford refers to Peter Drucker as “the man who formed my mind.”13  Pastor Rick Warren, in endorsing Buford’s book Halftime, writes:  “I want every man in my congregation to read this inspiring story.”14  This “inspiring story” is about the “half-time” of Mr. Buford’s life – sort of his mid-life crisis.  In Chapter 5, Mr. Buford details how he, his wife, and an atheist (Mike Kami) spent a weekend in a beach house and how this atheist helped him to reorder his priorities so that he might better spend the rest of his life serving the Lord.  Halftime is also endorsed by Steven Covey, a Mormon who organized the Gorbachev State of the World Forum, which ran concurrently with the United Nations Millenium Summit last September in New York.  In the second chapter of his book, Mr. Buford admits to never having had a Christian conversion experience, because:  “I was given the gift of faith at such an early age that I don’t remember ever living without it.”  

The Mission of the Leadership Network is to “Accelerate the emergence of the 21st-century church,” and that the (emerging) “paradigm (of the 21st century church) is not centered in theology, but rather it is focused on structure, organization, and the transition from an institutionally based church to a mission-driven church (emphasis added).”15  

The Young Leader Networks, affiliated with the Leadership Network, under the heading “People We Connect” state that they connect “Theologians who construct new theologies that emerge out of practice.” and that “We need your help to move to this “new age” of ministry built upon various experiences and expressions (emphasis added).”  “Our vision is to contextualize our message…by narrative preaching opposed to propositional.  within the framework of relationship.  We prefer the mediums of art, expression, and experience opposed to a 95-point sermon used by generations before us to communicate truth (emphasis added). “16  

Peter F. Drucker, who figures prominently in this movement, claims to be an Espicopalian, but his views are clearly more consistent with atheistic humanism.  In Forbes Magazine, he stated:  

“…a social discipline, such as management, deals with the behavior of people and human institutions. The social universe has no "natural laws" as the physical sciences do. It is thus subject to continuous change. This means that assumptions that were valid yesterday can become invalid and, indeed, totally misleading in no time at all."17

Thus, he does not believe that there are any moral absolutes, and he states that anybody who believes that there are moral absolutes may be misled.  Dr. Drucker’s provost at Claremont Graduate University stated:  “He changes as the world changes.”; and “Peter (Drucker) constantly emphasizes (management) is a human enterprise.”18  Is the church to follow the management advice of a man who does not believe in moral absolutes, and who “changes as the world changes?”    Humanists believe in evolution, deny God, and creation, and believe that we need to look to man in order to solve all of the problems in the world.19  Dr. Drucker’s thinking is right along the same lines:

"He (Drucker) believes in human strengths to counter human weaknesses.  The science of discovering those strengths, of fitting them into a productive framework, is what Drucker calls management."

-Christianity Today20


“So the nonprofit social sector is where management is today most needed and where systematic, principled, theory-based management can yield the greatest results fastest. Just think of the enormous problems facing the world—poverty, health care, education, international tension—and the need for managed solutions becomes loud and clear.”

- Peter Drucker21

Overall, Dr. Drucker believes that Total Quality Management [TQM] style organizational management techniques will solve the world’s problems (apart from God).

Total Quality Management[TQM] and the Hegelian Dialectic

Total Quality Management [TQM] is based upon the Hegelian dialectic, invented by Georg Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel, a transformational Marxist social psychologist.22  Briefly, the Hegelian dialectic process works like this:  a diverse group of people (in the church, this is a mixture of believers (thesis) and unbelievers (antithesis), gather in a facilitated meeting (with a trained facilitator/”teacher”/group leader/”change agent”), using group dynamics (peer pressure), to discuss a social issue (or dialogue the Word of God), and reach a pre-determined outcome (consensus, compromise, or synthesis).  When the Word of God is dialogued (as opposed to being taught didactically) between believers and unbelievers, with multiple Bible versions utilized (with King James usage discouraged) and consensus is reached – agreement that all are comfortable with – then the message of the Word of God has been watered down ever so slightly, and the participants have been conditioned to accept (and even celebrate) their compromise (synthesis).  The new synthesis becomes the starting point (thesis) for the next meeting, and the process of continual change (innovation) continues.  The fear of alienation from the group is the pressure that prevents an individual from standing firm for the truth of the Word of God, and such a one usually remains silent (self-editing).  The fear of man (rejection) overrides the fear of God.  The end result is a “paradigm shift” in how one processes factual information.

An example: Traditionally thinking Christians, when proven wrong with factual information (i.e.-Biblical moral absolutes), yield to the facts, and admit that they are wrong, and then align themselves to those facts. They are brought back to accountability to higher authority (the Word of God).  Because Biblical moral absolutes do not change, such traditional thinkers, who adhere to such unchanging absolutes are labeled as "resistant to change,” by those promoting this “new way of doing church.”

On the other hand, transformational thinkers, having transitioned through this dialectic process, when proven wrong with factual information, have been conditioned to process that information differently - they automatically question the facts (what is) and dialogue them within themselves; their (deceitful) hearts rebel against the facts; and then they begin to justify (to themselves and others) why it is that they no longer have to attend to the facts, or yield to higher authority. They process the facts away, and their consciences become seared.  This is the natural result of the dialectic process – the searing of the conscience [1 Tim 4:1]

Transformational thinkers are then able to justify to themselves why they are no longer bound to Biblical moral absolutes. You see, people are saying that the Biblical message just doesn't apply to today's (humanistic) culture – that it must be interpreted in light of the culture of the day. [To some degree this is true – (i.e.-slavery was common then, etc.).]  However, this movement takes it much further, and through the process of continual incremental “change” (using the Hegelian dialectic over and over with the last synthesis becoming the new thesis – the “new fact” base, or “new reality’), the Word of God is gradually/incrementally changed from its original intent, and eventually it is interpreted to mean something contrary to its original intent.  This is the process that all sinners use in attempting to justify their rebellion to themselves and others.  The rebellion is subtle at first – simply moving away from the traditional way of “doing” church; later, the ordaining of female “pastors”; and eventually it gets to the point of ordaining lesbian "pastors", etc..  This is the end result of the process of “continual change.”  In Germany, the Hegelian dialectic process was utilized in order to reorder the thinking process of the society, and the result was the extermination of 6 million Jews.

Where this Movement is Headed

In May, 1995, the Leadership Network’s Compass Magazine addressed the issue:  “After Church Growth, What?”  Under this heading, the Network wrote:

“The next movement will grow partnerships, not properties.  Partnerships, alliances and collaboration will become the norm, rather than the exception, and the relationships will be built on new loyalties and a new common mission. … The next movement will grow people, not parking lots. … These same people are in the congregations of the 21st century and they are going to be the “point people” for the partnerships and alliances that will achieve the vision beyond the property line (emphasis added).”


"The Church of the 21st Century is reforming itself into a multi-faceted service operation."


-Bob Buford23

Compass continues on to say:  

“The Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, has several 501 (c) (3) entities related to housing, job training and employment, medical and dental services, and educational ventures.”

Regarding the church, Peter Drucker stated:  

"The community … needs a community center… I'm not talking religion now, I'm talking society.  There is no other institution on the American community that could be the center."24

So, what is the point of all this?  Sustainable development.  Outlined by Vice-President Gore in his book Earth in the Balance, the notions are that: 


These are the major goals of the United Nations, with all power to enforce them given to the U.N..

So, how does the church fit in?  First, there will be designated community centers, which offer “one-stop shopping” (health care, food banks, education, and other governmental social programs: i.e. welfare distribution).  There must be a lot of these decentralized areas, so that they are within walking/biking distances of peoples’ homes, diminishing the need for automobiles.  Some of these programs are already being administered through fire stations (vaccinations), senior citizen centers, and parks (free cheese giveaways, etc.). 

Is the church really participating in this?  Compass continues:

Willow Creek Community Church in So. Barrington, Illinois, is in partnership with World Vision [a United Nation’s Non-governmental Organization, affiliated with the U.N. Department of Public Information – they have agreed to actively promote the U.N. agenda.]25  to create Vision Chicago in an effort to link Willow Creek with urban ministries. 

Finally, Compass states:

Summerhill Neighborhood, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia, was founded by a partnership of churches to “revitalize Summerhill into a vibrant, growing and self-sustaining community,” and has established a medical center, low-cost clothing store, day-care center, and housing-rehabilitation program (emphasis added).

Yes, the church is participating in the neo-pagan, earth-worshiping, sustainable development touted by the United Nations, and both major American political parties.  Additionally, the rules that the church must adhere to in administering governmental programs were recently laid out by President Clinton.26  In this instance, the church is partnering with the government in administering educational programs, and the rules are:

·         Ensure that all activities and programs provided by the groups are “purely” secular”

·         Selection of student participants without regard to their religion

·         Telling volunteers not to pray with students or preach about faith

·         Put a partnership agreement in writing

·         Make sure that any space used for teaching is free of religious symbols

It is interesting to note, that these churches often “sanitize” their surroundings of religious symbols ostensibly to keep from offending unbelievers, but that this “sanitization” also “happens” to bring them into compliance with partnership agreements with the government.  There are approximately 100,000 schools entering into these partnerships with religious groups.


  Firstly, churches are actually carrying out and administering the U.N. global agenda.  (For further information, I recommend a search of the internet for the UN Agenda for the 21st Century - “Agenda 21” – which lays out the entire blueprint for global sustainable development).

 Secondly, these churches are accomplishing, is the “transformation” of the minds of the church membership and leadership to the transformational mode of dealing with factual information.  Once all people are involved in diaprax – the repeated practice of the Hegelian dialectic process in all sectors of society (cradle to grave) in parenting classes, ready to learn programs, education  programs (OBE and STW), police work (DARE), health care, business (TQM), religion, volunteerism, and even retired persons with lifelong learning, then the global goal of unity can be accomplished, as all are willing to lay aside their differences for the sake of the unity of humankind.  All of the world’s problems can then be solved by man – apart from God.  This is the goal of the Humanists, Peter Drucker, and the U.N..  The only people hindering this utopian goal are those who refuse to lay aside their moral absolutes for the sake of the world.

II Th 2:7  For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth (restrains) will let(restrain), until he be taken out of the way.(KJV)

Either by force, or by the LORD.


1.                  http://www.emcced.ca/pdc.htm

2.                  Willow Creek Seeker Services by G. A. Pritchard.  Copyright © 1996 by G. A. Pritchard.  Baker Book, a division of Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI.

3.                  Taken from THE PURPOSE-DRIVENTM Church by RICK WARREN.  Copyright © 1995 by Rick Warren.  Used  by Permission of Zondervan Publishing House., p. 190.

4.                  Ibid.

5.                  Ibid

6.                  Taken from HALFTIME by ROBERT P. BUFORD.  Copyright © 1994 by Robert P. Buford.  Used by permission of  Zondervan Publishing House.

7.                  http://ministryonline.com/churchgrowth/warren.htm

8.                  Warren, p. 86.

9.                  The Business of the Kingdom, Christianity Today. Volume 43, No. 13, November 15, 1999.

10.              Warren, p. 327.

11.              Brainwashing:  from Pavlov to Powers, Copyright 1960 by Edward Hunter.  The Bookmailer, Inc.  Linden, New Jersey, p.  237.

12.       http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/7l3/7l3022.html

13.              Buford, dedication of Halftime. 

14.              Buford, endorsements. 

15.              http://www.leadnet.org/bwhoweare.html  

16.      http://www.youngleader.org/People/people/htm

17.             “Management’s New Paradigms,” Forbes, October 5, 1998.

18.              Daily Bulletin, November 4, 1999. “Dignitaries to fete Drucker at age 90”.  

19.       http://www.humanist.net

20.              The Business of the Kingdom, Christianity Today. Volume 43, No. 13, November 15, 1999.

21.              “Management’s New Paradigms,” Forbes, October 5, 1998.

22.              Gotcher, Dean:  Traditional, Transitional, Transformational OBE (Outcome-Based Education)/STW (School-to-Work)/TQM (Total Quality Management).  Video - (626) 859-4073.

23.              Leadership Network, NEXT Dec. 1997.

24.              The Business of the Kingdom, Christianity Today. Volume 43, No. 13, November 15, 1999.

25.              www.un.org, link to non-governmental organizations [NGO’s], and the Department of Public Information [DPI].

26.              Clinton:  Church, school links OK, (Associated Press), Daily Bulletin, December 12, 1999.

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