Pastor Dale Lee McFarland was an up-and-coming star in the “Purpose Driven Church” movement, having left his position as a Microsoft executive to launch a thriving megachurch in Arizona and travel the world with evangelical superstar Rick Warren to train others in the methods of “The Purpose Driven Life.”
McFarland’s congregation, Radiant Church in Surprise, Ariz., had even boasted of receiving the Church Health Award from Purpose Driven Ministries and had grown to be one of the largest Assemblies of God churches in the country.
But earlier this year, a couple in the church filed a lawsuit, Courthouse News reports, alleging McFarland told the wife to have sex with him with “God’s approval” and divorce her husband.
Derek and Jody Gallagher claim McFarland “breached his duty as a pastor and counselor when [he] began manipulating a vulnerable Jody for his personal, perverted sexual pleasures.”
The Gallaghers’ sordid story includes charges McFarland told Jody her husband was “dangerous” and convinced her to change her home’s locks, sent her salacious and pornographic messages, exchanged nude photographs with her and manipulated her into having sex with him in the church building, even while he was offering the couple marriage counseling.
The Gallaghers, who are reportedly still married and seeking counseling elsewhere, are suing McFarland, Radiant Church Assembly of God and the Arizona District Council of the Assemblies of God in Maricopa County Court for $6.6 million, claiming breach of fiduciary duty, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and other claims.
McFarland, meanwhile, is no longer employed at Radiant Church, and in fact, the church has scrubbed all mention of him from its website.
The allegations, however, have caused some detractors of the Purpose Driven movement and its founder, Rick Warren, to renew their criticism.
Warren, the founder and pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., is also the author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” claimed to be the best-selling nonfiction book in world history, next to the Bible. An international activist and philanthropist, Warren has been credited by various media outlets as being one of the most influential Christians in the world.
But Warren’s critics have claimed his Purpose Driven ministry emphasizes only doing good, while dodging the kind of biblical repentance that is needed for a person – or a pastor – to have their life transformed by Christ. The Purpose Driven Church model, or PDC, discounts the fear of the Lord, Warren’s critics say, while encouraging pastors to become “masters” of their churches instead of servants.
James Sundquist, author of “Who’s Driving the Purpose Driven Church?” is one of the voices in a new video by producer Elliott Nesch called “Church of Tares,” which asserts Warren has built his organizations upon secular business management philosophies rather than the foundation of Jesus Christ, resulting in “a great compromise of the Great Commission.”
“In all fairness to Rick Warren, there is no direct connection between him and what this pastor is being sued for regarding sexual exploitation,” Sundquist told WND. “But there is an indirect connection in that Purpose Driven pastors are pastor as master and [are taught] psychotherapy and enforced covenants, [which can be] used to exploit a vulnerable member. McFarland’s struggles are not unique to Purpose Driven churches, but PDC is a template for abuse.”
“The fear of the Lord and the wrath of God and the total depravity of man are either not taught at all or are watered down in Warren’s PDC programs, so that church growth formulas and seeker-sensitive people are not offended,” Sundquist continued. “Now all of the right sermons on fear of the Lord and the wrath of God could be preached and adultery could still happen, but … if these things are not preached, how can we be surprised that these things happen in a church?”
The “Church of Tares” film can be seen below:
Rick Warren was contacted for comment on this story, but offered no reply.