Saddleback's Gated Church Community [bad.hack]

A bad.hack (read more about it here) is a manipulation of a Christian system either using illicit means to achieve an end, or achieving goals that leave the system worse off and less open than before. Read on for the hack!

It seems that famed Rick Warren's megachurch Saddleback Church has inadvertently opened the first REAL gated community church by planting an extension church on in a gated community's property.  Doh!

The primary membership of an official Village organization must be comprised of Village residents. Guests of residents are allowed by GRF to utilize the community facilities when accompanied by that resident- an official club meeting is no exception. But, GRF rules do not allow persons uninvited and unaccompanied by a Laguna Woods Village resident to attend their gatherings.
From MMI:
So… in reality… you will not be able to attend Saddleback’s new campus next Sunday (Easter) unless you are a resident of Laguna Woods Village, or are attending WITH a member of Laguna Woods Village.  Ruh-Roh.

So, Saddleback may have just inadvertently started America’s first ‘gated’ multi-site campus.
Wow.  Major PR bungle here.  I'm probably leaning towards what MMI figures: they were blindsided.  But who would want to setup a church plant in a gated community anyway?  Bad plan, Saddleback.

But I think what bothers me most is the first comment on MMI.  The commenter says "who cares" because this gated church plant is only 10 minutes from the main Saddleback campus.  It's a short drive over for anyone unable to go to the gated church plant.

Well...IT MATTERS!  Anytime we open a church and say that only "particular" people can attend, or we suckle ourselves up to authorities who can regulate who attends, then we cease to be the Church universal.  And that's a bad.hack



Matt Algren April 6, 2009 at 9:24 AM  


I'm going to go ahead and suggest that this wasn't inadvertent. It's just so obvious, I can't believe an organization as large as Rick Warren's didn't recognize the policy.

Sunbob April 7, 2009 at 12:06 AM  

I guess I'm having a hard time understanding how reaching out to a community in need is a problem. How is this different from my pastor doing a Thursday service at the local retirement home or forming a congregation in a prison? These are also communities within secure facilities with limited access from "outsiders".

Matt Algren April 7, 2009 at 2:00 PM  

Those communities are made to keep people in, and they aren't places that people generally would like to go. They're passively exclusive.

This, though, is an example of active exclusivity. The gated community has a gate to keep people OUT of a place that they would presumably want to enter, a way to pat someone on the shoulder and tell them that they aren't good enough or qualified enough to enter into God's presence.

That's just antithetical to the basic premise of Christianity.

nathanaquilla April 9, 2009 at 10:34 AM  

If the church plant is successful by my standards I would expect that the wall/gate be torn down, or some sort of distinct community change to openness or change in understanding and living with earthy wealth. Maybe Rick Warren and his disciples are trying to set up a church in a mini-Corinth. Undoubtedly, they will have have to address the wealth and separation issue much as Paul had to in the Corinthian Church. Admittedly there were earthly poor in the Corinthian Church, where there are only the spiritually poor in this community.

I hope that this is their intent is right. There is a latent risk that the community could decide to create their own exclusive "God loves us by giving us the money/power" church.

Earl,  April 24, 2009 at 9:03 PM  

It is all well and good to stand back and look down our noses at people who live in "gated communities." There is no difference between organizing a church in a gated community and organizing a Sunday School/Bible study in a apartment building where entry is available only to residents. One can rent a two bed-room apartment or a trailer home in a trailer-park or a house in a gated community and have an instant usable space for teaching. Rent apartments on different floors of a building or trailers in different parts of the trailer park and you have the potential for outreach that requires nothing more than a willingness to knock on doors, get to know people and invite them to get involved. Innovation in reaching people for Christ is as old as four caring men ripping a roof off a house so that they could bring their friend to Jesus. Churches like Saddleback are to be commended for looking for fresh creative ways of ministering the gospel to lost men and women.

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