Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Revisiting Erwin McManus' Revisionist History

And the "revisions" continue . . .

In my very first blog entry here at Solid Foods,"A Revisionist History of the Church on Brady?", http://solidfoods.blogspot.com/2007_03__archive.html

. . . I recounted a few of the puzzling and contradictory statements made regarding the history of the Church on Brady. Some of these statements are direct quotes from Erwin McManus, the man who took over the leadership of this church and has since transformed it into "Mosaic."

Unfortunately, Erwin is not the only one making odd statements about a church that the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptists once hailed as "sending more missionaries through the IMB than any other church." http://www.universal-disciple.com/about%20us.htm

Rick Warren

From the Mosaic Website FAQ’s comments section:

The following excerpt is from the foreword written by Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church for Erwin McManus' book, "An Unstoppable Force." It can be found in the section entitled, “What Others Are Saying About Erwin and Mosaic,” directly under the FAQ’s: [Please note the passages I have highlighted.]

FOREWORD: This inspiring book is written by a survivor. Eight years ago, my friend Erwin McManus was called to pastor a church with a great history in urban Los Angeles. The Church on Brady was known for its creative pastor, its diversity, and its heart for missions. Most church consultants would have recommended that Erwin not accept the leadership of the church for 3 reasons: First, he’d be following a great senior pastor who served 25 years and created a very unique culture. Second, the church had been plateaued for 15 years and in decline for a few years. Third, the congregation was land-locked on 3/4th of an acre on a one-block street. Conventional wisdom would say “You’d be a fool to try to change a church with so much history. You’ll be martyred.” Transitioning this church for a different 21st century ministry would be difficult and painful. But Erwin stepped out in faith and accepted the challenge. Now he has led the church through a process of transition and renewal that is amazing, even changing the name of the church to Mosaic, (which, by the way, I think is one of the coolest names for any church). He has not only survived the transition, he has grown and thrived. That is rare.

Rick Warren, Saddleback Community Church

I have a few comments to make about these statements by Rick Warren.

1. The Church on Brady did have a “great history” with a creative pastor (Pastor Thomas Wolf who is now serving on the foreign mission field in India), it did have a wonderful ethinic diversity and it was officially recognized by the SBC for its unique "heart for missions." These are undeniable facts.

2. Rick Warren’s statement,

“Second, the church had been platueaued for 15 years and in decline for a few years,”

is incorrect. As I have already written in my first Solid Foods entry,

"A Revisionist History of the Church on Brady," http://solidfoods.blogspot.com/2007_03_11_archive.html,

. . . the COB was thriving and experiencing phenomenal growth long before Erwin McManus came on as lead pastor in 1994 and it continued to grow after he took over. According to Rick Warren's timeframe, the COB would have been"platueaued" and "in decline" before 1984 and this is simply NOT TRUE.

How does Rick Warren reconcile his statement that the COB had been "platueaued for 15 years" and "in decline for several" with the following FACTS:

A. Erwin McManus came on as lead pastor of the Church on Brady in 1994.

B. Pastor Thomas Wolf wasn't asked to leave until 1998.

C. In "Scouting for Souls" written March 1996, Marc Speigler wrote this about the Church on Brady:

Reference: Find Articles.com Scouting for Souls, March 1996, Marc Spiegler (Brief commentary on the early work of Pastor Thomas Wolf)http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m4021/is_n3_v18/ai_18056292

When Pastor Thomas Wolf first came to Southern California's Church on Brady in 1969, the situation seemed dire. The Southern Baptist church in East Los Angeles had seen its historically Anglo following erode to 45 people as the neighborhood became mostly Mexican. Facing fiscal problems and demographic change, church elders even considered selling off the dilapidated property. Today, after more than a quarter century of Wolf's leadership, the Church on Brady boasts services averaging 700 worshippers, drawn from an ethnic mix as diverse as East L.A. itself.

A church that grew from 45 members to averaging 700 worshippers does not sound like a church that "has platueaued" or is in "decline."

D. During the entire 1990's the Church on Brady was known for it's unique commitment to foreign missions.

Reference: Universal Disciple: History of the Church on Brady http://www.universal-disciple.com/about%20us.htm

Perhaps that is why in the early 1990's the International
Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptists informed the Church on Brady that they were sending more missionaries through the IMB than any other church. That translates to first among the 45,000 congregations of the largest evangelical Protestant group in America. At the time, from a base of 400 worshipers, The Church on Brady had sent some 12 to the mission fields. Second place went to a 3,000 worshipers congregation with 3. When they left in the late 1990's, Brady was sending more than 55 full time missionaries. Such a sending ratio places the Church on Brady at the time of Thom Wolf’s transition from senior pastor in 1994 as a kind of Pacific Rim/West Coast Hernnhut of the late 20th century. Hernnhut is the Moravian community of Central Europe in the 18th century. This is God working through ordinary people.

In the above passage, "they" refers to Pastor Thomas Wolf and his Executive Assistant Carol Davis.

E. Then there is this from George Hunter III's book, "Reaching the Unreached" dated 1997:

Reference: Global Spectrum & University Institute


George Hunter III, Reaching the Unreached (1997) examined 13 American apostolic churches. The congregations included Chicago-area Willow Creek and Orange County California’s Saddleback. Though numerically the least by a significant gap, George Hunter found The Church of Brady to be “...the most apostolic congregation in America.” Its focus on multiplication rather than maintenance produced unusual results

PLEASE NOTE that George Hunter III included Rick Warren's own Saddleback Community Church in his book.

3. The Church on Brady was indeed “landlocked” on a small plot in the middle of a low income, residential area of East Los Angeles. Brady Avenue, from whence the church got its nickname, "The Church on Brady" is not a "one block street" but actually runs for several blocks and intersects with busy Whittier Blvd. It should be noted though that these facts never hindered the congregation from growing or attracting a large range of people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and many of these people commuted long distances just to attend services there. [The original buildings that were once the COB still exist at 715 Brady Ave., East Los Angeles.]

When the congregation grew too large for the original sanctuary building, the people rallied to provide not only the money but also the volunteer manpower to complete a church “make over.” (I know this first-hand because I helped to demolish the original walls and personally hammered in many of the spanish-style roof tiles on the new building .)

When the church quickly outgrew the new buildings, another capital fundraising campaign was begun to raise money towards the purchase of a facility in a different location. This campaign began at the“Believing the Impossible” banquet held at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles on June 27, 1997.

Gradually, the congregation began to meet in various rented spaces in nearby neighborhoods in preparation for what many hoped would be a permanent move to a new, larger facility. (At one time or another, the newly renamed “Mosaic” was meeting on the nearby campuses of Schurr High School in Montebello, East Los Angeles College and San Gabriel High School. During this period of transition, the elders were actively seeking out and in some cases making bids on properties but unfortunately none of these were successful.) The last unsuccessful bid on a property was made in 2006 for a school property in Silverlake. Again, all of this is documented in “A Revisionist History of the Church on Brady?”

4. Rick Warren credits Erwin McManus with, “. . . even changing the name of the church to Mosaic, (which, by the way, I think is one of the coolest names for any church)” Erwin McManus initiated the official name change but he did not come up with the name “Mosaic”, that now dubious honor belongs to former youth pastor Robbie Sortino. In fact, Mr. Sortino was the man who began a rather successful ministry in Pasadena, Calfornia which was later taken over by Erwin McManus and has now become the official “home” ministry of Mosaic. The SBC website’s “church finder” still lists Robbie Sortino as the pastor of Mosaic in Pasadena. *

Mosaic now rents the Mott Auditorium on the campus of the William Carey Institute in Pasadena. Mosaic has moved from its cramped roots in a low income, predominately spanish-speaking neighborhood of East Los Angeles to a spacious new facility in affluent, upper class Pasadena, California.

Why would Rick Warren make such statements? Isn't Rick Warren an SBC pastor? The true history of the Church on Brady is known to the SBC. Even Mosaic is a part of the SBC; or at least that's what it urges it's proteges to say,

". . . put that you are a part of an SBC church (Mosaic). "

Even if you allow for the possibility that Rick Warren was unaware of the SBC's commendation of the Church on Brady during the early 1990's, how could he not know what George Hunter III wrote in his book in 1997 when Warren's own church was included in that same book?

But Rick Warren isn't the only one offering up a revised history of the Church on Brady.

Monday Morning Insight

The Monday Morning Insight blog, January 17, 2008 by Todd Rhoades, has this post on a recent article by Erwin McManus featured in Christianity Today. http://mondaymorninginsight.com/index.php/site/comments/erwin_mcmanus_american_christians_are_incredibly_self_indulgent/

In the blog, Rhoades states:

McManus, whose church members’ average age is 25 years old, is known for breaking the “rules” of traditional church and applying spiritual creativity to engage and develop the next generation of Christian leaders. Since becoming lead pastor of Mosaic about a decade ago, McManus’ church membership has grown from about 300 adults to more than 3,000 adults. The historically Southern Baptist church also boasts over 40 different nationalities and is “packed” with artists such as musicians, writers and filmmakers.

Among the attendees are also 80-year-old members from the generation before McManus arrived, who are said to “root on” the younger generation of church members.

I have been told that there is actually about 10 senior citizens currently attending Sunday school classes at Mosaic of which I can personally name 5. Of the total, only about 3 or 4 of these senior citizens are in their eighties. If you include all the senior citizens at Mosaic, this would work out to 1 senior citizen per 300 adults at Mosaic. That's a lot of young people for these 10 senior citizens to "root on!"

The truth is that the majority of the senior citizens who once attended the original Church on Brady left for other churches soon after it's transition to Mosaic or have since passed on.

Remember readers, Mosaic shifted its ministry focus to concentrate on "“...the top 15% of innovators and early adopters often overlooked by most churches.” These "innovators and early adopters" tend to be young which is reflected in the fact that the average age for Mosaic attenders is 25.

Reference: CROnline, January 2007, "Profiles in Church Growth - Mosaic" by Dr. John N. Vaughan. The original page is no longer available but I found this cached page:,+New+Under+the+Sun&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=30&gl=us

So why all the revisions?

Is this just a case of misinformation being passed on without question?

In any case, once again, this blogger is left with a unpalatable taste in her mouth.

Yvonne W.

*For more about former Mosaic youth pastorRobbie Sortino please see my Solid Foods entry, "Broken People, Broken Pieces or a Broken Pastor," http://solidfoods.blogspot.com/2007/09/broken-people-broken-pieces-or-broken.html

1 comment:

alan said...

I love Tom Wolf... He became a friend to me in the 90s... I remember visiting with him just after he was forced from his church. He was deeply wounded.

I was glad to find someone that challenged the revisionist history. It seemed to me as if the noble history of Church on Brady was lost to all.

More than that I would love to find Tom and to be able to express my love and respect to him. If you can help me find him please email me.

Alan Hawkins