a Purpose Driven Church, Part One
-- Jon Walker: Youre known for saying that pastors need to be more
lost centered, that is, looking at their church from the perspective of someone
who doesnt go to church. Could you elaborate on that?
The most overlooked principle for church growth is we have to love people the
way Jesus did. Thats it! The motive behind everything weve done at Saddleback
is that we love and care about lost people. The reason Jesus attracted such large
crowds is because He loved people. On the other hand, Ive heard churches justify
their lack of growth by saying, Were small because we havent watered down the
gospel. But maybe the real reason they dont have a crowd is because they don't
want a crowd! They love their own comfort more than they love lost people.
reach unbelievers you have to move outside your own comfort zone and do things
that often feel awkward and uncomfortable to you. It takes unselfish people to
grow a church. Lost people have a lot of problems and their lives are messy. Its
not by accident that Jesus compared evangelism to fishing. Fishing is often messy
and smelly. So many churches want the fish they catch to be prescaled, gutted,
cleaned and cooked. Thats why they never reach anyone.
If your church
is serious about reaching the unchurched, you must be willing to put up with people
who have a lot of problems. The secret of reaching unbelievers is learning to
think like an unbeliever. But the problem is the longer youre a Christian,
the less you think like an unbeliever. And if youre a seminary-trained pastor,
youre even more removed from unbelievers. You think like a pastor, not a pagan.
So you have to intentionally learn to think like an unbeliever again.
says, I become all things to all men so I may, in some way, win some. What he
meant was he let his target determine his approach. When with Jews, he communicated
like a Jew. When he was with Gentiles, he communicated like a Gentile. Im sure
if Paul came to Southern California, hed learn to communicate in Southern Californian
Some people think that communicating differently in different cultures
is just being a chameleon, but actually it means you're being strategic. You dont
compromise the message. That message is, the faith once delivered for the saints,
and we dont have an option to change the message.
But the methods
of sharing it have to change with every new generation and location. The programs
and tools we used when I was a youth pastor in inner city LA were different from
those used as a short termed missionary in Japan, and those methods were different
from what were doing now at Saddleback.
There is no ONE WAY to grow
a church! It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. If
youre getting the job done lives are being changed then I like the way youre
doing it, whether or not its my style of ministry.
Walker: In other
words, youre not interested in Saddleback clones.
not! Not one of the dozens of mission churches weve planted is doing it exactly
like us. We believe every church must have its own unique thumbprint. Thats what
The Purpose Driven Church is all about.
If a principle is biblical,
I believe it is transcultural. In other words, it will work anywhere. But
you must filter those principles through the culture of the community, the makeup
of the congregation, and the personality of the pastor.
churches are all committed to the same five New Testament purposes of the church
but these congregations come in all sizes, shapes, and cultures. Gods purposes
for the church never change, but the programs and methods do. Look around and
its obvious that God loves variety. He loves to do things in more than one way!
Walker: What about prayer and dedication? Is the growth of a church
based upon the pastors commitment?
Warren: Its a myth that all
you need is prayer and dedication to grow a healthy church. Some of the most dedicated
prayer warriors I know are pastors of dying churches. It really bothers me that
some pastors' conferences promote that myth - leaving pastors feeling discouraged
and guilty instead of encouraged. Weve all heard speakers claim, If youll just
pray more, preach the word, and be dedicated, then your church will grow. Well,
thats just not true. I can show you thousands of churches where pastors are doctrinally
sound; they love the Lord; theyre committed and spirit-filled and yet their churches
are dying on the vine.
For instance, in my own denomination about 70% of
the churches are either plateaued or declining. Is that because 70% of our pastors
are not dedicated? Of course not. Its a complete myth. If dedication is all that
is needed to grow a church, 99% of our churches should be growing today, because
most pastors are genuinely dedicated.
But growing a healthy church is not
that easy or simple. It involves many different factors and requires certain leadership
skills. Anytime you hear a person say, This it the one way to growth, you can
be sure theyre wrong because there are many keys to growth.
I'm convinced that the key issue for our congregations in the 21st century is
church health - not church growth. Focusing on church growth is the wrong focus.
If well focus on developing healthy churches, they will grow automatically.
All living things grow if they are healthy! I dont have to tell
my kids to grow. They do it automatically. Now, what makes a healthy church? The
answer is balance, just like in the human body. Your body has a number of different
systems: a circulatory system, a skeletal system, respiratory system, central
nervous system, digestive system and others. When these systems are in balance
we call that health. When they are out of balance, we call it, dis-ease, disease.
Likewise the Body of Christ, the church, is made up of different systems,
each fulfilling a different purpose: for worship, fellowship, evangelism, discipleship,
and ministry. When you have a healthy system or process for each of these purposes,
and these systems are balanced, the church naturally grows!
the catch: unless you set up an intentional strategy and structure to insure balance
between the five purposes of the church, then your church will tend to over emphasize
the purpose the pastor feels most passionate about.
If he has a heart for
evangelism, the church may reach lots of people, but nobody grows up in the faith.
If he has a gift of teaching, the church will develop mature believers,
but will tend to neglect winning the lost.
If he has pastoral gifts, the
church will have great fellowship and care, but the churchs ministry to the community
will suffer or there will be little evangelism.
You must set up a purpose
driven structure that allows the church to become more than just an extension
of its pastor. Every church is driven by something: tradition, programs, finances,
events, seekers, and even buildings. But to be healthy, it must become purpose
They need a strategy that will help them grow warmer through fellowship,
deeper through discipleship, stronger through worship, broader through ministry
and larger through evangelism.
Sadly, many churches are personality driven.
This puts the congregation in a very precarious position if the leader dies, moves,
or has a moral failure. At Saddleback weve built the church on purpose, not personality.
If I were to die right now, wed lose maybe 10% of the fringe people who come
to hear me, but that would still leave 90% of the other people to attend each
week. No church is perfect but you can be healthy without being perfect.
Becoming a Purpose Driven Church, Part Two
If youd like to know
more about this, please read my book, The
Purpose Driven Church (order your copy at Shop CBN).
This article originally
appeared in Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free, email newsletter available
from pastors.com. Used by permission.
The Ministry ToolBox is for
ANYONE serving Jesus Christ. For a free subscription, you can sign up at www.pastors.com.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback
Church in Lake Forest, CA., a congregation that now averages 16,000 in attendance
each weekend. Rick is also author of "The
Purpose Driven Church," and founder of
Pastors.com, a global Internet community for those in ministry. You may reprint
this article in your publication with the following attribution: From Rick Warren's
Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for those in ministry, www.pastors.com.
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