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The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren basically reveals the keys to growing a healthy church through five biblical purposes of the church. It is his belief that if your church is healthy and maintains its healthiness then growth will occur naturally. Throughout this book Rick Warren expounds on his five elements to church growth which are: warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through worship, broader through ministry and larger through evangelism. The book emphasizes more about shifting the focus away from church building programs to call attention to the people-building process; “If you concentrate on building people God will build the church.”1
The book discusses the task of church leadership which is to realize and remove growth-restricting diseases and barriers so that the right growth can occur. According to the book, good church health can only occur when the message is biblical, and the mission is balanced, shrewdly setting up a strategy and a structure to force the church to give equal attention to each purpose is what being a purpose-driven church is all about. There are many myths about growing churches that people believe and Warren deals with eight of them, which are:
- The only thing that large churches care about is attendance
- All large churches grow at the expense of small churches
- You must choose between quality and quantity in your church
- You must compromise the message and the mission of the church in order to grow
- If you are dedicated enough your church will grow
- There is one secret key to church growth
- All God expects of us is faithfulness
- You can't learn from large churches.
He then went on to demolish each myth through one by one explaining the truth and what needs to be done in order to stop people from believing these myths.
Warren says that challenging people to a serious commitment actually attracts people rather than repel them, many unbelievers are fed up and bored with what the world offers and that asking for a commitment doesn't turn people off. Churches grow by the power of God through the skilled efforts of people. Church growth is a partnership between God and man; we cannot do it without God, but He has decided not to do it without us, while we wait for God to work for us, God is waiting to work through us. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. Never confuse the methods with the message. The message must never change, but the methods must change with each new generation. The book then talks not only about the church but also about the people and the fruitfulness and faithfulness such as being fruitful is the way we glorify God, being fruitful pleases God, Jesus reserves His severest judgment for the unfruitful, the nation of Israel lost its privilege because of unfruitfulness and we are definitely called to bear fruit. The definition of fruitfulness for a local church should include growth by the conversion of unbelievers and the Bible clearly identifies numerical growth of the church as fruit. Warren makes a profound statement that says, “Any church that is not obeying the Great Commission is failing its purpose, no matter what else it does.” When a church continues to use methods that no longer work, it is being unfaithful to Christ, many churches are completely orthodox in their beliefs, but is unfaithful to Christ because they refuse to change programs, methods, styles of worship, buildings, or even locations to reach a lost world for Christ. He says that no method is meant to last forever or work everywhere, but that doesn't make it worthless. “Methods are expressions of principles”. We must never become so enamored with methods that we lose sight of the mission and forget the message.
According to Warren, being a purpose-driven church takes time; we need to lead the church through four critical phases: 1) define the purposes, 2) communicate those purposes to everyone in the church - on a regular basis, 3) organize the church around the purposes and 4) apply the purposes to every part of the church. It's Christ's church, not ours - He has already established the purposes, and they are non-negotiable. Our duty is to understand the purposes of Christ, and to implement them. The programs must change in every generation, the purposes never change. We may be innovative in the style of ministry, but we must never alter the substance of it. The five purposes of the church are :1) Love the Lord with all your heart because we want to, not out of duty 2) Love your neighbor as yourself 3) Go and make disciples 4) Baptizing them and 5) Teaching them to obey. If unchanging purposes guide your church, you will be able to work on fulfilling those purposes better each passing year. The more your members understand and commit to your purposes, the stronger your church will become. The prayer of every church should be to fulfill the Great Commission, but in practice there is not a local church anywhere that can reach everybody. We should never criticize any method that God is blessing.
This book teaches well on the topic of preaching to the unchurched, it is said that it doesn't matter if the pastor likes the message or not, nor if the sermon is doctrinally correct or homiletically sound the unchurched will respond to a message to which they can relate. We cannot communicate with people until we find something we have in common with them such as needs, hurts, and interests as humans. First capture their attention, and then move them to the truth of God's Word. Preaching to felt needs is a theologically sound approach to introducing people to God. Preaching that changes lives brings truth of God's Word and the real needs of people together through application.