The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission is a 1995 book by Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, United States
Every church is driven by something. Tradition, finances, programs, personalities, events, seekers, and even buildings can each be the controlling force in a church. But Rick Warren believes that in order for a church to be healthy it must become a purpose-driven church by Jesus.
Now the founding pastor of Saddleback Church shares a proven five-part strategy that will enable your church to grow…Warmer through fellowship – Deeper through discipleship – Stronger through worship – Broader through ministry – Larger through evangelism. Discover the same practical insights and principles for growing a healthy church that Rick has taught in seminars to over 22,000 pastors and church leaders from sixty denominations and forty-two countries.
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The Purpose-Driven Church shifts the focus away from church building programs to emphasizing a people-building process. Warren says, “If you will concentrate on building people, God will build the church.”
SUMMARY OF THE BOOK
Warren’s primary thesis is that “what is needed today are churches that are driven by purpose instead of by other forces” (p80). His paradigm consists of a perspective that looks at everything through the five New Testament purposes of the church, and a process for fulfilling those purposes (p80). The five purposes are taken directly from the Great Commandment in Mt 22:37-40, and the Great Commission in Mt 28:18-20, and are therefore non-negotiable in the application of the model:
- Worship – “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37).
- Ministry – “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39).
- Evangelism – “go therefore and make disciples” (Mt 28:19).
- Fellowship – “baptizing them” (Mt 28:19, identification with the Christian community).
- Discipleship – “teaching them to obey all that I command you” (Mt 28:20).
According to Warren, the foundation of such a healthy church is laid “by clarifying in the minds of everyone involved exactly why the church exists and what it is supposed to do. There is incredible power in having a clearly defined purpose statement” (p86). After the foundation of biblical purpose is laid, Warren encourages the pastor to define his purposes, communicate his purposes, organize around them, and apply them.
Having presented the theological and theoretical perspective, Warren then explains the process of implementing that perspective, walking the pastor from targeting his evangelistic audience, to attracting an un-churched crowd, and finally to building up the church.
Maximum evangelistic effectiveness, according to Warren, requires that a local church strategically target the segment of the local population that best matches the current make-up of the church. “The more your target is in focus, the more likely it is that you will be able to hit it…. The people your church is most likely to reach are those who match the existing culture of your church” (pp172, 174). Warren grounds his strategy in Jesus’ practice of targeting the lost sheep of Israel (p158; Mt 10:5-6; 15:22-28), the practice of Peter and Paul in targeting the Jews and Gentiles, respectively (p158; Gal 2:7), and the target audiences of the four written gospels (p158). He then specifies that we must target our audience geographically, demographically, culturally, and spiritually (pp161-169). This target analysis is then used to develop a strategy that will enable us to evangelize people on their terms, making it “as easy and attractive as possible” for them to become Christians (p185, cf. pp189, 193). While warning the reader never to compromise the message (pp62, 157-158), Warren encourages us to “change methods whenever necessary” (p199), and to “use more than one hook” as we fish for men (p200).
If we want to attract an unbelieving crowd, Warren advises us to follow the example of Jesus by loving people, meeting their needs, and teaching them in interesting and practical ways (p208). Once we’ve got them gathered, we need to make the most of the opportunity by being seeker sensitive in our worship, which Warren believes is commanded by 1Cor 14:23 (p243). Method may therefore vary, as long as the message remains biblical. “The spiritual food is unchanged in a seeker sensitive service, but the presentation is more thoughtful and considerate of the guests present” (pp243-244). What this means for Warren is that we need a separate weekly service that is designed particularly to appeal to unbelievers. “Create a service that is intentionally designed for your members to bring their friends to. And make the service so attractive, appealing, and relevant to the unchurched that your members are eager to share it with the lost people they care about” (p253). The music style should therefore be that preferred by the target audience (p280), and the preaching should focus on those passages that require no previous understanding and that “show the benefits of knowing Christ” (p298). The biblical justification for such a service is to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive’” (Titus 2:10, pp269-270, emphasis his).
In seeking to build up the church, Warren encourages pastors to make local church membership meaningful by implementing a mandatory new members’ class, asking people to sign a membership covenant, and encouraging them to participate in small groups. Spiritual maturity is then “simply a matter of learning certain spiritual exercises and being disciplined to do them until they become habits” (p334). But in order to develop vibrant lay ministry, “you must set up a process to lead people to deeper commitment and greater service for Christ” (p367). Establishing a ministry placement process and providing on the job training are likewise encouraged, along with the delegation of decision-making authority as a logical and necessary complement to delegated responsibility. Warren closes by encouraging the pastor to focus on fulfilling the purposes of the church while expectantly trusting God to cause the growth. This is then coupled with an encouragement to emulate David in serving God’s purposes in our own generation (Acts 13:36, quoted on p395), along with a definition of successful ministry as “building the church on the purposes of God in the power of the Holy Spirit and expecting the results from God” (p397).
So, what do you make of it? Should churches be driven by purposes? Should we change our evangelistic methods if they don’t work? Is seeker sensitivity in worship a biblical command? Should we use audience analysis to make it easy and attractive for people to become Christians?
The thesis of The Purpose Driven Church is that when churches think first about their health, growth is sure to follow. “If your church is healthy,” writes Rick Warren, “growth will occur naturally. Healthy, consistent growth is the result of balancing the five biblical purposes of the church.” These five purposes are to “Love the Lord with all your heart,” “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Go and make disciples,” “[Baptize] them,” and “[Teach] them to obey.” And those purposes can only be accomplished, argues Warren, when church leaders stop thinking about church-building programs and shift their focus to a “people-building process” involving fellowship, discipleship, worship, and evangelism. Warren, the founder of the fastest-growing Baptist church in American history, has taught seminars to thousands of pastors from all over the world, many of whom have successfully implemented his techniques.
From the Back Cover
The Purpose DrivenÂ® Church has brought focus and direction to more pastors and church leaders than you can count. What a gift!–John Ortberg, bestselling author
Every church is driven by something. Tradition, finances, programs, personalities, events, seekers, and even buildings can each be the controlling force in a church. But Rick Warren believes that in order for a church to be healthy it must become a purpose-driven church, built around the five New Testament purposes given to the church by Jesus.
The issue is church health, not church growth! declares Warren. If your church is healthy, growth will occur naturally. Healthy, consistent growth is the result of balancing the five biblical purposes of the church.
Rick Warren shares a proven five-part strategy that will enable your church to grow
warmer through fellowship
deeper through discipleship
stronger through worship
broader through ministry
larger through evangelism
The Purpose Driven Church shifts the focus away from church building programs to emphasizing a people-building process. Warren says, If you will concentrate on building people, God will build the church.
About the Author
As founding pastor of Saddleback Church, Dr. Rick Warren leads a 30,000-member congregation in California with campuses in major cities around the world. As an author, his book The Purpose Driven Life is one of the bestselling nonfiction books in publishing history. As a theologian, he has lectured at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, University of Judaism, and dozens of universities and seminaries.
As a global strategist he advises world leaders and has spoken to the United Nations, US Congress, Davos Economic Forum, TED, Aspen Institute, and numerous parliaments. Rick has also founded the Global PEACE Plan, which Plants churches of reconciliation, Equips leaders, Assists the poor, Cares for the sick, and Educates the next generation in 196 countries. You can listen to Pastor Rick’s Daily Hope, his daily 25-minute broadcast, or sign up for his free daily devotionals at PastorRick.com.
Originally published: 1995