What exactly is a ‘purpose driven’ church? In this Pointer for Pastors, I’ll tackle that question and explain what it means to focus on God’s eternal purposes for the church, rather than pretty much anything else.
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Remember the old V-8 commercials where someone who wasn’t taking in a balanced diet would be leaning to one side? That’s what I think of as I read the thoughts and opinions of various church leaders about “what the church should be all about.” It typically sounds something like one of the following…
You get the picture. We tend to go to seed on our favorite issues, and sometimes unwise leaders pursue their own passions to the neglect of other areas of concern for the local church. This is the reason I still think one of the greatest books on church leadership ever written is Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church, and I long to see an up and coming generation read it afresh for insights into the issue of balanced church health.
The fact is, God has expressed five distinct purposes for His people and for every local church.
I’ve seen these packaged a little differently by different leaders and different churches. The mission statements vary, the terminology changes, but I love to see a balanced church moving forward in God’s purposes. Avoid going to seed on one issue and be all that God meant for you to be.
Thirteen years ago, I read The Purpose-Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission for the first time. The first chapter contains the story of how Rick and Kay Warren packed up their belongings and headed to a community to which God had called them to plant Saddleback Church. They arrived in Orange County with a moving truck and about $1,000 and started a church with seven people at the first Bible study.
This past weekend, I attended four of our services and helped route people to overflow areas where they could participate in the services despite the fullness of the main worship center. The day’s attendance totalled over 37,000 across twelve services at eleven campuses. Please understand, Jesus was glorified with just as much excellence and enthusiasm in churches meeting with a handful of people.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better. But there is something pretty neat about reading the early chapters of the book of Acts and seeing how God inspired the record of those days to include detailed numbers on how many thousands of people were becoming part of the church family, and then seeing God continue to reach the masses in our culture today.
People, in those days, were being added to the church daily and in much larger numbers than we see anywhere on the planet today. I agree with Bailey Smith who said “There are no large churches. Some churches are just smaller than others.” We can hardly claim “largeness” just because of attendance numbers when so much of the surrounding population remains unreached.
But when I realized just how many people were on campus, I felt a wave of gratitude for several reasons:
We won’t be here much longer. In nine weeks, Angie and I will go from helping pastor 37,000 people to pastoring only a very few (temporarily, we hope). But I will never even begin to be able to thank God enough for allowing us to be here, in this season, in this place, connecting with this church, and learning in this atmosphere.
He is risen. He is Lord. And He is sooooo good!