Rick Warren is one of the most influential Christian leaders around today, even praying at President Obama’s inauguration. The Purpose Driven movement is growing consistently larger. It is undoubtedly successful, and many would say that this is because God is blessing the quality of what they are doing.
Yet some people do have difficulty when their church becomes ‘Purpose Driven’. These believers often leave, unable to align themselves with the new church culture. I get the sense that Warren isn’t too concerned about that, as if they stay, they may ferment division and undermine the goals the church hopes to achieve through its new ministries and programs.
Warren is clear that Purpose Driven Churches are not just about numerical growth, but growth in the maturity of Christians. To think they are just about numerical growth is to misunderstand them. Warren describes in his words,
…a new paradigm, the purpose-driven church, as a biblical and healthy alternative to traditional ways that churches have organised and operated.
– From The Purpose Driven Church Part 2, Ch 3
According to Warren, a clear purpose ‘builds morale’, ‘reduces frustration’, ‘allows concentration’, ‘attracts cooperation’ and ‘assists evaluation’. (See Ch 4)
So, what is it that some people are uncomfortable with in the Purpose Driven movement? Is it just predjudice against large churches? Is it just that people don’t like change?
I thought I’d start taking a look at this, as the topic keeps recurring amongst many people I know. So for now, I will list the 5 purposes of a Purpose Driven Church, which can also be found in Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Church – Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission.
Purpose 1: Love the Lord your God with all your heart
Warren: “The word that describes this purpose is worship. How do we love God with all our heart? By worshipping him! It doesn’t matter if we are by ourselves, with a small group, or with 100,000 people. When we express our love to God, we’re worshipping.”
Purpose 2: Love your neighbour as yourself
Warren: “The word we use to describe this process is ministry. The church exists to minister to people. Ministry is demonstrating God’s love to others by meeting their needs and healing their hurts in the name of Jesus. Each time you reach out in love to another you are ministering to them.”
Warren then rues those churches where real ministry (active service) is replaced by too many meetings.
Purpose 3: Go and make disciples
Warren: “This purpose we call evangelism. the church exists to communicate God’s Word. We are ambassadors for Christ, and our commission is to evangelise the world… [discusses the Great Commission]…Growth is not optional; it is commanded by Jesus. We should not seek church growth for its own benefit, but because God wants people saved.”
Purpose 4: Baptising them
Warren: “…a part of the command to ‘make disciples’… I believe it…symbolises one of the purposes of the church: fellowship – identification with the body of Christ. As Christians we are called to belong, not just believe… It not only symbolises our new life in Christ, it visualises a person’s incorporation into the body of Christ.
Purpose 5: Teaching them to obey
Warrren: “The word we commonly use to refer to this purpose is discipleship. The church exists to edify, or educate, God’s people. Discipleship is the process of helping people become more like Christ in their thoughts, feelings and actions… It is the church’s responsibility to develop people to spiritual maturity…”
These are the purposes that the Purpose Driven approach is designed to serve.
How do they sound to you? If your church was to take these on board, would you be comfortable with it? Is there anything here that could cause people to become uncomfortable?