Last week was spent in Southern California at Saddleback Church in the "Purpose Driven Church" conference led by Rick Warren. It was about 8 or 9 years ago that I first read the book "Purpose Driven Church (PDC)" and began at that time to personally employ some of those Biblical principles which were discovered in that reading. As an aside, God blessed this effort in a great way. Please understand this, regardless of the PDC critics or what the Rick Warren detractors may say, the PDC model is not about making every church a "mega church", but rather making every church a healthy church. As far as I can determine (both inside and outside of the pages of scripture), any living healthy organism naturally grows. A baby, a beanstalk, a bear, or anything else has the expectation of growth if it is healthy. I fear that in the Bible belt there are those among the believing community who, in the name of "conservative beliefs", have spent a lifetime finding ways to exclude those who are "not like us" rather than share the best news ever given to mankind and invite the lost, dark soul into the Kingdom of Light. Seems to me from my reading the words of Jesus--that inviting the lost to Christ is the "PURPOSE" for which Jesus came and for which HE has "sent us into this world." As such, the church should have a purpose (I.E. goal, mark, mission, vision, mandate, etc) that is more clearly stated, understood and followed than any other organization in this world.
Last week at Saddleback, I made some important discoveries. In this Southern California church, I found a membership committed to the "Great Command" and "Great Commission" of our Lord Christ. Those members gave an entire week in service to the Kingdom. With a cheerful smile, welcoming attitude, and exercising the spiritual gift of hospitality, they saw to it that the attendees at this conference had little or nothing to distract them from the Worship and Teaching time. From early in the morning till late at night they gave unselfishly.
Rick Warren, for the "wrap" he has taken, spoke with love, grace, and a sense of personal purpose and conviction which he derived from God's word. Sitting on the front row, literally, I could look in his eyes and hear his heart. Doctrinally; he spoke clear words about his (and their) belief in the authority of scripture. He spoke about the darkness of sin which began in Eden and continue today. He spoke of how mankind is lost in sin and have no hope except through the death, burial, and ressurection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He continued by exhorting his listeners, the leaders of the local church, to fulfill Ephesians 4 and Acts 2. Repeatedly, his exhortations to us were to lead our flocks in the 5 purposes of the church. Those being, worship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry, and fellowship. Admittedly, it is my personal belief that there are 6 functions of a Biblically healthy local church (the 6th one being "prayers), but gracious, there are so many one or two dimensional church that I cannot part company with him over this issue. There was not one word of his teaching which were outside the parameters of scripture. Not one word that anyone could have seen as "adding to" or "taking away" from the Bible. Additionally, there were a number of great insights which I gleaned even though I have read his PDC church many years ago. In my heart of hearts, I am grateful that this church body provided me the means so that I could attend this life impacting event.
"A Problem With Purpose Driven?" -- comes only from those who consider the average church of the 21st century to be "healthy." Personally, it is my belief that today's church is sick. My belief is reinforced by the fact that much of the "increased attendance" in many congregations come from "transfer growth" and not from "transformational growth". We tend to "swap sheep" or since Jesus was so fond of using the "fishing" parallel, maybe we are "stealing someone elses catch."
For the Rick Warren detractors and the Purpose Driven critics, please be reminded that neither Rick nor "any Biblical method" is our enemy. The adversary is still Satan, the King of darkness, deception, and division. It seems that he (Satan) has worked into the ranks of the believers and that the opposition to "reaching people for Christ" is simply the message of Jude coming to pass.