This book is about building your church and structuring it around the 5 biblical purposes of the church: worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and evangelism. It is a powerful, biblically centered book, and it will get you excited about the future of the church in America. Yet I want to caution the reader about three things: Number one: The book gives a very detailed and organized plan for growing healthy churches, and if you neglect even one bit of instruction, your plans could go awry. The close attention to detail sometimes made me feel a bit overwhelmed. Number two: This paradigm is most effective for planting new congregations. I have discovered that the book's principles are very difficult to implement in a congregation that is over 100 years old. Not impossible. Just difficult. For those of you who are serving in older congregations with an average attendance of 100 or higher, I would also want to refer you to literature such as Net Results Magazine and to the Biblical Witness Fellowship...which deals with renewing existing churches with an extensive history. And a third thing to keep in mind is that what worked for Rick Warren in the laid back culture of southern California may not necessarily work in the breadbasket of America. My advice would be to read the book once to get a feel for the Purpose Driven Church paradigm. Then read it a second time with your particular church home in mind to draw out some principles and to brainstorm ideas.
This is a great book for anyone looking to be involved in God's instrument for reaching a lost world- the church. The author points out that as individualistic Westerners, we have neglected the importance of the local church. We should have God's purposes in planting and establishing local churches. The book is centered on what the author believes are the five purposes of the local church; worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism. The book is written in a clear, easy-to-read, and relevant style. As a missionary in training who hopes to plant churches cross-culturally in the future, I appreciated the principles given in the first few chapters of the book. The rest of the book is focused more on how to apply these principles to church planting in a Western context. I am going to take some of these principles and apply them to how I do church planting in Asia, but I will not be able to follow most of the models and examples given in the book. Again, this is a great book for anyone wanting to be involved with the local church (especially in America). I would recommend it to anyone.
I find it hard to rate this book accurately. I have read few books that have been more helpful in the realm of practical church life. Warren skillfully presents a blue-print on how to grow a healthy in church in which the five purposes (which are presented Biblically) of worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and evangelism are held in balance. The steps to take are practical and clear. Add to that a plethora of helpful common-sense tips to improving logistics in working with both the visitors and members of your church. This book is full of helpful ideas. HOWEVER, the demerit of the book is its rather shallow Biblical basis. I believe that the five purposes Warren presents are biblical. I believe that the concept of moving people from membership to maturity to ministry to missions is biblical and very, very well developed. And I was impressed to see that Warren's church uses a church covenant and practices church discipline. I simply wish he had given a better biblical defense for these things. There are points where it seems like the author is taking Scripture out of context to defend a point - evidenced by his excessive use of paraphrases of Scripture. He should have used a literal translation and stuck to what the text actually says. I also highly disagree with Warren's approach to music. He probably goes a bit overboard on the seeker-sensitive side of things, although I admit many of the things he says are non-moral, non-biblical, common-sense issues. I was helped by reading this book. I have the sense to know that I can't apply everything Warren says in my own church culture and tradition, but there are some things any one can apply. I say, buy this book and read with discernment. As long as you don't make a Bible out of it, you will probably benefit greatly.
There has been a movement among missionaries and mission boards to encourage indigenous churches rather than merely exporting our culture to the rest of the world. The argument runs that the Gospel must always be enfleshed or embodied in a people and its culture. We cannot deny that the Good News of Jesus Christ must be spoken in particular human languages. Forcing Africans to worship like Scotsmen, does a disservice to African culture and the Gospel. As I read Rick Warren's book, the Purpose Driven Church, I thought about this current trend in mission. Whether we like it or not, Rick Warren's Saddleback Church is a church indigenous to Southern California at the end of the twentieth century. Warren has attempted to translate the Gospel into the language of young, suburban professionals. As Paul quoted Stoic poets on Mars Hill, Rick Warren can comfortably quote Peter Drucker and utilize the marketing techniques of Starbucks. Anyone interested doing ministry in this culture can learn something from this book, especially if we take Rick Warren at his word--"Read this book like you'd eat fish: Pick out the meat and throw away the bones" (pg 71). That being said, there is a danger. As the Gospel is expressed in culture, it must also critique the culture. Our sinfulness is pervasive, and the Gospel should expose the evils of our culture for what they are. Rick Warren subtitles his book, "Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission," but on several instances he compromises the Good News to the culture. For example, we live in a self-segregated society. We routinely segregate white from black, rich from poor, and young from old. The Purpose Drive Church perpetuates these separation by slavishly focusing on target audiences. A church filled with only Saddleback Sams and Samanthas are a betrayal to Pentecost where "your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 1:17-21). Rick Warren may suggest that Saddleback is only part of the greater Church. Others may be called to evangelize other target audiences. He states, "I feel right at home with entrepreneurial businessmen, managers, and professions. In fact, I've noticed that they are attracted to my ministry. It's nothing I planned, it's just the way God wired me" (pg 176). Perhaps that is true, but it reminds me of an observation that a friend made in seminary, "Isn't amazing that God calls so many people to pastor affluent, white suburban churches?" We also live in a competitive culture which is inherently results-oriented. On occasion Rick Warren seems to replace the grace of God with a works-righteousness preached by the culture. In the beginning of the book, the author writes, "Only God makes the church grow" (pg 14). Later however, he uses the Bible's teaching on fruitfulness as a guilt trip. He states, "God expects both faithfulness and fruitfulness" (pg 62). Although he quotes from John 15, nothing is made of Jesus' admonition: "He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing." Fruitfulness grows out of faithfulness. Moreover, Rick Warren exclusively defines fruitfulness as conversions: "The fruit of a believer is another believer" (pg 63). There is no mention of the fruit of the Spirit. Rick Warren seems to imply that churches which are not growing, must not be bearing any fruit. Rick Warren does have some important things to say. I appreciate his desire to move Christians beyond membership and into ministry and mission. Three cheers for his statement: "I believe that you measure the health or strength of a church by its sending capacity rather than its seating capacity" (pg 32). Nonetheless, while reaching out to the culture, the Purpose Driven Church should beware becoming too much like the culture.
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Rick Warren has done an excellent job of reviewing his strategy and plan for the growth and expansion of Saddleback Church. This model, which worked extremely well in Southern California, is a good model for, Southern California. Warren is quick to point out that churches have to adapt this model to fit their settings, and this, I agree is very key. This book had a feel of modernity to it, while we are living in a postmodern world. I congratulate Rick Warren for what he has done in Southern California, and in his book. Rick's personal story is very inspiring, more so than any model he presents. Rick shows how following the call of God can lead to great things. The particularly poignant story of how he met a famous pastor from Dallas who prayed for him and told him he had big things to do as a Pastor is a great testimony towards how God works in this world. Thanks Rick for sharing your story.