The Purpose Driven Church


The book I’m about to start reading and thinking about again is “The Purpose Driven Church” by Rick Warren. I first read this about six years ago after a long period of doing very little at church other than turning up, singing, listening and being polite before going home. God grabbed my attention with Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life”, and that catalysed a trip back into some proper following of Jesus.

At the same time, in my job I was looking to grow as a talent coach and leader. I love helping to develop people’s creative ability and their other gifts which they may or may not recognise as God-given. NLP was just starting to get fashionable in work circles, and I was a bit skeptical about its basis and effectiveness. But I was interested in finding out about it, as well as anything else which might help develop people.

I think God grabbed my attention at this point and wanted me to spend time learning how he develops people, and I made a link and a leap. The link was starting to realise that God’s principles are ingrained in us and our world, we might not credit them as his, and we might rebel against them, but we can recognise them and they are GOOD. That’s how God made the world. When we are creative, we are doing something God loves doing, and reflecting some of the character of the creator. Is everything we create good? No, because we’re not God and we are corrupt, but the good news is that God made us to be with him and makes that possible in Jesus. And there is something attractive about Jesus, something a lot of unchurched, irreligious, rebellious, normal people recognise and respond to.

The leap was to start testing a theory, which I’m still testing. What if God’s principles for how we grow and develop weren’t just attractive and useful in church, but also to the people I was trying to coach?

As I got into this, I wanted to find out about the very best church practices I could find. Rick Warren’s church seemed like a pretty good place to start, and “The Purpose Driven Church” was a welcome revelation. Here was someone who took craft seriously, had some proven methods and not just untested theories, and had a very sensible sounding challenge for the church. Why weren’t we “purpose driven” too?

I went on to read other books which had some useful criticism of Rick Warren’s approach, and I think there are lots of questions in my mind now about how useful “Purpose Driven Church” can be for bodies of post-modern minded people with few resources and little will to set up university-style training schemes or set up marketing plans.

But I’m re-reading this now as part of a project with our church interns who will come together to share insights learned from this book, a more post-modern “Emerging Church” book by Dan Kimball and the radical “Organic Church” thinking of Neil Cole. I’m going into it hoping to be reminded of the solid, practical stuff I first loved about Saddleback but, more importantly, I’m wanting to marvel again at what the Holy Spirit can do when very different groups of people, in very different cultures, decide that following Jesus is the most important thing.

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