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FIRST-PERSON: Revival, awakening, or miracle?

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–If your church baptized 671 new believers, added almost 1,200 new members, and increased your average attendance by 2,000 in just 40 days, would you call that a revival?

If, during those same 40 days, 2,200 people in your church who were previously uninvolved started serving in ministry, and another 3,700 committed to go on a world missions project that began with 17,000 Christmas shoe boxes and 12 tons of can goods, what would you call that? An Awakening?

What term would you use if your members became so concerned for their lost friends that they convinced more than 25,000 of their neighbors to study the Bible for six weeks in one of 2,400 small groups meeting in homes around your city? A Miracle?

Well, whatever you call it, all this has actually happened at Saddleback Church during the last 40 days.

In addition, more than 1,500 other churches in all 50 states joined us in the national pilot of “40 Days of Purpose.” Early reports indicate that these 40 days have been the most transforming event in the history of many churches. Hundreds of pastors and lay leaders are writing us, saying, “Our church will never be the same” or “This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to our church.” One pastor wrote, “I’ve seen more growth in our members in the last 40 days than in the last 13 years.”

Untold thousands have come to Christ, been baptized, welcomed into church membership, connected to a small group or Sunday School class, taught the meaning of real worship and fellowship, equipped for ministry, and then sent out for their mission in the world. Troubled marriages have been healed, broken relationships between church members restored, and a new spirit of unity, vision, and purpose has swept through many congregations.

What is behind this wonderful movement of God?

The Bible says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1a, NIV). Days, — and even months — of prayer, seeking, and fasting prepared these churches for what God wanted to do in their midst.

But it takes more than prayer to reach, equip, and send out disciples into the harvest. It takes a biblical strategy. While the limitations of this short article won’t allow me to share all 12 principles we built the campaign on — or even their biblical basis — I’d like to share four of the reasons why 40 Days of Purpose was so effective at Saddleback and beyond:

THE PRINCIPLE OF CONCENTRATED FOCUS — During “40 Days of Purpose,” the entire church — every age group, every ministry, every small group, and every service — focused on God’s five purposes for our lives. All extraneous meetings and emphases were eliminated for 6 weeks while we concentrated on this one thing. In the introduction of my book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” I explain the biblical and strategic significance of a 40-day emphasis.

THE PRINCIPLE OF MULTIPLE REINFORCEMENTS — During the 40 days, the truths about God’s five purposes for our lives were repeatedly communicated in six ways:

1. An all-church simulcast seminar,

2. A weekly message by the pastor,

3. A personal daily devotional reading,

4. A weekly Scripture memory verse that everyone memorized,

5. A weekly small group or Sunday School lesson, and

6. A weekly email of encouragement.

People heard about God’s purposes for their lives over and over. The same truths were taught in different formats. This allowed the truths to sink deeper into hearts, which is essential for any permanent life change.

THE PRINCIPLE OF BEHAVIORAL TEACHING — Biblical preaching — the kind that changes lives, and families, and churches — teaches people to be “doers of the Word, not hearers only.” Interpretation without application simply creates an audience with overdeveloped ears and head, but no heart, hands, or feet to act like Jesus. Each of the eight messages during the “40 Days of Purpose” was designed to call people to specific commitments and spiritual habits that are a part of godly growth.

THE PRINCIPLE OF EXPONENTIAL THINKING — This is thinking so big that it demands that you depend on God to see it happens. It’s what I call “the faith factor.” You attempt to do something so big that it can’t be accomplished by human effort alone. It requires a miracle. Jesus said, “According to your faith, it will be done unto you.”

In exponential thinking, you add a zero to your goal. For instance, if you have 5 Sunday school classes or small groups, you ask, “What if we prayed and worked to start 50 classes or groups? What would that require?”

Exponential thinking stretches your faith, your creativity, and your dependence on God. This fall I challenged our church to begin 3,000 small groups in our community instead of our original plan to start 300 new groups. That forced us to think in new ways. We didn’t reach the goal, but we did establish 2,500 groups — far more than we would have otherwise.

For years, we’ve watched God use these principles to grow people, groups, and Saddleback church. Kingdom principles produce kingdom growth. When we align ourselves with God’s Kingdom agenda — the five purposes we were created and placed on this earth to fulfill, God does marvelous things.

Saddleback stands ready to partner with you, just as we have with thousands of other congregations of all of sizes and locations.

Churches from all around the world are already signing up to participate in the Spring 2003 worldwide “40 Days of Purpose.” It will begin on Easter Sunday, April 20 and continue through June 1. For information on how your church can participate, please write us at [email protected]. I hope you join us in the journey of a lifetime.
More than 1,500 churches, in all 50 states, are participating in a national pilot of a six-week “40 Days of Purpose” spiritual growth emphasis based on Rick Warren’s latest book, “The Purpose Driven Life.” Baptist Press is carrying a column by Rick Warren each Wednesday as a part of the 40-day initiative. Information on participating in the spring 2003 worldwide campaign can be obtained by e-mail to [email protected].

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  • Rick Warren