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‘Purpose Driven’ church planting overviewed at Southern Seminary

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–While Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven” church-growth methodology may be familiar, people might not know there’s a Purpose Driven church-planting process as well.

More than 160 people learned about that process during a Jan. 4-8 East Coast Purpose Driven Church Planting Conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

The conference taught church planters how to start congregations based on the five purposes for a church as enunciated by Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of the largest churches in the world.

The purposes encompass growing warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through worship, broader through ministry and larger through evangelism.

“It definitely exceeded our expectations,” said Ed Stetzer, director of Southern Seminary’s Church Planting Center, which sponsored the conference. “There’s an overwhelming interest in planting new congregations that’s really spreading across North America. North America is the only continent in the world where Christianity’s not growing, so this is good news.”

The conference was the first of what will be an annual event emphasizing different methods of church planting all based in biblical truth, Stetzer said. This year’s event focused on the most utilized church growth and church-planting model, the Purpose Driven model.

Conference speakers included Dan Morgan, Saddleback’s church planting strategist; John Worcester, an internationally known church-planting consultant who has trained more than 1,800 church planters worldwide; Kerry Shook, pastor of Fellowship of The Woodlands near Houston; and Stetzer.

Conference leaders trained attendees in the whole Purpose Driven church-planting process, which consists of five stages: preparation, pre-launch, launch, crowd to core and multiplication.

“It’s put together a lot of information and weaved it together in a whole pattern that I’m thankful for,” said Peter Foreman, a conference attendee from Franklin, Pa. “It’s been a great week.”

“The Purpose Driven strategy is just a strategy to accomplish those five purposes at the same time so that the church is ever growing in size but also ever growing in depth,” Stetzer said.

Yet, while based on Warren’s model, the vision is not to create smaller versions of Saddleback.

“The Purpose Driven model is not about Hawaiian shirts and contemporary music,” Stetzer said. “It’s about focusing in on the five purposes of the church and having a strategy and a methodology to meet the needs in each of those five principles.”

About 30 seminary students, some from Cincinnati Bible Seminary, attended the conference as part of a church-planting class.

Bryan Cribb also contributed to this article.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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