LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP)–Rick Warren and Jerry Falwell may seem worlds apart, but their worlds merged when the California pastor brought Saddleback Church staffers to the Liberty University campus in Virginia to teach more than 13,000 ministers and students how to be purpose-driven.
Pastors from 47 states and a variety of denominations, including two Eastern Orthodox priests, came to Liberty for this first-ever East Coast training in Warren’s “Purpose-Driven” concepts. Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University and pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, introduced Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the bestseller “The Purpose-Driven Life” as a leader who could not be recalled because he had been called by God.
At one point, Falwell and Warren switched their characteristic dress, with Falwell donning a Hawaiian shirt and Warren wearing a business suit. Falwell acknowledged the two were cultures apart but it takes different people to reach all people for Christ. Warren added that regardless of any differences, we all serve one Spirit, one Lord, and one God.
Warren told the crowd packed into Liberty’s basketball arena (as well as an overflow crowd of nearly 5,000 watching by television) that when he was a teenager a sermon by Falwell kept him focused in ministry when he was compeletly discouraged. Falwell’s message, which the Virginia pastor delivered to the crowd on Tuesday evening, was that the character of a man is measured by how easily he is discouraged.
If one overarching message was clear during the Oct. 5-8 “SuperConference 2003,” it was this: You don’t have to change the biblical message to be a purpose-driven church. Being purpose-driven, Warren said, is about targeting who your church will reach and staying focused on that target while balancing the five biblical purposes taught in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment: worship, fellowship, discipleship, service and evangelism.
When Warren stepped onto the stage in the Vines Center at Liberty University, the enthusiasm of the audience, after battling traffic snafus and snarls, did not appear diminished.
“How do you turn an audience into an army?” asked Warren. The goal, he said, is to move people from the outer circle of community to an inner circle, core group.
Warren said a survey by George Gallup once found that only 10 percent of laypeople are involved in ministry, yet another 40 percent are interested in ministry opportunities but they’ve never been asked to serve.
Citing his own church in Lake Forest, Calif., Warren discovered he had members who had done such things as planning Dick Clark’s New Year’s ball drop, the 1984 Olympics and the Main Street parade for Disney. Warren said he was astonished: “Something I do not like about big churches is how easy it is for talent to hide.”
He then asked, “If I could show you how to get half of your laypeople into ministry, would you be interested?” The crowd responded with a cheer that shook the foundations of the arena.
“Streamline the meetings,” Warren said. “Most churches have too many meetings. Christ did not say, ‘I have come that you might have meetings.’ The most valuable thing people can give you is not their money; it’s their time.”
Warren asked, “How many agree you can drain the life out of people with meetings?” Hands shot up across the arena.
Warren responded, “Minimize meetings to maximize ministry.”
“You must trust your people with authority,” Warren said. “You have to decide, ‘Do you want to have control or growth?’ You can’t have both.”
The pastor must give up some of his ministry and the people in leadership must give up some of their control in order to have growth, Warren said. “You bring out the best in people by giving them a challenge, the control, and the credit.”
He finished by asking a simple question: “Would you like your church to be healthier, to be stronger, and to grow?”
“Then release your leaders to lead,” Warren urged.
In another session, Warren noted that each church needs to find its own style for reaching its target population, but he also said many churches confuse traditional methodology with biblical theology.
“The message never changes, but the methods do,” Warren said, adding that churches should “work smarter, not harder” in their efforts to evangelize and disciple. He said he keeps Saddleback members focused with simple slogans like, “Bring them in … Build them up … Train them for … Send them out!”
Then, “you position your church as a family, not an institution,” Warren said. “The Christian life is more than believing; it’s belonging and becoming.”
Citing a tremendous need for love and acceptance among the lost, Warren said churches should create a climate based on John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
People need to be told the value of church membership to the church, Warren said. “You become a church member by committing yourself,” he said. Accountability, support and identification as a believer are only a small amount of the benefits of church membership.
“People are not looking for friendly churches; they’re looking for friends,” Warren said. Every member should be encouraged to participate in a small group. The connection of community and communication are the fundamental goals of joining a small group.
In order to join a church, Warren said, a membership class should be required: “A strong membership class will produce a strong church.”
A membership covenant commits the members to the church: “When your church adopts a membership covenant, you are choosing who stays!” The unity, responsibility, ministry and testimony of the church are protected through a membership covenant.
Based on reporting by Jon Walker and Liberty University students Michael Troxel, Jake Belue, Myandi Richard, Richard Gretsky, Ricky Hardison, Raelle Landowski and Christine Coffey. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PRIMED FOR PURPOSE and SHIRT OFF HIS BACK.