What Does Purpose Driven Mean?
At first glance, the Purpose-Driven concept may seem to reflect the values and expectations of the typical congregation, just with a different vocabulary. Wouldn't most churches claim that they already nurture mission, worship, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry?
The key difference is that in the Purpose-Driven paradigm, church leaders insist that the accomplishment of the five purposes drive the process of making difficult decisions about priorities and the allocation of resources. All too often, factors other than the five biblically-based purposes determine the outcome of important decisions, with the effect that the faithfulness and effectiveness of the congregation is compromised.
All too often, congregational or denominational traditions drive decision-making. It's been said that the epitaph on the tombstone of many dying churches will be, "We never did it that way before!" Obviously, many traditions are essential. The Bible is a written tradition! And, many non-essential traditions remain valuable and meaningful. For example, many persons, even younger persons, don't find that contemporary music facilitates their own worship of God. The key in evaluating traditions is to strive to be good theologians, always listening to God speaking through scripture in order to discern what cannot change, as we seek to discern whether faithfulness to Christ compels us to change a cultural tradition when it serves as a barrier in the quest to fulfill the church's purpose. Among the traditions that faithful congregations should continually evaluate are the musical selections, the scheduling of services and activities, our dependence on long-time programs like "Sunday School", and the church's manner of organizing and empowering leaders.
All too often, churches are personality-driven. It's what a particular leader or family prefers, or what a popular staff person likes to do, that remains the programmatic priority, siphoning off precious resources of time, people, and money from what might best accomplish the biblical purpose.
All too often, churches are program-driven. Instead of being evaluated and modified, or even replaced, programs most suited to a past culture or schedules are continued merely because of inertia and/or nostalgia.
Many congregations are in fact, tradition, program, or personality-driven, regardless of claims to the contrary. The remedy is to be intentional in naming the church's core values, and asking persons to embrace those values as God makes them ready.
Our commitment to engage in evangelistic Mission means that we seek to prepare each member for the joyful experience of leading persons into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It means that we seek to develop a small number of large-scale "bridge events", which respond to the perceived needs of our unchurched neighbors, and tend to connect them to the Good Shepherd Church family. It also means that we shall seek to develop significant mission projects, locally and globally, which not only share Christ's love, but also develop greater awareness and depth within the participants.
Our commitment to nurture genuine Worship has led us to continue offering services that blend contemporary and traditional music, as well as a service which features contemporary music only, to facilitate many persons into the whole-hearted worship of God. Not only is such worship meaningful for members, it helps seekers to grow in their awareness of God, and prepares them to enter an authentic relationship with Christ and the church. We've also become more purposeful in the way we craft messages. We often include bulletin inserts for note taking during sermons, and utilize multimedia for illustrations, video-clips and PowerPoint note taking guides.
Our commitment to develop an authentic experience of Christian Fellowship means that membership classes emphasize the need for persons to make a commitment to having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and relating to other Christians in a small group or class. Joining the church involves the embrace of a "Membership Covenant" which lists Good Shepherd's expectations for members. By focusing our energies on developing meaningful small group options (called Groups in the Grip of GRACE), the majority of members now experience authentic Christian fellowship on a regular basis.
Our commitment to nurture meaningful Discipleship has led us to phase out traditional Sunday School classes for adults. In as much as small groups have become a more meaningful experience of membership, Good Shepherd's classes now focus on teaching biblical and theological truth without the distractions inherent when traditional "Sunday School" classes attempt to nurture fellowship. Good Shepherd's stewardship programs are now focused on the individual's need to give, rather than the church's need for money.
Our commitment to equip members for Ministry means that we take the time to help individuals discover their own call to ministry, and when they discern it, to ask them to embrace a ministry covenant, which gives clear expectations and guidelines for their work. Without apology we ask every member-minister to cultivate a "servant's heart", an attitude of humility, that welcomes the opportunity to be trained and coached for improved effectiveness. Because we seek to equip ministers for dozens of vital ministries, it's necessary that Good Shepherd's ministers agree to a shared set of values and boundaries, so that growth isn't slowed by confusion or conflict.
Purpose-Driven staffing means that those of us who are ministry staff see our primary task is to create ministry networks, train newly emerging member ministers, and coach them in their work. With such a philosophy, the church can, as Rick Warren claims, "grow larger and smaller, at the same time."