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4.5   Strategic Structuring (How do we do church?)

The next important challenge that Warren had to face was his response to the question “How do we do Church?” His answer is crucial to the success or failure of his Purpose Driven Church Philosophy. The principles which he builds upon are general principles being out worked in many evangelical churches worldwide, they are all acceptable principles, worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry its how they are interpreted that causes so much division.

While all churches would say they participate in all of these principles, the question that arises here is why is it that Warren would seem to have such success in supposed qualitative and realised quantative growth in such a short space of time, while others fail and decline?Outside of Warren’s personal spiritual experiences, his non negotiable doctrinal beliefs and his five principles for church growth which he believes represents the power of God actively at work in his life is finalised in a process of delivery.

4.5.1 Contextualisation of Principles.Warren’s three spiritual experiences, four non negotiable doctrines and five principles which form the foundation for his ecclesiology come in for criticism simply because of the methods used to contextualise the delivery of his interpretation of the Gospel to his community. Contextualisation is a dynamic and powerful expression of how the church delivers its divinely gained message to society.

Text and context become the battle ground for theologians to debate the worthiness of any particular method of communicating the gospel. Contextualisation is essentially the disciple’s understanding of God’s self revelation of Himself to humankind. The tremendous organisation of heaven to bring truth to live in the heart of one human being must be matched by a powerful process for that human being to communicate that received spiritual experience to others.While true contextualisation warns against the dangers of syncretism in theological beliefs, religious practices and ethical lifestyles, but it is not driven by inertia or to maintenance of the status quo by fear of this danger.[1] 

The answer to that is clearly to be seen in one word, “organisation”, here is the key to Warren’s community church success. According to Warren,[2] if you want to communicate your beliefs to the masses you must organise to perfection. He makes reference to John Wesley as someone he looks up to, for not only did he reach multitudes with the Gospel, but God had endowed his with organisational gifts which allowed him to build an “organisational structure[3] to fulfil his purposes and continue into the future.

Without a system and a structure to balance the five purposes, our church will overemphasize the purpose that expresses the gifts and passions of its pastor.[4] Warren suggests that a balanced delivery of his five biblical principles to his  community will of necessity desire a structure capable of such an important task.

Barna suggests that holding fast to outdated systems or structures that look feasible on paper, but in fact strangle the life out of the organism, is self defeating.[5] All churches world wide have structures, why is it that Warren’s structures have come  in for such criticism from groups like BDM? Warren steps into an area of church development that some within the traditional church would not feel comfortable with simply because his methodology of delivery would seem to push the ministry of the Holy Spirit to one side and put man’s ingenious methods of communication to the fore.

Given the fact that all churches choose methods to communicate the gospel, one is not so sure that traditionalists have a justifiable case for challenging the methodology of Warren. Barna suggests, “that the Christian church is not exactly known for setting trends or embracing change”.[6] Warren believed that he could see the bigger picture, he had the principles of the gospel in place, he could see the size of his mission field i.e. Orange County and now he needed the organisation to carry his precious message to the population.

Warren[7] was challenged by important questions concerning the delivery of his message. What was the best way of communicating the gospel to his community? Who are the best people to use in the task? How best can we get people to work together? What about leadership development? How does one look at the problems of Logistics and seek solutions?The processes of decision making at leadership levels, how should this be done? How does one analyse the local market area? How does one build new ministries into community?

Warren discovered early in his ministry that he had a very important product, “the Gospel”. He had a ready made market in his local community, church growth could only happen when the right infrastructure was assembled to carry his product, (the Gospel) into that market place. Barna suggests, “that developing a marketing orientation is precisely what the church needs to do if we are to make a difference in the spiritual health of this nation for the remainder of this century”.

To do that successfully Warren developed an integrated system of developing the church not from the inside out, but from the outside in, that is from community to church. This approach in general maybe heavily frowned upon in many Christian churches as not being biblical. In actual fact it was very biblical for the early Christians began from this same position, for there was no church as we know it today in place, Warren decided that he would build his local fellowship in the same way.

George Barna,[8] suggests that, American churches which are growing today are churches which have been developed to be user friendly, meaning that they are churches that are in touch with the needs of the people they long to serve. Warren wanted to develop such a church and to do so by delivering his newly found New Testament principles though the ministry of the Saddleback Church fellowship.

Early in this dissertation, Practical Theology and praxis were briefly examined and defined in general terms. Now a consideration of Warren’s practical theology needs to be examined. Warren develops his practical theology under three headings, communication, organisation and application. If any group, according to Warren, want to become a purpose driven church, the quality of their communication, organisation and application would determine the levels of their success. This is clearly evident from the Warren’s chapter on “communicating your purposes”.[9]

4.5.2 Communication.                       

Communication for Warren is ultimate in the development of his practical theology. Warren[10] extracts an Old Testament proverb to support his communication philosophy, “An unreliable messenger can cause a lot of trouble, reliable communication permits progress”.[11] The Old Testament book of Nehemiah obviously had a tremendous influence on Warren’s communication philosophy, he talks about the “Nehemiah Principle” [12]of reminding your people of the “Vision and purpose”[13] for the work in Saddleback, at least once a month.

Warren[14] developed a number of ways to fulfil this desire to re-communicate the vision. He does so by the use of scripture, symbols, slogans, and stories by specifics or practical, clear, concrete action steps explaining how the vision would be fulfilled.[15] Then he sets out to make it personal for each member of his congregation, he quickly turns the vision communication into a personal responsibility as well a personal privilege. He re-enforces the challenges to the believers by reminding them that “to believe is to belong”.[16]

The development of the concept of fellowship is communicated early in the Saddleback development process, so that the fellowship begins to absorb his five principles.[17] Warren believed that the pulpit was like the rudder of a ship, it determined direction of the fellowship. [18]

He constantly communicated his principles through a process which was practically built to communicate through,reaching, teaching, broachers, banners, articles, newsletters, bulletins, videos, cassettes and even written songs.[19] Communication meant the constant redefinition and challenging of the congregation concerning the reason for their existence, what they were to be, what they were to do and how they were going to do it.

4.5.3 Organisation.

Barna suggests that his goal when searching for a church to worship in, “was to find a church that seemed like they had not thrown everything together an hour before the service began. Our goal was to find a church where the worship and the teaching was taken seriously that preparation was evident, personal growth was possible and commitment to service was appealing”. [20]

When a church is organised to deliver its message, a clear cut `marketing plan` [21]will be evident. That organised plan will reflect five advantages to the church, Barna, suggests that, the plan will identify the problems that prevent growth in the church, a marketing plan that will give legs to the vision, confronting problems which force you to prioritise your ministry objectives, maximise the use of resources and introduce accountability for predetermined ministries.[22] 

Warren learned from John Wesley’s ability to organise, I’m sure he had learned much from Criswell, who Warren earlier suggested was brilliant at administration and organisation.[23]The identification of objectives or potential ministries is one thing but organising to meet those needs is completely other, Barna suggests that ministry that is relevant in this 21st post modern world is one that addresses the felt needs of the individuals.[24] 

Principles are fine but without a process, it will be virtually impossible to communicate them in any wide spread way. Warren admits that the principles he has discovered are already at work in many Evangelical churches today, but his key issue is that they are not functioning very well.[25] Barna clearly agrees with that sentiment, but suggests that churches “restate their mission statement”[26] and make sure that all ministry is consistent with its fulfilment.Warren had to face the questions, how can he measure the decline of the church? How would he know if he and his congregation are individually and collectively fulfilling the demands of the five principles?

Moreover what place has the Spirit of God to play in this seemingly pragmatic and heavily market orientated ministry system? How can he say that only his principles used in his way will give spiritual health and numerical growth? Does his book “The Purpose Driven Church” end up not so much being a book about new 21st century revelation through five principles, but a book about the balanced use of the five principles through a well-developed strategy? 

Warren[27] suggests that, without a system and a structure to balance the five purposes, your church will over emphasise the purpose that expresses the gifts and passion of its pastor. He defends this position by highlighting churches that do the very things he suggests are incorrect. According to Warren there are five types of Churches, each of these over emphasise one or other of the principles at the expense of the other four.He[28] talks about “the soul winning church” which has an over emphasis on evangelism.

Then there is the “experiencing of God Church” where worship is at a premium, the emphasis is on praise, prayer, worship, music, spiritual music etc. The “family reunion church,” that over emphasises fellowship, relationships etc. The “classroom church” where the emphasis is on teaching, instruction and discipleship. 

Finally “the social conscience church” where people become very practical, they like to share, serve and minister. Warren believes that such like churches are unbalanced and cannot achieve their full potential because of an over emphasis on one principle or other. His argument is simply that a balanced church has an equal emphasis on each of the five principles. A chart prepared by Warren clearly explains how the church’s purposes are outworked.[29]

Most Churches Tend to Only Focus On One Purpose.

  PrimaryFocus  Pastor’sRole  People’sRole  Primary Target  KeyTerm  Central Value  ToolsUsed  Source of Legitimacy
 SoulWinningChurch  Evangelism  Evangelist  Witness  TheCommunity  Save  DecisionsFor Christ  Visitation& AlterCalls  NumbersBaptised
 ExperiencingGodChurch  Worship  WorshipLeader  Worshippers  TheCrowd  Feel  Personal Experience     Music&Prayer  TheSpirit
 FamilyReunionChurch  Fellowship  Chaplain  FamilyMembers  TheCongregation  Belong Loyalty&Tradition FellowshipHall,&Potluck  OurHeritage
 BibleClassroomChurch  Edification  Instructor  Students  The Committed  Know  Bible Knowledge Notebooks&Over heads   VerseByVerseteaching
 SocialConscienceChurch  Ministry  Reformer  Activists  Thecore  Care Justice&Mercy Petitions&Placards. Number of needs Met.
 PurposeDrivenChurch BalanceAllFIVE  Equipper  Ministers  AllFive Be & Do  Christ-likeCharacterLifeDevelop-mentProcess.  Changed Lives

This chart traces purpose, task, objective, target, life component, basic human need, the churches role and the benefits of such ministry. It is a comprehensive process which delivers the gospel in such a way that it meets the needs of the recipient in their given context. It also reveals the in-balance of ministry when the five principles are not used together in the fellowship.He then suggests that the Para-church movement correctly over emphasised one principle so as to re-invigorate the church to seek to promote the principle in the local fellowship.

Warren[30]suggests that a “balanced church is a healthy church” so organisation is key to balance, he reminds his staff that “the ninth beatitude is, blessed are the balanced, for they shall outlast everyone else”. Organisation for Warren reflects two simple concepts, but while they may be simply stated they are complex in construction, i.e. “circles of commitment and the life development process.” [31]

These two concepts reflect how the five principles are developed in the Saddleback Church. The life development process teaches what has to be done in the fellowship and the circle of commitment teaches who the recipients are. Warren has shrewdly tracked the spiritual journey of the individual from his first contact with the church and his total ignorance of its message on life, to the place of total commitment to Christ and a genuine desire for service.

Warren has a five level approach from evangelism to total commitment, it moves through a purpose driven structure where it introduces people to levels with in the Saddleback approach to ministry that leaves the enquirer in a reasonably non-threatening environment. Whereas most evangelical churches that have desire for mission, start with the core group by establishing stability internally as the important starting point, Warren in the system that he introduces, recognises the importance of developing of his ministry externally in the community.

This is Warren’s mission field, the place from which the future church will evolve. As he markets this new fellowship in the community and out side of that community those who come into the Saddleback church are seen as Warren’s “hottest evangelistic prospects.[32] If these “hot evangelistic prospects” become regular in their attendance, they are promoted in Warren’s organisational structure to become known as the “crowd”.

The crowd in Warren’s theological understanding are still unbelievers but unbelievers with spiritual desires after truth. After Christian conversion and baptism those from the “crowd” become the “congregation” of Saddleback, they become people who are committed to the purpose of the fellowship which is represented in the five principles of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism.

For Warren this is a critical commitment of new believers to the body of Christ. The system included in this process is fivefold, conversion, baptism, taking first membership classes, signing a covenant membership document and being active in the fellowship. This is the first real level of commitment. This process is absolutely central to the development and health of the Saddleback church, a non active member for Warren is not only useless but dangerous to the overall health of the fellowship.

Warren gauges the effectiveness of the Saddleback model of church when it has 25% more people each Sunday Morning than the sum total of its membership numbers, for Warren that reflects an active membership at work. From the level of “congregation” the next level is called the “committed”. Here people who are serious about their faith and long to grow in grace, are trained to have an active prayer life both privately at home and publicly in Saddleback.

They would tithe 10% of their income to the work of God in Saddleback and be active participants in house groups. Out of the committed would evolve the final level, which is called the “core” group of the church. It is the smallest group, but the group with the deepest level of commitment to minister to others. They would eventually be commissioned as lay ministers in the church, which according to Warren is the secret of Saddleback’s success.

The core people are the people who go back into the community for personal and organised ministry. Warren’s organisational structure is summed up in five very significant words, “community, crowd, congregation, committed and core[33] who then go to the community to develop a crowd who will become the congregation from which then comes the committed who in turn become the core who go to the community.

There is no “single key to church health and church growth[34]  so balance is utmost in the development of the process which results in church health and growth. To summarise, Warren suggests, “In a purpose driven church we identify five different levels of commitment. These five levels correlate to the five purposes of the church.”[35]

According to Warren if his highly developed system is followed, it will allow a  purpose driven church to be developed anywhere in the world. Warren’s concentric circles diagram reveal the well thought out strategy of reaching the community for Christ.

[1]  Ferguson & Wright, The New Dictionary of Theology, Leicester, England, IVP, 1988,166.

[2] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 121.

[3] Warren, TPDC, 121f.

[4] Warren, TPDC, 122.

[5] Barna, User Friendly Churches, 137.

[6] George Barna, Marketing the Church, Colorado Springs, USA, 1991, 12.

[7] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 98.

[8] George Barna : User Friendly Churches, California, Regal Books,1991, 31f.

[9] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 111-119.

[10] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 111.

[11] Living Bible, Proverbs, 13:17.

[12] Warren, TPDC, 111.

[13] Warren, TPDC, 111.

[14] Warren, TPDC, 112-114.
[15] Warren, TPDC, 112-114.
[16] Warren, TPDC, 112-114.
[17] Warren, TPDC, 107
[18] Warren, TPDC, 118.
[19] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 118.

[20] Barna, Marketing The Church, 93.

[21] Barna, MTC, 95.

[22] Barna, MTC, 97.

[23] Dissertation, ch. 2. (Criswell).

[24] Barna, MTC, 109.

[25] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 122.

[26] Barna, Marketing The Church, 97.

[27] Warren, TPDC, 122.
[28] Warren, TPDC, 122.
[29] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 119.
[30] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 128.

[31] Warren, TPDC, 130.

[32] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 131

[33] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 131-134.
[34] Warren, TPDC, 128.
[35] Warren, TPDC, 129.

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