Warren in his book the purpose driven church was mandated to attempt to put in print the story of Saddleback church. From shear curiosity be both Jew and gentile most religious and business leaders had at least a cursory interest in how a church grew to 10,000 attendees. Call it divine intervention, a killer marketing plan, being at the right place at the right time, blind luck or a combination of them all. Spending 25 years in corporate America I view Rick Warrens approach to growing a church (or anything for that matter) as spot on.
His due diligence (neighborhood survey) growth assumptions and overhead (17-19 locations) product (The Gospel) delivery and the, vision, purpose and organizational structure have delivered noticeable results by many measurement metrics. My biggest challenge is making this review last five to seven pages. Pastor Warren applies a business/sales 101 technique as he clearly took the time “know his customer” His due diligence and strategy were consistent with many of the known demographics that made up the saddleback geographic footprint his church resided in.
He then recognized that while all people were sinners and in need of salvation the commonality stopped there. (See human diversity matrix) The next piece of the saddleback puzzle was in place when the church purpose was forged. The goal to send out saints into the world to share the good news of the gospel was the focal point of every activity and program conducted. While this purpose is certainly in line with the scriptures as Christ command us toward the “great commission” the genius of the strategy is in the universal focus and synergy evident within the entire organization.
Critics of Saddleback speak to Pastors Warrens interpretations of scripture and a message that some would categorize as watered down or meant to “tickle the ears”. In a world where “organized religion” has become a very counter culture moniker Pastor Warren attempts to remove religion and focus on God’s unfailing love and value for his created beings. This approach has a nuance of the famous quote by Will Rogers, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” The post modern world today views the church as judgmental, intolerant and hypocritical.
Love is the last thing most would think of in today’s modern church. However Pastor Warren is quick to point out that “today the church is not facing a radically different world mindset but rather a challenge in communication, speak to the unbeliever in terms they can understand and relate to”. Who: Matt 10:5-6 the who…. Jews and not Samaritans, or gentiles What: A church for the un-churched. “If the church is not affecting the world, it is not being effective, affecting the world starts in your community”. How: focus “They want to hear something on Sunday that they can apply on Monday”
Chap 11 “they don’t take the time to understand the people they want to reach” Most churches today older than 30 years old are probably still operating their church they same way they always have, just with kids and grandkids of those that made up the body 30 years ago. Church’s 30 years ago for the most part were not “strategically planted” but were commissioned to “save the community” and to meet the demands of communities. People in earlier times would seek churches while today’s churches must seek those who are lost.
Just as being part of a community church 30 years ago provide a certain status, today it is viewed as almost an opposite proposition. People today are careful and do not necessarily want to not be labeled as a “church go’er”. The association today carries intolerance, self righteous and hypocritical connotations. The one thing I did find as I researched this book, were a handful of articles criticizing Pastor Warren and the strategy of Saddleback. I must say, most of the criticisms’ were petty and loosely based on a certain interpretation of scripture.
There were also challenges as to who the church was to serve. In my opinion Pastor Warren’s commitment and dedication should be modeled allowing many churches to significantly impact their communities and the kingdom. It is quite obvious Pastor Warren’s dedication and strategy have been proven solid and stood the test of time. This on not some “flash in the pan” firework ministry. It has taken 20 years for Saddleback to be the church that it is today, not many things last 20 years unless you are doing something right.
If the church is not affecting the world, it is not being effective, affecting the world starts in your community. Pastor Warren spent countless hours researching the ministries of churches all over the country and became more than a theology/seminary graduate. He became a student of the business of religion in the 21st century. This effort and dedication allowed him to see many strengths and weakness that he could employ or avoid in the development of the Saddleback church ministry.
Pastor Warren gets into minor detail on the flow, the message the building, parking and even the bathrooms at Saddleback in his explanation of how things are done at. He is quick to say that not everything that worked at Saddleback will work at other churches, but there are clearly some universal strategies all churches and leadership should employ. Results: Saddleback has not only grown but planted XX churches in its 20 years of existence. Pastor Warren has also helped many ministries move to the model Saddleback has perfected.
He has also authored many books, been at numerous conference and remains one of the most contemporary and well known pastors in America. Pastor Warrens “real person” approach is refreshing and exhibits a level of maturity and humility. Many have come to accept Christ and take the next steps into membership, then service and then ministry. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and realize there was a tremendous amount of discipline, teamwork and a lot of hard work that went into making Saddleback what it is today, but I was amazed by the simplicity responsible for the success.