Monday, August 31, 2009

AAW- The Purpose Driven© Church Model

The August 26 Ask Anything Wednesday Question of the Week was:
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Purpose Driven© Church Model?

Before we ask about a particular "model" of the church, let's first address "what is a church?" While I cannot hope to be exhaustive on this issue, I can say that Protestant churches have tended to identify threeHistoric Marks of the Church, they are:
The Word - the gospel is rightly proclaimed
The Sacraments - Lord’s Supper & Baptism are rightly administered
Discipline - Members of the church are accountable for the beliefs and behavior

I point this out so that we understand that the Purpose Driven© Model is an attempt to help the church (one bearing the three marks described above) be all that God intends for it to be. Despite what some may be Purpose Driven© or not to be Purpose Driven© is not a matter of fellowship, heresy, or being "hip." Rather, it is an effort to recognize that something "drives" every church...there is a reason a church chooses to use a piano in worship, a reason the pastor chooses to wear a coat and tie, a reason the church must vote to pay the bills. The question popularized by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Church was: "What drives your church?" To say it another way: Why does your church do what it does?

In essence, the Purpose Driven© Model seeks to answer THREE Questions:
• Why are we (the church) here?
• What is our process for making disciples?
• Do we have a strategy to move people to greater levels of commitment?

In answering those questions a Purpose Driven Church…
Is organized around five core purposes of the church found in:
The Great Commission –Mt 28:18-20 and
The Great Commandment – Mt 22:37-40
These purposes are: Worship, Evangelism, Fellowship, Discipleship, and Ministry (or, Service).
These five purposes answer the question: Why are we here? We are here to Worship God, Evangelize the Lost, Fellowship with Believers, Grow in Christ, and Serve the Kingdom. A Purpose Driven© Church seeks to ensure that all five of these purposes are balanced.

A Purpose Driven© Church utilizes an intnetional discipleship process. In other words, a PDC has a plan to make disciples that is intentional, purposeful, and understandable. While some churches will deviate a bit here and there, all PD Churches will strive to be intentional about making disciples. The "ball diamond" has become the image associated with this process...

Finally, a PD Church practices an outside - in perspective to growth and evangelism. That is, PD Churches recognize that not everyone in the church has the same level of commitment. And, that an intentional strategy is required to move people toward greater commitment. The "cocentric circles of commitment" has become the image associated with this reality...

Now that we have a better - albeit brief - understanding of the PD Church...What are some of the WEAKNESSES of PD Model? This, too, is not intended to be exhaustive, but to simply give us some food for thought...
• Can become programmatic. That is, some churches will adopt purpose statements and edesign their “structure” without the heart for lost that is essential. There are many "traditional-minded" churches wearing Purpose Driven© "clothing." When a church "decides" to become Purpose Driven©, the question needs to be asked: "why?" Without a Great Commission answer, I suspect PD is another program being spite of the fact that PD is NOT a program!

• Tendency to “dumb down” the Gospel. I want to be careful to say that this is not an inevitable result of being Purpose Driven©. But, there are those who uncritically adopt a Purpose Driven© approach and ASSUME that means that Bible cannot be preached in its entirety. Here the Pastor and/or Church are fearful to preach the “whole Bible” lest the seeker is offended. In fact, a biblically informed adopting of the Purpose Driven© approach is one that tries to remove as many barriers of offense as possible...with the EXCEPTION of the Bible. God honors his word...proclaim it faithfully and clearly and let God's Spirit do his work!

There are also STRENGTHS of PD Model:
• Biblically-based. I do believe the model is rooted in biblical truth and is not a fad. The five purposes espoused by PD are essential to our faithfully carrying out the Great Commission in the context of the Great Commandment.

• Flexible / Not one style. The PD Model is flexible and is not solely a "contemporary" church approach. There are Purpose Driven© churches in over 100 denominations and/or associations. There are traditional, liturgical, and contemporary churches practicing PD principles. Further, PD is not limited by geography. There are churches practicing these principles throughout all parts of the US and around the world.

• Easy to Understand / Adapt. This is the final strength, in my book...the PD model is adaptable. And...IT MUST BE ADAPTED to each setting. A PD church in California will look different than one in the North East or in the South East. While the principles will be the same, the expression of those principles will vary...and that is how it should be.

Ultimately I believe the Purpose Driven© Model has done far more good than harm. While it has not always been introduced into traditional churches in the best ways, the primary question of the Model remains to be answered by EVERY congregation: What drives your church? Or, Why are you doing what you do? Too many churches resort to doing what they prefer, or what they have always done WITHOUT thinking through a biblical rationale for it. You know you are guilty of this if you don't want someone to ask "why" about an event, a ministry, or a practice your church is engaged in!

At the church I am serving (Raleigh Road Baptist Church), I can assure you that I will always want a biblical rationale for what we do...and, my hope and prayer is that such a rationale will be driven by the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

No comments: