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Posted on July 26th, 2012, by

Churches traditionally played an important role in the religious life of people. In fact, the development of any religion was accompanied by the construction of various temples and special places where adepts could worship their deity or deities. In this regard, Christianity became one of the religions which made the church a place where people could maintain their contact with God, while priests served as mediators between the God and believers. At the same time, in the course of time the church evolved as well as the society and changes that occur in the society and its culture inevitably affect the church. It should be said that since the beginning of the development of Christian churches thy have evolved consistently, but the question concerning the purpose of the church always remained in the focus of attention of theologians as well as ordinary adepts. The present epoch is not an exception, but it is important to underline that the changes that take place in the contemporary society are so rapid and dramatic that it is quite difficult to define the purpose of church and its further development and perspectives. In fact, the contemporary epoch became the age of the emergence of atheism, when religion has lost its traditional significance as the spiritual guide of people in their life. Moreover, the formation of the consumerist society contributed consistently to the decreasing of the need of people in spiritual nutrition, which was traditionally supplied to adepts by the church. In such a context, Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission, attempts to understand what the contemporary church actually is and what its major purposes are.

Basically, the author pays a lot of attention to the current trends that affect the development of the contemporary church. Rick Warren lays emphasis on the fact that the purpose drive church model became a widely spread model, which defines the development of many churches in the contemporary world. At the same time, the author the author attempts to critically evaluate such a trend and analyze it in the historical context. To put it more precisely, he looks back into the past, at the roots of the first Christian churches in attempt to find the original Christian view on the church and its purpose. Such a historical retrospection is extremely important because it provides an opportunity to better understand the evolution of the church and, therefore, it helps better understand its current stage of the development.

On the other hand, the author seems to be very skeptical about the current stage of the development of the church and he believes that the way many churches select at the present moment is erroneous and misguiding since it is rather determined by the current, modern trends than a historical mission of the church. What is meant here is the fact that Rick Warren stands on the ground that churches became a kind of enterprises which attempt to market their own church that naturally affects the definition of purposes of churches. It should be pointed out that such a trend could be viewed as a response of churches to the changing socioeconomic and cultural environment since the growing role of materialism and commercial relations could not fail to affect the development of contemporary churches. As a result, using the purpose driven model each church gets an excellent opportunity to define its own purposes which fit the needs and expectations of the community in which churches are actually located. In such a way, contemporary churches no longer desire to discover what the Bible says about the purpose of the church in general, but they are formulating a specialized model custom-fitted for each church[1].

In this respect, it is worth noting the fact that Rick Warren underlines that our sanity and survival depended upon a workable process to turn seekers into saints, turn consumers into contributors, turn members into ministers, and turn an audience into an army. Believe me, it is an incredibly difficult task to lead people from self-centered consumerism to being servant-hearted Christians[2]. In such a way, the author reminds about the original purpose of the Church to guide people to Christianity and true faith which would be close not only to their minds but also to their hearts. Obviously, the author is disappointed because of the loss of the original purpose of the church and the ongoing trend to the penetration of consumerism within the church.

Furthermore, Rick Warren analyzes the existing myths about churches and critically evaluates them giving his own response to each of the myths. In such a way, he eventually arrives to, probably, the major question of his book: what drives your church?[3]. While attempting to answer this question the author finds out various views and different motives and factors that can drive the church. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that the church may be driven by tradition, when some cultural norm makes the church an essential part of the life of the community and often church-goers perceive their worshiping and attendance of church as a kind of traditional ritual they get used to perform throughout their life. Also, Rick Warren points out that the church may be driven by finance, by personality, by programs, by events, by buildings, or by seekers. Obviously, the driving force may vary consistently and, in such a context, the original Biblical paradigm of the church is getting lost.

In fact, the author attempts to convince readers that the original Biblical paradigm of the church should be perceived as the purpose-driven church. In the current situation, this concept needs to be carefully evaluated and implemented in order to fulfill the purposes of the church. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that Rick Warren appreciates the purpose above all and, therefore, the church should be purpose driven since, according to the author, there is nothing preceding purpose[4].

However, it is important to underline that the position of Rick Warrant is a bit controversial. At any rate, it is obvious that the denial of the current trends to define the purpose of church on the basis of needs of the local community and focus on the historical purpose and role of the church may lead to the ignorance of interests of the local community. Potentially, this may result in the ongoing decrease of the popularity of the church and the number of adepts. Even at the present moment, the problem of the conversion of new adepts is a serious problem for many churches, while the rigidity of their purpose alienates churches and religion at large from the actual needs of the community.

At the same time, the author attempts to find out what the church actually exists for. In order to find the answer to this question he analyzes the views of the public as well as priests on the purpose of the church and its function. As a result, he finds out that eighty-nine percent responded that the church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs, while only eleven percent said the purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ[5]. In such a situation, the author seems to be really puzzled how the church could develop normally in the contemporary world if the pastor and congregation cannot even agree on why the church exists. This is why he concludes that conflict and disagreement on everything else is inevitable[6]. In such a way, it is possible to estimate that the lack of the understanding or, to put it more precisely, the agreement on the purpose of the church leads to conflicts within the church as well as within the community. Obviously, such a situation is unacceptable since the lack of the definite and common purpose prevents the church from the fulfillment of its major function the spread of Christianity and Christian ideas, converting adepts to Christianity and gaining their support, making them, in response, closer to the God and Christ.

At this point, it is necessary to underline that, according to Warren, the foundation is crucial for the church and its purpose. To put it more precisely, he states that when you’ve finished laying the foundation, the most critical work is behind you. You can never build larger than the foundation can handle.[7]. On the basis of the foundation, it is necessary to define the purpose of the church. In this respect, the author states that a clear purpose builds morale, reduces frustration, allows concentration, attracts cooperation, and assists evaluation[8]. In such a way, it is necessary to clearly define the purpose of the church in order to provide it with an opportunity to successfully perform its functions.

However, it is important to underline that the position of Rick Warren is quite arguable because the present epoch demands the flexibility of churches since they need to adapt to the changing environment and meet the needs of the community.

At the same time, on defining the purpose of the church, Rick Warren refers to the New Testament and he attempts to find the Biblical message concerning the purpose of the church. As a result, he finds out that it isn’t our job to create the purposes of the church but to discover them[9]. Consequently, the church should not create the purposes but seek and discover them that actually explains consistently the concept of the purpose-driven church and, what is more, it also explains the current trend of churches to fit needs and interests of the adepts in a specific community where the church functions.

However, the process of the search for purposes of the church is not an easy process. Rick Warren develops a kind of strategy that will help discover the purposes of the church. To do this one needs to answer four basic questions: a) Why does the church exist?; b) what are we to be as a church? (who and what are we?); c) what are we to do as a church? (what does God want done in the world?); d) how are we to do it?[10]. Thus, the author gives clear recommendations concerning the elaboration of the purposes of the church. At the same time, it should be said that basically it is up to the church to define its goals. It would be quite logical to presuppose that different churches function in different environment and, therefore, at some points, their purposes may differ, though in principal they will be similar.

In this respect, it is possible to refer to Rick Warren’s ideas concerning the purposes of the church. On answering the questions, which help define the purposes of the church, the author names five major purposes of the church: a) love the Lord with all your heart; b) love your neighbor as yourself; c) go and make disciples; d) baptizing them; and e) teaching them to obey[11]. In such a way, the author defines the major purposes of the church. However, it should be pointed out that Rick Warren evaluates the purposes of the church in the historical perspective. In other words, he takes into consideration the entire history of the development of the Christian church and he heavily relies on the traditional Christian values and principles, which apparently define the purposes of the church he lists in his book.

Obviously, The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren is a very important book since it can help consistently not only to find the purposes of the church, but, what is more important, it also shows the way how these purposes may be found. In other words, the book assists to learn to search and find the purposes of the church that is extremely important in the contemporary, rapidly changing socio-cultural environment.

On applying Rick Warren’s ideas in practice, it should be said that the process of the definition of the purposes of the church can be facilitated consistently. At the same time, it is important to remember the idea suggested by Rick Warren concerning the foundation of the church. In this respect, it should be pointed out that the growth of the church starts with its foundation. It is extremely important to construct a solid foundation of the church, because on its basis the entire building will be constructed. In fact, this means that it is necessary to research carefully the community in which the church is supposed to be constructed and developed. After that it is necessary to construct the church and attract adepts. At this stage, it is very important to attract not only believers and devoted Christian, but it is not less important to attract those people who are just seeking the true religion as well as those who are unbelievers. It is extremely important to remember about the fact that the church should be open for all people. It cannot be an exclusive institutions, which is destined for a specific category or group of people, because it contributes to the formation of inequality not only within the community but also in face of God that is apparently a wrong approach to the development of the church. In stark contrast, all people are equal in face of God and, therefore, the church should accept all people that are willing to join or attend it.

At the same time, while defining purposes of the church, it is necessary to conduct a profound research of the community in which the church functions. Basically, the purpose of such a research is to define the major needs and expectations of people living in the neighborhood because this will help elaborate the purposes of the church itself.

What is meant here is the fact that it is important to take into consideration the position of the local community and the research will help assess their spiritual development, but, at the same time, it does not necessarily mean that the purposes of the church will be defined solely on the basis of the needs and expectations of the local population. In fact, this information is needed simply to shape the strategy of the development of the church in order to make it closer to the adepts. Obviously, the latter is impossible if the needs and expectations of the community are not taken into consideration.

Naturally, this will affect the definition of the purposes of the church, but still it is necessary to lay emphasis on the universal Christian principles and refer to the Biblical texts to define the basic goals of the church. In this respect, the five goals listed by Rick Warren in his book seems to be quite acceptable and universal, though, it is possible to admit the fact that some changes could be introduced depending on the environment in which the church will grow.

In such a situation, it is necessary to realize the fact that the church should perform the role of a mediator and a spiritual guide which can direct adepts in their search of God and spiritual harmony. What is meant here is the fact that the church should help people find their way to God. This is impossible without understanding of the needs of the local population. Consequently, on analyzing the needs of people the church should help them overcome their spiritual problems and encourage them attend the church and find their way to God.

In practice, this means that it is necessary to popularize the church within the local community. In fact, it is possible to organize a kind of the promotional campaign, for instance, distribute leaflets inviting people to attend church.

However, it seems to be more effective to participate in the life of the community. For instance, the church may organize some charitable event, like a dinner for marginalized people living in the community, or to assist to the local healthcare organizations to take care of patients, etc. In such a way, the church will gain the confidence of the local community and its support. Moreover, through the participation of the church in the life of the local community it will be possible to create the positive public image of the church and encourage people attend church regularly and get closer to the religion and philosophy of the church, which could help people in their spiritual searches.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the contemporary church is susceptible to considerable changes under the impact of the rapidly changing socio-cultural environment. This is why the role of church and its purposes are also susceptible to the dramatic change. In such a situation, it is extremely important to avoid the negative impact of the contemporary environment on the development of the church and minimize the penetration of mercantile relations and principles in the functioning of the church. In this respect, it is worth taking into consideration ideas developed by Rick Warren in his book The Purpose Driven Church, which can help better understand the current trends and the role and purposes of the church in the contemporary society. In fact, on the basis of these ideas it is possible to growth the church in accordance with both the current demands and traditional Christian principles and values.



[1] Frazee, 2001, p.122.

[2] Warren, 1995, p.46.

[3] Warren, 1995, p.73.

[4] Warren, 1995, p.81.

[5] Warren, 1995, p.82.

[6] Warren, 1995, p.82.

[7] Warren, 1995, p85-86.

[8] Warren, 1995, p.88.

[9] Warren, 1995, p.91.

[10] Warren, 1995, p.99.

[11] Warren, 1995, p103-106.

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