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Monday, February 22, 2010

2010 Lenten Study 1

The Purpose Driven Church: A Lenten Study
Rick Warren is pastor of Saddleback Ministries and the author of The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life. Pastor Warren wrote his books to guide the reader towards significant ways to bring about change in a Church’s life without compromising its message or mission.
Saddleback was started when Warren and his family packed what little they owned and moved from Texas to southern California. God led Rick and his wife, Kay, to Saddleback Valley and the amazing adventure began. The first members of the Church were the Real Estate agent’s family, and they never looked back. The first Easter service was held April 6, 1980 with 205 people. For many years, the community met without a permanent building. After 15 years, the Church grew to 10,000 attenders. Today, the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, is one of American’s largest congregations.
This book has a lot to teach us about Church Growth. Reading  this book together, we will discover a five part strategy for Church Growth:
Warmer through fellowship
Deeper through Discipleship
Stronger through worship
Broader through ministry
Larger through evangelism
Each week, St. James will look at one question that comes directly from the book. We will read the book in Church House Groups or as individuals over the five weeks of Lent and Holy Week. Once the study is complete, we will gather as a large group to discuss our learnings and share them with the congregation. The book costs $20 and anyone is welcome. Contact the office at 888-3489 for further details.
Interested people are to meet at the parish Hall, Tuesday, February 16 after/during the Pancake supper for the complete information and to create the study groups.
The question I would ask you to consider for week 1, based on Part One to page 47:

"What are the myths about Church Growth that apply to St. James?"

Add your thoughts here for the other groups, or interested parishioners, to comment on, and develop a conversation.


  1. 1. The only thing large churches care about is attendance: This myth does not apply to St. James. We want to have better attendance, and we agree that better attendance would mean a healthier church “ Large churches are usually entertaining.” “You would never go to a large church just to be seen.” “Large churches are real communities, and provide an encompassing life-style.” “Large church attendance is more comfortable than small, since you don’t feel so exposed.” We liked the five dimensions of church growth on page 49. However we are not very comfortable with evangelisms. We reminded each other that we all have our own ministries where we will use our gifts for God and to bear witness, whatever the gifts may be.
    2. All large churches grow at the expense of smaller churches: No one felt this myth true of St. James. We discussed how church attendance has fluctuated at St. James, often reflecting parish attitude to change, especially rapid change. No one ever felt another church had robbed St. James of members, however, merely that people went where they felt more comfortable.
    3. You must choose between quality and quantity in your church. It was at this point that we commented that perhaps NONE of the myths seem to apply at St. James. One member suggested that these pitfalls are more common to evangelical churches than to those where persons are baptized and made members at birth and therefore experience a deeper attachment to the church. However, it did emerge that certain persons have not always felt welcomed when they came to St. James, because they were different and because the existing community was so close. It was also agreed that coming to an Anglican church can be overwhelming since there are so many seemingly mysterious practices of standing and sitting and kneeling. “To bring in the unchurched,” said one group member,” we need very simple seeker services, perhaps 4 hymns, a reading and a message.” On the other hand, we need to remember that many come to a church such at St. James because they like the structure and formal practices. So we must keep open minds about newcomers, try especially hard to welcome them, and hope to be able to offer different kinds of worship opportunities for a variety of people.
    4. You must compromise the message and the mission of the church in order to grow: We agreed that you don’t compromise the message or the mission, but the medium, the format. You have to be slightly open to change, over time. Group members talked about a kind of seamless change that had taken place at St. James, very constructively, over time. It was agreed that the forms of worship are important to people.
    5. If you are dedicated enough, your church will grow. We found the book very helpful in pointing out how much skill it takes to develop and expand church membership, and how complex a matter it is. We need to learn how to do this, and not feel like failures before the fact. Vision is very important, keeping the important things in mind and trying to imagine how the church might grow and develop.
    6. There is One secret key to church growth: One group member said to this: “I mean, really!” We found it nonsense, not worth discussing.
    7. All God expects of us is faithfulness: Everyone agreed that people at St. James recognize how important fruitfulness is, and in fact many persons work very hard at St. James.
    8. You can’t learn anything from large churches: We don’t think we think this at all. We may feel inferior (secretly) and intimidated (sometimes) by “more popular” churches, but we want to learn from these models.

    We concluded with our own suggestions for growth:
    outdoor services (where folks could have a look at what we do)
    neighbourhood bar-b-ques
    potluck parties
    continuing support for Happy Mike
    church parades
    improved signage

  2. Great comments from the group. My brief response:
    1. I agree we all would like more attendance, but success is not gauged upon the numbers of bodies in the pews. Author Warren notes the growth in church can come from the "crowd" or those who are unchurched or have no faith affiliation. Meanwhile, to prepare for anticipated growth, the entire church can think upon the quality and quantity of education. How many study or read the Bible? How many meet on a regular basis for nurture and fellowship and prayer?

    2. I would agree with that statement, recognizing some churches benefit from the transfer of membership to other churches such as St. Peter's, who received many from Christ Church Winnipeg when it closed.

    3. Great thoughts here. Any church such as ours need not be concerned about altering the main liturgy to suit a demographic not in the church. While newer material can be used, seeker services can be held at other times such as a Saturday evening or a Sunday evening or even midweek. At those services you can be as creative as possible. I highly recommend that.

    4. As Anglicans we have to be concerned about seamless changes and especially teach the congregation when new changes are made. Why did we do this? What will be expected of us? Having said that, the liturgies we use now are great. They simply require dedication to good liturgy. I believe we have that and I look forward to incorporating the best of our tradition.

    5. The word "evangelism" has come up and folks are suspicious or ignorant of the word. When Warren speaks of evangelism, it can be understood as reaching out to the unchurched, those who do not know Christ, or those who may have a very loose connection to church an faith. The story of our faith cannot simply
    fall into one's head. Jesus gave the Great Commission which told us to go out into all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey all that I have commanded." These are Jesus words to us. It feels strange to do this, but it does not necessarily mean quoting the Bible to folks. In its pure sense, it is modeling the very life of Jesus, so others will want to know Him and give their lives to Him. That is the essence of the Church. Its whole liturgy is to praise the One who sends us.

    6. I'm not sure what response to give without context

    7. This is very true. Everyone works hard, but they work as a team, and, more importantly, as a family, like brothers and sisters. In fact, we are brothers and sisters ---in Christ.

    8. It's good to acknowledge this sentiment and to be honest. In reality, we have many dedicated Christians with essential ministries inside and outside the church. Members need to remember that from Monday to Saturday, in the world, they are engaged in ministry. There is never a time you remove your "Christian" hat and say I am now not ministering. In fact, the very loving things we do at home, in the family and in the community are driven by the Holy Spirit working within us. We can be proud of the depth of faith found at St. James.

    I highly concur with the suggestions for growth and can't wait to begin implementing them.

    Thank you for the insightful and faithful repose to the question. Bless you all!

    Father Murray