This book has broadened my understanding of pastoral leadership. The author’s use of simple charts and analogies is remarkable. The language is plain and the approach detailed narrative. Its centerpiece is Church growth. It discusses the position of pastoral leadership in planning, directing, controlling and organizing resources towards achieving integrative unity and Christ-centered growth within the church. Warren is a strong believer in growth by conversion. He exposes the misinformation and parochialism plaguing the Church in her quest for revival and growth. He presents church growth as the task of every member.
The prologue “Surfing the Spiritual Waves” presents God as the centerpiece of pastoral leadership. It counsels that spiritual leaderships should look away from human methods and abilities in their quest for church growth and focus on God who alone can produce growth. His reference to 1 Cor. 3:6 says it all: “I have planted……but God gave the increase.”
The book shifts focus away from church building programs and emphasizes a people-building process. This is what the author calls a Purpose-Driven Church. A leader therefore is successful if he skillfully leads people into achieving the basic divine injunctions of “Love the Lord with all your heart’, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ ‘Go and make disciples,’ ‘baptizing them’ and ‘teaching them to obey.”
In his words, “If you will concentrate on building people, God will build the church.” The success story of the author and his Saddleback Church in California is richly informative for this purpose. Warren’s principles of pastoral leadership present strategies for building strong leadership skills as a prelude to achieving true spiritual hygiene and sustainable growth. He says that pastors are the most strategic change agents to deal with the problems of our society. He deliberated on such issues as Vision, Prayer, Goal Setting, and Experience as crucial elements of spiritual leadership.
Warren strongly attacked leadership structures that operate on conventional wisdom or what he called “myths about growing churches.” He shows that for the church to be relevant in God’s plan, it must be ready to offer to people what they cannot get elsewhere. In his words, a healthy, lasting church growth must address the various components of church life, proportionately.
The author argues that most church leaders focus essentially on ways to reach the mega church status in terms of number and financial takings. The young leader is warned against this tendency. The book talks on the issue of recycling believers by the big churches. The drive to reach out to barren lands and mission fields to make disciples, baptizing them into the Body of Christ, is now secondary. Warren analyzed the issue of drive and motivating factors in church set-ups.
He explains that some churches are driven by the need for social expression. Some are moved by the quest for economic relevance, political power, ecstatic beauties, while others are moved by the real essence of divine calling and godly principles. And whatever the motive, leadership principles employed will be geared towards achieving growth. He x-rayed the issue of laying foundations, stressing that the problem is not growth, per say, but a foundation for the management of that growth.
If ministry must thrive, we must lay a proper foundation. This foundation must be commensurate with the vision. Your church’s foundation will determine both its size and strength. The founding vision, goals and objectives must be defined and communicated from the start. And constant rehearsing of the same will ensure enthusiastic support. His idea is that vision is a dynamic thing and so must not be allowed to die in the presence of changing times. He believes that every member should be involved in the leadership process.
In defining the goals and objectives of your ministry, study what the Bible has to say. Look at Christ’s ministry on earth. Check out what He did in every stage and situation. Look at the examples of the first century churches in the Bible. Look at the various commands and injunctions given by Christ pertaining to spiritual leadership and the church. See how these apply to or affect your mission.
Warren is of the opinion that growth will automatically come if we develop and utilize the right skills, follow the right principles and be in the right place at the right time with the Vision. And I strongly believe this. He is a strong proponent of growth in qualitative terms (or Church Health) as against growth in quantitative terms (or Church Growth). He explains that the main task of leadership is Achievement of Church Health and not Church Growth.
He draws a line between the popular Church-growth syndrome and Church Health, which he recommends as key issue before every church. The woe of many a leadership is to compromise the message and mission of the Church in order to win membership. This is discussed and also condemned. We do not build the church. God builds the church. Warren agrees that communication is an art that must be learned and employed by all leaders. “An unreliable messenger can cause a lot of trouble. Reliable communication permits progress” Prov. 13:17 (LB).
We do not only have to define our purposes, but also communicate them to every integral unit of the corporate Body in sufficient detail. He uses Christ’s own approach in showing how we could motivate people to follow our vision. He treated such often-neglected details as ‘what did God say about setting up a new church’, ‘what is required of every member of the church from time to time,’ ‘various levels of association within the church structure for attaining set goals’ and ‘the priesthood of all believers.’
One area I disagree with Warren is his statement in page 38 that “God always uses imperfect people in imperfect situations…” This statement is misleading, in that, it may mean one thing to one person and give a completely unscriptural idea to the other. The writer also seems to project his Saddleback Church as a supermodel leadership structure. This may not be entirely so, given that operating factors differ from place to place, person to person and church to church. What made a church to blossom in California may turn out to be a waterloo for a church in Maryland, and vice versa.
It is my humble submission that we should look beyond successes and achievements of one man or institution and consider as pointed above, Christ’s ministry on earth, examples set by the early Church, and various biblical commands and injunctions pertaining to spiritual leadership and the Church. We should also consider other historical, socio-cultural, and environmental factors. I don’t fully agree with his interpretation of how the Lord Jesus attracted crowds.
Jesus did not dine with every sinner or attend their parties. He did not attract crowds with His personal charisma or with well-funded, well-articulated public rallies, nor yet with flavored sermons and promises of all the good stuff. He was moved by people’s needs, pains, spiritual vulnerability, and most essentially, faith. There was the poor and the wealthy; lawmakers, law-keepers and lawbreakers alike. They did not seek or desire Him. He sought and saved them.
Warren has however, taught me the need to keep my ears open to God for His own pattern and plan for the church, and how to apply various skills and resources to carry out the vision.
Steve Chuku Ibeawuchi Copyright ©2008 Steve Chuku Ibeawuchi