To put it succinctly, Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church has organized its programs so that five basic biblical purposes can be fulfilled as faithfully and effectively as possible. From the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, we are told that the church exists to make disciples (evangelism, or mission), baptize (incorporate into authentic fellowship), and teach them to obey (discipleship, for maturity). From the Great Commandment of Matthew 22:36-40, we are reminded that God's expectation is that we love the Lord with all our heart (sincere worship), and love our neighbors as ourselves (significant ministry).
Since the summer of 2000, we've been in a transition, synthesizing the Purpose-Driven insights of the Saddleback Community Church of Orange County, California, with Good Shepherd's worthwhile traditions and the Presbyterian Church (USA) denominations non-negotiable heritage.
Here's a summary of our strategy: We recognize that any given time, we minister to five groups who differ according to the extent of their growth and the level of their commitment. With each group, there is a corresponding biblical purpose that ought to be the priority for those persons spiritual growth. As individuals make a commitment that facilitates growth in fulfilling that biblical purpose, they are able to move to the next group and focus on its corresponding biblical purpose. Such a strategy is realistic, in that it accepts the necessity of working with people where they are. It is also ambitious, providing a path to help them grow to where they ought to be.
We find it helpful to illustrate our strategy for relating to these five groups by utilizing the diagram of concentric circles developed by Rick Warren.
[Purpose Driven] Lets start where many people are, as outsiders to Christ's church who have a little or no commitment to Gods Kingdom. Therefore we begin with the biblical purpose of mission, the evangelistic task of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Recognizing that Jesus and his disciples began by connecting with spiritually-searching persons through ministries of healing and need-based teaching, we will seek to connect with our neighbors by developing special events or sermon series that respond to the needs of those seeking spiritual life today, and when we can, developing ministries of healing for persons who are hurting. Perhaps 300 persons relate to us in this occasional and marginal way. When added to the inner circles of higher commitment, we recognize that over 500 persons comprise Good Shepherd's COMMUNITY of NEIGHBORS. At the least, those seeking are interested in exploring spiritual life through the occasional worship of God, and/or through Good Shepherd's ministry programs. Our mission is to find gracious ways to share the news of Jesus Christ, so that when ready, folks in the community understand how to claim or renew a relationship with him as Savior and Lord.
If we are a welcoming church, sharing the love of Christ, and are a relevant church, facilitating the reconciling and healing ministry of Christ, many of our neighbors will take the next step, becoming part of the CROWD of WORSHIPPERS who regularly attend one of the three weekend services. We estimate that about 300 different persons are in this habit. (Good Shepherd's average attendance is running about 200.) With persons in the crowd, our greatest priority is connecting them with God and the covenant family through authentic worship.
The next step is to help persons in the worshipping crowd become CONGREGATION MEMBERS, making a commitment to be involved in fellowship, that beyond being committed to the life of the whole church they seek authentic spiritual friendship with a realistic number of folks. Currently, Good Shepherd has about 400 members on the active member roll with about 100 in small groups. Our greatest priority for members is that they experience genuine Christian caring through a small group, a class, or a ministry. This probably happens best in one of Good Shepherd's small group's but spiritual friendships are also nurtured through events offered by the age or gender targeting fellowship ministries (Retirees, Fellowsheep and Women's Ministries).
The next step is to help members of the congregation join the group of COMMITTED DISCIPLES, because it's our great desire that they learn the habits of spiritual growth into maturity. Among the most significant changes in our mindset since adopting the purpose-driven church model has been our commitment to show new members the path of daily spiritual growth, for their own sake. It's also crucial that we not ask new members to give of themselves in ministry, until they've learned to take care of themselves spiritually!
Finally, we seek to help committed disciples become CORE MINISTERS. Believing that God has a unique purpose for each person, our great desire is to help each disciple discover for him or herself a manner of significant service to Christ. Some members have gifts for leadership; others minister in quiet yet significant ways.
Undoubtedly, some folks would move from community neighbors to crowd worshippers to congregation members to committed disciples to core ministers without this systematic plan for their growth. However, our own experience, and our observation of other congregations confirms the reality that many busy persons are motivated by a clearly-defined path of spiritual growth, if they're encouraged to take the initiative to invest the necessary time for such growth. Therefore, in order to help folks move from one stage to the next, we offer one-time, four hour Seminars, which are designed to be a gateway to living out the biblical purposes.
Good Shepherd 101 helps those attending a Service of Worship explore what it means to become congregation members in relationship with Christ and other Christians. At the end of the seminar, participants are invited to make a commitment to Christ and to a meaningful fellowship through a Life Group.
The Spiritual Growth Seminar (what Saddleback calls 201) helps congregation members explore the lifestyle of becoming committed disciples. It concludes with an invitation to participate to commit to the daily habits of spiritual growth.
The Discovering Your Ministry Seminar (what Saddleback calls 301) helps committed disciples become core ministers. By understanding their spiritual gifts and using them in ministry for the benefit of others we build God's Kingdom on earth.
Some of Good Shepherd's core ministers sense Gods call to focus their efforts in helping to develop Good Shepherd's mission outreach to our community of neighbors, which takes them back to the outer fringes of the circles, and repeats the cycle by bringing new persons into the church's disciple-making enterprise. Class 401, helps members to discern their call to become a world-changing person on a mission team.