Archives For Rick Warren

Ready to Serve

Pastor, you were created by God to serve your congregation. What he told the prophet Jeremiah is also true for you: “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.” (Jeremiah 1:5, NCV)

God redeemed you so you could do his holy work. In God’s kingdom, you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill, and this gives your life great significance and special value, no matter how discouraged you may feel right now. You are not God’s child by this service, but as God’s child you were created for this service.

The Bible says, “You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you.” (1 Peter 2:9, GW) Anytime you use your God-given abilities to help others, you are fulfilling your calling. In some churches in China, they welcome new believers by saying – “Jesus now has a new pair of eyes with which to see, a new set of ears for listening, two new hands for which to help, and a new heart for loving others.”

You’re not only the eyes, ears,…

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Baptisms

Every church loses people. It’s a natural part of living in our current culture. Two to three percent will likely move away – more if you’re in an urban area. One or two percent will die. And some will just fade away and stop attending without connecting to another local body. Obviously these figures will vary depending on your local context.

You can’t stop people from moving. You certainly can’t stop them from dying. But there is one group of people you can do something about. Some of the people who leave are people who started attending, became regular attenders or even members, and then fell away within a few months because they never really became rooted. They simply didn’t stick.

There are only two ways to experience net growth as a church: reach new people, and keep the people you reach. And you must focus on doing both of these.

Reaching new people

The biggest single difference between churches that are growing and churches that are struggling is that growing churches invite new people well. Promoting your church through advertising is a great idea, but most of the people who actually walk through the doors and experience what…

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Pastor, you may have a large crowd of attendees on Sunday morning – and still not have a congregation. The fact is that the crowd must become a church. They must be assimilated. Assimilation is simply the task of moving people from an awareness of your church to attendance at your church, and then to active membership in your church.

The community talks about “that church.” The crowd talks about “this church.” But the congregation talks about “our church.” Members have a sense of ownership. They are contributors, not just consumers.

What you’re battling, in this culture, is America’s rampant individualism. You rarely find “Lone Ranger” Christians in other countries. But America is full of “floating believers” – Christians who hop from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. They have not been taught that the Christian life involves more than just believing – it also includes belonging. We grow in Christ by being in relationship with other Christians.

Since the incorporation of new members into your church fellowship does not happen automatically, you have to develop a system and structure to assimilate and keep the people you reach.

Before people commit to joining your…

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Saddleback Patio

The encouragement you personally offer people before and after the message may be as vital to their spiritual growth as the sermon itself.

Saddleback Church’s Lake Forest campus is situated in a beautiful spot in southern California, where the sun shines most of the time. So we’ve been able to save money most churches have to spend on facilities by using outdoor spaces.

There is a rooftop terrace that serves as a venue where families can go to watch the service. The baptistery is outside, surrounded by chairs for friends and family to watch and cheer on their loved ones who’ve trusted Christ. And there is a large patio filled with tables and a bookstore. This is where we send people for more resources, for small group curriculum, to sign up for various events and areas of service, and to greet one another. And just off the patio is an area called the Prayer Garden, where our ministers can meet and pray with people who are hurting.

One of my favorite places to be on any given weekend is the patio. I love people! And when the message is over, whenever possible, I head outside and ask…

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Saddleback 25th Anniversary

Easter is coming! And it will be one of the most well-attended Sundays for churches this year. Wise church leaders will take advantage of the opportunity to present the simple but profoundly hopeful message of Jesus’ resurrection to all of the extra guests who come.

One of the secrets to Saddleback’s growth over the years is big days. There are three holidays we’ve used powerfully – Easter, Christmas Eve, and Mother’s Day – and then a few other weekends such as the kick-off or celebration of a big campaign. We plan for those days and we use them as an evangelism tool and as a stimulus to motivate our members on to growth for the rest of the year.  These days are big high points and there are some real advantages to planning big days with a special emphasis, particularly around Easter.

Here are nine reasons why high attendance days can be so meaningful. 

1. Big days build morale.

Without a doubt, people enjoy being a part of something big, something exciting. It develops unity and pride among our people. When people work together, there’s just a sense of excitement. It’s hard…

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No one’s life is an unbroken chain of victories. We all experience setbacks, defeats, losses and failures. Consider the example of baseball – not even the greatest of players bats 1,000%. The same is true in ministry – we all make mistakes, even as we seek to serve God.

Since failure is something every one of us will, at some time, experience, one of the most important skills you can acquire is the ability to respond to it in a godly fashion. It has been my observation that successful ministers know how to turn every failure into a learning experience – creating a stepping stone for future success.

The first thing to do when you’re faced with any failure is to analyze why it happened. Although there may be a variety of reasons – many out of your control – here are five common causes of failure:

When you don’t plan ahead

As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail.” Proverbs 27:12 says, “A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them” (LB). Moving your church towards greater growth and health requires a lot of planning. You not only need to plan how to…

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No matter where or how you serve God in ministry, he wants you to be an agent of mercy in the world. And the world is starved for mercy. Jesus said in Matthew 5, verse 7, “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” In other words, what you give out, you’re going to get back.

What is mercy? Usually we think of two things. We usually think of forgiving people who don’t deserve it. Or we think of helping people who can’t help themselves. Those are two definitions of mercy that we typically think of.

But mercy – which, by the way, is a part of God’s character – is so much more. There are at least seven facets of mercy. These are seven ways that you can transform your relationships and develop a ministry of mercy.

1. Be patient with people’s quirks.

Be patient with people’s quirks. Their idiosyncrasies. Their peculiarities. Their mannerisms. Their odd behavior. Their irritating habits. You show mercy when you don’t get irritated, angry, or uptight with people’s personal quirks. And we’ve all got them.

Ephesians 4:2 gives us some of the best marriage and relationship advice we’ll ever receive. It says, “Be…

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EasterEggHope

For three and a half decades, Easter Sunday has been one of the biggest evangelistic opportunities of the year for Saddleback Church, and for thousands of other churches too. When the celebration of Easter Sunday is such a golden opportunity to tell people about the hope we have in the risen Christ, it’s definitely prudent to start planning for it early.

As your staff and leadership team starts to develop a strategy for reaching as many unchurched people as possible, here are some vital questions for pastors to answer…

What message will I be preaching?

Obviously, you’ll be preaching about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. The world is starving for hope, and the resurrection story is the greatest source of hope we have. But the greatest story ever told can be told many different ways and from many different angles. Here are just a few of the messages I’ve preached on Easter Sunday:

No other institution on earth has the potential to change the world and address global issues as the local church. No force on earth is as unstoppable as the local church when it is functioning as a unified body of believers. And nothing brings a church together in unity better than a growth campaign.

The greatest waves of growth that Saddleback Church has ever experienced have been the result of the various church-wide campaigns that we’ve done. When we set aside six to eight weeks to concentrate, as a church family, on a single theme, amazing things happen, such as…

  • People bring their friends, co-workers, and neighbors to church.
  • Hundreds of people are baptized.
  • All kinds of new small groups form and launch.
  • Some people give financially for the first time, and everyone sacrifices for the Kingdom.
  • The church grows larger, deeper, broader, warmer, and stronger.

As you plan your preaching over the next twelve months, plan at least one, if not two, opportunities for your church to align around a single theme. Some of our more well-known campaigns have included Decade of Destiny, 40 Days In the Word, What On Earth…

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Church health is the result of balance.

Balance occurs when a church has a strategy and a structure to fulfill the five New Testament purposes for the church: worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry.

If you don’t have a strategy and a structure that intentionally balances the purposes, the church tends to overemphasize the purpose you as a pastor feel most passionate about.

We tend to go to seed on one truth at a time. You attend one seminar and hear that the key to growth is small groups. At another, it’s volunteer recruitment, or dynamic worship, or creative outreach, or strong preaching.

The fact is, they’re all important.

When a church emphasizes any one purpose to the neglect of others, that produces imbalance — it’s unhealthy. And being unhealthy stunts a lot of churches.

To keep things balanced, four things must happen. You’ve got to:

  • move people into membership
  • build them up to maturity
  • train them for ministry
  • send them out on their mission.

And you need a clear discipleship process to be able to gauge whether you’re doing these things effectively or not. Just as our vital signs tell us whether our physical bodies are in good health or not, the health of a church is quantifiable. For example, I…

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The question often comes up: How can a service be both worship and seeker-friendly? At Saddleback, we believe you can have both without compromising either.

When we speak of worship, we’re talking about something only believers can do. Worship is from believers to God. We magnify God’s name in worship by expressing our love and commitment to him. Unbelievers simply cannot do this.

Here is the simple definition of worship that we operate with at Saddleback: “Worship is expressing our love to God for who he is, what he’s said, and what he’s doing.”

We believe there are many appropriate ways to express our love to God: by praying, singing, obeying, trusting, giving, testifying, listening and responding to his Word, thanking, and many other expressions. God – not man – is the focus and center of our worship.

God is the consumer of worship

Although unbelievers cannot truly worship, they can watch believers worship. They can observe the joy that we feel. They can see how we value God’s Word and how we respond to it. They can hear how the Bible answers the problems and questions of life. They can notice how worship encourages, strengthens and changes us. They…

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I believe one of the reasons so few churches engage in outreach is because they ask the wrong question. Too often, the first question asked is, “How much will it cost?” The right question is, “Who will it reach?”

How much is a soul worth? If you spend $100 on a Facebook ad that reaches one unbeliever for Christ, is it worth it?

If your church gets serious about developing a comprehensive evangelism strategy, it will cost money! With this in mind, let me share some insights about financing your strategy, based upon my experiences as Saddleback grew from four members to well over 20,000.

First, money spent on evangelism is never an “expense;” it’s always an investment. The people you reach will more than repay the cost you invested to reach them. Before we held the first service of Saddleback, the people in our small home Bible study went about $6,500 in debt preparing for that service. Where did we get the money? We used our personal credit cards! We believed the offerings of the people we reached for Christ would eventually enable everyone to be paid back.

One of the “miracles” of our dress rehearsal service…

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