The Daniel Plan, Meeting Needs, and Reaching People

By Brandon Cox

The Daniel Plan has successfully kicked off at Saddleback Church, and God is using it in amazing ways! Pastor Rick Warren caught a vision for helping to improve the physical health of Saddleback members and residents of the Saddleback Valley, so he connected with Dr. Daniel AmenDr. Mark Hyman, and Dr. Mehmet Oz to put together a plan for getting people physically healthy.

Inevitably, there are always a range of opinions on whether something like a health initiative involving high profile physicians from varying religious and professional backgrounds is a right approach to growing a church. Some leaders would argue that it represents too much alignment with too many voices who may not specifically represent our beliefs and values. Saddleback is certainly not new to this conversation, and it’s a valid one to raise among church leaders who struggle over where to draw lines of collaboration and separation.

The Daniel Plan is much like other initiatives in Saddleback’s history in that it has already been a catalyst for changed lives. On the day of the first public rally, the Saddleback campuses saw a combined seminar attendance of over 8,000, which is well beyond what we expected. Over 6,000 of those were present at the main Lake Forest campus and 1,500 cars were actually turned away (which is a really good problem). Of those 8,000 attendees, at least one fourth had not been attending Saddleback previously and many of them are unbelievers.

Daniel PlanWhy did they come?

  1. They want to be healthy – a real need, not just a “felt” one.
  2. They had heard the names of the Doctors, all of whom have written best-selling books.
  3. The event was non-threatening. It wasn’t a “crusade.” It was just a seminar about health.

One of the comments leaders heard repeatedly on Saddleback’s patio was “This is my first time here, and I’m going to come back for church.”

The conversation about evangelism tactics will never end, but this much is true – churches that get out of their comfort zones and intentionally engage culture where it is, positioning themselves with solid answers at the point of people’s pain will inevitably reach people with the gospel more than churches who remain in their safety zones.

What the Daniel Plan ultimately accomplishes is not only the improved health of an entire community of thousands of people, but also a fresh audience for the saving good news of Jesus Christ. With a Pastor like Rick Warren, who is very clear about Jesus being the only Savior, the follow-up evangelism and discipleship is a tremendous result of such an intentional effort to serve people in Jesus’ name. It also establishes credibility with the public by sending some positive messages…

  1. We are willing to ask the best experts before we try to offer answers about your health, or finances, or other real needs.
  2. We are not going to compromise when it comes to spiritual things – Jesus is the way to heaven.
  3. We are willing to give these resources free, or as affordably as we can offer them, because we care and we want to serve people from a heart of love.

Conversations about evangelistic tactics need to happen so that we can all be accountable and mutually sharpened. But let’s keep in mind that while we are conversing, people are dying who are destined for an eternity in hell without Christ. The primary priority is reaching them with Jesus.

Whether you address health, finances, marriage and family issues, hunger, AIDS, cancer, or the environment, understand that every need is a legitimate arena for God’s people to show up with answers that ultimately point to Jesus as the One who can solve the biggest problem of all – lostness.

What has your church done that has effectively opened doors to communicate the gospel? How are you joining conversations happening in the culture with or without us?

For more information about how you can use the Daniel Plan, check out our 6 week Daniel Plan curriculum and watch for announcements about how this campaign will be available to other churches as a year long emphasis beginning in 2012.

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.