This post is connected with “In or “Out” from a few days back. It’s like a part two to that post that dealt with centered & bounded sets relating to a misisonal ecclesiology. Thought you should know.
The bounded-set ecclesiology prevails in the church in America today. It is so ingrained into the fundamental understanding of what the purpose of a church is that it is difficult to identify it, let alone move away from it. It’s prevalence is best seen in the widespread promulgation of the famous “Purpose Driven Church” strategy, made popular by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.
The core strategy of Purpose Driven Church method is to move people across five concentric circles in toward the center. The five circles are: the Community, the Crowd, the Congregation, the Committed, and the Core. The goal is to move people in toward the Core. People within the circles are known as: the unchurched, regular attenders, members, maturing members, and lay ministers. Boundary-crossing events are best defined in the four training sessions called C.L.A.S.S. (Christian Learning And Service Seminars). The first boundary crossing occurs when a casual attender (of the public worship service) becomes a regular attender (Community to Crowd). The next boundary crossing is best seen in Class 101 that results in someone becoming a member of the church (Crowd to Congregation). Class 201, which focuses on spiritual growth, educates people in how to read and study the bible, pray, give, and become involved in a small group (Congregation to Committed). Class 301 is all about spiritual gifts (S.H.A.P.E., actually: Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experiences) and how these five dynamics combine to reveal how best you are to serve within the ministry of the Purpose Driven Church. These reveal your “purpose” for being part of the body of Christ. It even includes an interview with a “ministry advisor” who will help point out the best possible “fit” for you to be involved in serving the body of Christ (Committed to Core). Class 401 focuses on mission, and should result in those in the “Core” to go back out into the “Community” to help someone else travel through the concentric circles, thus repeating the process, multiplying themselves, making disciples.
Given the “success” and prevalence of this model, it would be easy to say that this process makes sense and works, and to then encourage more and more churches to pursue this strategy. One key dynamic for the model to work, however, is the need for people to keep crossing all of the boundaries, something becoming more difficult as local church cultures become increasingly foreign to mainstream culture. The gulf between social realities within congregations and the local culture has been growing for so long that fewer and fewer people are willing to jump the cultural chasm between their life as they know it and what they observe contemporary church culture to be. Churches today that go by the tag of “contemporary” focus especially on getting people from the community into the crowd, resulting in many congregations “being a mile wide and an inch deep” (large numbers of people but shallow spirituality). Many churches now are adapting the strategies of “contemporary” or “purpose driven” without allowing the approaches to become part of the essence of the people or paradigm of the leadership. They walk about in the armor of King Saul oblivious that the watching world around them knows something doesn’t seem to fit.