I was talking with a group a pastors in Rwanda a few months back, and they asked me to tell them what it meant to be a purpose-driven church in as simple a way as possible. I said to them that the simplest way I know how to express what it means to be purpose driven is “to build Jesus’ church the way that Jesus wants it built.” Jesus shows us how to build his church in both what he taught and what he modeled.
Being purpose driven means you’re seeking as a church to do all that Jesus taught his church to do. “A great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission will grow a great church.” In the great commandment and great commission of Jesus, you find him talking about the five purposes of evangelism: fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission. He talks about these purposes not only in these two passages, but also throughout his ministry—possibly most clearly in his teaching to the disciples the night before he went to the cross in John 13-17. It is his church that we are building, so obviously we are going to do the things that he taught us to do in building it.
Jesus not only taught us these principles, he also modeled them for us. I’ve found that for many pastors and church leaders, it is the model of Jesus that gives clarity as to what they need to do in their church to balance God’s purposes. One of the simplest ways to look at the ministry of Jesus is that he had a ministry to the crowd and a ministry to the disciples. These two ministries were intertwined, as he ministered to the crowd he was serving the disciples and as he was teaching the disciples he was ministering to the crowd. He didn’t serve one or the other, he served both simultaneously.
To be purpose driven is to have a ministry to the crowd and a ministry to the disciples. The crowd is the community around you who does not yet know Christ or has not yet connected with the body of Christ as a place to grow and serve. The disciples, stating the obvious, are the group of believers in your church that you are seeking to help to grow in fulfilling God’s purposes in their lives.
So what does it mean in a practical way to follow the model of Jesus in ministering to the crowd and to the disciples? Here are the two ideas I gave my pastor friends in Rwanda.
Have a ministry to the crowd that includes being welcoming to them in your worship services.
There are many different kinds of ministry that we could and should have to the hurting world around us. Those ministries have to meet the needs of your community. You help those who are hungry to be fed, those who are addicted to find recovery, those without jobs to find work, those in grief to get support, those without God to know God—the needs are as many as the people in your community. The bridge to people’s hearts is to help them to see how Christ can meet their deepest need, whether it be physical, emotional, relational or spiritual.