According to Warren, "If your church is healthy, growth will occur naturally." His main purpose for writing the book is to provide the necessary information to build healthy churches. Warren relates his thoughts in five sections: (1) "Seeing the Big Picture" (growing deeper through discipleship), (2) "Becoming a Purpose-Driven Church" (growing through ministry), (3) "Reaching Out to Your Community" (growing through evangelism), (4) "Bringing in a Crowd" (growing through worship and fellowship), and (5) "Building Up the Church" (growing through discipleship and ministry). Some of Warren's points seem obvious. For example, Warren states that a pastor "must be loving" towards people -believers and unbelievers alike (212), and that a church ought to have an "atmosphere of acceptance" (210).
Warren had many good suggestions for reaching the "unchurched." For instance, he recommends that churches place "newer translation" Bibles in pews and during the sermon announce the page number so as to not embarrass visitors (297). He also shares that sermons ought to be based on the "needs, hurts and interests as human beings" in order to have "common ground" with unbelievers (295). Though there are many helpful points to Warren's book, his emphasis seems to be on making the "unchurched" feel comfortable (257). He promotes "seeker sensitive" services without traditions, and expects sacrifice from church members in order to accommodate unbelievers. It appears the main focus of Warren's agenda is to bring in new converts. This is a worthy task; however, it would be interesting to see if "old members" view this as a personal form of neglect.
Warren claims, "Strong churches are not built on programs, personalities, or gimmicks," but his model for growing his own church falls into this realm (83). Maybe Warren's own notoriety is the reason for increases of number at Saddelback. It would be interesting to find out how many people leave after a certain amount of time and for what reasons.
This book was a great disappoint to me. I found that many of the scripture references were used out of context or the author used exegesis to come to a false assumption. Though there are some very good ideas to encourage free thought, there is no firm biblical foundation.
Any church that sees its congregation going gray and not growing as fast as the residential rate around it needs this book and supporting visuals. Using this book as a study guide has become one of the best group studies we have done to date.
I pastor a small church in a small community of 750. I was called to this church recently and attendance was averaged 15 on a good day. We are currently averaging 35-50, have had 10 baptisms in just over 3 months, and have had Christians who had stopped attending return to church. We are seeing people saved and growing in the Lord. When I was given this book to read (3 days ago) by a denominational leader - I was ho-hum about reading it - due to some exposure to The Purpose Driven Life - and due to strongly negative opinions about a lot of "Church Growth" things that I had to study in seminary. What I found, is that many of the things that the Lord had led me to do - were recommended by Warren in his book. Other things have perked my interest. If the book is read for the ideas and principles - I believe this book is indispensible - especially for anyone involved in church planting or church restarts.I will be having those involved in direct ministries of the church read this book.