•Sharing From the “Purpose Driven Church” Part 8

Developing Your Strategy



I Corinthians 9:22) [LB] When I am with those whose consciences bother them easily, I don’t act as though I know it all and don’t say they are foolish; the result is that they are willing to let me help them. Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.

Matthew 4:19) [LB] Jesus called out, “Come along with me and I will show you how to fish for the souls of men!”

Rick writes, “My dad is the best fisherman I’ve ever met. If there is only one fish in a lake or stream he will catch it. This always amazed me growing up. Ten of us could be fishing the same lake and my dad would catch all the fish. How did he do it? Was it magic? Did God just like him better?”

As he got older he discovered his dad’s secret: his dad understood fish. He could “read” a lake and figure out exactly where the fish were. He knew what time of day they liked to eat; he knew what bait or lure to use depending on the type of fish; he knew when to change bait as the temperature changed; he even seemed to know exactly how deep to drop the line into the water. He made it as easy and attractive as possible for fish to swallow his hook – and they did! HE CAUGHT FISH ON THEIR TERMS.

Rick mentioned he never had a strategy when he went fishing.

He mentions that many churches fish for men the way he fished for fish, and they have the same results.

Pastor Warren believes the secret of effective evangelism is to not only share Christ’s message, but to follow His methodology. He points us to Matthew 10 and Luke 10, where Jesus was instructing His disciples how to evangelize.

He mentions that Jesus gave them specific instructions about:

  • Whom they were to spend their time with,
  • Whom they were to ignore,
  • What they were to say,
  • And how they were to share it.

He tells us that Saddleback built its evangelism strategy around five principles found in Jesus’ instructions to His disciples.


Know What You Are Fishing For:

The kind of fish you want to catch will determine every part of your strategy. Fishing for various kinds of fish requires different equipment, bait, and timing. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to fishing.

Matthew 10:5-6) [NIV] These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.

6) Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

Jesus was not being prejudiced; He was being strategic. Jesus defined His disciples’ target so they’d be effective, not in order to be exclusive. He targeted the kind of people the disciples were most likely to reach – people like themselves.


Go Where the Fish Are Biting:

It’s a waste of time to fish in a spot where the fish aren’t biting. Wise fisherman move on. They understand that fish feed in different spots at different times of the day. And, they aren’t hungry all the time. At certain times unbelievers are more responsive to spiritual truth than at other times. Take advantage of the responsive hearts the Holy Spirit prepares.

Matthew 10:14) [TEV] And if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet.

Jesus told the disciples they weren’t supposed to stay around unresponsive people. We aren’t supposed to pick the green fruit, but to find the ripe fruit and harvest it.

NOTE: This doesn’t mean that the unresponsive won’t be more responsive at a later time. The Holy Spirit can prepare them for a later harvest.

Rick points out that the strategy of the Apostle Paul was to go through open doors and not waste time banging on closed ones.

Rick believes that there are far more people in the world who are ready to receive Christ than there are believers ready to witness to them.


Learn To Think Like A Fish:

It helps to understand their habits, preferences, and feeding patterns. Jesus often knew what unbelievers were thinking (see Matthew 9:4; 12:25; Mark 2:8; Luke 5:22; 9:47; 11:17). Jesus was effective in dealing with people because He understood and was able to defuse the mental barriers they held.

Colossians 4:5) [GNB] Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have.

We must learn to think like unbelievers in order to win them. Take a church ad that announces, “Preaching the inerrant Word of God.” The inerrancy of the Word of God is nonnegotiable, but the unchurched don’t even understand the term. The terminology that we’re familiar with as Christians is gibberish to the unchurched. If we want to advertise our church to the unchurched we must learn to speak like they do.

Rick has often heard pastors complain that unbelievers are more resistant to the Gospel today than in the past. He doesn’t believe that to be true. Rather, he believes that it’s usually a case of poor communication. They don’t understand the message we’re preaching because we’re speaking a different language than they are.

How do we learn to think like unbelievers? Talk to them. Listen to how they talk, how they think, etc.

Rick went door to door asking these questions:

1.      What do you think is the greatest need in this area?

2.      Are you actively attending any church?

3.      Why do you think most people don’t attend church?

4.      If you were to look for a church to attend, what kind of things would you look for?

5.      What could I do for you? What advice can you give to a minister who really wants to be helpful to people?

When he took the survey, he introduced it by saying, “Hi, my name is Rick Warren. I’m taking an opinion poll of our community. I’m not here to sell you anything or sign you up for anything. I’d just like to ask you five questions. There are no right or wrong answers, and it will only take about two minutes.”

Four basic complaints: They discovered four common complaints about churches from their survey.

  1. “Church is boring, especially the sermons. The messages don’t relate to my life.”
  2. “Church members are unfriendly to visitors. If I go to church I want to feel welcomed without being embarrassed.”
  3. “The church is more interested in my money than in me.”
  4. “We worry about the quality of the church’s child care.”

Matthew 10:16) [GW] I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Jesus told His disciples to be strategic in their evangelism. In football successful teams know how to read the defense. In evangelism, “reading the defense” mean understanding and anticipating the objectives unbelievers will have before they voice them. It means thinking like an unbeliever.

Using the information they gathered through the survey Saddleback sent this letter to the community. They hadn’t even had a service yet. Because of the letter 205 people attended the first service they had, and within the next 10 weeks 82 of them gave their lives to Christ. Many Christians have misunderstood their results. Rick says, “You have to decide who you want to impress.”

Here is that letter:                 




March 20, 1980

Hi Neighbor!



     A new church designed for those who’ve given up on traditional church services! Let’s face it, many people aren’t active in church these days.




     Too often…

  • The sermons are boring and don’t relate to daily living
  • Many churches seem more interested in your wallet than you
  • Members are unfriendly to visitors
  • You wonder about the quality of the nursery care for your children

     Do you think attending church should be enjoyable?




     SADDLEBACK VALLEY COMMUNITY CHURCH is a new church designed to meet your needs in the 1980s. We’re a group of friendly, happy people who have discovered the joy of the Christian lifestyle.

     At Saddleback Valley Community Church you

  • Meet new friends and get to know your neighbors
  • Enjoy upbeat music with a contemporary flavor
  • Hear positive, practical messages which encourage you each week
  • Trust your children to the care of dedicated nursery workers




     I invite you to be my special guest at our first public celebration service EASTER SUNDAY, April 6 at 11:00 A.M. We are currently meeting in the Laguna Hills High School Theater. If you don’t have a church home, give us a try!





Rick Warren, Pastor










Catch Fish On Their Terms:

This is the heart of Saddleback’s evangelism strategy: We must be willing to catch fish on their own terms. The average fisherman never ventures farther than a half mile from a paved road. Serious fishermen, however, will go to any length to catch fish. How serious are we about the Great Commission? Are we willing to go to any length and be uncomfortable in order to win people to Christ?

Understanding and adapting to their culture:

Luke 10:8) [GW] Whenever you go into a city and the people welcome you, eat whatever they serve you.

Jesus was giving more than dietary advice. He was telling His disciples to be sensitive to local culture. He was telling them to fit in with those they wanted to reach. They were to adapt to local customs and culture when it didn’t violate a Biblical principle.

The Gospel is always communicated in the terms of some culture. The only question is, “Which one?” No church can be culturally neutral. It will express some culture because it is composed of human beings.

Letting your target determine your approach: You must use the bait and hook that best matches the fish you want to catch.

The Apostle Paul always allowed his target to determine his approach:

1Corinthians 9:19-23) [GNB] I am a free man, nobody’s slave; but I make myself everybody’s slave in order to win as many people as possible.

20) While working with the Jews, I live like a Jew in order to win them; and even though I myself am not subject to the Law of Moses, I live as though I were when working with those who are, in order to win them.

21) In the same way, when working with Gentiles, I live like a Gentile, outside the Jewish Law, in order to win Gentiles. This does not mean that I don’t obey God’s law; I am really under Christ’s law.

22) Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible.

23) All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings.  

1Corinthians 9:22-23) [TLB] Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.

23) I do this to get the Gospel to them and also for the blessing I myself receive when I see them come to Christ.

Beginning with the felt needs of the unchurched: Whenever Jesus encountered a person He’d begin with their hurts, needs, and interests.

Matthew 10:8) Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid.

When Jesus sent His disciples out He told them to do the same.

Notice the total emphasis on felt needs and hurts. When you are in pain, either physically or emotionally, you aren’t interested in the meaning of Greek and Hebrew words. You just want to get well. When a leper came to Jesus, He didn’t launch into a long discourse on the cleansing laws of Leviticus. He just healed the man!

Understanding and responding to the hang-ups of the unchurched: Rick says that Saddleback takes the hang-ups of the unchurched seriously, even when they are based on ignorance.

Unbelievers have hang-ups:

  • About churches asking them for money,
  • About churches that use guilt or fear to motivate,
  • About churches that expect them to attend every meeting the church holds,
  • About churches that make visitors stand up and introduce themselves.

Change methods whenever necessary: Fishermen sometimes have to change bait as the day wears on. The problem with many churches today is that they are still trying to use bait and hooks from the 1950s in the 1990s, or in this case, in the 2010s.


Use More Than One Hook:

When Rick grew up, using more than one hook was called “trotline fishing.” It consisted of attaching multiple hooks to a single fishing line. The concept was that the more hooks you have in the water the more fish you will catch.

Due to the advances of technology we’re offered more options than ever before. There are no longer only three television networks, but hundreds. These changes have produced a generation that expects to be offered options in every area. Unfortunately, when it comes to worship services most churches offer only two options: Take it or leave it. If you can’t attend at 11 A.M., you’re out of luck. It is strategic to offer multiple services, or even multiple styles of worship. We should do whatever it takes to reach more people for Christ. The goal isn’t to make it as difficult as possible for the unbeliever, but to make it as easy as possible for the unchurched to hear about Christ.


It Costs To Reach Your Community:

  1. Money spent on evangelism is never an expense; it’s always an investment. The people you reach will more than repay the cost we invest to reach them.
  2. People give to vision, not to need.
  3. When you spend nickels and dimes on evangelism, you get nickel and dime results.
  4. Finally remember the famous motto of the great missionary strategist Hudson Taylor, “God’s work done God’s way will not lack God’s support.”


Fishing Is Serious Business:

When Jesus used the analogy of fishing to teach on evangelism He was speaking to some who fished for a living. To some fishing is a hobby. To others it’s a business.

Fishing for men is serious business. It can’t be a hobby for Christians; it is to be our lifestyle!

Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church