LAKE FOREST, Calif. – The Purpose Driven Summit is back but with a different purpose.
Although the conference is normally held every year to train pastors in the Purpose Driven Network, this year it is being presented a little differently after a 18-month hiatus.
For the first time in 20 years, instead of teaching his Purpose Driven techniques, Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren said he felt God calling him to "be quiet and listen."
So, he spent the last two years traveling the world, listening to the dreams, hurts, needs and concerns of pastors.
This week, Christian leaders from around the world have gathered to learn the best practices for 21st century church issues from 35 of America's influential and effective pastors, including Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, Ny., and Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash.
On Monday, participants of the invitation-only conference heard from three strings of panelists on evangelism, fellowship and preaching.
During the evangelism discussion, panelists agreed that evangelism must be programmed into the "cultural DNA" of the church in order to be effective.
Bob Roberts, senior pastor of Dallas-based Northwood Church, pointed out that Jesus' disciples didn't have Gospel tracts or crusades but had incorporated evangelism into their everyday lifestyle.
In order for evangelism to work, we have to live it, Roberts told the crowd. "If you're defined primarily by Sunday, you're just a religious show."
Pastor Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., said one challenge churches face in evangelism is overcoming the selfish motives for church attendance.
We need to remember that "we exist for the person who isn't here yet," he said.
Some leaders also noted that evangelism at times can be done through a simple invitation card for congregants to pass along.
Pastors on the fellowship panel all agreed that small groups must be used to some degree but held differing opinions on whether an established group should eventually be disbanded to facilitate multiplication or whether they should be organic or intentionally sectioned according to age group or stage of life.
"I think fellowship is the elephant of the church. I don't think you can force the Christian community. If you force the Christian community, you're just going to face failure time after time after time," said Perry Noble, founding pastor of New Spring Church in S.C.
Warren, who came on stage and joined the conversation mid-way, admitted that it was his own small group that held him together years ago when he was juggling two of the biggest battles of his life at the time – penning his book "Purpose Driven Life" and arguing for pastors' housing allowance from the IRS.
He encouraged pastors to be involved in their own small group and to promote it through their own testimonies
"When you tell those past stories, that's when people say, 'I need small group,'" said the Saddleback pastor.
Later officially joining the preaching panel as a moderator, Warren reminded pastors to take God's Word seriously while not taking themselves too seriously.
"People are looking for an authoritative message in a humble personality," he said. When you combine the two, people find "it's irresistible."
Throughout the three-day conference, Warren will share his experiences and what he learned through panel discussions and through a series of lectures entitled "Manifesto for Renewal."
The invitation-only gathering will also be the launch site for the beta-version of P.E.A.C.E. 2.0, an acrostic for five actions Jesus modeled: Promote reconciliation/Plant churches, Equip leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation. The plan was developed through four years of data gathered from 7,766 Saddleback PEACE team members during their trips in 68 countries.
Warren will go public with the P.E.A.C.E. coalition – a network of churches, business, and NGOs – on Thursday when the conference concludes.