MT. BETHEL, Pa. - The California pastor who has helped churches worldwide increase attendance by leaps and bounds through his "purpose driven" phenomena now has his eye on New York City.
Speaking at the 17th annual Pastors' Prayer Summit in Pennsylvania Tuesday, Rev. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, asked for the collaboration of 300 pastors and church leaders from the Greater New York area in launching a region-wide 40 Days of Purpose campaign.
"One drop of rain is worthless – it can't do anything. But a thousand drops of rain and a million and a billion drops of rain can turn a desert into a forest," said Warren.
The best-selling author wasn't talking about theory but from a model he's tried and tested. Warren, founder and pastor of Saddleback Church, said his church experienced the greatest period of growth through their first run of the campaign. Nearly 1,200 new members joined during those 40 days and average attendance rose by 2,000.
Churches in Chatanooga, Tenn., which were among the first to launch a city-wide campaign, also reported astounding growth. The 100 participating churches grew by an average of 30 percent simultaneously. That model was so successful that 270 churches in Orlando followed soon after.
If the campaign is implemented in the Greater New York area, which houses more than 7,100 churches, even a smaller percentage of the average growth experienced in other cities would mean thousands added to the pews.
The campaign, said Warren, is not a church growth strategy but rather a people growth strategy, where churches grow naturally as their members mature spiritually. While any church would grow through the 40 Days of Purpose strategy, he noted, a widespread campaign would have a synergistic impact.
"A rising tide raises all the boats," Warren told the crowd attending the three-day retreat.
Some pastors who listened to Warren's pitch were hopeful that the purpose driven campaign could be the gateway to the unity they have been longing for.
"It would help people see unity [among the churches]. They hear about it, talk about it, but they have never seen it," said Trevor Rankine, pastor of World Harvest Deliverance Church in Queens, during a regional breakout session at the retreat.
Eva Vega of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Queens at first expressed concern with getting churches on board but later shared that she would love to see New York become "a testimony" that church growth is possible through a region-wide adoption of the strategy.
The 40 Days of Purpose campaign in Metro New York will be the first event to be hosted by The New York City Leadership Center, a new project by Concerts of Prayer Greater New York – the organization behind the Jan. 28-30 prayer summit.
The NYC Leadership Center, slated to launch on Sept. 20, will train under-resourced pastors and isolated workplace leaders in how to overcome practical challenges in urban ministry. Leaders will learn how to raise up other leaders and handle day-to-day operations, such as securing funding, through a variety of seminars and graduate-level courses offered by the center. Organizers say they hope to initialize the training of the first cohort of 150 leaders by the center's launch date.
Warren, who sits on the National Advisory Team alongside evangelical leaders like Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, said his heart was set on reaching the global metropolitan area for many years. He sees the project as the catalyst to reaching what he considers the most strategic city in the world.
"We're very excited about the Leadership Center kick-off in New York City," Warren told The Christian Post.
"We're all different languages and groups but we speak with one language and one purpose on this. And we believe it will be key to revival, reformation and renewal in the Greater New York City area and become a model for all the other places."