An Open Letter to Lifewell Church

Dear Lifewell Family and Friends,

We must become a healthy church in order to be a growing church. The alternative is to die a slow death. You must become a healthy Christian or you and your family will struggle spiritually, and that will have a negative effect on every area of your lives. Our culture is toxic. It is destructive to all who are not saved. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.

The church is not a shapeless entity, or a big institution. The church is you and me, called out and called together. We are committed to each other, and we meet regularly to worship, learn together, and to support, challenge and hold one another accountable. ARE WE DOING THAT, LIFEWELL?

Attending church occasionally is not the same as being the church. I have tried and tried to plan, program, pray, preach, and prod you to do more than attend church on Sunday morning. Some of you are amazingly committed, and others are more consumer Christians, attending when its convenient and comfortable. Some of you strive to support what Lifewell does to reach out beyond our little group. Are you one of those ? Do you support Lifewell as your church?

In October, as some of you know, I went to Orange County in California to attend a conference at Saddleback Church. It was a last minute decision. You see, I’d been given the opportunity to visit a relative and that fell through. There was an invitation in my inbox to attend the Purpose Driven Essentials conference. I wasn’t interested. I’m not a conference attender. Also, been there, done that on the Purpose Driven Life. I read the book. I also read the Purpose Driven Church. I taught on the Purposes in 2012, and we did Warren’s 40 Days in the Word campaign. It was somewhat successful. However, I seem to attract a good number of contrarians and independent minded people. Some of these weren’t excited. Some left the church within the year. So, I backed off emphasizing the Purposes, even though I’m convinced they are biblical principles.

I felt led to go to the conference. It was the first time Rick Warren himself had taught it in a decade. I didn’t learn new things, but I sat for four days and “drank from a firehose.” I was immediately and persistently convinced that our church has fallen short of God’s plan for us.

You see, I too, have been a contrarian and an independent-minded thinker. I don’t like populism. I don’t jump on bandwagons. I was given the assignment to read Warren’s Purpose Driven Church over 20 years ago in seminary. I didn’t fulfill the assignment because I thought he was just reaching a bunch of rich white people in Orange County and so his methods wouldn’t work for the ministry God had called me to. I prefer to chart my own course, to make my own way. And I prefer to do everything myself. This is prideful and limiting. A pastor-teacher is called “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” I have tried. I have taught. However, I’ve also done most of the ministry myself. Pastor Craig has helped immeasurably, as have a number others. However, my eyes were opened when Rick Warren stated: “If you do it all yourself, your church will never grow above about 75 members.” Well, that’s us. To confirm this, Pastor Craig made the point the Sunday I was gone, “Pastor Darryl does everything around here.” This must change.

I believe we’ve taught people the truth. I’ve offered our church the necessary content. However, I’ve failed to consistently provide step-by-step directions for growth. The 5 Purposes of Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, Mission and Worship are that structure. We need to follow this biblical pattern for health and growth.

I came back to Texas filled with new motivation to help our church become healthy and grow. I intend to take what I (re)learned regarding our Purposes and implement it at Lifewell. I don’t want to try to make us like Saddleback. I will not be a copy of Rick Warren, or any other pastor. In fact, Warren explicitly states that he doesn’t expect other churches to copy Saddleback. These Purposes are biblical principles to be applied in each context.

I’ve already begun a teaching series, which I’ve titled Moving to the Center of God’s Purpose for Your Life. This is more than a sermon series. The teaching on Sunday will speak to the question found in Warren’s book What In the World Am I Here For? (the Purpose Driven Life). I’ve purchased books so that you as an individual may do daily devotional readings. and so that small groups will be able to learn and discuss. I WANT EVERY SINGLE COVENANTED MEMBER OF LIFEWELL CHURCH TO PARTICIPATE. I am asking you to read daily devotions for 40 days, and become part of a small group for seven weeks. We will start this in our existing groups this month, and I’d like to have more groups form. If you are not a member of our church, you are still invited to get involved.

As soon as the material arrives I will make a mini devotional book available to everyone for free, which includes the first three chapters from the book What in the World Am I Here For? If you choose to make the 40 day commitment to learn, you’ll need to purchase the book (copies available for $10) and get into one of our small groups.

The principles we are teaching are not new, and they are not original. They are biblical and true, and if you will allow the Holy Spirit to speak God’s Word to your heart through this process, you will become spiritually healthy, and our church will too. The result should be growth. I pray 2017 is our best year yet, Lifewell!