By Pastor Rick Warren
If the people in a church grow, then the church will grow. One of the core ideas I wrote about in The Purpose Driven Church, and which we teach in our Purpose Driven events, is that every church needs a process for making disciples.
Some argue that we shouldn’t be attempting to reach consumers, but this assumes that every believer is spiritually mature. Others believe we should simply be teaching believers, but this neglects the church’s role in evangelism. The truth is, every Sunday, your church will have people in attendance at all kinds of places in their spiritual journeys.
At Saddleback, we’ve always thought of our target audience through the concentric circles. When you’re planning sermon series, outreach, and ministry, you must think of the various levels of spiritual maturity. We’ve identified at least six…
1. The Community
The community is made up of everyone you have the potential to reach on a given Sunday. They live near your church. They’re possibly aware of your church’s existence. And they may even visit occasionally. But for the most part, they are unchurched. They likely haven’t decided to follow Jesus yet.
2. The Crowd
The crowd consists of all the people who attend your church on a regular basis. They’re present a week or two per month or more. They consider themselves to be part of your church even if they haven’t joined it yet. But they’re not really involved beyond attending on Sundays.
3. The Congregation
The congregation includes everyone who attends and who has become a member of the church. These are people who attend regularly, give regularly, and support the vision and values of your church.
4. The Committed
When members are growing in their relationship with Jesus and establishing the habits and disciplines of a disciple, they’re part of the committed. These believers are not only members who attend, they walk with God and are growing up spiritually.
5. The Core
Among the committed are people who get involved and serve others through the ministries of the church. We think of these as the core. The core are generally those who give their time and their loyalty to your church.
6. The Commissioned
Our big goal for moving people from the community all the way to the core is ultimately to send them back out again to reach more of the community. When people are committed, growing, and serving, we should be preparing them to be sent out on mission. They are the commissioned.
These circles of commitment affect everything your church plans. From your preaching calendar to the structure of your small groups, you must be intentional about creating pathways for people to grow from one level of commitment to the next.
At Saddleback, one of the biggest ways we’ve been doing this for over three decades now is through CLASS. We offer four classes that focus on how to move from one level to another. At Class 101, we teach people about membership – about being committed. At Class 201, we teach people about the habits necessary for spiritual growth. At Class 301, we equip people for ministry. And at Class 401, we talk about how people can go change the world by sharing their faith story and getting involved in missions.
Remember that the goal isn’t church growth, it’s church health. And a healthy church finds ways to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be in their spiritual journey. And every single week, we remember that we’re ministering to the souls of people at every level. Understanding where people are is vital to having a balanced discipleship process.