As an ambassador for the Purpose Driven paradigm, Pastor Gary Groves of Orchard Community Church in Gorham Maine says the five purposes have been part of his DNA since he accepted the Lord in 1997. After attending a service at Saddleback Church, he accepted Christ and dedicated the rest of his life to ministry.
In an effort to understand the foundations, he completed Saddleback’s membership and next steps classes (Classes 101, 201, and 301), and eventually moved from Southern California to Maine. As a grounded follower, he began focusing on the biblical purposes and implementing the strategies into all areas of his life. Over a decade later, God called Gary to plant a church.
“He gave me a vision to bring people in, train them, and send them out,” says Gary. “So when we planted the church in 2011, no one else at that point was really practicing the Purpose Driven principles. I felt in my heart that I wanted to build up the church from within, and I knew it would be a long process.”
While many viewed the approach as unconventional, Gary was committed to growing a healthy church based on the PD paradigm. His leadership team focused on the five mandates, stood firm on biblical principles, and agreed to be open to change.
The first two years were challenging, admits Gary, with some people pushing opposing visions for the church. “We came to a crossroads and I was willing to step down; but God spoke to my heart and said, ‘I’ve given you the vision. Now see it out.’”
With that, the entire church body started probing Scripture and studying the New Testament church. Gary made it a priority to not just include leaders, but to invite every person in the congregation to develop their values, strengthen their mission, and discover the five purposes.
In his journey of faith, Gary said he trusted God despite the fact he often felt in over his head. Having gone from brokenness 20 years earlier, to now a lead pastor equipping others for ministry, meant he had to live in obedience and rely on God to accomplish these goals.
“When we dream big, God goes even bigger,” says Gary. “I gained confidence by focusing on the biblically sound strategies of PD. We saw how God used our little church to reach people globally.”
While most churches in Maine have 30 members, The Orchard Community Church grew to 120, half of whom were new believers. In those initial years, Gary focused on the importance of fellowship and encouraged the church to move toward spiritual maturity. He launched small groups and prompted people to build community. Together, they studied What on Earth am I Here For, and introduced low-level training that placed 40 people in ministry. Members were excited to open their Bibles, to dig into the Word, and experience life change.
Gary credits Membership Class 101 for setting the tone and helping people understand their direction. “They get where we are going as a church,” he says, “––that we are focused on ministry as opposed to just taking an institutional approach.”
Now five years into the church plant, Gary says he’s seen the impact PD has had on their congregation. “It’s been a total 180 degree turnaround. In our strategy of teaching the five purposes, people are seeing what church health represents.”
Their next step is to launch the PEACE plan and to unify members through missions. Just as he’s done from day one, Gary says he is going to follow the advice he gives new pastors: Persevere, don’t lead alone, and stand firm on God’s vision.