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40 Days of Community

In the past few days I have noticed a surge of interest in the 40 Days of Community program, the follow-up to the 40 Days of Purpose program some 20,000 churches have already participated in. The initial launch of 40 Days of Community is the Fall of this year, which would explain the increased interest in the program. The next launch is Spring of 2005.

While the materials for the 40 Days of Community program are not available unless your church registers, I have been able to gather the following information which will give a detailed overview of what it offers and how it functions.

What is 40 Days of Community?

It seems that few people realize that 40 Days of Purpose, the program Rick Warren created based around his mega-seller The Purpose Driven Life (approaching 20 million copies sold), was merely the beginning of his Purpose Driven campaign; it was but the first step. Where this first step of the program answered the question of �What am I here for?� the second step extends the Purpose Driven principles to the community and asks �what are we here for?� The third step, which will likely be initially offered in 2006, will extend the reach to the global community.

Warren describes 40 Days of Community as being �the next step in spiritual growth for your congregation.� He also says that it is �a necessary step for deepening healthy, balanced, purpose-driven lives.� The results for 40 Days of Purpose were so staggering that he considers it the beginning of a national revival, a new reformation and a great awakening. Among the statistics he provides for the first campaign are: average church attendance increased by 22%; average church giving increased by 20%; and average small group participation increased by 102% (while this last number is impressive, one must realize that many churches had no small group programs prior to the beginning of the program). This second step will grow Christian community and help mobilize Purpose Driven Christians to reach out to their communities � both their faith communities and their local communities. It will grow stronger small groups and trigger new outreach and evangelism opportunities. Warren says that unbelievers are actively looking for community and when they see a church engaged in godly community, churches will have to lock their doors to keep them out.

The program is purchased from the Purpose Driven Web site (www.purposedriven.com) as a package which costs different amounts depending on the size of the church. A church of between 200 and 500 people, for example, will pay $900 for the program, though the Web site indicates that there will be additional items to purchase that are not included in that fee. I am unsure if the $900 is merely a registration fee or if it also includes the leaders guides, devotional books, etc. The program will last 40 days and will involve all aspects of the church, it�s programs, worship and small groups, as well as the lives of the members of the church, as it will provide them their devotional focus, Scripture verses to memorize, and so on. Here are the components of the program:

  1. The 40 Days of Community Kick-Off Event. This is a message preached by Warren which will be broadcast live via satellite, though churches without satellite capabilities can obtain it on DVD or VHS.
  2. Seven weekend messages and worship plans. The messages were originally preached by Warren in his home church of Saddleback Community Church. Participating pastors are to preach his messages and employ his worship plans which direct which songs to sing. The messages are based on the book of Philippians and Warren indicates they are expository in nature. (Please note that Warren�s interpretation of what constitutes expository preaching is not consistent with what historically has been considered expository. For more, see this article).
  3. The �What on Earth Are We Here For� devotional book with 40 days of daily devotional readings and journaling pages. This book also includes study guides for weekly small group study.
  4. Six small group or Sunday school lessons. These include a video which gives teaching that is then discussed by small group members.
  5. Six weekly scripture memory verses.
  6. Multiple church-wide events which will deepen the commitment of church members are make them active in their church and local communities..

Principles & Prerequisites

Through the 40 Days of Purpose Program, Warren discovered five principles that he says will guarantee success in the upcoming Community program. Conversely, cutting out any one of these principles will necessarily damage a campaign, curtailing the results. The principles are:

  1. Unified Prayer � everyone in the church must pray for the campaign beginning months ahead of time, for there is power in unified prayer.
  2. Concentrated Focus � The church must focus on just this one program. Multiple focuses will dilute the program and reduce its effectiveness. Each ministry and each program must carry the message of the 40 Days program.
  3. Multiple Reinforcements � The program depends on many reinforcements throughout the week � church services, small groups, daily quiet times and a weekly memory verse.
  4. Behavioral Teaching � Each aspect of the program helps people become �doers� and not mere listeners. After each section there is a homework assignment, activity or event.
  5. Exponential Thinking � Exponential thinking is thinking that stretches faith. It forces leaders to look beyond what God has done before and focus instead on believing God for greater growth, greater giving and so on.

The only prerequisite for 40 Days of Community is that a church must first have completed the 40 Days of Purpose program. And, of course, they must pay the registration fee and purchase the necessary materials.

Summary

To summarize, 40 Days of Community is a comprehensive program that impacts every area of the church�s ministry for the duration of the program. Warren warns that many other programs and activities will need to be placed on hold or even cancelled if they are not part of 40 Days of Community. He advises leadership to begin to address this in advance with those ministry leaders whose areas of ministry will be affected. The program extends not just to the corporate gatherings but also to individual quiet times.

Commentary

I believe 40 Days of Purpose and 40 Days of Community are unique in the long history of the church. I cannot think of any other programs that asked a church to turn itself over completely to another pastor for the duration of a program. Warren believes the Purpose Driven principles are so important and so unique, that he asks pastors to hand them his church � programs, messages, worship and even private devotions - for 40 days. At the end of that time he promises that the principles God has revealed to him will have transformed your church. It will be bigger (growth in numbers), be bringing in more money (growth in giving) and stronger (growth in small groups). He asks members of these churches to listen to his messages, his interpretation of Scripture, sing the songs he has chosen and study the topics he has outlined. Warren casts his vision for your church and then attempts to deliver that vision to you. The program is designed to infiltrate every important area of the church and remove those areas that are not deemed important. It is all-encompassing.

It does not require a Bible scholar to realize that there is no Biblical basis for the 40 Days of Community program. God has decreed that congregations will be led by pastors who know and love their flock. The relationship of pastor to flock is to be intimate, loving, caring, and personal. Warren, on the other hand, decrees that pastors should hand their churches to him � to a man the pastor and members of the local congregation do not know. Warren must believe he has such an exclusive grip on truth that he is the only one who can share this truth with churches. He does not merely share principles with pastors and ask them to take these to their congregations. No, he does the teaching himself, requiring nearly every aspect of the Christian walk be directed by him for a full 40 days. His pride is overwhelming.

It is amazing that so many churches are so quick to jump on this bandwagon. It is amazing that so many pastors are willing to turn their congregations to this man.

For 7 Sundays Warren will preach in their pulpits. For 7 weeks he will teach at small groups and lead the discussion. For 7 weeks members of the congregation will memorize his chosen verses, most likely in poor translations and paraphrases. For 40 days he will provide devotional thoughts to each member of the congregation. And for 7 weeks the church will participate in the church-wide activities he suggests.

What a dark time it is for the church when pastors have so little discernment as to turn their churches to this man. What a time it is when pastors have so little confidence in their own abilities to lead their flock, and even more alarmingly, in God�s ability to provide what they need to lead their flock.

God has provided all we need in His Word. No program and no preacher can do better than the careful exposition of the Holy Bible! When we become distracted by programs and agendas, we necessarily wander from the great truth of His Word. Turn to the Word while there is still time!