4 States, 4 Days, 10 Churches

01/16/2018 .
Saddleback Church

Building on the momentum of December’s Finishing the Task Conference, Saddleback’s Purpose Driven (PD) team recently hit the road to connect with PD practitioners and leaders on the East Coast. Their goal was to encourage those who had expressed interest in partnering with African countries. They also extended personal invitations for pastors to attend upcoming events—including PEACE Training at Saddleback Rancho Capistrano on January 16-18, the All Africa Pastors’ Gathering in Rwanda February 14-20, and the PD Conference at Saddleback Lake Forest on June 26-28.

The time to engage International Partnering Churches (IPCs) has never been greater. After the PEACE Plan’s success in Rwanda, other countries have expressed interest in becoming Purpose Driven nations and gaining tools to implement this global strategy. As more African countries line up to launch the PEACE Plan, there’s a greater demand for Purpose Driven Churches to commit to partnering with these nations. Of the 44 African countries needing IPCs, 25 IPC’s have committed to partnering with African Church leaders, of which 11 have officially launched; the remaining are set to launch in 2018.

That’s why this winter road trip was so critical. While the PD Tour previously traveled across 10 states, this recent journey was specifically about connecting with East Coast pastors interested in becoming IPCs.

Behind the wheel were Bob Bradberry, Pastor of Saddleback’s Global Team and Eric Munyemana, PD’s All Africa Initiative Continental Director. Immediately following the Finishing the Task Conference, the team flew to Atlanta, rented a car, and drove across four states in four days—meeting with over a dozen potential IPCs along the way.

“Since July, we’ve been communicating with church leaders by phone, email, and video chat,” says Pastor Bob. “But there comes a time when the only way to build relationships is to sit down and really connect face to face. We wanted to take the discussion from considering to committing.”

Pastor Bob says physical presence really made a difference, especially with Pastor Eric on the team. Dedicated to the Purpose Driven vision, Pastor Eric is passionate about bringing PEACE to every African country. By the time he joined the PD team in 2005, he had already read The Purpose Driven Life four times and had lived through the Rwandan genocide. By sharing his firsthand account of the transformation of a nation, he has one of the best testimonies about the power of the church.

Together, pastors Bob and Eric set out to meet with two pastors who, ironically had come to them first, just days before the road trip began. One of them was Pastor Rob Barns of Silver Creek Fellowship in Silverton, Oregon. During their meeting, Pastor Barns shared the exciting news that Silver Creek Fellowship has committed to partnering with the African country of Gabon.

The following day, pastors Bob and Eric conducted a video conference call with ministry leaders from Life Point Church in Dallas, Texas. Concluding the call were the words, “Count us in!” Now the church is deep in prayer, asking God for direction on which country they should partner.

Early the next day, pastors Bob and Eric hopped on a flight to Atlanta, the main hub of their road trip. Their first stop was Aiken, South Carolina where they met with Missions Director, Todd Heath, and Senior Pastor, Phillip Lee of Cedar Creek Church. Founded on the five purposes, the church has 1,200 members with two new campuses. Their mission’s efforts include work in India, Guatemala, Nepal, and Sierra Leone. After years of building water wells in Sierra Leone, Cedar Creek Church is leaning toward partnering with the country to help transform it into a Purpose Driven Nation.

From Aiken, the traveling duo headed to TrueNorth Church in North Augusta, South Carolina. Together they met with missions leaders, Gene Jennings and Mike Fielder who have spent years working with churches in Guatemala and Zambia. With over 2,000 members, they are interested in the PD movement but have yet to become a Purpose Driven Church—one of the prerequisites to adopting and training a nation in PD and PEACE. The meeting did however, lead to an open invitation to join the 30 leaders attending PEACE Training later this month.

That following day, pastors Bob and Eric drove to Montgomery, Alabama where they met with pastors, Eric Smith and Neil Hughes of Vaughn Forest Church. After recently taking on the role as Senior Pastor, Eric is focused on revitalizing the church for the time being. He did however, commit to moving forward as an IPC by 2019.

From Montgomery to Birmingham, the next stop took Bob and Eric to Church of the Highlands. As the second largest church in the United States, the Alabama church averages 60,000 members on any given weekend. Although not officially a Purpose Driven Church, they teach missions through DREAM, a similar approach to the PD movement.

“A great deal of their mission’s efforts are in financial giving,” says Pastor Bob. “They have CLASS through 5,000 small groups and host ARC—a conference that promotes launching, connecting, and equipping the local church.”

While the meeting was a chance to reconnect leaders from two mega-churches, at this time, Church of the Highlands plans to focus on their long-term vision and other mission’s projects.

From Alabama, pastor Bob and Eric drove back to Atlanta where they met with pastors Keith Moore and John Warnock of Dogwood Church. Over his 30 years in ministry, Senior Pastor, Keith Moore has been dedicated to PD from the beginning. It all started in 1996 when he heard Pastor Rick share the five purposes, resulting in Pastor Moore planting a Purpose Driven church that still thrives today.

The biggest takeaway from pastor Bob and Eric’s meeting, was a commitment that leaders from Dogwood Church would attend the All Africa Pastors’ Gathering conference in Rwanda.

“They are sending a team in February and are actively discussing taking on the country of Liberia,” says Pastor Bob. “Up to that point, they were slightly interested in partnering, but after our recent visit, they said ‘We’re all in!’”

Concluding the road trip was a visit to Jacksonville, Florida on day four. There they met with Spike Hogan, Pastor of Chets Creek Church. Launched in 1998 with 81 people, today the church has over 2,500 members at three campuses. Through the years, they’ve served in South Sudan and South Africa, and are enthusiastic about taking their commitment to the next level.

“They are praying about which country to ‘adopt’,” says Pastor Bob. “But there is definitely interest there and a growing commitment to take on a country in the near future.”

That same afternoon, Pastors Bob and Eric sat down with Pastor HB Charles and his entire leadership team, of Shiloh Church in Jacksonville, Florida. Although the church is new to PD, leaders caught the vision and will now be sending several pastors to the PEACE Training later this month.

In a matter of four days, three churches strongly committed to partnering with African nations, and several others expressed interest. Not only do these efforts build and unite healthy Purpose Driven Churches, but they also transform lives across entire communities.

“The road trip was a huge success,” says Pastor Bob. “We plan to do another trip again after the PD conference in June. For now, we’ll be staying in touch with these new IPCs by monthly zoom calls, covering various topics like implementing a steering team, next steps, and how to scale your training within the country.”

These ongoing efforts to launch nationwide strategies are just the beginning for the Global Purpose Driven movement. It takes a great deal of energy to not only launch, but to scale and sustain, no matter how big or small the country.

“It can’t come down to funding or how much money is available for a nation,” explains Saddleback’s PEACE Plan Pastor, Mike Constantz. “It has to be about building a network of healthy, PD training churches that live out the model.”

To learn how you can be involved in the Purpose Driven movement, visit pd.church/start.