The greatest thing you can do

Something you can do that will last forever
February 15, 2007 – by Rick Warren

I’ve always said that the greatest thing you can do with your life is to tell people about Jesus and invite them to come to know him. I was wrong. There is one thing you can do greater than sharing Jesus Christ with somebody: It is to help start a church, because a church will outlast you and everyone else.

When you plant a church – the “P” of the P.E.A.C.E. Plan – you help to permanently solve the greatest global giant plaguing the world – the giant of spiritual emptiness. Around the world today, billions of people do not know Jesus Christ – and many of them have never even heard of him. These people are found in the wealthiest city penthouses and the poorest village shelters. Even those who have virtually nothing to live on find they have even less to live for – because they are spiritually empty and have no hope.

This spiritual emptiness is the world’s number one problem. I believe it’s the reason why The Purpose Driven Life was the best-selling book in the world for three years in a row. People want to know the meaning of life. They want to know the answer to life’s biggest questions, like What am I here for? Why do I exist?

Just imagine you were one of those who had never heard the name of Jesus. Wouldn’t you want somebody to come tell you about our Savior? The Bible says in Romans 10:14, “Before people can ask the Lord for help, they must believe in him; and before they can believe in him, they must hear about him; and for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them.”

If we’re going to share the love of God with these billions of people, we must help start new churches around the world. Jesus established his church for the purpose of addressing spiritual emptiness. He said: I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” (Matthew 16:18)

Twenty-seven years ago, Kay and I gathered five other people and we started Saddleback Church. At the time, none of us knew anything about planting a church. Some of the group members weren’t even Christians when we started the church. But just imagine all the lives that wouldn’t be blessed if we’d said, “No, let’s forget it. Let somebody else do it.” We started it, and it grew in unbelievable ways. Saddleback Church has helped start dozens of other churches here in Southern California. We start at least one a year. God has used ordinary people to start these churches – not pastors or missionaries, just ordinary people.

Three steps to planting a church
Let me give you the three steps that we used to start Saddleback Church. When we started Saddleback, I was just a 25-year-old with pimples. I didn’t have any training; I didn’t know how to start a church. But this simple method worked for us, and it can work for you too, no matter where you are or what kind of church experience you have.

Step one: First, when you go to plant a church, you need to gather a small group. Saddleback Church started with just Kay and me. Then I met a man at a real estate office and someone else at a grocery store. I had a friend from college who lived nearby and asked him to join us too. We had seven people in that first little group in our apartment. And Saddleback Church was born.

Several years ago we learned that 1 million people in Orange County spoke Spanish; we knew we needed to start Spanish-speaking churches. So we brought in 17 young guys from South America. They had never been to Bible school or had experience in church planting. But we put one in each of the different cities around Orange County. During the day they went out and met people and invited them to small groups. When a guy had formed five small groups, then he planted a congregation. That year Saddleback started 17 Spanish-speaking churches.

You may already have a small group that you’re a part of. Or, like Kay and I did, you may be starting from scratch and need to gather your own small group. Just remember that you’re not going to plant a church by yourself. You do it as a group. In 1 Corinthians 14 the Bible says: “When you gather for worship each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all. Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight.” Everybody in your small group can do something to help plant your church.

Step two: Once you’ve gathered your group, you’re ready for the second step in planting a church: You share the Good News of Jesus. A great place to start is with your personal story – your testimony. It’s the most effective way to share the Good News.

In Psalm 66 David says: “Come and listen and I will tell you what he has done for me.” When I came to Orange County, I just started telling my story to the people I met. I said, “Here’s what Jesus has done for me.”

Then you share the Good News of Jesus. If you’re not sure how to explain that, you can take a class. Many churches offer classes that help you know how to tell others what it means to be a Christian. You can also use a tool like the JESUS film. It tells the story of Jesus’ life, and it’s the most-watched movie in history. It has been seen in every country of the world and has been translated into more than 900 languages. More than 200 million people have said that they’ve prayed to receive Christ as a result of watching this movie. Your small group could take that film out and show it and start a church with the people who come to know Christ through it. Because it’s in so many languages, you can use the JESUS film almost anywhere – from your own neighborhood to far-away cities and villages.

Step three: After you gather a small group and share the Good News, you need to provide everyone with a Bible. When we started Saddleback, most people who came didn’t have Bibles. So we bought about 200 hardback Bibles and sat them on the chairs before our services. Then, instead of saying, “Turn to Exodus 3:14,” I’d just say, “Turn to page 47.” That made church much less embarrassing for people who weren’t familiar with the Bible.

We think we need all kinds of things to start a church. But really, we just need people, the Good News, and Bibles. 2 Timothy says, “Using the Scriptures the person who serves God will be capable of having all that’s needed to do every good work.”

Making God visible
3 John 1:5 says “Dear friends, when you extend love to Christian brothers and sisters even when they are strangers you make the faith visible.” In today’s society, God is made visible through Christian people. So if there’s a village or city that has no church, God is not visible in their midst. But when we go out and help start churches, we’re making God visible. We’re becoming the hands, feet, eyes, ears, and heart of Jesus Christ to help other people be blessed in the way we’ve been blessed ourselves.

One of the most valued possessions in my office sits on my desk. It’s a picture that one of our Saddleback small groups gave me. It shows the first four believers that started the first p.e.a.c.e. church with the Besa people in Nigeria. One day we’re going to have a wall with thousands of those pictures, with churches our small groups have started all around the world. Wouldn’t you like to have a picture like that – a picture of a church that’s going to last forever because you started it?

You’re going to be in heaven because somebody cared enough to tell you about Jesus. Will you care enough to tell somebody else? Will you care enough to plant a church?