What, precisely, is a good church? How would you know one when you see it? A popular answer these days is that a good church is a “purpose-driven” church.
The phrase and the concept come from Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in American history. It has almost 10,000 “core members” and over 50,000 people on its rolls.
Warren is also the author of The Purpose-Driven Church and The Purpose-Driven Life. The former book has sold over 1 million copies in 20 languages, the latter has been No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. For churches that want to grow, Warren’s model seems the recipe du jour, imitated by churches across the denominational spectrum in this country and around the world.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).