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'Purpose-Driven' and Lutheran, too

Eric Burtness tells what we can learn and why we should

A pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Beaverton, Ore., Eric Burtness was an early admirer of Rick Warren's first book, The Purpose-Driven Church, and he adapted many principles and strategies to create a model for Lutheran use. When Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life came out, Burtness led parishioners in reading it through the "40 days of purpose" program.

For five years Burtness also has taught his model to more than 200 ELCA pastors who've gathered for a week of training at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., where he graduated in 1981. He's captured the essence of that course in his book Leading on Purpose: Intentionality and Teaming in Congregational Life (Augsburg Fortress, 2004). He maintains a Web site too: www.leadingonpurpose.org; his discussion guide to Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life is available at www.augsburgfortress.org.

The Lutheran interviewed him by phone about his perspective on the Purpose-Driven phenomenon.

The Lutheran: For those of us who haven't read the Purpose-Driven books — or heard of them — what about them is so important?

Burtness: They give a structure for ministry that is so compelling and meaningful and life changing. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission define our purposes. They are the key elements when you ask the question: "What difference does my faith make in my life?" Think what a church would look like that was built around these biblical purposes:

• The Great Commandment. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).

• The Great Commission. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).


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