First Baptist of Tooele joined with 1350 churches across the United States last Saturday to kick off 40 Days of Purpose. For the next six weeks they will be focusing on the timeless questions.
“People want to know how did I get here? What am I doing here? Where am I going?” Pastor Jon McCartney said. “Our mission, one of our challenges is to make people wrestle with those [questions].”
According to McCartney, science doesn’t have the answers and despite popular opinion, neither does Oprah. The only one who knows is God, because he created us.
But, the fact that people from such a wide range of backgrounds ask the questions is significant to McCartney.
Recently he listened to two scientists on National Public Radio who were discussing the complexity of our planet. As McCartney puts it, they said it was absolutely clear looking at our universe that we have a purpose, but they also said we don’t know what it is.
McCartney also remembers a show on Oprah that started out promising the answer to our purpose in life, but ended “disappointingly” saying she couldn’t tell them why they were here, the answer was inside them. In contrast, the New York Times best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, which is the focus of the study, uses what God says in the Bible to explain how people can build a better relationship with God, others and even feel more secure about themselves.
Ann Rene Richmond, a member of McCartney’s congregation previously studied the book with a group of women in Grantsville who were members of another church.
“It changed lives,” Richmond said, “because they were able to see themselves as God sees them, not as society sees them.”
Richmond believes everyone has a God-given desire to be significant. People try to meet that need identifying themselves through external things like careers or athletic ability, but she believes a true sense of worth comes from the realization God created us and has a purpose for us. When people have that understanding they are able to build everything else they do on a stable foundation.
The book highlights five principles: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission.
For instance, the book stresses worship is not just several hours spent on Sunday, but the way people live all day every day. The author, Rick Warren, titles his first purpose: “You were planned for God’s pleasure.”
Warren writes, “the heart of worship is surrender.” Although he acknowledges that surrender is unpopular in our society he adds, “But, surrendering to God is the heart of worship. It is the natural response to God’s amazing love and mercy. We give ourselves to him, not out of fear or duty, but in love, ‘because he first loved us.’” The second purpose is fellowship.
Warren’s definition is more encompassing than “just eating with each other” at a church activity. Warren explores concepts such as the importance of relationships, belonging and community. He addresses problems existing in our society and refers to the Bible to suggest answers.
The third purpose Warren explores is discipleship. He encourages readers to focus on becoming like Jesus Christ as they go through difficulty and temptation in life, but to also be patient with themselves.
The fourth purpose is serving God. Warren writes about accepting your assignment, using the unique gifts God has given, and allowing God to strengthen weaknesses as we serve him.
The last purpose Warren explores is mission. Warren encourages people to share faith in their day-to-day lives.
The Purpose Driven Life has been on the New York Times bestseller list for the last two years and has sold more hardback copies than any other nonfiction hardback book printed, said McCartney, excluding the Bible.
McCartney believes God guided him to provide these study groups to the community.
“I’d been praying, I mean I don’t like to jump onto popular bandwagons. That’s not what I do. I’d heard about this and I prayed about this and the day after I started I received a letter from Purpose Driven Ministries and I just considered it providential.”
After receiving the letter, McCartney discussed the issue with the church council and they decided to go ahead.
“It just seemed like the next step God was leading us for our church,” McCartney said.
Everyone is welcome to join in the study regardless of whether they’re interested in attending First Baptist of Tooele.
“Some people will come, like us and join our church, others will come, go back to their church and be more effective there, “ McCartney said.
Those who don’t attend any church are also welcome. McCartney estimated one-third to one-half of those signed up are not members of his congregation.
At the kickoff Saturday, Pat Dees, was among those in attendance who were not members of First Baptist.
She came for “a lot of personal reasons, just some things in my life and I just wanted to check it out and see what I think about it,” Dees said. She heard about it from her neighbor Dwightel Ivey, who was also at the kickoff.
For Dees and other visiters from the community, the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren was provided free of charge. For congregation members it cost $7. The money for the free books comes from donations from the local congregation, which meets at 580 S. Main St. in Tooele.
McCartney believes the study is relevant to those of other faiths.
McCartney explains although they’re baptist, they are first and foremost Christians.
“We did not become Baptists. We are Christians who happen to fellowship in a Baptist Church,” McCartney said. “God’s purposes are not for baptists or for any other groups. God’ s purposes are for human beings.”
The congregation is spending over $1,000 to make Saturday’s simulcast, weekly study groups and books and study guides available to anyone in the community interested in joining in.
Lance Hampton, who will be hosting one of the studies in his home, has skimmed over the book, although he hasn’t read it straight through.
“I purposefully glossed over it because I wanted to preview it with the group,” Hampton said. While facilitators like Hampton provide their homes for the studies, the main focus will be on open discussion about how Warren’s teaching’s apply to life.
Hampton believes the study will help others build relationships with God. To do that he also recommends prayer and looking at his word.
“All this just boils down to an attitude adjustment when you get down to it,” Hampton said. “It’s all about God. When you realize that, everything else falls into place.”
He finds that empowering.
“It’s not just what we have done. It’s what God can do through us,” he said, “We need to let him guide us. We need to get our attitude out of our way and listen to him.”
Richmond, who is hosting another study, loves the clearness of the message and thinks it really hits home.
“I was very glad when our church decided to offer the study to the community and to everyone in our church who wants to be involved,” Richmond added.
Only adults will meet to discuss the five purposes at the weekly studies. Daycare will be provided.
“The whole idea is having adult conversations with adults,” McCartney said.
But, to include the children they will be going over the purposes in Sunday School. In addition, sermons at First Baptist in Tooele will correlate with the week’s questions.
Repetition helps it to “sink in our brains,” McCartney said, pointing out that the Bible itself repeats the same principles over and over.
The home studies will last six weeks and are one day each week. Currently there are eight homes where study groups will take place with locations in Tooele, Stansbury Park and Grantsville. Scheduled classes are in the evening, with most starting around 7 p.m.
For more information see www.PurposeDriven.com or contact Pastor Jon McCartney at 882- 2048.