Four churches in Hong Kong have become part of the forty-six congregations from 18 American states and 13 other nations that have received Purpose Driven Church Health Awards.
Nearly 2,900 pastors and church teams were drawn from 51 countries and 46 states to the 2006 Purpose Driven Church Conference, on May 16-19, at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. The eighth annual Church Health Awards was this year’s highlight.
The Awards were to honor churches around the world for their excellence in adapting the Purpose Driven paradigm to their church life. Nominations were mainly made on the Web with winners awarded on the opening day of the conference.
The only four Chinese church winners are all from Hong Kong, namely Evangelical Community Church, Kwai Shing Baptist Church, Shatin Baptist Church and Tin Chung Alliance Church.
According to head pastor Ting Yik Leung from the Shatin Baptist Church, he has begun the church’s transition, promoting the concepts, and describing the five purposes to his church through four spiritual directions that made sense to the Hong Kong Chinese culture: Upward (Celebration), Downward (Consolidation), Inward (Cell/Small Group), and Outward (Commission and Care/Service and Evangelism), after he first picked up Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church in 1996.
Shatin Baptist has a weekly service attendance of 3,000 - the largest among the four Chinese church award winners. Growing from 700 members in 1996 to almost 3,200 today, the Church now offers 11 different worship services at two different campuses. Leung says more than 2,000 people have come to Christ since the transition to become purpose driven.
The Church did meet some difficulties when it first started operating the Purpose Driven model because some older members complained that it was too "Americanized" and "business-oriented," Leung shared.
Leung pointed out that there are some special points about purpose driven model that match well with busy Hong Konger’s life. For instance, the model has inspired the Church to adopt a more cell-orientated approach. Rather than Sunday school that is more like a lecture time, the after-service activity in the Church is replaced by cell group gatherings.
"To choose between cells (small groups) or Sunday school, we believed that cells could be much more flexible with Bible studies being incorporated into the cell time," said Leung, adding that busy Hong Kong people choose to attend church in a "one-day-shot"- coming for worship on Sundays and staying for another church activities.
Another church award winner- the Tin Chung Alliance Church- ministers in a remote area of a newly developed town where "many teenagers are at risk." Therefore, the target of the Church is seekers. It has established a basic outreach effort with specific individuals for seeking out, visiting, and inviting people to church.
The Purpose Driven structure at Tin Chung Alliance seems to be working as about 50 percent of the church’s current members have joined since 2000, when the implementation began. Now the church leaders are on the lookout for opportunities to share the benefits of the structure with pastors and church leadership at other churches.
Evangelical Community Church is a very unique church in Hong Kong, as it is non-denominational and international.
"Our church is made up of more than 17 different cultures," head pastor Brett Hilliard said. "Hong Kong is truly a melting pot of many cultures. Our worship service is very seeker-sensitive as most of our seekers are not from western cultures. So we have to be very intentional about our outreach to them on Sunday."
The Church has chosen to adopt the Purpose Driven teaching methods and strategy because they "were applicable to the seeker, the new believer, and the seasoned saint," Hilliard said.
Christian Communication Inc. U.S.A. (CCI USA), the only authorized agent to translate and distribute the Chinese material of "Purpose Driven Life 40 Days" campaign, has sent coworkers to join the Conference.
One of the coworkers named Mary reported that around 50 Chinese churches in the United States have registered for the "Purpose Driven Life 40 Days" campaign and more will be joining soon. Next month, CCI USA will begin introducing "40 Days of Community"- a movement to transform the community through church-based effort and the P.E.A.C.E. Plan.
"Everyone in the Saddleback Church knows their purposes very well, and they also have very clear concept about the commission of the Church. It is a very good testimony to the Conference’s participants that the Purpose Driven model is very effective, with changed lives to change lives," Mary said.