An Alternative Approach to Ministry


Randy Pope

Moody Press, 2002, 256 pp. 



Randy Pope is the founding pastor of Perimeter Church in Atlanta, which, through its para-church organization, Perimeter Ministries International, has begun church planting centers in nine countries and expects to plant 100 churches in Atlanta in the next ten years.  Pope defines a prevailing church as “a place where the presence of God’s power is demonstrated with such force that the community in which it exists is marked with an indelible spiritual imprint.” (20)  Such a church is equally committed to “mission” (reaching the lost) and “home” (caring for, feeding, and protecting God’s people). (31)


“Church members are very forbearing and forgiving regarding the neglect of the lost; while extremely impatient and unforgiving regarding the neglect of the righteous.”  (33) 


“The healthiest environment for nurture and discipleship is that of ‘mission.’  Otherwise, nurture and discipleship become ends rather than means to accomplish God’s greater purposes.”  “I have found that Bible study and prayer alone do not create mission-oriented Christians.  But, …mission-related activities create an insatiable thirst and hunger to feed on God’s Word.” (34)


Pope suggests there are six widely recognized causes of church growth.  This book is about an often overlooked seventh factor: an effective ministry plan.  The components are as follows (from the Appendix): “

  1. A God-Honoring Purpose.  Why do we exist?
  2. A Faith-Oriented Commitment. In what ways will we demonstrate a faith commitment?
  3. A God-Given Vision.  What are we seeking to accomplish?
  4. Well-Prioritized Values. What is most important to us?
  5. A Well-Defined Mission.  How do we plan to accomplish our vision?
  6. Biblically Based Job Descriptions. Who is responsible for what…?
  7. A Strategically Defined Infrastructure. How will we structure…?
  8. A Culturally Oriented Strategy.  How will we accomplish our mission?
  9. Well-Documented Goals.  How will we know that we are accomplishing…?
  10. A Time-Bound Schedule.  What is a reasonable time line of specific tasks….?”


“The first step in designing a plan for the church is to determine her purpose.”  Why do we exist?  The only appropriate answer, …is ‘to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.’” (56)  Many churches reveal in practice their real purpose.  Others may do the right things for the wrong reasons. (57)


A key question regarding a faith commitment is “To what degree will we risk failure to bring glory to God?”  The appropriate question is not, “Is it possible?” but “Is it the will of God?”  (60)  If we attempt something we believe is God’s will and fail, we can know we will be ultimately better off because of the failure.  (63)  Better to attempt something great for God and fail than to succeed in great things yet fail to receive his applause for lack of faith.  (68)


“God usually gives vision for ministry to individual leaders, at least as an initial step.”  “…the clarifying of the vision often comes as members of the leadership team raise concerns or ask probing questions.  Although the pastor must have a primary role in receiving and casting the vision, “he should never take this role in an autonomous way.”  “…a significant aspect of God’s rule in my heart involves my willingness to hear Him speak through the wisdom of other godly leaders.” (70)


“Our goal as church leaders should not be to grow large ministries that reach unchurched people but to build discipling ministries that develop mature followers of Christ who, in turn, reach large numbers of unchurched people.” (79)


“The prevailing church must be a ‘safe home’ and have an outward thrust to the lost and the hurting—an effective ‘mission.’  (83)  ‘Home’ elements: vital worship; true fellowship; biblical instruction and discipleship training; pastoral care and shepherding; and equipping and empowering to do the work of the ministry. (84) 


A mature and equipped follower is described on p. 85.  Spiritual maturity is a means “through which the gospel is continually transplanted into new lives.” (86)


Effective ‘mission’ includes: (87)

  • Proclaiming a biblical theology that answers cultural questions
  • Influencing all social, political, educational, and professional segments
  • Offering to our members the opportunity to be equipped to share their faith
  • Facilitating outreach ministries to major people groups in Atlanta…
  • Starting churches of like values throughout the metro area
  • Beginning and servicing overseas training centers to establish churches


A vision ought to be open-ended.  [I prefer a definition of vision as something that can actually be completed. Dlm]  (93)


“The church’s scope must begin locally and extend to the uttermost parts of the world.” (per Acts 1:8) (93)  Neither ‘home’ nor ‘mission’ can be excluded without seriously damaging the church.  “Judea and Samaria represent those who are geographically close but relationally distant.  The remotest part of the earth represents those who are both geographically and relationally distant….  Each of these locations present specific challenges to the church.” (94) 


“Although our overall mission still relates to the threefold breakdown of geographical scope found in Acts 1:8, Perimeter’s vision expresses our immediate concern with our neighboring community.  [Admission of an omission? Dlm]  Perimeter’s vision statement:  “We are seeking to bring the people of greater Atlanta and all places where we serve into a life-transforming encounter with the kingdom of God.”  (95-6)


Churches have both stated and unstated values (which the long timers live by). The church is very unlikely to change unless they face up to the unstated values.  Perimeter has 3 sets of values relating to 1) who we are, 2) what we do, and 3) how we do ministry.   “One of a leader’s key responsibilities is to know and to hold himself and others accountable to the priority of values.”  Regular staff evaluations should include a values-oriented component.  (97-100) 


In order to create change in a church, resources such as prime time, leadership, and finances must be aligned to the values.  Leadership decisions must be in strict alignment with values.  (100)


When Pope speaks of a well-defined “mission,” he is referring to what some would call a ministry plan, the means of reaching the vision. (103)


Making mature and equipped followers of Christ is one of the greatest challenges for churches.  We tend to ask how many heard and whether the truth was well presented as the criteria.  But this doesn’t measure results.  Five components for effective discipleship:

  • Learning the truth
  • Hands on coaching - equipping to use the truths learned
  • Accountability and support – to carry out what they are learning
  • Mission – sharing the gospel with a selected group of people
  • Praying for each other  (103-7)

Equipping and accountability require life-on-life investment.  (112)


Pope was significantly influenced by the autobiography of John R. Mott [who coined the slogan, ‘The evangelization of the world in this generation’].  Mott said, “He who multiplies the doers is worth more than he who does the work.”  Thus working in the states is not less noble than going overseas, but “including a global component in the vision and mission of the church is indispensable.”  Each church must discover what its greatest contribution to the world can be.  “The challenge is for a church to make that determination and then give itself wholeheartedly to it.”  “Church planting is our best contribution, and to this end we operate somewhat myopically.”   Our staff scrutinizes every new ministry idea based on how well it is aligned to our mission.  It makes for many difficult decisions. (132-34)


Job descriptions answer the question of who will be responsible for what in accomplishing the vision.  (137)  “In any institution, the leader is the [person] who is thinking ahead of everyone else.”  (quoting Robert Schuller, 138) 


Responsibilities for laypersons: “

  1. To discover and develop their spiritual gifts
  2. To view themselves as the primary ministers of the church
  3. To spend the time needed to be equipped adequately to use their spiritual gifts.
  4. To commit the time necessary to use their gifts in ministry.”  (166-172)


Infrastructure is designed to accomplish the mission.  (179)  Four infrastructure needs of the people: (184)

  • Celebration – weekly corporate worship
  • Community – supportive, accountable relationships
  • Class – structure plan for understanding and applying Scripture
  • Commission – engagement with unbelievers to introduce them to Christ 


Cultural relevance.

Watch for ways God is already working in the culture. 


Every ministry plan must be in alignment with the overall ministry plan.  (188)


Questions to ask of those designing a seeker service model: (190)

  • When will believers worship?
  • When will you do small groups?
  • When will you train leaders?
  • When will Christians get educated?


“Addressing the crisis needs of people in common struggle has proven to be an effective way of reaching nonbelievers.” (191)


In designing a culturally oriented strategy, the first question is, “In what ways and to what degree will the unchurched be reached and hurting people be helped?”  (193)


Roberta Hestenes asked the following question, “With the popular models for church today, when and where will people learn the Bible?” (196)  Pope suggests four places: 

  • The Pulpit.  “The goal of preaching should be to bring God’s Word to bear upon people in every stage of spiritual pilgrimage in such a way as to bring every person under the lordship of Christ in every area of life.”
    ”Life changing preaching does not talk to people about the Bible.  Instead, it talks to people about themselves (their questions, lusts, fears and struggles) from the Bible.”  (quoting Haddon Robinson, 198)
  • The Classroom.  Elective courses with homework assignments help people gain biblical information, either in week-to-week or concentrated seminars
  • Small Groups.  By using study books, tapes, and well-written curriculum, good education can take place in small groups
  • Personal Study  “In my opinion, by far the best way to learn biblical truth is through personal study.” (201)


“Goal setting enables us to put expression and direction to an act of faith.  Goals are simply targets.”  They represent the mile markers and signposts that tell us how we are doing.  They should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.  (208-9)


Measurable.  The vision of Perimeter Ministries International is to establish 100 congregations in the greater Atlanta area in the next ten years. 


Attainable.  “A goal needs to include specific action we can actually take.”


Realistic.  “Realists often come across as pessimists.”  “Realists keep the steps from being too big.  Many goals could be described as attainable that may not be realistic.” 


“Goals must be supported by a plan, owned by those required to accomplish them, and supported by the necessary resources.”   Feedback when setting and monitoring goals is critical.  (See Encouraging the Heart, Kouzes and Posner)  (211-212)


“What is a reasonable time line of specific tasks that must take place in order to accomplish the goals of our ministry plan?  Here is often where we discover if our goals are truly reasonable.”  (216)


“In order to assess the impact of changes to be made, we find that focus groups serve us well.  They enable us to hear from a representative sampling of our congregation regarding three areas:

  • What issues will we face when we introduce the change?
  • What resistance will be offered as a result of the change?
  • What needs and concerns have perhaps been overlooked?”  (219)


“Without biblical evangelism and discipleship, a ministry plan is doomed to ultimate failure.  …it may produce much activity, but it will not lead to a prevailing church.”  “Discipleship without evangelism represents purposeless spiritual intake.” (231)


“I believe that every church should have a plan and at least one method for equipping believers to individually share their faith.” (232)  He describes their X-PRESS course.


“Discipleship training is, for the most part, a lost practice in churches today.  … I refer to the most mature form defined as life-on-life, laboring in the lives of a few.” (241)  Without this kind of discipleship we “run the risk of producing immature believers, at best, and disillusioned learners, at worst.” (246)


Oh yes.  The six widely recognized causes of church growth: (40-46)

  1. A biblical theology and polity
  2. Spiritual renewal dynamics
  3. Spiritual, discerning, and gifted leadership
  4. Spiritual and ministry-oriented laity
  5. Adequate property, facilities, and parking
  6. Adequate financial resources