Randy Pope is the Founding Pastor, Lead Teacher & Directional Leader of Perimeter Church in Duluth (Atlanta) Georgia, a church of 6000 devoted to reaching the unchurched of North Atlanta and the world. Perimeter has helped plant twenty-four churches in the Atlanta area and has helped start 6 training centers worldwide to facilitate church planting. Perimeter also has partnerships with nationals in 8 countries to help train leaders for the church. Randy is a graduate of the University of Alabama and Reformed Theological Seminary. He moved to Atlanta in 1977 to plant Perimeter Church, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). His vision and commitment to make and train disciples is known throughout the Christian community. He has recently established Life On Life Ministries, where he will continue to train church leaders both in the United States and throughout the world. He has been a guest lecturer at numerous seminaries throughout the U.S. and is also a frequent guest speaker for college ministries in the Southeast United States. Randy is the author of three books: The Intentional Church: Moving From Church Success to Community Transformation (previously released as The Prevailing Church), Finding Your Million Dollar Mate, and The Answer: Putting an End to the Search for Life Satisfaction. Randy and his wife, Carol, have four children and live in Alpharetta, Georgia.
The subject of Pastor Pope’s message is Birthing Life-on-Life Missional Discipleship Within The Church.
THE PASTOR AS A DISCIPLE TRAINER
1. Our churches must have an effective and intentional plan to make mature and equipped followers of Christ.
What does a mature and equipped Christian look like?
Good stewards of their possessions, responsible, good husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, Bible-saturated, etc.
Are the things that you are doing helping them get there?
Pope went away on a study leave to study the issue of spiritual formation. He was convinced that their church was not as great as people were saying it was. That was about twenty years ago. And today, Pope believes this is the single most important issue: life-on-life missional discipleship
2. The present day church (for the most part) has embraced an ineffective plan for making mature and equipped followers of Christ.
Case study: Let’s say you have a friend whom you think is an alcoholic. They have all the symptoms. But they deny it. Can you help them? No. OK, let’s say they admit it. But they say, “I have decided, right now, to stop immediately.” Do you think they would succeed? Probably not.
OK. So what if he says, “I want to quit, but I don’t know where to start.” What do you say? Maybe AA, or accountability. Pope would say neither. He would say Rehab. Sign up for a serious program. Let’s say he goes, and then gets out. He now says, “I have zero desire for alcohol.” Do you think he’ll stay faithful? If he doesn’t, what would you do? Now we would say AA or something like that.
Every believer has had and/or is presently under great bondage (addiction) to sin. (Eph. 2:1-3)
So can we help someone who says they have zero problem with sin? No. Can you help someone who says, “OK, I quit sinning, effective immediately.” Well, we know that won’t work either. So what else might we suggest? Rehab. Well, what’s that? Not the church, but the cross.
We remind them that we still have a sin nature, the world, the flesh and the devil. We are in a fight. So after rehab, then what? AA. Because (routinely) there will be relapses.
What makes it work: An accountability group with a qualified sponsor.
What many pastors do is they come up with program-based churches.
A church is program-based when its primary method of making mature and equipped followers of Christ centers around the delivery of truth through the vehicles of church programs (i.e., seminars, preaching and classes, etc.).
3. Life-On-Life laboring in the lives of a few is God’s master plan for making mature and equipped followers of Christ.
Life-On-Life discipleship can be defined as:
1. Having a suitable life product.
2. Being intentional about imparting that life product and
3. Doing the right things to impart that life product.
Note that Jesus was intentional about choosing his disciples.
Pope had people at his church think of all the people they knew at the church that had gotten saved. Then he asked them how many of them were in their small groups. He found that most small groups were not reproducing Christians. But people in Pope’s small groups were getting saved. What was Randy doing that was different?
T – truth
Not turning a small group into a Bible study. It does not foster life-changing discipleship. It does give a foundation so that life-change can happen. Randy tells them: Studying the Bible is what the small group should be doing all week long. We get together and do something with it. RATHER than “We do a Bible study, and then we don’t do anything with it the rest of the week.”
E – Equipping
He’ll ask them, “How was your time of personal devotions/worship all week long?” They’ll say “Great.” Pope will say, “OK, so why don’t we just do it right now?” And they’ll do it. And then he will ask them how it went. And they will say, “Amazing.” (In other words, NOT like it was for them all week. As a result of being guided by Pope, they have now been equipped to have devotional times on their own.)
A – Accountability
Theological content without accountability leads to legalism. Asking hard questions, challenging bad behavior.
M – Mission
S – Supplication
A church is TEAMS-Based when:
1. Its primary method of making mature & equipped followers of Christ centers around the use of truth, equipping, accountability, mission & supplication. AND:
2. Its primary outreach, nurture, education, care, discipline and equipping takes place in discipleship teams where the leader is considered the shepherd and a target group is considered the mission field.
Ken Blanchard, a business guru, gives these instructions:
Direction –> Coaching –> Support –> Delegate
That’s the order. Do NOT go from direction –> delegate. Otherwise, you will create disillusioned learners. And that’s what churches do, sadly.
Preaching, sermons, classes — all of it is Directing. And we cannot go immediately from directing to letting them go at it on their own.
4. Without life-on-life discipleship we run the risk of producing immature believers, at best and disillusioned learners at worst.
To church planters, Pope advises: immediately build a second story. (of Christians who can equip others.)
Our version of “Direction –> Coaching –> Support –> Delegate” is:
“Truth – Equipping – Accountability – Mission – Supplication”
If we truly want to develop disciples, this is needed. Truth is still important. The importance of experience does not diminish the importance of truth. People won’t be discipled beyond the truth they know.
LIFE LEARNINGS REGARDING DISCIPLESHIP
The importance of investing in faithful followers of Christ.
Discipling is hard work. A group is only as good as your orientation into the group. Men with men. Women with women. The downside of this model is complexity.
He likens the discipleship process to a physical trainer who meets with a group to exercise a few times a week, with a trainer. That trainer, and those others, are a strong motivation to get up in the morning and go. The group Pastor Pope disciples functions very similarly.