I dislike buying a book that has no reviews on Amazon, especially when it lacks the 'Search Inside' feature. Invariable when I get one of these, I end up wishing I didn't. Recently I took a chance on a book called "The Intentional Church: Moving From Church Success to Community Transformation" by Randy Pope. It was the first in a long time where I'm glad I did (even though the main content wasn't really what I thought it would be!)
The Intentional Church is a practical and well-written guide for church leaders desired to be more effective in developing mature disciples of Christ and impacting their community. The focus is on intentionality - thinking carefully about the elements of effective discipleship and ministry, and creating a reproducible process to help your people grow as followers of Christ. The Intentional Church was originally published as The Prevailing Church. It's been revised and updated, now including a number of examples and insights learned from Randy's experience as senior pastor of Perimeter Church in Duluth, GA. He does a great job of sharing real-world experiences and practical tips without ever making it sound like we should become copies of Perimeter. His goal is to provide a framework for thinking about church leadership without providing a specific model to emulate. Since reviews on this fine book are scarce, I'm going into a little extra detail here than normal...
Table of Contents Introduction: What Will it Take to Be Truly Successful?
1. What Jesus Wants from His Church
2. What Makes a Church Grow? Six Widely Recognized Causes... and a Neglected Seventh Factor
3. Inside the Effective Ministry Plan. i) A God-Honoring Purpose
3. Inside the Effective Ministry Plan. ii) A Faith-Oriented Commitment
5. Inside the Effective Ministry Plan. iii) A God-Given Vision
6. Inside the Effective Ministry Plan. iv) Well-Prioritized Values
7. Inside the Effective Ministry Plan. v) Well-Defined Mission
8. Inside the Mission: Accomplishing Vision
9. Inside the Mission: Making the Mature and Equipped Followers: The TEAMS-based Church
10. Inside the Effective Ministry Plan. vi) Biblically-based Job Descriptions- The Roles of Deacons and Elders
11. Biblically-based Job Descriptions- The Role of the Pastor
12. Biblically-based Job Descriptions- The Role of the Laity
13. Inside the Effective Ministry Plan. vii) Strategically Designed Infrastructure
14. Inside the Effective Ministry Plan. viii) Culturally Relevant Strategy
15. Inside Culturally Relevant Strategies- Four Questions that must not be Overlooked
16. Inside the Effective Ministry Plan. ix) Well-Developed Goals and Plans
17. Inside the Effective Ministry Plan. x) Ongoing Measurement
18. Making the Tough Choices
19. Evangelism: Reaching the Lost in This Generation
20. Life-on-Life Discipleship: God's Model for Life Transformation
Conclusion: For His Gospel, for His Glory
There were a number of great insights throughout the book - I found myself highlighting quite a bit. The presentation is very logical, without being rigid, and not neglecting the pivotal role the Holy Spirit and power of God play in building His church. I saw four themes that came across very strongly in the book: a well thought out framework for strategic planning; a life-on-life approach to disciple-making centered on Truth, Equipping, Accountability, Mission and Supplication (prayer); leadership development; and the importance of the church being both gathered and scattered, reaching in and reaching out. Pope does a great job in providing the 'why' behind the tips he shares for effective ministry. For example, while discussing infrastructure he goes beyond the suggestion of providing large-size, medium-size and small-group structures to talk about the function behind each of these: to allow for celebration, community, education, and pursuit of the great commission. The only thing I felt was missing (given the title of the book) was more discussion on how to become more of an Externally Focused church transforming the community.
There are other excellent books providing frameworks for thinking about church, from a wide variety of perspectives, including The Purpose-Driven Church, Church Unique, and AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. The Intentional Church is an excellent resource that should appeal to many church leaders - especially those with a desire for more intentional strategic planning, a more relational and focused discipleship process, and/or a desire to be both the church gathered and the church scattered.