The Deliberate Church Paperback – 21 Oct 2005
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"We want to be careful about allowing God's Word to set our trajectory, power our progress, and govern our methods."
About the Author
Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and president of 9Marks (9Marks.org). Dever has authored over a dozen books and speaks at conferences nationwide.
Paul Alexander (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) serves as the pastor of Grace Covenant Church in South Elgin, Illinois. Paul and his wife, Laurie, have five children.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Mark Dever and Paul Alexander advocate a strong dependence on the Word of God and prayer to build a healthy church. Even better, they share how they have sought to promote these aspects of pastoral ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. It is evident that Mark Dever has sought to be "deliberate" in his service as a pastor and he has done a great job of sharing some of the practical wisdom that he seeks to live by in this book. You will find that even when he departs from some more popular approaches to pastoral ministry and church growth (e.g. multiple services, pastoral specialization), he expresses his views with humility and kindly invites you to consider the reasoning behind his position.
Among other things, you will learn how the pastoral staff at Capitol Hill Baptist Church conducts public worship, evangelism, membership interviews, discipleship, church discipline and elders meetings - and you will see that it is all done in an attempt to "deliberately" display God's glory to one another and the world around them. Most importantly, you will see that they are always seeking to base their practices on biblical teaching, keeping the proclamation of the Gospel central and relying on the power of God's Spirit to make their work effective.
If you are a pastor, I would encourage you to read this book. If you are not a pastor, I would encourage you to read this book and give a copy to a pastor you know.
This book transcends so much of the same old Christ-of-culture, capitalistic market talk we read these days in church-life and church-growth books. Yet at the same time it is a real-world book that gives real answers and a model by which real churches can attain real growth (numerically and spiritually!). There is an obvious backlash in our time against niche-market Christianity, and this book will be a leading voice in that backlash.
Once I finished the book, I thought, is this really, how this church functions? I had to find out, so I took a trip to Capital Hill Baptist to see for myself. It was nice to see that Capital Hill Baptist operated in the exact way described in Devers' book. Not only that, but I "interrogated" one of the interns, and he described their elder's meetings exactly the way the book did.
If you are a church leader, I would highly recommend that you read this book. This book was intended to be the sequel to Devers' previous book, 9 marks of a healthy church, which is also fantastic!
A deliberate church intentionally infuses absolutely everything it does with the Gospel! My goal here is to overview the book, and give some highlights.
On the first page of the introduction the authors write their thesis: "Ignoring God's plan for the church and replacing it with your own will ensure the eternal futility of your work" (25). Let that sink in! Along those same lines they write: "Our power is not in having small groups, or meeting the felt needs of our target audience, or using the right evangelism program, or having funny skits, or providing plenteous parking, or targeting our ministries to postmoderns. Our power is in our unique message--the Gospel (27).
The introduction and conclusion alone are worth the retail price. Overall, the book is divided into four sections that help the reader deliberately apply the gospel to the growing of a church, the gathering of a church on Sunday, the choice of elders and the elders meetings.
The first section was a 75-page summary of Dever's 9 Marks of a Healthy Church; however, it was geared towards practically doing what was written as theory in 9 Marks.
My favorite parts were his understanding of the pastor's job--the 4 P's = expository Preaching, Praying, developing Personal discipling relationships, and being Patient (ch. 1)--his explanation and application of the gospel (43-5), what to avoid in evangelism (54-56) and his biblical case for and application of church membership (60-5). Remember, "God is happiest to entrust His flock to those shepherds who do things His way" (40) and "God's purposes for all of human history revolve around the local church as the visible, corporate manifestation of His Son" (72).
Section 2 (the longest in TCD) helps the corporate gathering of the church become Gospel-centered. They begin by arguing that God cares about how we worship (ch. 6); therefore, our Sundays should revolve around Reading, Preaching, Praying, Singing and Seeing (in baptism & the Lord's Supper) the Bible (81-6). In ch. 8 they argue the role of the pastor flows from a biblical understanding of what a church is to be and do, meaning the "most important and fundamental role of the pastor is to preaching the Gospel clearly" (89). There is also a lot of practical help here on staff meetings, the purpose of the weekly church services (ch. 9), baptism & communion (ch. 10), cultivating love in your church (ch. 11) and music (ch. 12).
My favorite part is his summary of pastoral ministry: The 3 G's = Graze (feed the people God's Word), Guide (lead God's people), Guard (protect God's people) (94-5) and their conclusion: "every element of the main weekly gathering should have positive warrant from Scripture.... This may seem constrictive...[but] it will actually liberate you from the tyranny of the latest innovation or the most popular fad" (126).
Section 3 is about choosing elders. He argues that the words elder, pastor, bishop, overseer all refer to the same office (cf. Acts 20:17-38, 1 Peter 5:1-2) and that there are only two church offices in the NT, elder and deacon (cf. Phil 1:1, 1 Tim 3:1-13). He argues persuasively for a plurality of elders (over against the Moses, single, solitary pastor model) (ch. 13). The rest of the section gives practical advice on how to choose elders biblically (character recognition before training), how to assess their ability and character (chs. 15-16), how to patiently transition a church into an elder-led model (ch. 17) and choose church staff (ch. 18).
Section 4 is a very practical section on structuring the Bible and prayer (ch. 19), the agenda (ch. 20), the decision-making process (ch. 21) and attitudes of elders meetings around the gospel. He gives good advice here on how to fill the time at a meeting (chs. 19-20), the senior pastor's role as a model of the Gospel in these meetings (185-6, 189-92), delegation of responsibilities, equipping the other elders (173-5), and determining the annual budget (186-7).
The book ends with summarizing a deliberate church as one that is Godward-looking (195-7) for growth and Outward-looking (197-202) to serve other people, other churches and other countries with the Gospel.
In conclusion, I loved The Deliberate Church! It was a little slow in places, but overall it is the most practical book on what a church and it's leadership is supposed to be and do that I've ever read! Though it's a bit repetitive if you've read 9 Marks and I do not agree with all it advocates, I highly recommend it and agree with R. Kent Hughes that this book "wafts a radical, refreshing breeze from the pages of Scripture that will breathe life into the church" (back cover).
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