Friday, December 09, 2005

The Deliberate Church

Read it, loved it, meant to blog about it, forgot. Not likely that I was going to do better than D.A. Carson's contribution to the foreword anyway:
One of the strangest dichotomies in contemporary evangelicalism pits theology against practical savvy. Many practitioners boast how little theology they know and amply demonstrate the warrant for their boast, while forcefully advocating a wide array of practical steps to foster church growth and discipleship. In response, many pastors and theologians bemoan the weightlessness of so much contemporary evangelicalism and advocate a sober return to Scripture and a broad grasp of biblical theology. The former group often leaves the Bible behind, except for remarkably superficial ways: nothing challenges the hegemony of their methods. But the latter group, whose theology may be as orthodox as that of the apostle Paul, sometimes gives the impression that once you know a lot of the bible and have read a lot of theology, everything will work out smilingly as if there were no need for the practical advice of pastors who are no less committed to theology than they, but who are equally reflective on steps that must be taken, priorities, pastoral strategies, and the like.

A few years ago, Mark Dever gave us Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (now in its second edition). Despite the feel of the title, this book was far removed from the kind of pop sociological analysis and managerial assessment with which we are often barraged. It was a book deeply embedded in biblical theology. Many pastors and churches have benefited from the faithfulness of its probing reflection. But suppose you live and serve in a local church that is far removed from the healthy profile developed in Nine Marks: what then? How do we get from here to there? Talking about the Nine Marks, and thinking through the biblical texts that warrant them, surely constitute part of the response. Nevertheless, The Deliberate Church goes beyond that simplification to help pastors and other leaders lead a church toward spiritual health and growth. Once again, this book, written jointly by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander, is steeped in Scripture but it is also chock-full of wisdom, years of pastoral experience, and godly insight. No pastor who is struggling “to get from here to there” should overlook this slender but invaluable volume.
Buy it. Read it. Re-read it. If you want to see churches become more healthy, you'll be glad you did.

1 comment:

Mike Hess said...

I read this book about two months ago right after it was published. This book was a big help in several areas. The most obvious to me was Dever's strong emphasis on the centrality of the Gospel. I also liked how he approached membership, the Lord's Supper, baptism and the significance of spiritual health within the church leadership.

What I found to be very interesting was how they begin their leadership meetings at CHBC. They begin with a substantial amount of time in Scripture and then proceed to spend a considerable amount of time in prayer.

Another thing to take note of would be Dever's approach to the "Regulative Principle" of worship vs. the "Normative Principle" of worship. The Regulative Principle would forbid anything not commanded by Scripture whereas the Normative Principle allows anything not forbidden by Scripture.

The book is incredibly informative and yet at the same time an easy read with many practical helps. I would give it 4.5 stars our of five.