One of the books I have most been looking forward to this year is The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander. Dever is author of the excellent 9 Marks of a Healthy Church and is known for his godly, biblical perspectives on church health and growth. I have been given the opportunity to read The Deliberate Church several weeks before it is widely available and thought I would provide a preview of what you can expect from this book.
I take extensive notes when I read books and will share with you just a few of the notes I’ve written about this title. You will have to excuse their randomness as I’ve attempted to provide a sampling taken from different areas of the book.
“This book does not seek to debunk Church Growth Methods or any other methodology. There is very little focus on the negative. Instead, the book is primarily positive and instructive, doing little more than providing biblical teaching on various aspects of the church’s mission and function.”
“The authors reveal that this book came around as the result of questions Mark Dever has answered. “Paul took things that I’ve taught and written, things he’s heard me say many times and questions he’s heard me answer from visiting pastors, and he added his gifts of time, organization, clear writing and thinking ability - along with some of his own ministry experience - and he produced the first draft of this book.” That flavor is evident throughout the book. Most of the chapters are quite short - often only a few pages. A pastor with questions about various aspects of ministry will be able to refer to this book to find short, helpful, biblical answers.”
“Dever’s sensitivity to difficult areas is especially evident in the section dealing with music. While he prefers a simple worship experience, opting to have only a single guitar and piano accompanying singing, he will not say that a large, loud band is wrong. Instead he argues that instrumental sparseness is a way of keeping methods basic so that the gospel remains clearly at the center of every part of the worship service.”
“This is not a book about method. There is no “ABC-123” system for churches to follow. Dever simply explains what has been effective in his ministry and provides a biblical basis as proof.”
What Others Are Saying
Don’t feel you need to take my word for it. Here is what has been said by men who are far more discerning than I am. These are among the endorsements that will appear in the book.
“Here is one of the most faithful and insightful pastors of our time, addressing the most crucial issues of church life. Mark Dever refuses to separate theology and congregational life, combining pastoral insight with clear biblical teaching. This book is a powerful antidote to the merely pragmatic approaches of our day—and a refutation to those who argue that theology just isn’t practical.”
—R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“This book is the perfect example of what a truly practical book on church health and growth should be—it gives concrete guidance for and examples of biblical principles being put into practice in the life and ministry of the local congregation.”
—J. Ligon Duncan III, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi
“Rare indeed are books on the church that begin with the Gospel. Rarer still are books that derive methodology for building the church from the Gospel. This excellent book does both.”
—C. J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries
“The Deliberate Church shares many of the ministry lessons that Dr. Dever and his colleagues have learned from Scripture and sought to implement in the life of their church community. This book is for anyone who wants to get serious about following the biblical pattern for the church and is looking for down-to-earth practical help.”
—Philip Graham Ryken, Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia
“Here is a novel idea: use the Bible as a handbook to gather and guide the church! And The Deliberate Church is a novel volume indeed, standing amid the spate of ‘church-as-corporation, pastor-as-CEO’ manuals that glut church life. Here is a book that wafts a radical, refreshing breeze from the pages of Scripture that will breathe life into the church. A crucial read.”
—R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor, College Church in Wheaton (Illinois)
You can read the introductions and various other parts of the book at Crossway’s site.
The book is structured very simply. The first two sections deal with the church: first the gathering of the church and then what to do when the body gathers. The final two sections deal with leadership: gathering a group of elders and then what to do when that body gathers together.
Section 1. Gathering the Church
1. The Four P’s
2. Beginning the Work
3. Doing Responsible Evangelism
4. Taking In New Members
5. Doing Church Discipline
Section 2. When the Church Gathers
6. Understanding the Regulative Principle
7. Applying the Regulative Principle
8. The Role of the Pastor
9. The Roles of the Different Gatherings
10. The Role of the Ordinances
11. Loving Each Other
Section 3. Gathering Elders
13. The Importance of Elders
14. Looking for a Few Good Men
16. Why Character Is Crucial
17. Getting Started
Section 4. When the Elders Gather
19. The Word and Prayer
20. The Agenda: What to Talk About
21. Decision Making: How to Talk About It
A Godward-looking Church
An Outward-looking Church
The Deliberate Church is a book I have thoroughly enjoyed and will be recommending. While it is not exactly what I thought it would be, it nevertheless lives up to my high expectations! I will post a full review on or around the day it is available from the publisher.
The book is currently available for preorder at Amazon. It will ship on or around the 28th of September.