Monday, October 22, 2007

The Deliberate Church – Mark Dever & Paul Alexander

Mark Dever is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and the creative force behind 9Marks Ministries (based on his Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, published by Crossway originally in 2000). His co-author, Paul Alexander is the contributing editor for 9Marks Ministries. The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel is the last review book I received from Pastor Bookshelf Reviews before they took a hiatus. (Hopefully, they will be able to reinstate this program sometime.)

On the surface, The Deliberate Church looks like an aid to church polity that will bear many Scripture-based suggestions about making your church become what God wants it to be. Getting below the surface, the reader discovers more of a “here’s the way we do it” book. The authors start with separate prefaces attributing all the work of the book to the other author. Each acknowledges that Alexander has put on paper the ideas put forward by Dever.

In essence, the book can be boiled down to two major sections: (1) containing the aforementioned suggestions with appropriate scriptural emphasis, and (2) a “how-to” conduct elder meetings based on the example of Capitol Hill. Granted, when an author provides an example, the best one to use is the one he knows, in this case, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, and the authors suggest that their reason for telling what is done at Capitol Hill is for suggestion purposes only—the reader should approach this model of leadership in the way that best suits his own church. The suggestion is that this is the way found to work at the church where Dever serves as Senior Pastor.

The book has some really sensible advice which can be translated into most any church desiring to be God-driven. Periodically, the text is interrupted to include study questions labeled “Think Tank.” These questions are typically those annoying type which are more nuisance than aid to the reader. However, once in awhile these pauses provide a positive suggestion for an activity that will help put the thoughts of the chapter into practice. For instance, at the end of a section about developing discipling relationships here are some suggestions: “1. Pick one person in your church whom you could start getting together with for his spiritual good. / 2. Pick a book, or even just a booklet, that you’d like to read and discuss with him.” Sadly, the majority of the “Think Tank” questions are simply regurgitation-style questions, asking only for the reader to mimic the information presented in the text.

The major drawback to the book is the assumption that Dever’s interpretation of the scripture is correct. The insistence on an elder board for church leadership comes across more as pragmatic than scriptural, although scripture is used to justify the practice. The larger portion of the book addresses this pragmatism from the viewpoint of Capitol Hill and their practice.

This is a readable, usable book that should be consulted with the understanding that it has some excellent reference material and advice (the inclusion of a new member interview form that can be adapted to any local church for example). I would recommend that most pastors—even those who disagree with Dever and the 9Marks method of doing church—read this book and use the wise counsel within it for practical adaptation in their church. The Deliberate Church earns three and one-half thumbs.

—Benjamin Potter, October 22, 2007

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

New Giveaway at

Here's the scoop on the new giveaway at First prize is 40 copies (count 'em 40) of R.C. Sproul's The Truth of the Cross. The catch--the books are not for sale, but for the winner to use as giveaways (especially for evangelistic purposes). Suggestion: if you win you get 10 copies to give away at church, 10 to give to family members, 10 for Christmas gifts, and 10 to save for later opportunities. The winner also gets one copy of Jesus the Evangelist by Richard Phillips.

Second and Third prizes are one copy of Jesus the Evangelist and admission for two to the 2008 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. Click on the button below for more details.

October Giveaway

Monday, October 8, 2007

Communion with the Triune God – John Owen

I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I signed on for the free download from Crossway. What I discovered was daunting, enlightening, and foreboding all at the same time. I discovered an uncovered work of a seventeenth century master teacher that has been revived and revitalized for students of theology today. Editors Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor have reworked Owen’s words to make the text more readable for modern audiences but at the same time keeping the text faithful to itself.

Communion with the Triune God is in and of itself a treasure if for no other reason that it brings to light the basis for some of our evangelical beliefs today. It has merit in giving us the thought processes that form our background. On the other hand, it is heady work, written in a day when more words meant deeper thinking and greater spirituality held firm. For this reason, I am afraid that many readers will pass up the book.

Some of the greater merit of the book lies in the introductory essay offered by Kapic who gives a scholarly treatment of not only this, but also a number of Owen’s other writings as well. The editor’s treatment of Owen’s explanation of the worship of God in His unique existence is helpful for all who are trying to grasp the mystery of the Trinity. More than once we are reminded that God is God and is One. At the same time, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God—all unique in their expression, but all unified in their existence.

The structure of the book includes a sea of footnotes, some used as reference notes from the original author (although scholarly work was documented differently in those days) and some to explain an archaic word for modern-day readers. The editors include an extensive outline at the beginning of the text to help navigate the massive amount of information as well as a lengthy glossary and a variety of indices to aid the reader in using this volume as a reference tool.

This work is best suited for the scholarly minister or professor, but will hold little appeal for the church at large. It is useful for study, but perhaps not so interesting as an uplifting read. Communion with a Triune God receives 3 thumbs.

—Benjamin Potter, October 8, 2007

Monday, October 1, 2007

We Have a Winner

Since there are three (count them, 3) chances to win a copy of Steven Hunt's debut novel Guardian of Light, you need not despair. However, week one is gone and with it the first of our three copies. Congratulations to Cheryl Hagedorn who commented and was entered into the drawing to win Steven's new book. Her copy will be on the way soon!

So, you're asking, "How can I get in on this? I like free books, too!" It's simple to get your name in the drawing for one of the two copies left. Simply, go to the original post containing the interview with Hunt (click on this link to get there), make a comment and you're in! Perhaps I'll draw your name this Friday or next (October 5 or 12). If you don't get drawn, you can still participate and get a signed copy for a greatly discounted price by sending me an email before October 31, 2007, and arrangements will be made for you to purchase your copy of Guardian of Light for only $10.00 plus shipping--that's a deal that you won't find anywhere else!

Again, congrats to Cheryl Hagedorn and happy reading.

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