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

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