This is the first book I've read by Mark Dever. I've read some stuff on 9Marks which has helped me think about the priorities of church. The book is clearly something of a response to the likes of The Purpose Driven Church et al. Dever writes out of a decade of experience at Capitol Hill Baptist Church so this is not an off the cuff response to that. I read Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Church about four years ago and found it inspiring as it sought to have vision and convictions thoroughly drive action. In many ways Dever proposes something very similar.
The book is most obviously written for those entering into overall leadership of local churches. That's not my current situation so some of it doesn't have immediate application. However, as someone in ministry his teaching on the marks of elders in the church is a great challenge. Seeing the centrality of character, makes me long to grow in Christ. In this area I'm sure has much instruction for anyone gathering or leading teams for ongoing Christian ministry. Returning to the scripture mandate for those who have character and convictions is a refreshing alternative to the employment of Myers-Briggs style tests to assign people for ministry.
The book excited me about what could be done in church, whilst presenting an honesty that change cannot happen fast. Dever considers patience to be a key virtue for those seeking to implement change. This identified a real long-term love for those he is ministering too. He centralises preaching of scripture to all movement to change a church. Only as God's word is taught faithfully over time will people be changed and want change.
Mark Dever has clear convictions about baptism, eldership and church membership that wouldn't entirely be shared by the church I'm part of which raises questions about total application where I am. He is very convincing and I want to look into this further during 2006. What particularly struck me on the membership issue was the seriousness with which Dever addresses it, even as far as conducting "reverse membership interviews" of existing members to examine their faith. The standards are set high, but one can see that Dever loves his people so much that he does not want them to gain false assurance or dwell in sin.
It should be said that Dever offers no magic keys for changing church. He simply calls leaders to preach scripture, pray and develop personal discipleship within the church, with patience. That mandate should be a great encouragement to many churches that already pursue this, whilst being barracked to implement Purpose-Driven or other models. Others however will surely be challenged not to follow the latest fad for church-growth but rather to be faithful in the God-exalting preaching of scripture.
The Deliberate Church (UK - Amazon)
The Deliberate Church (USA)
Previous blogging on this book