A crucial resource for Christians of all stages, and an essential reference for church leaders specifically, The Deliberate Church, by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander, covers all the basics (and then some) of church life. The authors have provided the church with an accessible, approachable and instructive resource that calls Christians back to a Christ-centered, Gospel-centered administration of church life.
In the first half of the book, the authors outline their vision of the church – that the Word of God must set the direction of the church. It is made outstandingly clear that we must do something quite deliberate in order to have healthy churches that will grow in the right way and glorify God. This is stated well in the following quote:
“In whatever we do, we want to be careful about allowing God’s Word to set our trajectory, power our progress, and govern our methods… When the gospel enjoys functional centrality, the church gains traction in the culture, because the Gospel is the power of God for salvation… In short, Gods Word, encapsulated in the Gospel, builds the church… Our goal as preachers and leaders is to keep our methods basic and plain so that the Gospel is cast in bold relief against the backdrop of our own admitted weakness.”
The authors then build upon this as their foundation in the following chapters discussing four broad themes: 1) “Gathering the Church,” which discusses preaching, praying, discipleship, evangelism, church membership, and church discipline 2) “When the Church Gathers,” which explains the regulative principle and its practical application to the worship service, the role of the pastor, the functions of the different church gatherings, and the role of the ordinances, 3) “Gathering Elders,” which discusses the importance, as well as the role, of elders, and how to find and organize elders 4) “When the Elders Gather,” which provides biblical wisdom on the priorities of elders, and goes into more specific discussion of the role and duties of the senior Pastor.
The book is a fresh relief from formulas and programs promising instant and guaranteed change and success in the church. But if one were to follow the advice in this book, while it is not certain that the church would grow in number, that church would certainly glorify God. The authors summarize the message and purpose of the book quite well on page 202,
“The message of this book isn’t about flow charts and outlines. It’s not about fresh metaphors or new growth graphs. It’s about a vision of a whole church deliberately ordered and led so as to facilitate its own edification and ministry… The Deliberate Church is designed to help liberate both leaders and members from the tyranny of popular growth models and church fads.”
While this book is well worth reading cover-to-cover, the short chapters and clear headings and subheadings make it a useful and simple-to-reference resource as well. This book is an invaluable resource to which people, (both lay-people and pastors alike), can turn to for practical, biblical guidance on almost any area of church life.