[#] The Deliberate Church

You may have noticed the shopping cart at the left has been featuring this book for about 2 weeks now, and I have finally finished it for the sake of review. Let me begin by saying that those of you not familiar with Mark Dever's work need to get your head out of the sand.

One of the odd features of this book is that no one seems to want to take credit for it. It is co-authored by Paul Alexander, a former intern at Dever's Capital Hill Baptist Church, and both Alexander and Dever wrote prefaces to the book – giving credit to the other for the completion of this work. In another context, it would seem that both were trying to avoid criticism or dodge a bullet, but the real charity and respect these men show for each other in the prefaces underscores the real message of this book.

What is that message? In a single sentence: "building the church on and around the Gospel of Christ." That seems to place this book in a literal sea of other titles which are program-driven franchises designed to get membership pop and a bigger building – but not much else. The Deliberate Church is not that at all – in fact, it may actually be the antithesis to this trend, and frankly it is a strong tonic.

There's no reason to hide my enthusiasm for this book: it's top notch. I found it to be a page turner – the only obstacle being the great deal of introspection and reflection this book inspires. Dever's most popular title to date is 9 Marks of a healthy church, and this book is frankly the "other half" of that work. In 9 Marks, Dever outlined 9 marks of a healthy church life, indicating what the Bible says church life ought to be. The problem with that book – which is not a deficiency but a characteristic of its scope and purpose – was that it gave a very credible list of "what" but was unfortunately short on "how".

The Deliberate Church tells us, in short form, "how". Covering topics from membership, fellowship and baptism to worship, leadership and ordinances, Dever and Alexander guide us through the practical aspects of living church life focused on the Gospel.

For the discerning reader, I challenge you to compare this book (and its companion 9 Marks) to the following 4 books: Purpose-Driven Life, Purpose-Driven Church (both by Rick Warren), Revolution (George Barna), and Mega Shift (Jim Rutz). The contrast is stark: where these 4 books all cherry-pick Scripture to decorate their point, Dever and Alexander use Scripture as both the searchlight for truth about church life and also the icon or model of what church life ought to be. Where these other 4 titles look to ride the next wave of cultural relevancy and programmatic institutionalism, Dever and Alexander seek to weather the storm winds of cultural hurricanes inside the safe harbor of the Gospel.

Do not miss this book. If you do not buy it from me, buy it from your local Christian retailer. Demand that they read it and carry it. Today you can traffic on its "newness" to get them to bring it in; in 5 years, those churches which have pastors and elders which have followed these principles will be the ones in the spotlight for the impact they are bringing to bear in our culture – not because they are trendy or relevant, but because they have upheld the standard of the Gospel in a nation and a world which is dying.