Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thinking Through ‘The Deliberate Church’: Introduction

If you missed our discussion on the Foreword it is here. Also, I might mention that the entire point of having an online discussion is to…wait for it…DISCUSS!!! That means that it could be a good idea to write some comments on the blog. I know its scary; but God is powerful. You can do it. If you have yet to buy the book you can do so for only $8.99 here. deliberatechurch

Quick Summary:

Before you start building something it is vital that you know exactly what you are building. Because the church is not a Fortune 500 club or just another social gathering it is important that we know what a healthy church is supposed to look like; there is no secular model from which we can take our cues.

What is a local church? Dever gives a few pointers. 1) It is a corporate display of His glory and wisdom, both to unbelievers and to unseen spiritual powers. 2) we are a corporate dwelling place for God’s Spirit, the organic body of Christ in which He magnifies His glory. Summary definition: The church is God’s vehicle for displaying His glory to His creation. (26)

Furthermore, the church is unique because of her message; namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And therefore, the distinguishing marks of a church are the “right preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the biblical ordinances that dramatize it. (26)” The church then is God-centered and outward-looking. It is a ministry of magnification where “we are building a corporate, organic structure that will accurately magnify God’s glory and faithfully communicate His Gospel.” Jesus is the One who is ultimately building His church.

Now that we know what a healthy church is we have to ask, “how do you build it?” There are numerous options and diverse answers to that question throughout evangelicalism. Dever gives a four quick points to help govern the relationship between the Gospel and the method of its ministers:

  1. Theology drives method
  2. God’s methods determine ours
  3. The Gospel both enables and informs our participation in God’s purposes
  4. Faithfulness to the Gospel must be our measure of success, not results


No matter how beautiful the facade, the structure will crumble if we build on a sandy foundation or with shoddy materials.” (25)

Ignoring God’s plan for the church and replacing it with your own will ensure the eternal futility of your work.” (25)

Our power is in our unique message—The Gospel—not in our innovations.” (27)


How would you answer the question, “What is a local church”? Do you like Dever’s summary definition?

These are Dever’s:

What’s driving your church—the content of the message, or the uniqueness of the presentation?

Is your ministry method driven by biblical theology, or by what works?

Do you measure success by results, or by faithfulness to God’s Word?


  1. "It is a corporate display of His glory and wisdom, both to unbelievers and to unseen spiritual powers."

    How is that biblical? I need some scripture that references that our church should be actively responsible to deliver on this point. Perhaps indirectly by our actions this may be true, but I disagree with the idea that a church must be purposefully performing tasks so that we may display some appearance to the world. Sounds a lot like cleaning the outside of the glass.

  2. Tom S.,

    So glad you joined the discussion.

    Dever lists John 13:34-35 and Ephesians 3:10-11 in this section. John 13:35 speaks of the world knowing us by our love....this is where Dever gets that (and I think he probably could have use a few others). Ephesians 3:10-11 talks about the church as the cosmic display of God's glory.

    I have to be honest I'm a little taken aback b/c I've never heard anyone question the validity of this. I think you are perhaps reading what Dever is saying the wrong way. All he is saying is that we are to be an accurate representation of God to the world. Not in a legalistic cleaning the outside of the cup type of way but in a really displaying the beauty of God to people. This is in some ways a call to evangelism.

    Dever would start with the premise that I think many would...that the chief end of man is to glorify God...the chief end of God is to glorify God...the chief end of the church is to glorify God. How do you glorify God? God's glory is the outward expression of His inner beauty. Glorifying Him in one sense is to display (give praise to) that inner beauty.

    Does that clear anything up? Let me know if you have more questions about this...

  3. I did not mean for my post to seem as though I thought he was wrong, but perhaps that I needed clarification. I considered that we are representatives, but that leads to an indirect result of a change that God makes in us. The wording just needed clarification to me. I appreciate your answer and I think it answers it well. Thank you.

    Coming to an agreement on this as we have, and understanding what he has said to be true, what do we do if we feel parts or the whole of the church body do not represent this?

  4. Tom,

    Apologies...your last comment slipped through the cracks.
    The question you ask, "what do we do"? Is a very difficult question to answer. I am not sure that there is one set formulaic answer.

    Here is a framework to provide an answer though.

    1) We can only begin living out that question if we are in the context of discipline. Not church discipline in the way we typically think...but one redeemed sinner lovingly confronting another redeemed sinner.

    2) Loving patience. Until Jesus fully redeems his church (and the sinners which comprise it) we will not be, or look, perfect.

    3) Making sure every life is saturated with the gospel. Make sure in our own life and in our own heart that we are drenched with the gospel. That will create patience, that will create mercy, that will create love, that will motivate everything that we say and do. I'm convinced that the more I believe and cherish the gospel the more I will be equipped to live alongside other sinners.

    I know it's not really an answer..but hopefully it's a framework to provide an answer.



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