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.
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:
- Theology drives method
- God’s methods determine ours
- The Gospel both enables and informs our participation in God’s purposes
- 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?