If you are just now joining us you can catch up by reading our discussion on the foreword and the introduction. Again I want to encourage you to comment so that we can discuss some of the very important issues raised by this book. If you still need a copy of the book you can buy one here for only $8.99.
Dever begins this chapter reminiscing about his call to be pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. When someone asked him if he had a plan for a program to implement, Dever responded with a no and an explanation of the Four P’s that govern his ministry. Those 4 P’s frame this chapter.
The first P is the preaching of the Word. It is the authors conviction that this is the vital aspect to a ministry. Dever even goes so far as to say that every other aspect of his public ministry could fail so long as he was faithful in preaching the Word. His reason? Dever is firmly convinced that God is always in the business of using His Word to “create, convict, convert, and conform His people”. (34) His reason for such a conviction is well grounded, and that truth is displayed in the fact of everything the Bible says about the Word of God. The Word of God: sustains us, grows and fights, builds us up, preserves us, is the effective power for salvation, creates faith, performs God’s work in believers, convicts, brings about the new birth, saves us, and furthermore the Word is made flesh in Jesus incarnate. “There is creating, conforming, life-giving power in God’s Word…that’s why we need to be teaching our congregations to value God’s Word over programs” (35).
The second P is prayer. Prayer is a wonderful display of our dependence upon God. But what should we be praying? Dever gives 5 suggestions: 1) the prayers recorded in the biblical record 2) pray for the preaching of the Gospel 3) pray for increased maturity and faithful testimony of your body of believers 4) pray for sinners to be converted 5) pray for opportunities for evangelism. Dever also suggests one practical way of praying; assemble a church membership directory and pray for your fellow believers.
The third P is personal discipling relationships. This is an especially fitting “P” for pastors, but I think it can extend beyond that. The concern here is to build intentional relationships with people in your congregation. Discipling is simply another channel through which God’s Word can flow into another persons life. Furthermore, as a pastor you ought to be encouraging these type of relationships with others. Also, such relationships with people will break down some of the “defensive resistance to your pastoral leadership”. This one is simple and needs to be heeded by pastor and congregation alike: build meaningful relationships.
The fourth P is patience. When Dever first came to Capitol Hill he waited three months before preaching his first sermon. He wanted to get to know the people and what they were accustomed to. This also communicated patience. In this section Dever reminds us that God is very patient; “[He] is working for eternity, and He has been working from eternity. He’s not in a hurry and we shouldn’t be either.” (39) How do you cultivate such a perspective? We are given three areas to have a right perspective on: time, eternity, success.
Patience in the pastoral “requires thinking in terms of twenty, thirty, forty, or even fifty years of ministry”. This is a call to commit to the church that you are called to pastor. And I suppose this same thing should be said to non-pastors and members of any church. Furthermore, we must have a proper view of eternity. This is a call to “shepherd the flock in a way that you won’t be ashamed of on the Day of Accounting”. Finally, we must define success in terms of faithfulness. Otherwise, we will become frustrated and burn out. This is a call to "stake your ministry on the power of the Gospel.”
“Prayer shows our dependence on God.” (35)
“Your prayers for people don’t have to be long—just biblical.” (36)
“The best way to lose your place of influence as a pastor is to be in a hurry, forcing radical (even if biblical) change before people are ready to follow you and own it. It would be wise for many of us to lower our expectations and extend our time horizons”. (38-39)
“As you work for change, work also to extend genuine, Christian goodwill toward people.” (39)
“If you define success in terms of size, your desire for numerical growth will probably outrun your patience with the congregation, and perhaps even your fidelity to biblical methods…But if you define success in terms of faithfulness, then you are in a position to persevere, because you are released from the demand of immediately observable results, freeing you for faithfulness to the Gospel’s message and methods, leaving numbers to the Lord.” (40)
“Stake your ministry on the power of the Gospel.” (41)
Do you agree that “there is only one thing biblically necessary for building the church, and that’s the preached Word of God”?
In this chapter Dever calls for patience in change. Should we be patient with sin and with sinful structures? If the church in unbiblical why should we go slow in change? (I’m not saying I agree with the assertion behind my question—just wanting to think through this).
These are Dever’s questions:
What three Bible passages will you memorize for the purpose of praying for your church?
Could your ideas of time, eternity, and success be cultivating a spirit of impatience with the congregation you serve? If so, how? How might those ideas need to be re-formed?
We are also given an assignment. Pick one person in your church to get together with for spiritual good, and pick a book or booklet to read and discuss with him/her.
Any questions you have? Don’t forget to discuss.