If you are just joining the discussion (that as of yet has not been much of a discussion) then please check out the foreword, intro, and chapter one. You can catch up pretty easily. If you have yet to buy the book I would suggest buying it for a paltry 9 bucks, here.
This chapter gives us instructions for beginning the work. The most important thing to do early on is to clarify the gospel. In the previous chapter we were urged to be patient. In this chapter that statement is qualified: “…the one thing you don’t want to be slow about is preaching the Gospel.” (44) The Gospel is the most important aspect of our ministry. Perhaps one of the most important principles in this book is contained in this sentence: “What you win them with is what you win them to.”
So, how do you go about clarifying the gospel? Dever gives a few tips. 1) Put yourself in the background, and preach Christ crucified. 2) Let the content of the gospel do the work. Rather than working on attracting people to you work on attracting them to the Gospel. 3) Let Jesus do the talking as much as possible. It would be wise to begin preaching through one of the Gospel accounts. Dever closes this section with this: “The more your congregation is clear on the Gospel, the less likely it is either tepid nominalism or carnal divisiveness will find air to breathe…” (45)
Alongside clarifying the Gospel another important beginning work is to cultivate trust; because “people have to trust you if they’re going to follow you”. We are then given three ways to cultivate trust. 1) Expositional preaching. This will show people that you stand upon the Word of God and not your own ideas. 2) Personal relationships. This is simple, people will trust you if they know you. Dever did not mention it but the old adage is fitting here: people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. 3) Humility. If you pursue accountability and correction it will go a long way in bringing trust. Not only that the accountability and correction will serve for your own personal growth.
Another beginning work is to clean the rolls. (This may be the most difficult and controversial). Rotary clubs clear members so why doesn’t the church? Church membership should mean more than membership to a Rotary club. There are biblical, pastoral, and evangelistic reasons for cleaning the rolls. Dever will discuss this in more detail in a later chapter. A good way to begin this work is to “contact negligent members in order to instruct them and notify them of your intentions, and remove them.” (48)
The last thing suggested as a beginning work is to conduct reverse membership interviews. Dever suggests going through the church membership, start with the most recent members, and begin interviewing them. This helps to clarify the Gospel, to look for genuine conversion, and to build relationships.
“…when we assume the Gospel instead of clarifying it, people who profess Christianity but don’t understand or obey the Gospel are cordially allowed to presume their own conversion without examining themselves for evidence of it—which may amount to nothing more than a blissful damnation.” (43)
“The Gospel of Christ has never needed the gimmicks of man to effect conversion in the soul.” (44)
“…leaders usually have more opportunities to do things wrongly!” (46)
“If membership is the church’s public affirmation of a person’s conversion, then to leave a nonattender on the rolls could very well be damningly deceptive.” (48)
- What do you think of a pastor that insist on keeping a “professional distance” between he and his congregation?
- What are you preliminary thoughts on “cleaning the membership rolls”?
- What is your opinion of reverse membership interviews?
- Are there other ways to cultivate trust than those mentioned?