Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blogging The Deliberate Church: Part 5

Moving on (I know, I know...FINALLY!) to the next few chapters in The Deliberate Church. In chapter 8, Dever addresses the role of the pastor. The most fundamental role of the pastor, Dever says, is to preach the gospel clearly (p. 89). While that may seem to be a stating of the obvious, Dever does not have in mind solely the pulpit ministry of the pastor. Later he observes that "everything teaches," whether you intend it to or not (p. 90). This means that the pastor must be deliberate about ensuring that he is communicating the gospel clearly and accurately and that things are not being done within the church that are harmful to the clear articulation of the gospel. Echoing the belief of others like John MacArthur, Dever contends that since the pastor's main job is to preach the Word, the majority of his weekly time should be spent in preparing the sermon. I do wonder what might happen if more pastors had studies rather than offices.

In chapter 9 Dever describes how his church utilizes four different weekly gatherings of the church. The "Adult Education Hour" (aka Sunday School) is the main equipping time. The Sunday morning service is the main feeding time. The Sunday evening service is the main time. And the Wednesday evening (midweek) service is the main study time. Throw in there regular members' meetings (the main administrative time) and you've got a lot of meetings! I appreciate the clear purposes that Dever has identified for each of these gatherings, and if you are in a church that has these types of regular gatherings in place, then I would highly recommend you consider what Dever has to say in this chapter. But I'm not convinced that asking church members to show up to all of these meetings is the best way to do church. I think some of these purposes can be combined so that we do not need to gather the whole church together so often, and I do think that smaller groups of church members meeting together has great value. Nevertheless I wholeheartedly agree with the following comment regarding the importance of the "Adult Education Hour."

What's missing from many local churches . . . is an integrated system of teaching that begins to equip members in the areas of basic Christianity for starters, living the Christian life, Old and New Testament overviews, systematic theology, church history, and Christian growth. (pp. 97-98)

Chapter 10 is entitled, "The Role of the Ordinances." I agree with the observation that the thing we evangelicals emphasize most about the ordinances is that they are not necessary for salvation (p. 105). So here as much as anywhere else we have great need for being deliberate. Dever's comments regarding how to deal with the baptism of children is very helpful for those holding a credobaptistic viewpoint. On the Lord's Supper I appreciated the suggestion of taking the bread individually but partaking of the cup together as a way to incorporate both our individual discipleship to Christ as well as the church's symbolic corporate unity in Christ (p. 107). In every church I've attended the emphasis seems to be entirely either on the individual or corporate aspects of our relationship to Christ in the Supper.

Chapter 11 is the culmination of the previous ten chapters. "The goal of gathering the church and ordering our weekly gatherings is to cultivate a culture that has evangelistic effects on our unbelieving friends" (p. 109). In other words, a church culture of Christlike love can be one of the best evangelistic strategies the church has. But this kind of culture does not happen automatically. Yes, the church will have to be deliberate in making this happen. Dever identifies 5 aspects of this type of church culture. First, the church must be covenantal. There needs to be a submission of all members to a church covenant of intentional spiritual formation. Second, the church must be careful, which is just another way of saying that there needs to be a deliberateness for obeying the Word of God in every aspect. Third, the church must be corporate. By this Dever means that we need to stress the fact that one cannot successfully live the Christian life alone. Fourth, the church must be cross-cultural. Here Dever is a bit controversial as he argues that "it is difficult to defend the practice of targeting a church to a particular demographic based on any factor other than language" (p. 111). Surely he is right that a church that transcends cultural differences is a powerful apologetic for the gospel. Fifth, the church must be cross-generational, meaning it should reflect the make-up of a family with members young and old alike interacting with one another.

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