Here it is, finally. The last post from my reading of The Deliberate Church.
I do not doubt that some who read this book (or my posts on it) will be frustrated with all the deliberateness the authors describe regarding the church. Some will surely say that there is too much nit-picking here, that no wonder the church is so ineffective today when some pay so much attention to the smallest of details. But in the conclusion to the book, the authors explain why they take aim at such minutiae. The goal, they say, is a healthy church, and a healthy church is one in which the corporate gaze is Godward. The problem is that "the recent trend in pastoral ministry has been to come up with increasingly clever and innovative models or metaphors for ministry that still retain some semblance of faithfulness to God's Word" (p. 196). Here is where the authors will face their opposition. Are our churches simply striving to be creative in their gospel proclamation, or have we simply missed the setting forth of the truth plainly? The authors of The Deliberate Church would say it is the latter.
The conclusion of this book is not really a summary of what has been argued in the previous chapters. Rather, it adds new information, stressing the importance that as a healthy church sets its gaze upon God, it cannot help but also be looking outward. In other words, the church's ministry cannot be concerned with self-absorption, but must constantly be looking outward to other individuals, other churches, and even other countries. I appreciate these closing comments that remind us all that a healthy church is one whose existence is to the benefit of others.
We need to be teaching people that a biblical church is about much more than simply meeting our felt needs for purpose, significance, fellowship, and mutual understanding. It is about the glory of God in the Gospel of Christ. We need to be weaning members off the expectation of being served or even entertained, and training them rather to expect to become a contributing part of a global and even cosmic corporate cause to glorify God among the nations and in the heavenly halls of power. (p. 201)
Now to finish off this project of blogging through an entire book, here are my closing observations.
- The author's attempts to apply the regulative principle (chapter 7) seem a bit too rigid and I remain unconvinced that the regulative principle is superior to (or more biblical than) the normative principle.
- I think the author tries to find a purpose for the traditional gatherings of the church (Sunday school, Morning service, Evening service, Wednesday evening service, and Members' meetings), making it seem like the only way these purposes can be achieved is through the traditional set of corporate church gatherings.
- I love the deliberateness! O how I wish more churches were much more careful with how the gospel is being communicated rather than with how they can grow numerically or handle logistics more efficiently.
- The second half of the book is much better than the first half of the book. There are four basic sections: Gathering the church, When the church gathers, Gathering elders, and When the elders gather. The first two sections are good (aside from some of the insistence on the regulative principle); the last two sections are great. Yes, half the book is focused on elders, which appropriately demonstrates the necessity for getting that part of the church right. I think the single most effective way to improve the gospel-centeredness of our churches is to gather gospel-centered elders who know how to lead the church.