While I was in college, I was invited to one of my professor’s homes (thanks Dr. Thornbury, now president of King’s College in NYC) and given a little pamphlet with a big 9 on it like this one:
That night myself and some other students discussed the state of the local Church and what the Bible had to say about her importance. To be honest, it was my first time to really think about the health of a Church and I realized I had much to learn. It was my first introduction to the writings and work of pastor Mark Dever, whose ministry has had a profound impact on my understanding of a healthy Church. A few years later, the expanded book came out and I grabbed a copy:
Dever’s goal in this book and in the ministry founded around the 9 marks (which can be found here: 9 Marks) was not so much to define all the important marks of a Church (there is no mark on prayer or missions) but to deal with marks that have been neglected by Churches in the last 50-100 years (see his Introduction to the book). Thus, he identifies 9 Marks for a healthy Church:
- Expositional Preaching
- Biblical Theology
- The Gospel
- A Biblical Understanding of Conversion
- A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
- A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership
- Biblical Church Discipline
- A Concern for Discipleship and Growth
- Biblical Church leadership
Dever devotes one chapter to each mark and concludes the book with three appendices that help in applying some of these marks at the local level. Outside of the Scriptures, I don’t think any other book has influenced me more concerning ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church). I have taught through the book at Trinity (even found my old notes that I used in the Fall of 2006 when looking through the book, see picture below) and attended a ‘Weekender’ at Capital Hill Baptist Church (where Dever pastors) to see how they are living out the 9 marks in their setting.
Now you may be thinking: ‘Sounds great for pastors/ministers, but why should I read a book like that?’ You should read this book because the health of the local Church depends as much on its members as it does on its leadership. I am not letting ministers off the hook for leading well, but it is amazing what happens when the members of a local Church get serious about Church health. So give this book a try. Read it, encourage others to read it, invite some folks over to discuss it (hey, you can even use my study notes if you want! Actually, I am pretty sure they made a study guide at some point). I want local Churches to be healthy for God’s glory and the exaltation of Christ. I believe Dever’s book can aid us in that.