Friday, 20 February 2015

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church

This is one of those books that I had heard about but never read. It is the same book that kick started the 9marks ministry which produced pastor/authors/speakers like Mark Dever, Greg Gilbert, Thabiti Anyabwile, Mike McKinley and Jonathan Leeman.

I went into this book with some prejudices, however the forward disarmed me a little and helped re-framed what these marks are about. From looking over the list I thought they were lacking things like "love" and "unity" two things Francis Chan says the local church should be about. The forward also points out that Piper would have liked to have seen "missions" in there, although you could probably stretch that under the "Evangelism" heading. "Prayer" is also off the list.

The book explains how these marks originally came from a letter Mark Dever wrote to his previous church who were looking for a new minister. Dever briefly talked about what characteristics or marks this future potential minister should have. These nine characteristics were then turned into a sermon series. So really, the book should probably be called something like Nine Marks of a Healthy Pastor. But if that was the case, and if you want to remain biblical, you probably would have to focus on the Pastoral Epistles and not make up new leadership things from the corporate world...

Anyway the nine marks that Dever suggests makes a healthy church are:
  1. Expositional Preaching
  2. Biblical Theology
  3. Biblical Understanding of the Good News
  4. Biblical Understanding of Conversion
  5. Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
  6. Biblical Understanding of Membership
  7. Biblical Church Discipline
  8. Promotion of Church Discipleship And Growth
  9. Biblical Understanding of Leadership

Now these are not bad. As you can seen there is a strong emphasis on Biblical knowledge and salvation, with a little bit about roles in the church. Dever is coming from a Baptist background, so his chapters on membership, discipline and leadership may not appeal to the Anglicans. Then again, I am an Anglican but my Baptist upbringing leads me to think Dever is onto something.

Being part of a church has roles and responsibilities, or privileges and accountability. Members need to be committed towards the local church and accepting of it's leadership (a plurality of elders). And one of the things the leadership is to do is discipline. This sounds horrible, but Dever frames discipline in the sense of it's "formative" sense, in that it helps guide its members to live a holy life. If Christians are called to live a holy life, set apart, for the spread of the Gospel, and the Bible talks about church discipline, then maybe it is something the Church should do. After all, no honest Christian will admit they are perfect (the first step of being a Christian is admitting that).

There is probably a reason why this book sparked a whole para-church ministry and is in it's 3rd edition. One factor is that American protestants are generally Baptist, including the independents (they after all are just Baptists with a cool website (joke stolen from Tim Hawkins)). The other factor is that it makes good points. While I think things like "love", "unity" and "prayer" should be marks of a church, the ones suggested in this book are well worth considering.

Other books by 9Marks that I have reviewed
What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
What is a healthy church member? by Thabiti Anyabwile


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