I have not had many books recommended to me more frequently than Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. As I read it, I could easily see that many of my friends and colleagues have read it. They echo it continuously. Apparently, it bests states the driving philosophy of many pastors today.

Anytime I began to read a book which comes even remotely close to instruction on how a church should operate, I have to ask two questions: Is it biblically and doctrinally sound? Will it work in my church? Granted, if the answer to the first is no, then there is no need to ask the second. Most books of this category end up that way. They are written more towards how to grow a fortune 500 company than they are a church. I’m not sure their authors would argue that point. They may argue that it’s the method to examine; a method that can be applied regardless of doctrine. Thankfully, 9 Marks is not that book.

9 Marks is loaded with scripture references that back up every point. Mark Dever displays his amazing ability to draw a solid point from passages throughout the entire Bible. He does not ever simply pull a verse out of thin air, but rather exegetes scripture to his points. The book is well founded in scripture and teaches doctrine as much as anything. Is it sound? Absolutely! Will it work?

Thankfully, this is not a method book. Dever is simply presenting 9 characteristics of a healthy church. They are:

Expository Preaching
Biblical Theology
A Biblical Understanding of the Gospel
A Biblical Understanding of Conversion
A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
Biblical Church Membership
Biblical Church Discipline
Biblical Discipleship
Biblical Church Leadership

The temptation is to treat this as a method book. As I read, I began making mental notes of things I needed to begin, end, change, etc. in my ministry. Of course, quick and drastic change is rarely lasting and almost always results in more damage than it set out to resolve, so this temptation is to be avoided. Rather than a method to be followed, consider these principles to be a guideline for evaluating a church. The chapter on discipleship excellently discusses this, as does the first appendix.

Once a church leader understands the shortcomings of a church in these nine areas, they work to improve. Each “mark” is based on another, so the pieces will fall into place. This is a great book for better understanding a biblical ecclesiology. I strongly recommend it not only for pastors, but anyone in church leadership.

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