9 Marks of a Healthy Church was published by Crossway and written by Mark Dever, pastor of Capital Hill Bapist, Washington D. C., and the executive director of 9 Marks ministries.
Perhaps one of the more troubling facts regarding the current state of most evangelical churches in America is the dire state of their overall spiritual health. I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but I am a late comer to Mark Dever’s 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Not only do I verge on shame, I’m actually twinged with regret as I have no doubt that Dever’s words of wisdom would have strengthened my many weaknesses and failings in my previous pastoral posts had I read his work earlier.
Dever has accomplished much for the church with this book. Rather than sit on the sidelines in perplexity at the problems facing too many churches, Dever challenges us to contemplate and (re)commit ourselves to nine of the most fundamental catalysts for church health. While so many things could be said of this book, I will limit our discussion to a brief summary of each of the nine marks:
1. Expositional preaching: This is the supreme mark of a healthy church. God brings spiritual life through the expositional preaching of His word. Expository preaching is preaching that draws its main point from the main point of a particular passage.
2. Biblical theology: A healthy church has a biblical understanding of God’s character and ways. Dever summarized the main thrust of the Bible’s teaching on God when he noted, “that He is creating; that He is holy; that He is faithful; that He is loving; and that He is sovereign” (p.60).
3. The Gospel: A healthy church recognizes the centraility of the work of Christ (death, burial, resurrection) for all those who would repent of sin and believe in His atoning sacrifice. This repentance and believe is not simply out of tradition but actually changes the way the believer lives. True repentance and faith is not just a one time thing but is a lifelong characteristic of the believer.
4. A biblical understanding of conversion: A healthy church understands that conversion is an act of God. Just as no one can “born themselves” physically, neither can a person be born again spiritually without the initiating and efficacious working of the God the Holy Spirit.
5. A biblical understanding of evangelism: A healthy church is actively evangelistic, but not necessarily in a programmed sort of way. Rather, evangelism is the natural overflow of Christian worship and fellowship. Simply put, the church is the evangelistic program.
6. A biblical understanding of church membership: A healthy church emphasizes and requires faithful membership for the sake of purity, accountability, and mutual edification.
7. Biblical church discipline: A healthy church disciplines blatanly sinning members for the sake of the sinner, the ones offended (other believers and God), and the unbelieving world.
8. A concern for discipleship and growth: A healthy church disciples new believers, as well as more mature believers, with the word of God and in mutual accountability around God’s word, most easily done through covenanting together around a common statement of believe such as a church covenant.
9. Biblical church leadership: A healthy church seeks out leaders based not on secular qualifications but on biblical qualifications of godly character and trustworthiness. Both pastors and congregations will be held accountable for what is being taught from the pulpit.
May the Lord continually purify His church and may His church continually submit to His sanctfiying work so that every local body of Christ will be spiritually healthy for God’s glory.
For His Glory,