MARKS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH
“What makes for a healthy church? A large congregation? Plentiful parking? Vibrant music?”
What are the things to look for in a church before deciding whether to join a church? What are the things a church should be known for and prioritize? What are the marks of a healthy local church? These are questions worth wrestling with and how we answer these questions will determine our effectiveness and fruitfulness, not only in an immediate and temporal sense, but also in a long-term and eternal sense. As a pastor these are the very questions that define my ministry and that I have had to wrestle with.
This is why Mark Dever’s book: “9 Marks of a Healthy Church” has become such a tremendous blessing to me. This resource has become my personal textbook on “how-to-do-church” and I have kept this book close-by as I’ve sought to think through the important matter of being a healthy church. It answers the questions raised earlier in a clear, biblical, and practical manner. Now, these may not be the only marks but they are, in my opinion, the most important marks of a healthy church.
Therefore, I completely go along with those trusted voices who have given this book a glowing endorsement. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes: [This book] belongs in the hands of every faithful pastor and all those who pray for reformation in this age. John Piper says of Mark Dever, “few people have thought more or better about what makes a church biblical and healthy”. I found DA Carson’s endorsement to be the closest reflection of my own sentiment, Carson says, “if you are a Christian leader, be careful of the work you are now holding in your hand, it may change your life and ministry”.
So, if you’re struggling with these questions regarding what makes a church healthy and what to look for in a church. I would recommend that you consider what Mark Dever and the 9 Marks guys have to contribute toward the discussion. Mark Dever is the Pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC. He is the founder and president of 9Marks and the aim of this ministry is perfectly summarized in these words:
9Marks exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God’s glory to the nations through healthy churches. To that end, we want to see churches characterized by these nine marks of health: – http://9marks.org/about/
Here, below are the 9 marks of a healthy church and a brief explanation of each mark. The book, of course, discusses these marks much more extensively. I hope to follow-up this post with some reflections of how I have personally found each mark helpful. But for now, consider the 9 marks of a healthy church:
Expositional Preaching. Does the pastor preach God’s Word, or his own ideas? Does he allow Scripture to set his preaching agenda, or does he pick topics by some other criteria?
Biblical Theology. Does the church openly confess key biblical doctrines? Do the leaders consistently teach sound doctrine?
A biblical understanding of the gospel. Does the church clearly proclaim the good news about what Jesus Christ accomplished for sinners in his death and resurrection? Consistently?
A biblical understanding of conversion. Does the church teach that people must be born-again in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1-8)? Does the church teach that in order to become a Christian, a person must repent of sin and trust in Christ, both of which are ultimately gifts of God?
A biblical understanding of evangelism. Does the church preach the gospel to non-Christians and encourage its members to do the same? Does it understand that it’s our responsibility to preach the message of salvation yet God is the only one who can do the saving?
Biblical church membership. Does the church take membership seriously by seeking to ensure that its members faithfully attend? Does it encourage members to fulfill the biblical “one-anothers” with each other?
Biblical church discipline. Does the church lovingly, patiently practice church discipline?
Biblical discipleship and growth. Does the church expect and equip its members to grow spiritually? Does the church encourage its members to disciple one another? Growing as a Christian should be normal, not exceptional.
Biblical church leadership. Is the church led by godly, qualified men? Does the church look to Scripture to determine its leadership structure?
For more check out the website.
You should be able to purchase your own copy of the book at the following stores in Cape Town: