9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
I found that Dever's book was a very interesting evaluation of the local church and it's responsibilities. He basically boils down the nine marks or pillars of the church, exhorting the churches of today to practice them. These nine marks are as follows: 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, and biblical church leadership. These are the key indications of a healthy church.
I found much that was very helpful in Dever's book. Probably the most influential part in my thinking was his chapter on discipleship. I found his goal in regards to church visitation and discipleship stimulating and encouraging. He has made the commitment to interview every potential member and ask questions about their understanding of the gospel and their intentions. He also is attempting to visit every current member and get a better understanding of where they are in the faith.
Dever mentions five questions that he would probably ask. I am going to implement these in my work in our church. The questions are included with a brief note on why I think they are important. "In what particular way have you grown in your understanding of the Christian life since we last met?" This is a good question because it forces one to evaluate their current Christian growth. It may be a good idea to inform people of the questions that you would ask so that they could think about it before hand.
The second question is "in what particular way have you grown in your practice of the Christian life since we last met?" This is a positive question because the first one singles out the aspect of intellectual knowledge, whereas this next question focuses on living it out. If one is a hearer only and not a doer, they are only deceiving themselves.
The third question offers the person the chance to give feedback to the church leader. "In what particular way do you feel that you need instruction?" I would benefit from this question by understanding areas where I have either failed to communicate clearly or at all.
The fourth questions allows the believer to express some personal frustrations. "In what particular way are you disappointed in your own pursuit of holiness?" This give the leader the opportunity to encourage and exhort the believer to move forward in their Christian life. It also provides valuable information about where they are at right then, which can and must be followed up on.
The final question functions as the first step in the leaders response to all these answers. "How, specifically, can I pray for you?" Most likely the leader will have a good idea about how they should be praying, but this gives one last opportunity for the believer to evaluate their Christian walk and open themselves up for further accountability.
The one area absent in the book which I was disappointed with was that of prayer. He mentions at the beginning that he realizes its absence, but I think it is more important. The first church leaders were interested in giving their full attention to the Word of God and prayer. He emphasizes the Word of God greatly, and rightly so, but fails to do so with prayer. I believe that this mark would be a valuable addition in his reckoning as it holds such a high place in the Scriptures. Overall I greatly benefited from the reading of this book.
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