9 Marks of a Healthy Church

Part of my pastoral internship is to read 600 pages of collateral reading from various pastoral ministry books. The first book I choose to read was 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. I have read and studied many of the “marks” in classes at PBC, but have never got to read the entire book until now.

In this book, Dever explains that there are nine marks that make a church a healthy church. He does not argue that these are the only marks of a healthy church, but these nine things are important, Biblical marks that should be present in every church. The following are the nine marks of a healthy church:

Expository 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

Biblical Church Leadership

The “highlight” chapters for me was the chapter on expository preaching, church membership, church discipline, and leadership. I enjoyed the chapter on expository preaching because I believe expository preaching is the best way to preach God’s Word and Dever does a great job at explaining why a healthy church will have expository preaching. Believer grow and learn best when hearing systematic, expository preaching. The chapters on church membership and church discipline reminded me how important being part of a local church really is and once a member of the local church, the responsibility we have to live right and to make sure everyone in the church is living in a way that honors God and if not, church discipline needs to happen. In the last chapter on Biblical leadership, Dever explains the importance and quality of leaders the church needs. Also, Dever does a great job at explaining, from the Bible, why having plurality of elders is important. I know that there is a lot of debate between elder rule and having one pastor leading the church, but Dever does a great job at explaining what an elder is, why there should be plurality, and also the role of deacons.

I would suggest this book to anyone who is part of a local church. The health of the church is not just important to the leaders, but should be important to the believers that are a part of the church. Dever says, “the health of the church should be the concern of all Christians because it does involve the spiritual life of everyone who is a Christian and a member of a church.” I would highly recommend this book to anyone in church leadership, pastors, elder, deacons, student pastors, etc. Overall this was one of the best, not if the best, book I have read about church ministry.

Recommended resources on this subject: The official 9 Marks website, What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

Kiddie Pool Christianity

If you look around the Christian world today you will notice one thing, there are far too many shallow Christians. Before we point our fingers at others, if we are all honest with ourselves we would have to admit that we ourselves are shallow, kiddie pool Christians. This is a problem I struggle with more than I would like to admit and I see it as a huge problem in our Christian world today. I was reminded about this problem both in my life and the life of others the past few days as I was reading a chapter in the book What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile. In this book, the author talks about characteristics of a healthy church member. This book goes a long with Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. One of the last chapters in What is a Healthy Church Member the author talks about a healthy church member, or better yet a healthy Christian, is a growing Christian. We become shallow, kiddie pool Christians when we stop growing. We need to understand that God is clear in His Word that Christians are supposed to be growing individuals in their walk with Him (Hebrews 5:11-13; 6:1; Philippians 3:12-14). Thabiti Anyabwile says, “it is normal for Christians to grow, to work for growth, and to expect increasing spiritual maturity.” He also goes on to say that our spiritual growth is not really accomplished by us, it is God working through the Holy Spirit in us, but we have the privilege to strive and pursue spiritual growth as God works in us. Christians who are growing are normal and expected by God, but Christians who are not growing are becoming more and more popular in our Christian world. As I have been thinking about this, three main things have stood out that as Christians we must see properly in order to see spiritual growth in our lives. There are numerous things that we as Christians can do to promote growth in our lives, but these three things are just some major themes I have seen in my life and the lives of Christians around me. These three things can get us out of the kiddie pool and into the deep waters of spiritual growth and maturity.

See Church as a community. Far too many Christians see church as a building and a place. No where in the Bible does it talk about church being a place or a building. What the Bible does say is church is a community. Does that community meet a specific times and maybe at a specific place? YES! But that does not mean the church is the place or building, it means that the church is the people. I have met so many Christians who define their Christianity by what they do on Sundays. Your Christianity is more defined by what you do Monday thru Saturday. Why do Christians see church as just a building or where we go on Sundays? I would suggest it is because we have sectioned God off to a specific time and place of our lives and also because our culture is now so man centered the church is just another “activity” or “place to be.” The atmosphere of our churches is becoming so man-centered and entertainment-oriented that the saints now must be amused and not amazed,” says Donald Llewellyn Roberts. We need to get back to what the early church in Acts saw, the church is not a place, but a community. We were saved and put into a community, the body of Christ, and we have the privilege to take part in the local communities of believers around us. When we see church as a weekly event and not a constant community we are in danger of being in the kiddie pool of Christianity.

See prayer as a constant part of our lives. In our culture, it is rare to see someone without a cell phone. Most of us carry our cell phones everywhere and if they are not in our hands and we are texting or they are to our ear and we are talking they might be in our pocket or purse where we can get to them within an arms reach. Prayer should be like that. Prayer should be a constant companion for all of us as Christians. The Bible is clear that prayer needs to be a constant part of our lives (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2, 12). When we do not see prayer as a constant part of our lives we are in danger of being in the kiddie pool of Christianity.

See the Christian life as an intentional pursuit. Many of us go through life and just “profess” to be Christians, but that profession never really shows in our life. We look exactly like the unsaved people around us and the only different about is we call ourselves “Christians.” The Christian life is a pursuit, not a label. Yes, as we pursue Christ and His Kingdom we will carry the label as Christians, but our Christianity is found in the pursuit not the label. I talked about this same idea in an earlier post called Intentional Christian Living so check it out and get a better understanding of this last idea. When we see our Christianity as a label and not a pursuit we are in danger of being in the kiddie pool of Christianity.

Recommended reading on this subject: What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile, Radical by David Platt, Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper.