The Marks of a Healthy Church
Each week, during our family chats, we’ve looked at what it means to be a church. One of the things we’ve stated explicitly and implicitly is that not every gathering of Christians constitutes a church body. There is something quite distinctive about being a group of believers “doing church” together, or perhaps better put “being the church” together.
From the time of the Reformation onward, Protestant Christians have sought to answer what it means to be a true church. Minimally, most theologians have considered the preaching of the word, the proper observance of the ordinances and church discipline to be essential marks of a true church.
Pastor and author, Mark Dever has written a book called Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. He enumerates not only the minimally necessary marks of a true church but of a healthy church. The following is a summary written for the website “9marks.org.
- 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? (2 Tim. 2:15, 4:2-2)
- Biblical theology. Does the church openly confess key biblical doctrines? Do the leaders consistently teach sound doctrine? (Tit. 1:9-11)
- 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? (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
- 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? (Acts 11:18, 20:21)
- 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? (Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 2:1-10)
- 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? (Heb. 10:24-25; Eph. 4:11-29)
- Biblical church discipline. Does the church lovingly, patiently practice church discipline? (Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13)
- Biblical discipleship and growth. Does the church expect and equip its members to grow spiritually (2 Pet. 1:3-11)? Does the church encourage its members to disciple one another (Rom. 15:14)? 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? (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-11) Reprinted with permission from 9marks.org. This is a brief summary of the book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, published by Crossway
At Grace, we are striving to be a healthy church that glorifies Christ and preaches the gospel. We have no other goal than be faithful to such things to which we have been called. I hope this summary of the nine marks gives you a deeper sense of where we are in our life together. Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be glory!)