Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Book Review – Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever

It surprises me sometimes how quickly I read a fairly lengthy book. Dever’s book on the church isn’t a heavy-tome, but neither is it a light read.

What I found attractive about it was the commitment to move away from number-driven approaches to church growth that often compromises the Word, but a more doctrinally robust approach to assessing church health.

It was also interesting to note that the book was birthed out of a series of sermons that Dever preached to his church over a period of weeks. The content and structure does lend itself very much to sermons without compromising the ease of readability.

The nine marks themselves are interesting, especially seeing as though they’re based fundamentally on the first one which is the importance of expositional preaching. I myself am very keen on this type of preaching, I believe it’s important for the church to be reminded of the requirements laid out in the word. Yet to start off on this point made me consider whether this would really be so high on the priority list, especially from a biblical survey perspective. Minor quibble aside, it’s a strong argument presented persuasively in a manner that’s easy to grasp.

Through the nine marks many occur which aren’t just biblical sense but passionately proclaimed in each chapter. There are areas where the reasoning is not so strong and based more on church history than the bible – especially church membership. That is not, however, to detract from the way in which Dever does appeal convincingly to these ways of assessing a healthy church.

Outstanding marks to really contemplate include Mark 2 – Biblical Theology; Mark 3 – The Gospel; Mark 8 – Discipleship and Growth; and Mark 9 Biblical Church Leadership. The appendices are also worth the read to see just how many lists of church growth methods have sprouted up since the book was initially published as well as an insightful list of resources and material useful for further study.

There are some books worth reading to stimulate a greater love for the church and God’s purposes for it and I believe this is one of those books. The heart in which Dever writes it makes it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want us as the Body of Christ in local expression to miss out and mess up what we’re meant to be, and that passion is contagious. I’m glad I’ve got this book – not just borrowed it from a library – and I would strongly recommend it as part of any believer’s collection.

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