Because our church is currently looking for a new pastor, I decided to re-read this book, which has become a standard text on the doctrine of ecclesiology since it was originally published in 1997. Dever provides clear teaching on what a church should be, and how congregations and pastors can help to ensure that their local church is a healthy and biblically functioning body. Now is a critical time for our congregation to be reminded of (or perhaps introduced to) what God Himself says about His church and the type of men who should lead it.
Dever lists and expounds upon nine “marks of a healthy church”; nine things which a church must teach/practice in order to conform to Scripture. These nine marks are:
- 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
To watch a short video summary explanation of each of these nine marks, click here.
While Dever is a Southern Baptist, and presents a baptistic and congregationalist understanding of the doctrine of the church, most of what he writes in this book will apply to evangelical churches across denominational lines. On the other hand, much of what he describes as normative for churches will sound foreign to most Southern Baptist congregations. However, he provides much support — both from Scripture and from historic Baptist documents and Southern Baptist history books — for his argument that things like church discipline and a plurality of elders (churches being led by a group of godly men, selected and appointed by the congregation, of which the pastor is one) have a strong tradition of practice among Baptist congregations. The ideas set forth in this book are NOT new ideas for Southern Baptists; rather, they are a return to the biblical model, which has been abandoned in large part by contemporary SBC churches.
Dever’s writing is clear, concise, and easily understood by laypeople with no prior theological training, though it is thorough enough to benefit seminary-trained pastors. This is a book that I hope many more people from Stevens Street Baptist Church will read, particularly those entrusted with the responsibility of serving on the pastor search committee. Buy it here, or ask to borrow my copy.