Mark Dever’s What Is A Healthy Church? is an intriguing summation of his Nine Marks of a Healthy Church that will encourage and convict the reader concerning his or her attitudes about the Church. At least, I found that to be the case personally.
I’m familiar with Dever’s thoughts and, on the whole, I’m a fan. He has done tremendous work towards calling churches back to a biblically-based and Christ-honoring way of approaching and “doing” church. If you are not familiar with 9 Marks Ministries, you really should acquaint yourself with what Dever is doing there.
Dever wants us to take Church seriously. I did cringe at his opening paragraph where he recounts his custom of telling groups he speaks to that if they are not faithfully engaged with a local church they may be going to hell. This is clearly a rhetorical device that he qualifies and clarifies as he goes along, but, for some reason, I did not like it.
I suppose that some might try to accuse Dever of ecclesiolatry, but they would be a mistaken. It is true that Dever has an intense interest in the Church, but that is because Jesus has an intense interest in His bride. What interests Him should interest us. Furthermore, as a Southern Baptist, Dever is more than aware of the ecclesiological crisis gripping our denomination. The very idea of “church” needs to be rescued in the Southern Baptist Convention.
In this work, Dever wants to argue against the idea of churchless Christianity, a notion that the New Testament knows nothing at all about. This will sound odd and possibly offensive to Americanized Lone Ranger Christians, but is thoroughly biblical and it is absolutely crucial.
Dever makes the crucial point that while the local church should not be confused with the Church universal, the local church seeks to emulate, as closely as possible, the realities of the universal Church in its own congregational life. This emulation includes calling for a regenerate church membership, a covenanted church membership, and, above all, a membership founded on the gospel.
The summary of the nine marks that Dever closes the book with would be a great introduction to those unfamiliar with Dever’s work and a helpful reminder for those who are familiar with it. Either way, you are bound to find this work thought-provoking and challenging. You may not agree with all of Dever’s arguments, but I daresay you will have trouble denying the core of it: that the body of Christ is important and that it ought to reflect faithfulness to the mandates of the Word of God and fidelity to the Church’s Groom.