Sunday, November 16, 2008

Essential v. Important

One resource that has been especially edifying to me as a Christian and as a pastor is the ministry of Mark Dever. Dever is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (SBC) in Washington D.C. He is also the author of books such as Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and The Deliberate Church. These books have really helped to put in words my shared convictions about what the Bible teaches regarding pastoral ministry and the local church. Dever repackaged the “Nine Marks” material into the shorter book, What is a Healthy Church? This book aims to help the congregation understand the principles of a Biblically healthy church. In this resource Dever shares again the nine marks which he has drawn from Scripture but distinguishes them in two categories: essential and important. Those essential marks are 1) Expositional Preaching; 2) Biblical Theology; and 3) A Biblical Understanding of the Good News. The important marks are, 1) A Biblical Understanding of Conversion; 2) A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism; 3) A Biblical Understanding of Membership; 4) Biblical Church Discipline; 5) Biblical Discipleship and Growth; and 6) Biblical Church Leadership. He says, “Insofar as all of the nine marks outlined in this book are biblical, they are authoritative for Christ’s churches. Yet the distinction between the essential and the important marks should remind us that sanctification—in the church’s life as in the individual’s life—occurs slowly. Just as God calls us to patience in raising our children, so he calls us to patience with our churches.” Dever encourages pastors and church members to pray, be patient, and to set a good example while waiting on the Lord to reform some unhealthy practices in the church they are serving. This counsel has provided me insight into what are “hills worth dying on” and things that call for more grace and endurance. The essential marks take time themselves to ingrain and those are worth the immediate focus.

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