Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This is the last article in a series on the Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (as described in Mark Dever’s book of the same name). We have already looked at the top six marks of a healthy church: 1) exhibition preaching, 2) biblical theology, 3) the gospel, 4) conversion, 5) evangelism, and 6) membership. at church. This article will complete the series by examining the three endnotes of a healthy church: 1) church discipline, 2) discipleship, and 3) church leadership.
Dever describes church discipline as “simple obedience to God and a simple confession that we need help.” Church discipline is the practice of maintaining purity in the church as most clearly described in Matthew 18: 15-17. Jesus said to the disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you’ve won over your brother. But if he is not listening, take one or two more with you, so that any accusation may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. And if he refuses to listen to even the church, let him be a heathen and a tax collector to you.
Every step of church discipline should be taken with love in order to restore relationships in the church family. The first step is unique because the offended individual initiates the restoration by going to the other person and lovingly telling them that they have been offended. This is an important detail because sometimes we say or do things without knowing the pain it has caused others (eg a poorly worded comment or a joke that has gone too far).
The second step only comes into play if the first step does not go well. The second step is for the offended party to bring along one or two other loving people to lovingly share their concern for restoring the relationship. If the person does not respond to this, then the problem begins to affect more people in the church family. So the next step is to tell the whole church what is going on so that the unrepentant person recognizes the seriousness of the problem and asks forgiveness for what happened. The last stage is difficult for any church to go through, but it has a cleansing effect on the church family because the unrepentant individual is lovingly told that he cannot fully enjoy the benefits of the family of the church. church until he repents and seeks reconciliation.
Dever describes this mark of a healthy church as “a concern for discipleship and growth.” All believers are expected to grow spiritually. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, it is he who bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing. (John 15: 5) The healthy Christian life is marked by the fact that the believer is continually transformed into the image of Christ. It doesn’t have to be done alone. The Christian life should be lived in community with other believers (Hebrews 10: 24-25). The oneness that believers have with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is reflected in the oneness that believers have with other brothers and sisters in Christ. When a church is functioning in a healthy manner, there will be countless opportunities for spiritual growth through the many interactions that each believer has with others.
Discipleship is the term used to describe how Christians grow spiritually in the church. It is inspired by the way Jesus trained the disciples to be the leaders of the church. These men learned what it meant to be a follower of Christ by interacting with him face to face for an extended period of time. This is the model that modern discipleship must have. Dever points out that this type of discipleship can happen in different ways and that every church must come up with ways to make it happen.
Mark Dever makes the argument that church leadership must have five aspects. He begins by writing that the leadership of the biblical church takes place in a congregational context. He cites several different passages to support his view that the congregation of each local church has final authority over decisions in the church. There are many different views on the issue of authority in the church. Dever doesn’t spend much time explaining other views on church policy. He cautions against molding the leadership of the church from what the apostles did in the early church because “we church leaders today could take too much responsibility for ourselves. authority, without deserving such authority ”. I would recommend that readers of this article do their own study on this important question before drawing any conclusion.
Other aspects of Bible church leaders are that they are biblically qualified, that they are charismatic leaders, that they resemble Christ, and that their leadership is modeled on the authority of God. The biblical qualifications for elders leading a church are listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 2. The qualifications describe different aspects of having an “above reproach” character as well as the ability to be able to teach the word. of God. The need for “charismatic” leaders does not refer to a leader’s engaging personality or ability to teach. This is a reference to the original Greek idea of ”charisma,” which refers to the gifts of grace that God has bestowed on the church. the leader is one who seeks to lead by the power of the Holy Spirit in order to equip the saints for the work of the church.
The Christian model of church leadership is needed in healthy churches because Jesus Christ is the shepherd of the church and all other leaders are its under-shepherds. Healthy churches must focus their energy on pursuing Christ and helping others to do the same. The final aspect of healthy church leadership relates to the authority of God. Many people have a distorted view of human authority. This can create skepticism towards any human authority. Dever makes the argument that healthy churches will teach a biblical view of authority that creates a sense of safety and security for church members, because they understand that leadership seeks the growth of people instead of seeking to control them.