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on July 27, 2001
This incredible book focuses your attention not on the pragmatic but the principled. It is a fresh look on what's really important for a church - namely, spiritual growth as evidenced by those growing in their love for God and for others. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is dissapointed in the way churches seems to mirror much of what our secular culture offers.
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on July 10, 2012
I found that Dever's book was a very interesting evaluation of the local church and it's responsibilities. He basically boils down the nine marks or pillars of the church, exhorting the churches of today to practice them. These nine marks are as follows: expositional 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, and biblical church leadership. These are the key indications of a healthy church.

I found much that was very helpful in Dever's book. Probably the most influential part in my thinking was his chapter on discipleship. I found his goal in regards to church visitation and discipleship stimulating and encouraging. He has made the commitment to interview every potential member and ask questions about their understanding of the gospel and their intentions. He also is attempting to visit every current member and get a better understanding of where they are in the faith.

Dever mentions five questions that he would probably ask. I am going to implement these in my work in our church. The questions are included with a brief note on why I think they are important. "In what particular way have you grown in your understanding of the Christian life since we last met?" This is a good question because it forces one to evaluate their current Christian growth. It may be a good idea to inform people of the questions that you would ask so that they could think about it before hand.

The second question is "in what particular way have you grown in your practice of the Christian life since we last met?" This is a positive question because the first one singles out the aspect of intellectual knowledge, whereas this next question focuses on living it out. If one is a hearer only and not a doer, they are only deceiving themselves.
The third question offers the person the chance to give feedback to the church leader. "In what particular way do you feel that you need instruction?" I would benefit from this question by understanding areas where I have either failed to communicate clearly or at all.

The fourth questions allows the believer to express some personal frustrations. "In what particular way are you disappointed in your own pursuit of holiness?" This give the leader the opportunity to encourage and exhort the believer to move forward in their Christian life. It also provides valuable information about where they are at right then, which can and must be followed up on.

The final question functions as the first step in the leaders response to all these answers. "How, specifically, can I pray for you?" Most likely the leader will have a good idea about how they should be praying, but this gives one last opportunity for the believer to evaluate their Christian walk and open themselves up for further accountability.

The one area absent in the book which I was disappointed with was that of prayer. He mentions at the beginning that he realizes its absence, but I think it is more important. The first church leaders were interested in giving their full attention to the Word of God and prayer. He emphasizes the Word of God greatly, and rightly so, but fails to do so with prayer. I believe that this mark would be a valuable addition in his reckoning as it holds such a high place in the Scriptures. Overall I greatly benefited from the reading of this book.
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on September 12, 2009
I thought enough of Mark Dever's book to use it as a template for a series of lectures in an adult Sunday School setting. The first chapters of Mark's book are especially insightful and clearly illuminate perhaps the most critical needs of the modern church.

Numerous evangelical parishioners have never heard a solid expositional sermon (mark number one). Most pastors do not know what an expositional sermon is and therefore have never preached one. The congregants in our churches starve for the meat of the Word of God.

The fourth "mark" is especially challenging for contemporary evangelicals. What is "conversion" from a biblical perspective? Many problems in our churches can (and should) be attributed to the unconverted in who occupy not only pews on Sunday morning but also seats on the elder board.

I wish that Mark had done as thorough a job on the later "marks" as he did on the earlier ones.
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on March 17, 2006
Mark has put together something that is bound to be a classic! If you have ever wondered how to move a congregation back to the basics of the bible and congregational life this is it. Nothing in this book is new under the sun. It's just basic bible truths lived out in your congregation, something that many of us have long forgotten.

The Nine Marks are a must for any church or pastor that has become with disenchanted with the emergent, purpose driven, pragmatics of the church today.
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on September 10, 2012
Earlier in the year our church covered the book What is a Healthy Church? The longer version of that material is found the the book called the Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. To prepare for the Wednesday night teaching, I read through this book to help me prepare.

I was drawn to this book because I am the Pastor at a very small church. And when you are the pastor of a very small church, you find yourself constantly questioning your own abilities and measuring your effectiveness by the number of people in the room. I mean, surely if I was doing what God wanted me to do, then this church would grow... Right?


There are many cases in the Bible of Men doing exactly what God wanted them to do, and their lives weren't marked by popular success. Noah didn't have one convert believe in his message of judgment. Isaiah's message was that people weren't going to believe it. And Jesus was eventually abandoned by all of his followers and crucified.

So, I needed another way to evaluate our church. I had been reading the Nine Marks blog for a little while, so I decided to grab this book from Amazon and give it a read. I then grabbed the down-sized version and used it during our Wednesday night teaching time. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and we walked away with some changes that need to be made and some confidence that we are doing some things right.

The Nine Marks are:

Expositional Preaching
Biblical Theology
Biblical Understanding of the Good News
Biblical Understanding of Conversion
Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
Biblical Understanding of Church Membership
Biblical Understanding of Church Discipline
Biblical Understanding of Church Leadership
Concern for Promoting Christian Discipleship and Growth

Though there are several other ways to evaluate your church, I found this one to be extremely helpful and essentially Biblical in nature. Even asking about being "healthy" instead of "successful" is such an important aspect. I highly recommend this book, and encourage you to click the link above and start evaluating your church.

Originally posted at my blog:
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VINE VOICEon October 3, 2010
I have not had many books recommended to me more frequently than Mark Dever's Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. As I read it, I could easily see that many of my friends and colleagues have read it. They echo it continuously. Apparently, it bests states the driving philosophy of many pastors today.

Anytime I began to read a book which comes even remotely close to instruction on how a church should operate, I have to ask two questions: Is it biblically and doctrinally sound? Will it work in my church? Granted, if the answer to the first is no, then there is no need to ask the second. Most books of this category end up that way. They are written more towards how to grow a fortune 500 company than they are a church. I'm not sure their authors would argue that point. They may argue that it's the method to examine; a method that can be applied regardless of doctrine. Thankfully, 9 Marks is not that book.

9 Marks is loaded with scripture references that back up every point. Mark Dever displays his amazing ability to draw a solid point from passages throughout the entire Bible. He does not ever simply pull a verse out of thin air, but rather exegetes scripture to his points. The book is well founded in scripture and teaches doctrine as much as anything. Is it sound? Absolutely! Will it work?

Thankfully, this is not a method book. Dever is simply presenting 9 characteristics of a healthy church. They are:

Expository Preaching
Biblical Theology
A Biblical Understanding of the Gospel
A Biblical Understanding of Conversion
A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
Biblical Church Membership
Biblical Church Discipline
Biblical Discipleship
Biblical Church Leadership

The temptation is to treat this as a method book. As I read, I began making mental notes of things I needed to begin, end, change, etc. in my ministry. Of course, quick and drastic change is rarely lasting and almost always results in more damage than it set out to resolve, so this temptation is to be avoided. Rather than a method to be followed, consider these principles to be a guideline for evaluating a church. The chapter on discipleship excellently discusses this, as does the first appendix.

Once a church leader understands the shortcomings of a church in these nine areas, they work to improve. Each "mark" is based on another, so the pieces will fall into place. This is a great book for better understanding a biblical ecclesiology. I strongly recommend it not only for pastors, but anyone in church leadership.
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on July 18, 2007
Mark Dever has done what so many others have failed to do: combine the delight of doctrine and biblical interpretation and join it with wise, pragmatic advice on what the church is, is to be and how it should function in order to be healthy. If another pastor or elder from another church asked me to recommend a book that would help their church, this would be one of the first I'd mention. While not exhaustive in content, Nine Marks is more than sufficient. The chapters I took greatest encouragement in where the first two: Biblical Exposition (something I believe in and seek to practice) and Biblical Theology (a concise summation of who God is and how this should impact the church). Perhaps the two most challenging chapters were: Understanding Biblical Church Membership and Biblical Church Discipline. I truly agree with the idea of a congregational covenant; it would be difficult to "pull off" in the Evangelical Free Church (we're just too fiercely independent). The matter of church discipline is one we neglect to our great detriment. Most often, we'd rather re-act to a bad situation than be proactive in spurring our congregants on to growth in Christ through positive forms of discipline. Much work to be done here; but thanks to Dever's work, the challenge and the "how to's" are there.

Read this book, especially if you're a pastor. If you're a pastor of a small church, read this book with your leaders and see what the Lord will do through you. If you're a pastor of a large church, read this book and see if there are biblical corrections you need to make, even if it means hosting a "membership drive" (see the chapter on membership and you'll get the attempt at humor here). Read this book with the Scriptures open next to you and I know you'll be blessed.
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on April 30, 2012
Mark Dever, the pastor of "Capitol Hill Baptist Church" (Washington D.C.) has written a book that can be very helpful in evaluating the health of one's own church. The title really says it all: 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Maybe we have never considered whether or not our church is healthy? Perhaps we don't really know what a healthy church really looks like? Maybe we have never been part of a healthy church?

Fear not, because Mark Dever, as a faithful pastor lights the way using the Bible as our source book/model. There is nothing in this book that is not backed by by scripture. Dever doesn't just proof-text his way along in this book, but really takes into consideration the context of each passage. I won't list here the chapter titles. You can check for those. I'll just say that Dever does not shy away from difficult topics.

The most difficult in my opinion to implement is the chapter of biblical church discipline. Dever pulls no punches here. Our churches need to once again practice biblical church discipline if we are to be really faithful to God and if we want to improve not just numerically, but also in depth as well.

I must say I was impressed by reading this book. I really didn't find much I disagreed with. It's a fairly quick read, but at the same time it is not shallow. I would recommend this book to anyone who desires a fuller understanding of what a healthy church looks like.
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on June 3, 2014
Good book, especially with its emphasis that a healthy church is also the responsibility of the members of the church. However, while the book was intended for a general Christian audience, those in leadership will benefit reading it. In a day and age of "doing" church in so many innovative ways apart from Scripture, this is a refreshing read for those who desire to see a church grow biblically. Mark Dever writes this from the context of pastoring and ministering in his church, and this makes him all the more insightful. Having gone through this book with our church's men small group, I find the chapter that has been helpful in the context of our ministry has been the chapter on church membership and also the chapter on church discipline. These two marks of a healthy church, and Dever does a good job of establishing church membership as the pre-requisite for church discipline. Those who are from other ecclessiatical background will definitely see the Reformed Baptist bent here. It is also helpful that Dever put the discussion of church discipline in the context of edifying the saints, and to build one another up in the faith. The dimension of spiritual growth is itself one of the nine marks that Dever goes over.
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on February 25, 2007
Pastor Mark Dever writes from Scripture and from pastoral experience. He writes to pastors, elders, and all committed Christians reminding readers that church health must precede church growth.

"Nine Marks of a Healthy Church" is counter-cultural. That is, it moves counter to the Christian culture of the day that promotes a watered-down version of Christianity and Church life.

Dever combines the rare ability to write prophetically (challenging current Christian culture) while still writing enticingly (encouraging change rather than promoting division and antagonism). He also combines the greatest of skills: relating biblical truth to daily life and relationships.

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction , "Biblical Psychology," and "Martin Luther's Pastoral Counseling."
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