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12 Challenges Churches Face (Redesign) (9Marks) Hardcover – April 1, 2008
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"As a leading voice for reformation in the twenty-first century, Mark Dever calls evangelicals to love the church as much as we love Jesus. In this exposition of 1 Corinthians he gives clear pastoral guidance for the difficult problems addressed in a difficult book of the Bible, confronting not only the controversial issues that always face the church, but also the spiritual dangers that lurk behind them."
—Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College; author, Loving the Way Jesus Loves
"Twelve Challenges Churches Face is a careful exposition of 1 Corinthians. It is both theological and practical in its goal to foster healthy churches. You will be edified and encouraged by Pastor Dever's treatment of important issues that confront the church on a daily basis."
—Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
About the Author
Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and president of 9Marks (9Marks.org). Dever has authored over a dozen books and speaks at conferences nationwide.
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Within his book, Twelve Challenges Churches Face, author Mark Dever seeks to help local congregations build strong and healthy churches. Looking to the scriptures, no congregation faced more challenges and struggles than the ancient city of Corinth. Within Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, a plethora of problems are addressed that range from sexual immorality to personal favoritism. Therefore, it is this particular book of the Bible that Mark Dever uses to help modern congregations identify and address current issues. Using an exegetical examination of the text, twelve broad issues are highlighted. In each chapter, one of the challenges is exposed for examination and then addressed with a scriptural solution. By the end of the work, readers will have a firm grasp of both 1 Corinthians and its application for believers today.
The content of this book was originally preached as a set of sermons in Dever's own church and only later converted to book form. Although there is still a hint of the oratory nature of language in the text, the chapters hold together with a clear structure and solid editing for print. One of the highlights of the book is in its explanation of issues rather than events. Too often churches look at solving an event rather than seeing the deeper issues lurking under the surface. In this particular work, the author refuses to get too specific so that application can apply across the board in a number of congregations. Whether you are a pastor needing encouragement in the ministry or a church member frustrated with your current congregation, this book provides a welcome encouragement as well as a challenge to be committed to your local church.
Here is a book that will serve you well from many angles. First, there is the actual content itself. Taking the disunified and dysfunctional church of Corinth as a launching pad, Dever brings forth the following challenges a church may face: forgetfulness (1:1-9), division (1:20-3:23), imposters (4), sin (5-6), asceticism (7), disobedience (8:1-10:13), legalism (10:14-11:1), autonomy (11:2-16), thoughtlessness (11:17-34), selfishness (12-14), death (15), decline (16).
Second, preachers can utilize this book as an example of fast-paced, "big-picture" expository preaching. Dever gives solid exegesis even as he covers the entire biblical book of sixteen chapters in only twelve of his own chapters. Now, we can all admit there is a season to commit more time to a book, delving into the forest and looking close at the trees. But, I for one had never considered the book of First Corinthians in such a united manner. Sure, I've looked at some of these texts in excruciating detail that Dever's book lacks. But I have also looked at them in such detail that I forgot how they fit into the broader context of the book. So, I think a book like this great for preachers who can soak up the method of combining good exegesis and big-picture homiletics.
Third, Dever brings in history (Hugh Latimer, Frederick Douglass, Teddy Roosevelt), references to culture and current events (Moby, Hurricane Katrina) right alongside a robust theology of the cross, church discipline, and divinely mandated gender-distinction. All that to say, Dever thinks and writes both wide and deep, and serves as a model for how to weave various arenas of thought together.
At a brief 180-ish pages, I'd rather see it produced as a $12 soft back rather than an $18 hardback. I think it would get more play at a cheaper price. Be that as it may, there is good profit to be had from this book.
In thinking through the question of who might find this book profitable, a group of church elders reading through it together would be an excellent idea. Another use would be to use it as a study for a Sunday school class, taking a quarter-year to go through the twelve chapters.
Let me close with one particular paragraph from the book, a few sentences serving up the gospel in brief. I read this to my kids - they understand Mark. It comes from a chapter on "division," showing that for a preacher like Dever, the gospel of the cross is foundational to his well-established ecclesiological passions. Although this paragraph doesn't mention the church, it comes from a section called "Godly unity displays Christ":
"My friends, let me be clear about what Christianity teaches. There is one God who has made us all. We have sinned against him - we have done what we have wanted rather than what he has told us to do. We have rebelled against him, and so he is rightly committed to punishing us, as our sins deserve. But, in his great mercy, he came in Christ - fully God and fully man - and lived a perfect life with no punishment of his own to bear. Yet Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of all those who would ever turn from their sins and trust him. He rose to new life, and he offers us new life as well, if we will turn from our sins and trust him. We lay hold of Christ savingly by believing in this message and having faith in him."