Recently I read Dr. Mark Dever’s “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.” I hope to provide a brief summary of each mark that Pastor Dever sees as vital for the healthy church and then think through practical ways to make this mark a reality in our churches. I hope that you will join the conversation as we think through healthy Baptist churches in the 21st Century.
Mark One: Expositional Preaching
With the close of his life coming quickly, the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy that his ministry be marked by one thing above all others, “preach the Word.” Pastor Dever sees this mark of the church as the most vital, understanding that if we get this one right the others will follow. Essential to the health of the church is the expounding of the “Word of God.” Dever points out that God always uses his word to create a people for himself. Dever says that expositional preaching is “preaching which takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture. That’s it” (40). In addition, he makes clear that if a pastor does not preach expositionally he will never preach more than he knew at the beginning of his preaching life. Scripture is clear that we are “dead” men walking and yet only through the hearing of the Word can we be made alive. Is there anything more important than this? Next, the word is the food that conforms us to the image of Christ. Therefore, if we want to see real change in the lives of those around us we must not be so arrogant as to think it can come from our “words”, instead we must be confident that God has spoken and only through his word can people be radically transformed. Therefore, if we really want to see something great happen in our day, the exhortation of the Apostle cannot be improved upon, “Preach the Word.”
How to Practically Implement this Mark in your Church:
First, seek out other pastors and preachers that do this well. There are many good ones to check out in this area. Men like John MacArthur, John Piper, Allister Begg, Mark Driscoll, David Platt, and James Merritt are excellent expositors to check out. Also, Dr. Mohler’s Powerline, Danny Akin’s website, and Russell Moore’s Podcast are excellent resources for the pastor who wants to improve as an expositor. Listen to these men, read their transcripts, and seek to work through verses of the scriptures the way these men do. Second, a preacher seeking to be a better expositor could attend one of the six SBC seminaries, the Olford Institute, or a plethora of conferences given throughout the year. In addition, preachers can read books like Ramesh Richards “Preparing Expository Sermons”, Haddon Robinson’s classic “Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Sermons”, or consult Calvin’s Commentaries to improve as an expositor of God’s Word. Finally, and most importantly, you must see the vital nature of this mark of the church. If we want to see renewed evangelism, discipleship, mission, etc. then it will come from right knowledge and action shaped by God’s Word working in our lives. This is a call to teach the Word and allow IT to mold and break the lives of our people. The call of the Apostle still rings true, “Preach the Word.”
I would love to hear from you. How would you go about making this a staple of your church? And does it really matter?
Make sure to read Dever’s “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church“, it is an invaluable tool for ministry.