Church life

This book by Mark Dever follows in this Reformed tradition although he does not deal at all with Calvin’s second mark.  Remember he is examining that marks of a healthy church and tends to elaborate the first mark, namely the presence and preaching of the word of God into at least five separate chapters.  As we should expect from an author of this background, the emphasis on the presence and ministry of the word of God in a church is restricted to the expositional teaching and preaching of the Bible.  Whether or not this is what Paul meant when he exhorted Timothy to ‘preach the word’ is open to question.  In those days, before the canon of scripture was formed doubtless the expression “word of God,” although well founded in the Old Testament scriptures (as we now call them) would have encompassed something more than exposition of verses and themes.  We do not want in any way to suggest that the Bible as we are now privileged to have it in our churches should be neglected or added to, but we do allude to the fact that the word of God comes in more varied forms than expositional preaching and teaching from the Scriptures.  There is a notable absence of other aspects by which the word of God can be served and taught in this book, as there is also an absence of many references to the vital ministry and revelatory work of the Holy Spirit.  The author has most helpfully brought together brief synopses of the marks of healthy churches as presented by other authors in the books that tackle this most critical matter, these are to be found in an appendix as indeed is a list of books pertinent to his subject matter, these he calls, ‘Medicines From the Cabinet.’  This book presents the most crucial issues from a certain perspective.  It should be a cause for concern for thoughtful hearts that unfortunately the tension between ‘word’ and ‘Spirit’ continues to remain unresolved, by this I mean the so called charismatic churches with their emphasis on the Spirit and the more reformed evangelical churches with their approach concerning the preaching of the Word of the Scripture.  Neither emphasis does justice to the revelation of the New Testament.  It is obvious that this author is writing within a context, that is, he is very aware of today’s churches and the methodologies advocated by many writers, in this he succeeds in unfolding a Biblical picture in contrast to many other schema popularly presented as having the ability to produce healthy congregations.  Mark Dever is a pastor and writes from that perspective, this book is a recommendation of how to assess the health of your church, many of these qualities he emphasizes are seriously neglected.  This should be required reading for young men preparing for the Christian Ministry and indeed all church leaders.  

Last modified: June 28, 2021

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