There are very few organizations I get excited about, but one I absolutely love is 9Marks. I’ve been amazed at the quality of thinking on essential matters of the faith such as church discipline and discipleship, expositional preaching, and, of course, the gospel itself. The example set by many of the leaders involved with this ministry is tremendous. Frankly, even if you don’t agree with all their emphases, you can’t deny they genuinely love the local church and want to see churches become healthier.
This is especially clear when you look at the books published under the 9Marks banner, and this is no less true of the books found in Logos Bible Software’s 9Marks Series collection. Containing eleven volumes published by Crossway, this series covers a wide variety of subjects, from the relationship between God’s love and church discipline to the importance of biblical theology in the life of the local church.
Included in the series are:
- Am I Really a Christian? by Mike McKinley
- Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry by Michael Lawrence
- The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline by Jonathan Leeman
- Church Planting Is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things by Mike McKinley
- Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile
- The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever
- It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement by Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence
- What Does God Want of Us Anyway?: A Quick Overview of the Whole Book by Mark Dever
- What Is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile
- What Is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever
- What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
For the sake of brevity, here are a couple of key takeaways to keep in mind:
First, each book published is intended to address one aspect of the nine marks of a healthy church.1 These marks are foundational to the organization’s vision of healthy churches but because they’re so rich, they require some serious investigation. You can’t just say “we believe a healthy church is one with biblical church leadership” without explaining what that means and what it looks like, practically.
Second, although many of these volumes are directed toward church leaders, all are accessible to the average church member. I found this to be especially true of two volumes. The first is Mike McKinley’s Church Planting Is for Wimps (which I reviewed here), a volume describing his experience replanting Guildford Baptist Church (now Sterling Park Baptist Church) and the challenges planters face:
…planting and revitalizing take different kinds of courage, and God appoints a particular task for every man. Go where God guides you. As Karen and I thought about our future, we wanted to take the path of revitalizing an existing church…I believe revitalizing may be more difficult at the outset, but I also believe that it offers all the rewards of planting—a new gospel witness—and more: it removes a bad witness in the neighborhood, it encourages the saints in the dead church, and it puts their material resources to work for the kingdom. (Church Planting Is for Wimps, 36-37)
The second is Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, particularly as Dever breaks down the problem we have sharing our faith and makes it a little less scary by admitting his own failures in that area:
Sometimes I’m a reluctant evangelist. In fact, not only am I sometimes a reluctant evangelist, sometimes I’m no evangelist at all. There have been times of wrestling: “Should I talk to him?” Normally a very forward person, even by American standards, I can get quiet, respectful of the other people’s space. Maybe I’m sitting next to someone on an airplane (in which case I’ve already left that person little space!); maybe it’s someone talking to me about some other matter. It may be a family member I’ve known for years, or a person I’ve never met before; but, whoever it is, the person becomes for me, at that moment, a witness-stopping, excuse-inspiring spiritual challenge.
If there is a time in the future when God reviews all of our missed evangelistic opportunities, I fear that I could cause more than a minor delay in eternity. (The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, 15)
The eleven volumes in the 9Marks Series are ones every church leader—and every church member—should have in their libraries. They’re the kind of books that don’t leave you crushed under the weight of trying to “do more,” but constantly point you back to Christ, the One from whom all our purpose and power in ministry flows. I know I’m glad to have them in mine. I trust the same will be true for you as well.
- The nine marks are: (1) expositional preaching, (2) biblical theology, (3) a biblical understanding of the good news, (4) a biblical understanding of conversion, (5) a biblical understanding of evangelism, (6) biblical church membership, (7) biblical church discipline, (8) biblical discipleship and growth, and (9) biblical church leadership. ↩