A brief look at the 9Marks series

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.

9marks-series

Included in the series are:

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.

Book Review: Soulprint by Mark Batterson

Title: Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny
Author: Mark Batterson
Publisher: Multnomah Books (2011)

“There has never been and never will be anyone else like you,” writes Pastor Mark Batterson in the opening of his new book, Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny. “But that isn’t a testament to you. it’s a testament to the God who created you.”

In Soulprint, Batterson wants to help readers better understand who God has uniquely made them to be. He does this by examining a few key moments in the life of David, Israel’s greatest human king. And for the most part, he says a lot of helpful things to aid this goal. For example, he writes, “The only way to discover who you are is to discover who God is because you’re made in His image.” (p. 10) This is exactly correct and something that isn’t focused on enough in teaching on identity.

He also reminds readers to not underestimate the strangest of skills or situations that cause you to develop compensatory ones (see p. 25-26). What might seem like a bizarre skill might be an effective tool for worshipping God in a specific situation. This is a very good reminder there is no aspect of who we are or what we can do that is not intended for God’s glory.

Thirdly, he reminds readers that if they really want to serve people and care about them, we’ll need to stop caring so much about what they think (p. 58). This is the key to serving with integrity.

Fourthly, he writes that “just because something looks like or feels like a God thing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a God thing… An opportunity isn’t an opportunity if you have to compromise your integrity” (p. 60). If there’s one thing to take away from the entire book, it would be this statement. Too often we view things through an open door theology; we assume that just because an opportunity presents itself, it must be from God.

That job you’ve always wanted is available and you’ve been asked to interview for it… but you’ve got to lie to your current employer to go. You’ve just bought your dream house… but the sale of your current house isn’t going so well, so you might have to put some pressure on an interested party to close a deal.

There are moments when every person’s integrity is tested, and these are the most important tests you’ll ever take. You’ll be tempted to take the shortcut… Don’t go there. Forfeit what looks like an opportunity for the sake of your integrity. (p. 61)

A final thing I appreciated was the inclusion of discussion questions for each chapter. This is a great way to help readers actively engage with this short book, and maybe open up some opportunities for legitimate self-examination.

While there were a number of helpful things in Soulprint, I found it to be incredibly uneven. [Read more…]