I argued in a previous post that when looking to see if a church is healthy, there is one essential, governing mark presented in the Bible and that is love. A few years back, Mark Dever wrote “9 Marks of a Healthy Church.” In it he proposed a list of marks that were important to health. Those marks were not meant to be treated as a healthy list, nor even necessarily the most important marks but they were important and had often been neglected.
I am in agreement with the importance of the marks that Dever suggested. Further, I would recognise that these marks should both flow out of love being central and are likely, done well to contribute to a loving church. However, like anything, it is possible to pursue such a list legalistically without love and/or to miss out on other significant factors so that you could tick off the marks on a list and still not be loving and healthy.
So, in this article I want to reflect a little bit more on what it means for a church to be loving and healthy and talk about those marks that should flow out of love. I don’t intend to spend much time on the pre-existing 9 marks as there is already much written about them. However, I do want to emphasise that a loving church will be marked by:
- A concern to hear, understand and obey God’s word
- A passion for the Gospel and for the Lost
- A love for the church family that will lead to a desire to have healthy, accountable structures.
I think that those three factors in effect sum up the nine marks. However, I would want to add the following and suggest that if Dever at that time identified a set of neglected marks, in our context now, we might look back and say that these have been missed.
- A humility that leads to a willingness to admit mistakes
- A courage that is willing to take on bullies
- A posture of graciousness leading to a charitable view of others’ motives and a hermeneutic of scrutiny of my own
- Teachability. A continuing desire to learn and to allow God’s word to disagree with me.
- A boundary crossing joy in Gospel diversity
- An appropriate value of the experiential aspect to our relationship with God.
I hope to pick on these in a bit more detail in future posts.