Re-Imagining Success in Ministry

Mark Dever: Author and theologian David Wells reported in his 1994 book God in the Wasteland that “[Seminary] students are dissatisfied with the current status of the church. They believe it has lost its vision, and they want more from it than it is giving them.” But dissatisfaction is not enough, as Wells himself agreed. We need something more. We need positively to recover what the church is to be. What is the church in her nature and essence? What is to distinguish and mark the church? A HISTORY OF CHURCH HEALTH Christians have long talked of the “marks of the church.” The topic of the church did not become a center of widespread formal theological debate until the Reformation. Before the sixteenth century, the church was more assumed than discussed. It was thought of as the means of grace, a reality that existed as the presupposition of the rest of theology. With the advent of the radical criticisms of Martin Luther

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Why You Can’t Be a Christian without the Church

Mark Dever: Reconciled to God A Christian is someone who, first and foremost, has been forgiven of his sin and been reconciled to God the Father through Jesus Christ. This happens when a person repents of his sins and puts his faith in the perfect life, substitutionary death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In other words, a Christian is someone who has reached the end of himself and his own moral resources. He has recognized that he, in defiance of God’s plainly revealed law, has given his life over to worshiping and loving things other than God—things like career, family, the stuff money can buy, the opinions of other people, the honor of his family and community, the favor of the so-called gods of other religions, the spirits of this world, or even the good things a person can do. He has also recognized that these “idols” are doubly damning masters. Their appetites are never satisfied

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The Burden for Missions Begins at Home

Mark Dever: A mark of a healthy church is a biblical understanding of, and practice of, missions. Missions isn’t a biblical word, but it’s a biblical idea. Missions is taking the gospel across boundaries, especially across the boundary of language. And, according to the Bible, this mission is to transform the nature of humanity, and nothing less—to bring us into a reconciled relationship with God, our good Creator and Judge. Missions Begins at Home Self-sacrifice and love of God and others is the seed of missions in the church. You could say that missions begins at home with a concern for the conversion of your family. So teach, befriend, evangelize and disciple your children. Brothers and sisters, have a concern for your friends. Friends share the gospel with friends. “Don’t underestimate how you handicap missions in a church by making evangelism seem optional in the Christian life.” But what does it mean for you to be prepared to share the gospel

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Sunday: Gathering in Gratitude for Our Substitute Sacrifice

Mark Dever, from It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement: Christian brothers and sisters, do you climb up the church steps every Sunday burdened with guilt, as if there’s some way you need to perform on a Sunday morning in order for God to once again be sufficiently pleased with you to allow you to go on for another week? That’s not the gospel; that’s not the good news of Jesus Christ. Do you feel that there is something you still need to do to gain God’s favor? There isn’t. There is nothing else you need to do in order to gain God’s favor. God has done that for you in Christ. God has provided a substitute to bear His correct punishment of us for our sins, to bear His wrath for us, and because of that we are left in the incredible state of freedom and acceptance. Indeed, for us to think there is something else we need to do

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If You’re Thinking about Leaving A Church . . .

  Mark Dever: BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO LEAVE 1. Pray. 2. Let your current pastor know about your thinking before you move to another church or make your decision to relocate to another city. Ask for his counsel. 3. Weigh your motives. Is your desire to leave because of sinful, personal conflict or disappointment? If it’s because of doctrinal reasons, are these doctrinal issues significant? 4. Do everything within your power to reconcile any broken relationships. 5. Be sure to consider all the “evidences of grace” you’ve seen in the church’s life—places where God’s work is evident. If you cannot see any evidences of God’s grace, you might want to examine your own heart once more (Matthew 7:3-5). 6. Be humble. Recognize you don’t have all the facts and assess people and circumstances charitably (give them the benefit of the doubt). ​IF YOU GO . . . 1. Don’t divide the body. 2. Take the utmost care not to sow discontent

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Christianity and a Much Deeper Problem Than the Will

Ever wondered what the basic difference between Christianity and Islam is? Read on… From Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church: One time at Cambridge I was talking with a Lebanese Muslim friend of mine about a mutual friend who was a fairly secular Muslim. My friend wanted him to embrace a more faithful Muslim lifestyle, and I wanted him to become a Christian. So, in a strange way, he and I had something in common. We were both concerned about this friend, though we had very different solutions for his problem. We commiserated on the difficulty of living in a secular British culture. Then my friend remarked on the corruption of this Christian country. I responded that Great Britain is not a Christian country, that in fact there is no such thing as a Christian country. That, my friend said, quickly seizing the opportunity, is the problem with Christianity compared to Islam. Christianity does not provide answers and guidelines

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How to Survive a Cultural Crisis

By Mark Dever: Public opinion appears to be changing about same-sex marriage, as are the nation’s laws. Of course this change is just one in a larger constellation. America’s views on family, love, sexuality generally, tolerance, God, and so much more seems to be pushing in directions that put Bible-believing Christians on the defensive. It’s easy to feel like we’ve become the new “moral outlaws,” to use Al Mohler’s phrase. Standing up for historic Christian principles will increasingly get you in trouble socially and maybe economically, perhaps one day also criminally. It’s ironic that Christians are told not to impose their views on others, even as the threat of job loss or other penalties loom over Christians for not toeing the new party line. In all this, Christians are tempted to become panicked or to speak as alarmists. But to the extent we do, to that same extent we show we’ve embraced an unbiblical and nominal Christianity. Here, then, are seven principles

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Does Church Size Matter?

From The Gospel Coalition: Talk to certain critics of Reformed theology, and you might think something about the doctrines of grace inhibits church growth. Talk to some proponents of Reformed theology, and you might reach the same conclusion. We—both the pastors up front and the Christians in the pews—assign spiritual value to church size, depending on our background and perspective. We see large churches as a sure sign of God’s faithfulness in some cases, and small churches as a sign of God’s faithfulness in other cases. So what, really, does church size matter? That’s the question discussed in this video by pastors Kevin DeYoung, Matt Chandler, and Mark Dever. Their friendly banter touches on serious subjects, including: the awesome responsibility of giving pastoral account for thousands of souls; the urgent need for more ambition to see Jesus Christ change many lives; and the practical nightmare of exponential church growth. They also suggest some helpful resources, no matter your church size.

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Wanted: Apostolic Pastors

Mark Dever talking my kind of language: I was in a meeting not too long ago in which a pastor said that he was going to lead his church to be the first church in history that fulfilled the great commission. That’s a breathtaking claim. And it reminded me of many other such vision-casting mission statements. One of the most famous slogans has to be the watchword of the Student Volunteer Movement, from over a century ago—“The evangelization of the world in this generation!” That stirring call was used by God to send thousands of evangelical Christians from the English-speaking world around the globe to share the gospel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But I have to be honest—I’ve always thought that famous slogan was a mixed bag. I love the call to the evangelization of the world! That stirs my heart, and I mean to be giving my life to that work. But the second half

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Quick Tips on How to Find a Good Church

Mark Dever, What Is a Healthy Church? (IX Marks; Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), p. 79: Quick Tips: How to Find a Good Church 1. Pray. 2. Seek counsel from a godly pastor (or from elders). 3. Keep your priorities straight. The gospel must be truly affirmed, clearly preached, and faithfully lived out. A serious lack in any of these expressions of the gospel is very dangerous. The preaching must be faithful to Scripture, personally challenging, and central to the congregation’s life. You will only grow spiritually where Scripture is treated as the highest authority. Also very important is to consider how the church regulates baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church membership, church discipline, and who has the final say in decision making. In short, read chapters 5 to 13 in this book! 4. Ask yourself diagnostic questions such as: Would I want to find a spouse who has been brought up under this church’s teaching? What picture of Christianity will my children see in

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Why We Love the Church

A couple of advance blurbs for Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s next book, Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (due out at the end of the month): Well, they’ve done it again. The two guys who should be emergent, but aren’t, have followed up their first best seller with what I hope and pray will be a second. In Why We Love the Church DeYoung and Kluck have given us a penetrating critique of church-less Christianity and a theologically rigorous, thoroughly biblical, occasionally hilarious, but equally serious defense of the centrality of the church in God’s redemptive purpose. In spite of her obvious flaws, DeYoung and Kluck really do love the church, because they love the Christ whose body it is. You don’t have to agree with everything they say to appreciate and profit from this superbly written and carefully constructed book. This is a great read and I recommend it with unbridled enthusiasm. Sam Storms,

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Trust in Christ alone

“Saving belief is not mere mental assent, but a believing in – a living in – the knowledge of that news. It is a leaning on, a relying on. We must come to grips with the fact that we are unable to satisfy God’s demands on us, no matter how morally we try to live. We don’t want to end up trusting a little in ourselves and a little in God; we want to realize that we are to rely on God fully, to trust in Christ alone for our salvation.” -Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 41. (HT: Of First Importance)

Mark Dever at Desiring God Pastors Conference

Abraham Piper blogs these helpful summaries of Mark Dever’s messages on evangelism at the DG Pastors’ Conference. 3 Reasons to Share the Gospel 1. A Desire to Be Obedient to God’s Commands Jesus commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. That is exactly what the early disciples did. Paul spoke of a compulsion to share the gospel. To evangelize is to obey. In Acts 8:4, we see that those who had been scattered preached the gospel wherever they went. One of the clearest examples of evangelism being commanded is in 1 Peter 3, where Peter commands believers to “always be…prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Our silence is not a matter of neutrality. You need to tell yourself that. Our silence is a matter of guilt and sin. Obedience is definitely a biblical reason to evangelize. 2. A Love for the Lost

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The primacy of expositional preaching

Mark Dever: “Expositional—a sermon which takes the point of the text as the point of the sermon . . . an exposition of Scripture simply seeks to uncover, explain, and apply the divinely intended meaning of the text.” “. . . expositional preachers are modern day prophets, serving merely as conduits through which the Word of God may flow into the people of God in order to do the work of God in them.” “Pastoral authority is directly related to Authorial intent. The preacher only has authority from God to speak as His ambassador as long as he remains faithful to convey the Divine Author’s intentions. This means that the further the preacher strays from preaching the intention of the text, the further his divine blessing and God-given authority are eroded in the pulpit.” “Does a commitment to expositional preaching mean that I should never preach other kinds of sermons? No. Topical and biographical sermons still have value. It is

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Taking God’s side against sin

“I often tell my congregation that when it comes to battling sin in our lives, the difference between Christians and non-Christians is not that non-Christians sin whereas Christians don’t. The difference is found in which side we take in the battle. Christians take God’s side against sin, whereas non-Christians take sin’s side against God. In other words, a Christian will sin, but then he will turn to God and his Word and say, ‘Help me fight against sin.’ A non-Christian, even if he recognizes his sin, effectively responds, ‘I want my sin more than God.’” -Mark Dever (HT:  Reformed Voices)