A Quick Question for 9Marks

Gentlemen --

Even your tweets make me happy.

Look: that said, you have published an archive of books and pamphlets that frankly instruct anyone who wants to know how to do it regarding how to have a healthy and Christ-centered church.  I own them all.  I recommend them to anyone who has a question even remotely related.  There is nothing about them, as far as I'm concerned, not right.

Here's the problem we have today in English-speaking Christendom, as highlighted by this tweet from Dr. Dever from the much-esteemed Jonathan Leeman: people say they can't find a decent local church.  That is: they can't find one, if we stick to the confessional lingo, where the admixture of error isn't in fact the predominant feature of the congregation.  If there are 9Marks for s healthy church, they would say that all the churches they have visited locally are scoring below 4 good marks, and probably below 3.

As a person who thinks these claims are over-rated, but also as a person who has to drive 40 minutes one way to get to the church where I think the elders (because they have elders and not a CEO) have a real spiritual concern for my family and all the families in the church, how does the maxim blurbed via twitter, above, speak to the reality of the sick state of English-speaking evangelicalism and the near-absence of decent local churches?

Thanks much for the consideration!


Zachary Bartels said...

This is one of those beautiful theological tensions. Three and One, Human and Divine, Already and not yet, simul iustus et peccator... wheat and chaff growing up together. You gotta find the best church you can (as you did), commit, submit (when you can, biblically) and start helping to make it all the more biblical and Christ-honoring. I tend to agree with that quote and with Cyprian's even stronger-worded version. But I also agree with you--we can't pretend the tension isn't there. If we're going to tell people what a worthwhile church looks like and that they must belong to one, we have to help them figure out what to do when there just isn't one around. (start one? hijack one? move?)

P.D. Nelson said...

"If we're going to tell people what a worthwhile church looks like and that they must belong to one, we have to help them figure out what to do when there just isn't one around. (start one? hijack one? move?)"

Exactly. Well said Pastor Zach

FX Turk said...

That's how Zach became a pastor actually: hijacking.

Anonymous said...

I think the other side of this is that more local churches need also to take seriously the role of the local church.

I wonder how much that contributes to the lack of viable churches.

We can't go all "seeker-sensitive" but we do need to be "sheep-caring-foring", do we not?

Still, there is a time to join and help to promote Bibleyness, and a time to drive a little further, and a time to start up something new.

I wonder, are we also not suffering from those who would rather stay at home than consider starting something? And if we are, what does that say about those same kinds of people, even if they are right-now a member of a solid church.

Kind of a "I like the you carry me so well, but don't ask me to carry anyone" kind of mentality.

How would that change the church-planting landscape, if we all had it in our head, that the lack of a good church means I ought to start one...

Steve Scott said...

I like your question, Frank. In light of that, I can rearrange the tweet thus:

"Stop calling yourself a Church if you're making a habit of living independently from how the bible instructs you to act toward those who assemble with you."

FX Turk said...

Steve - I think you make a sharp point, but there's a confessional edge which, I think, your tweet would lack.

The original makes it clear: Christians without a local church are no such thing. I think that's a frankly-biblical axiom. But is a church, for example, which is soft on discipline but passable on preaching and sacraments a church? How about a church which is passage on discipline and sacrament but weak in preaching? Or finally a church which is weak on any 2 of the 3 but passable on the third?

See: I think the church in Corinth is an object lesson for us believers. It's a church weak, frankly, in all three areas and still: Paul treats them and admonishes them as though they were actually a church.

I think the next best 9Marks book will be about how to be a decent Christian in a church like the one in Corinth. Or something like that.