Western Seminary is partnering with 9Marks to put on a conference about building healthy churches, to be held at Hinson Baptist Church, March 31-April 1. Speakers at this conference include Mark Dever, Shai Linne, Todd Miles, and Michael Lawrence.
In anticipation of this conference, Transformed sat down with Mark Dever (senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, in Washington D.C., and president of 9Marks) for a chat.
Transformed: What is 9Marks and why does it exist?
Mark Dever: 9Marks is a parachurch ministry that has been around for about 20 years, and exists to help those who are active in leading and serving in their local churches. It tries to help churches be more biblically healthy.
Transformed: What’s on the horizon for 9Marks?
Mark Dever: Continuing to do the things we have done in the past—more translation, more work in Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian, and other languages. Continuing to put out books, articles, and audio format resources on the website, www.9marks.org.
Transformed: What is the point of the upcoming 9Marks conference in Portland, Oregon? Why is it worth attending?
Mark Dever: I think it’s true to say that most American evangelicals do not appreciate the local church as they should—they don’t understand how central it is to their own discipleship and growing as a Christian—they don’t understand how important the food of God’s word is through preaching, as God has intended it—they don’t think well, even as pastors, about church membership and church leadership. These are the kind of topics we want to try to address in our time together.
Transformed: What can someone expect to find at this conference?
Mark Dever: They should expect to find pastors gathered to think carefully about difficult topics like church discipline, and very basic topics like biblically theology, addressed specifically by pastors, with times of Q&A scattered in, and some pretty interactive parts of the format.
Transformed: Who would benefit from attending this conference?
Mark Dever: Pastors of churches, other elders in churches, those who are considering going into church leadership full time, and other interested laymen in the church, who perhaps aspire to be elders.
Transformed: Tell us a little bit about your heart for the church. Specifically, why have you dedicated so much time and attention to helping local churches think critically about who they are and what they do?
Mark Dever: I want the world to hear that Jesus Christ is Lord, and the way Jesus said that would happen is through the local church. So, if we are going to see people truly converted—not just thinking of numbers reported, but people’s lives actually changing by being born again—the local church is the normal way that happens. The gospel goes out and is confirmed by the life of the local church. So, one of the things we found out at the Reformation, five hundred years ago this year, is how closely related the topics of the church and the gospel really are. I’m sure that that’s some of what we’ll be thinking about in our time together.
Transformed: When considering the state of the church in North America, what are some of your thoughts?
Mark Dever: I’m excited that there are many pastors who are really concerned about topics like discipling, and seeing people grow in Christ. There is a lot of interest out there in expositional preaching—everything from Simeon Trust workshops to long-standing faithful ministries like John MacArthur’s. I am thankful that Jonathan Leeman’s work on church membership has helped a lot of pastors, and that some folks have been rethinking that—even within denominations out on the West Coast that have historically not been very big on church membership.
I think some signal failings in noted church ministries have made people rethink leadership, and be open to ask question about whether some ways of thinking about leadership are more secular than Godly. I see an openness to old topics like church discipline, that used to be done in the 1700’s and 1800’s, and then was kind of forgotten.
The enmity of the secular culture to the gospel is quite obvious, and it is causing a sleepy church to wake up and realize that God wants to distinguish his people from the people of the world. Part of that will mean practicing church discipline. So, there are a lot of these topics that I have been pressing on for twenty years, and are all in Scripture, where changes in culture have made them all the more obviously important.