If the Church is to fulfill her mission, she must again become distinct from the world (John 13:34-35). There are, of course, certain significant characteristics exhibited by healthy churches such as prayer and fellowship, for example. We want to pursue these and want you to pursue them with us. However, the “nine marks” of a healthy church described below are often largely neglected in most local churches today, and that with serious and damaging ramifications. Therefore, we think it wise for us to concentrate on these nine and let other parts of the Body universal promote other important indicators of a healthy local church. Here's a brief summary of what we mean by each of the Nine Marks.
1. Expositional Preaching
This is preaching that expounds what Scripture says in a given passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. It is preaching dedicated to hearing God's Word and to recovering its centrality in our worship.
2. Biblical Theology
Paul charges Titus to "teach what is in accord with sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1). Our concern should be not only how we are taught, but what we are taught. Biblical theology is a commitment to knowing the God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
3. Biblical Understanding of the Good News
The Gospel is the heart of Christianity. But the good news is not that God wants to meet people's felt needs or help them develop a healthier self-image. We have sinfully rebelled against our Creator and Judge. Yet, He has graciously sent His Son to die the death we deserved for our sin, and has credited Christ's acquittal to those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus' death and resurrection. That is the Good News.
4. Biblical Understanding of Conversion
The spiritual change each person needs is so radical, so near the root of us, that only God can do it. We need God to convert us. Conversion need not be an emotionally-heated experience, but it must evidence itself in godly fruit if it is to be what the Bible regards as a true conversion.
5. Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
How someone shares the gospel is closely related to how he understands the gospel. To present it as an additive that gives non-Christians something they naturally want (i.e. joy or peace) is to present a half-truth, which elicits false conversions. The whole truth is that our deepest need is spiritual life, and that new life only comes by repenting of our sins and believing in Jesus. We present the gospel openly, and leave the converting to God.
6. Biblical Understanding of Membership
Membership should reflect a living commitment to a local church through attendance, giving, prayer and service; otherwise it is meaningless, worthless--and even dangerous. We should not allow people to keep their membership in our churches for sentimental reasons or due to lack of attention. To be a member is knowingly to travel together as aliens and strangers in this world as we head to our heavenly home.
7. Biblical Church Discipline
Church discipline gives parameters to church membership. The idea seems negative to people today; "Didn't our Lord forbid judging?" But if we cannot say how a Christian should not live, how can we say how he or she should live? In actuality, each local church has a biblical responsibility to judge the life and teaching of its leaders and even of its members, particularly insofar as either could compromise the church's witness to the gospel.
8. Promotion of Christian Discipleship and Growth
A pervasive concern with church growth exists today-not simply with growing numbers, but with growing members. Though many Christians measure other things, the only certain observable sign of growth is a life of increasing holiness, rooted in Christian self-denial. These concepts are nearly extinct in the modern church. Recovering true discipleship today would build the church and promote a clearer witness to the world.
9. Biblical Understanding of Leadership
What eighteenth-century Baptists and Presbyterians often agreed upon was that there should be a plurality of elders in each local church. This plurality of elders is not only biblical, but practical; it has the immense benefit of rounding out the pastor's gifts to ensure the proper shepherding of God's church.
This document was taken in part from 9Marks Ministries. 9Marks Ministries helps local churches re-establish their Biblical bearings and rethink their ministry methods. They exist to help local church pastors and leaders in the discovery and application of the Biblical priorities that cultivate health and holiness in the local church. Visit their site at www.9marks.org.
The links below contain further information and explanation of our beliefs: