The title of this post sickens me. I love 9Marks. I love Mark Dever. I am in awe of everything the Lord is doing through 9Marks and those like it to restore the church to a more biblical position. I love their love for the Bride of Christ. I love their love for the Bridegroom. 9Marks is a GREAT gift to the church. Fads stink. Fads are counter-productive. Fads are often marked by unbiblical practice. Fads carry with them a trail of those with false hope. Fads break hearts. Fads cause the church to dwindle. Fads I despise. Therefore, to ask "Is 9Marks the next fad" is appalling to me.
Before we begin to ask this question it would be wise to summarize what I mean by 9Marks. I am not specifically talking about 9Marks Ministries. What I am talking about is the mindset that 9Marks is promoting throughout the body of Christ: the notion that we need to return to biblically based ministries and methods. It aims to restore for us expositional preaching; biblical theology; a biblical view of the gospel, conversion, and evangelism; it aims to put back into practice biblical church discipline, a concern for discipleship and growth, and biblical church leadership. The ones in particular that are being embraced (especially throughout the SBC) are expositional preaching and church discipline. Many are hoping to see all 9 Marks flourish in the SBC and all throughout Christianity; I am one of them. I whole-heartedly believe that we need to see these 9 Marks throughout our churches; simply because these 9 Marks are what the Bible calls the church to bear.
Well then, can we put the nail in the coffin and say that 9 Marks is not a fad? Unfortunately, no. My position is that 9 Marks in and of itself is not a fad. The leaders of 9 Marks are not passionate about promoting another concept, another idea for successful growth, etc. This is not a church growth strategy. It is different than all of the other church growth books. In fact on the back of the 9 Marks book it clearly states, "this is not an instruction manual for church growth". Contrast this with the Purpose Driven Church. While Rick Warren says, "The issue is church health, not church growth" only a few paragraphs down we are encouraged to "learn the secret behind the fastest-growing Baptist Church in American history." We see the "5-part strategy that will enable our church to grow." 9 Marks is not about church growth! It's about being biblical.
How then could we possibly say that 9Marks is a fad? It becomes a fad when it gets in the hands of those who come from the consumerist fad-mentality that evangelicalism of the last 100 years has fostered. When we forget that 9 Marks is NOT ABOUT CHURCH GROWTH and hope to apply the principles so as to get our churches to grow then it becomes a fad. If we think that shuffling through our rolls will bring down God's blessing, then we miss it. If we think that redefining church membership will help our churches grow, then we miss it. When we think that expositional preaching will bring about a massive revival, we miss it. Will clearing the rolls please God? Probably. Will redefining church membership bring about growth in the future? Probably. Is it possible that expositional preaching will lead to revival? Quite possibly. Are any of these the goal?
Why do we do expositional preaching? Because it is biblical. Why do we clear our church rolls? Because it is biblical. Why are we careful to preserve the unashamedly God-centeredness of the gospel? Because it is biblical. Why do we exercise church discipline? Because it is biblical. My "fear" is that we will make 9 Marks into another fad and whenever it doesn't "work" for growing massive churches and getting all kinds of people saved we will then move on to the next great thing. My "fear" is that if revival does not come through "us doing our part" we will move on to something else and forget the reason we do everything--to glorify God!
So, if you want your church to get on board with 9 Marks then I urge you do not do it for the sake of church growth. Do not do it because you think expositional preaching might bring that revival you so long for. Do not start exercising church discipline because you think God will smile on you and that because you have purged your church of sin He will bring His revival. Do not lead your church through church membership classes in the hope that it will grow your church and that they will become more faithful members. Do all of these things because it is biblical. Remember, dear friends, our goal is not revival for the sake of revival. Our goal is Jesus for the sake of Jesus!