Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Is 9 Marks the next fad?

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!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Mike,

    I understand your fear. Frankly we see many 'fads' in church growth, ministry, outreach, evangelism, preaching, teaching, worship music, etc. come and go.

    These programs and methodologies are not in/of themselves bad as long as we aren't looking for "magic beans" to plant in the ground so that the beanstalk will somehow grow us into heavenly realms of glory and mega-churchdom.

    To this date, the interesting difference in 9Marks is that they don't have an instruction manual, DVD cirriculum, and step-by-step method to do what they did at their church.

    They publish books, tell their story, have seminars about what they do and why they do it.
    We all hope & Pray that their focus on Biblically centered, foundational teaching will go no further than this.

    We don't need 9 Marks bracelets, CD's, banners or posters.

    Yet in American "Church-World" the temptation to can and sell what worked for someone else is huge.

    Let me quote a few statements from a book written 12 years ago.

    "The key issue in the twenty-first century will be church health, not church growth...A lot of books and conferences on church growth fall into the "How to build a wave" category..." (The author uses a surfing illustration here) "...They try to manufacture the wave of God's Spirit, using gimicks, programs, or marketing techniques to create growth. But growth cannot be produced by man! Only God makes the church grow..."

    The book, "The Purpose Driven Church" by Rick Warren written in 1995. There is some good stuff in it.

    We can learn much from any study, organization, group, program, ministry, or church as long they stay close to the Word. We can learn, adjust, seek God's leadership, and move forward by using not the things that worked for them, but using the discernment God gives us to utilize whatever tools He provides to grow a healthy church.

    Take whatever is current and hot. Pray over it. Delete the fluff. Recognize that any value comes from the restatement of the same old truths in a manner which touches the contemporary mind, takes us back to the Word, drives us to our knees, and lifts our eyes to the future seeking God's blessing on His people.

    (Sorry for the lengthy comment, but Mike, you know me. Can't help myself)


  3. Thank you for your comments. I suppose I should make a clarification on my intent in citing The Purpose Driven Church. My purpose in citing that book is to show that anything put in the hands of our consumerist "can-it and sell-it" evangelicals will turn into a church growth strategy. While there are many things in the Purpose Driven Church that I believe are unhealthy, his statement about church health is dead on. Yet, those who were marketing the book could not help themselves and only a few pages down they started plugging church growth!

    Terry, I think that you make a very valid point by noting that 9 Marks to date is not trying to package what they do! I pray that this continues. I also pray that we might stop looking for "magic beans" and start looking for Jesus.

    Thanks for your interaction.

  4. This blog reminds me of bloodtippedears.blogspot.com! I'll look elsewhere!

  5. "The book, "The Purpose Driven Church" by Rick Warren written in 1995. There is some good stuff in it."

    This is an interesting statement. It is more dangerous to tell half of the truth than it is an out right lie. The likes of Rick Warren is widening the wide gate that says "heaven" but leads to hell. There is no time in the history of american "christendom" that so many people are familiar with Jesus and because these silly little "boy" preachers tell them they said the prayer and they are "OK", that the masses of people gathering on Sunday are deceived! It is a tragedy for anyone to go to hell, but I can't think of anything more tragic than someone standing before the Lord thinking themselves saved and they will be sent to hell. Matthew chapter 7 speaks of this and what our Lord is saying is NOT all those who claim Me as Lord and then the rest of the world is the many.......what He is saying is of all those who emphatically claim Me as Lord......of them, only a "few" are genuine. That is frightening and the likes of Rick Warren is making that number grow!

    Also, I don't understand the comment about bloodtippedears? I visit that blog and find it to promote the glory of God?? Oh well.




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