Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
The Gospel is the Heart of Christianity
It is particularly important to have a biblical theology in one special area of a church’s life–our understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel. The gospel is the heart of Christianity, and so it should be the heart of our faith. All of us as Christians should pray that we would care more about the wonderful good news of salvation through Christ than we do about anything else in the church’s life. A healthy church is filled with people who have a heart for the gospel, and having a heart for the gospel means having a heart for the truth–for God’s presentation of Himself, of our need, of Christ’s provision, and of our responsibility.
God, Man, Christ, Response
When I present the gospel to someone, I try to remember four points–God, man, Christ, response. Have I shared with this person the truth about our Holy God and Sovereign Creator? Have I made it clear that we as humans are a strange mixture, creatures made in the image of God and yet fallen, sinful and separated from Him? Does the person I’m talking with understand who Christ is–the Godman, the only mediator between God and man, our substitute and resurrected Lord? And finally, even if I’ve shared all this with him, does he understand that he must respond to the gospel, that he must believe this message and so turn from his life of self-centeredness and sin?
The Gospel is a Radical Offer of Salvation
To present the gospel as an additive to give non- Christians something they naturally want (joy, peace, happiness, fulfillment, self-esteem, love) is partially true, but only partially true. As J. I. Packer says, “a half truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.” Fundamentally, everyone needs forgiveness. We need spiritual life. To present the gospel less radically than this is to ask for false conversions and increasingly meaningless church membership, both of which make the evangelization of the world around us all the more difficult.
Our church members scattered in our homes, offices and neighborhoods will, this very day, see far more non- Christians, for far longer, than they will ever spend with Christians on a Sunday. Each of us has tremendous news of salvation in Christ. Let’s not barter it for something else. And let’s share it today! George W. Truett, great Christian leader of the past generation and pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, said:
- The supreme indictment that you can bring against a church . . . is that such a church lacks in passion and compassion for human souls. A church is nothing better than an ethical club if its sympathies for lost souls do not overflow, and if it does not go out to seek to point lost souls to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
A healthy church knows the gospel, and a healthy church shares it.
Questions for Reflection
- The author believes that we as Christians should care more about the good news of salvation through Christ than we do about anything else in the church’s life. Do you agree? Read I Corinthians 2:2. Why is the message of Jesus Christ so important?
- To have a biblical understanding of the gospel, what does a person need to understand about God? What does a person need to understand about man and his state under sin? What must a person understand about Christ? According to Jesus in Mark 1:15, what should be man’s response to the good news? What is involved in each of the two main parts of that response?
- The author writes that “to present the gospel less radically than this is to ask for false conversions and increasingly meaningless church membership.” What is this “radical” message of the gospel? How does that differ from the way the gospel is sometimes presented as a way for non- Christians to be happier and to feel better about themselves?
- How does your church measure up to George W. Truett’s challenge on page 24? How passionate is your church to share the good news of salvation through Christ with lost people?