Some book shorts from 9 marks

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I've been on holiday and August is always a lighter month, so I'm catching up on some reading over the next while. For all the ''take 20 minutes in the morning, afternoon and evening'', finding time to read is hard work in the midst of ministry, plus there are ridiculous amounts of good books coming out. Surely nobody is reading some of them, let alone all of them.


I had observed the 9 Marks franchise from afar having only heard Mark Dever speak once and listened to a few of their interviews. I've never been a fan of people naming organisations after themselves. Richard Coekin and the Co-Mission and now Dever and his 9 Mark's, but I decided to put all that aside as we recently had President Paul Tripp of Paul Tripp ministries in London. Enough of my prejudices. I managed to read a number of the titles written by the 9 marks gang.


Thabiti Anyabwile has taken time out from compiling Carl's festchrift and written on What is a Healthy Church Member? From looking on the website and listening, Church membership is a big thing for the 9 Marks crowd. Again, I think there might be a difference in context in the UK. It's not often given such a high profile . The book itself is a short and good read. Surprisingly Thabiti gives us 10 marks of a church member. The first 9 are the usual, but he manages to cram prayer in at the end (always a good idea). It's a fiine book to give to people. There were things I'd want to add for a British context and, being a Presbyterian church, some parts I'd want to fine tune but it's worth getting and giving away particularly if you're in a Baptist Congregation.


The second book I read was 'Church Planting is for Wimps'. I loved the title but I imagine Mike McKinley has had hate mail over that one. I gave a gentle whack to church planting here and it triggered a flurry of emails telling me I had no business touching the holy grail. McKinley's book is encouraging in that he took over a Baptist church dead on its feet and, through using the 9 Marks, it's come back to life. That is a facetious comment in that I found myself heartily agreeing with lots of the approach McKinley took to church life.


It's a book for plodders and any book that encourages those of us is worthy of buying and reading. I do have a couple of caveats, however. The first McKinley shares himself, on page 105. He moved to Guildford in 2005 and the book is written in 2009. Part of me wants him to hang fire a bit and see where the church is in a few years and how the work develops in the long term. It may be that ''Church Planting for Wimps'' is going to be a multi volume work updated every 4 years but I hope not.  The second concern was I found out too much about  how wonderful Mrs McKinley was. Take her away for a weekend, out to the theatre, tell her how great she is but spare us from hearing it. In spite of these two things I'd recommend it thoroughly.It shows the reality of what many pastors face. It's realistic, encouraging and full of very good advice.


Lastly I read another of Thabiti's books on ''Finding faithful elders and deacons''. This is an excellent book, giving simple exposition and good questions. It'll be a great help to churches and elders. It's amazing how somebody hasn't thought of doing a book like this before. 9 Marks do draw a blurry line on the eldership/pastor distinction. I'm not sure this helps longer term in that it puts huge burdens on what you call ruling elders. The expectations of them become too high and yet they are not able to devote the time to ministry. I passionately believe in elders. I believe that ministers need accountability from them and presbytery but I think we have to admit it's not a perfect system. In lots of elderships there are pressures and tensions and these often hinder and blockade church life (I should stress in the congregation where I serve at IPC we've known a united eldership in my time, that is due to the grace of God and patience of my fellow elders - occasionally they read this ludicrous blog and so this isn't aimed at you lot) . I think the 9 Markers need a little more clarity on this issue. Having said that I wouldn't want to take away from Thabiti's excellent book.


I've enjoyed looking at some of the 9 Marks material. I'm not sure why there are 9 marks and not 10 or 11. Prayer and Mercy ministry might be two you could add. Some feel slightly arbitrary. What we should rejoice in is that Mark Dever and his band of merry men are churchmen and are getting people and pastors to be excited about the local church and for that we should support them and pray for them.
Posted August 3, 2012 @ 9:47 AM by Paul Levy

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