9 Marks

We are committed to each of the 9 Marks of a healthy church, as found on the 9Marks.org web site and in Mark Dever’s excellent book. Shown below is our short explanation of these “9 Marks”.

1. Preaching

Expositional preaching is simply taking the text of a passage of Scripture, and preaching it as God’s Word – the point of the sermon coming from the intended meaning of the text.  We don’t want to preach man’s ideas or opinions, but the very Word of God (2 Tim. 4:2), because it is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12).  Jesus said, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’ (Matt. 4:4).  Should we not want to hear from the Creator of the universe Himself?  Though there will be an occasional sermon on a specific topic (based on a text), we normally go book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse.

2. Biblical Theology

What we teach and preach must be based on God’s Word.  We must strive to “accurately handle the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Right and consistent hermeneutics (principles of interpretation) must be applied from Genesis to Revelation, so that we can determine the original author’s intended meaning.  We want to “speak the things that are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), recognizing that some will not want to hear it because they’d rather have their ears tickled (2 Tim. 4:3).

For more detailed information, please see our About/Beliefs page.

3. The Gospel

The good news of Jesus Christ must be rightly understood, and rightly proclaimed.  This is central and critical, because if we mess up the way of salvation, then we risk pointing people to the road to hell instead of to the road to heaven.  What use would it be to get some doctrine right but then err on the teaching of how to get right with God?  The gospel is good news that must be proclaimed, because all need to hear, and because there is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12).

For more detailed information, please see our Gospel page, or our online gospel web site, RUforgiven.org.

4. Conversion

The gospel message must make its intended impact.  It isn’t enough to hear the gospel message.  It isn’t enough to believe the facts of the gospel message.  Every person must be converted – changed – transformed – made a new creature – be born again.  By repenting of sin and turning to Christ in faith, a person can find forgiveness.  This is how, by God’s gift of grace, we can be made spiritually alive and right with God.

For more detailed information, please see our Gospel page, or our online gospel web site, RUforgiven.org.

5. Evangelism

The mere mention of the word often (rightly) brings feelings of guilt to many evangelical Christians.  This gospel message of Christ must be shared with others so that they can be converted.  The Great Commission is for every believer.  A person can’t be saved if they don’t hear a message about Jesus Christ (Romans 10:14), and that message must include the topics of sin, repentance, and faith in Christ.  We dare not proclaim a message that is less than the gospel in an attempt to make it easier for people to believe, because a watered-down gospel tends to make false converts.

For more detailed information, please see our Ministries/Evangelism page.

6. Membership

The church is a family, made one by Christ.  We organize in local groups, called “churches”, for mutual fellowship, edification, and love, for the glory of the Savior.  The New Testament describes how there are to be elders (pastors) and deacons in every church body.  It is organized, with members.  We are not rugged, individualistic believers, out there on our own.  We need each other.  The pastors must know who is in their flock so they know who they are responsible for.

For more detailed information, please see our About/Membership page.

Listen to a 2-minute audio message from John MacArthur, or read this excellent (and short) article by 9 Marks.

7. Discipline

One of the most neglected commands in the New Testament is church discipline (or “Christian restoration”).  Jesus taught this for the purity of the church body and for the good of each individual.  We don’t let a member wander off in sin – we love him enough to go to him and try to bring him back.  Correction in the Christian life is a good thing.  Church discipline includes all 4 steps (Matt. 18), and only rarely ever makes it to the 4th step – but when necessary, we must be committed to follow the Lord’s command in that area, because it is the loving and right thing to do, just as Jesus said.

Listen to a 2-minute audio message from John MacArthur, and read this GCC article about this subject.

8. Discipleship

Discipleship is Christians growing in maturity in Christ.  It is progressive sanctification.  It is sharpening one another, to be more like the Lord Jesus Christ.  It includes seeking counsel from godly saints and obtaining wisdom from those who are further along in the most holy faith.  It is “growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

For more detailed information, please see our Ministries/Body Life page.

9. Leadership

God has ordained that elders (overseers, pastors) lead the local church.  They are to serve in humility, not self-seeking, but sacrificially laboring for the good of the sheep.  They feed, guide, and protect the sheep.  The New Testament also tells us the church should have deacons (servants).  Standards (or qualifications) for leadership are clearly spelled out in the New Testament;  we don’t rely on the world’s standards for leadership qualification or practice.

For more detailed information, please see our About/Leadership page.

You can view Mark Dever’s 3-minute video about the subject of “Why these nine marks?”

Shown below are some quotes by men of God on the subject of the church:

What will a church look like that is committed to the ordinary means of grace? It will be characterized by love for expository preaching, passion for worship, delight in truth, embrace of the Gospel, the Spirit’s work of conversion, a life of godliness; robust family religion; biblical evangelism; biblical discipleship, biblical church membership, mutual accountability in the church, biblical church leadership, and a desire to be a blessing to the nations.  Along with this all, there will be an unapologetic, humble, and joyful celebration of the transcendent sovereignty of the one, true, triune God in salvation and all things. – Ligon Duncan

Don’t go where it is all fine music and grand talk and beautiful architecture; those things will neither fill anybody’s stomach, nor feed his soul. Go where the gospel is preached, the gospel that really feeds your soul, and go often. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The great, God-blessed churches in the world today have one common characteristic: an insistence upon an exposition of God’s infallible Word. – O.S. Hawkins

Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God. – John Calvin

The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of Christians. – A.W. Tozer

Some professing Christians, especially pastors and theologians, have assumed a reversed mission: instead of being the church’s missionaries to the world, they have become the world’s missionaries to the church.  – Dinesh D’Souza, as quoted by Michael Horton, in The Gospel-Driven Life

Nothing worse can happen to a church than to be conformed to this world. – Charles Spurgeon

I believe that one major reason that the church of Jesus Christ in the United States is very close to being in sheer chaos today is because so many people think themselves as individuals rather than as part of the body of Christ. Christianity is not “every man for himself;” it’s every man together for Christ. – Wayne Mack in To Be or Not To Be a Church Member, Calvary Press, 2004, p58-59.

The word “church” is used one hundred ten times in the New Testament, and it is instructive to note that ninety-three of those are clear references to the local church. …We may conclude from this large number of references that the Bible has quite a lot to say about the importance of the local church. – Wayne Mack (ibid)

In proportion as a church is holy, in that proportion will its testimony for Christ be powerful. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The church [is] the gathering of God’s children, where they can be helped and fed like babies and then, guided by her motherly care, grow up to manhood in maturity of faith. – John Calvin

The true greatness of any church in not how many it seats but how many it sends! – (anon)

Oh, my friends, we are loaded down with countless church activities, while the real work of the church, that of evangelizing the world and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected. – Oswald Smith

Pragmatism is quickly replacing supernaturalism in many churches. It is an attempt to achieve spiritual objectives by human methodology rather than supernatural power. Its primary criterion is external success. It will employ whatever method draws a crowd and stimulates the desired response. Its underlying presuppositions are that the church can accomplish spiritual goals by fleshly means, and that the power of God’s Word alone is not sufficient to break through a sinner’s blindness and hardness of heart. – John MacArthur in Our Sufficiency in Christ, p32.

The most basic truths of our faith have fallen victim to [pragmatic], self-centered theology. Many modern-day evangelists have reduced the gospel message to little more than a formula by which people can live a happy and more fulfilling life. Sin is now defined by how it affects man, not how it dishonors God.  Salvation is often presented as a means of receiving what Christ offers without obeying what He commands. The focus has shifted from God’s glory to man’s benefit. The gospel of persevering faith has given way to a kind of religious hedonism. Jesus, contemporary theology implies, is your ticket to avoiding all of life’s pains and experiencing all of life’s pleasures. – John MacArthur (ibid, p154)

The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church– and no one ought to be separated from it. – Belgic Confession, Article 29

The early church was most useful when it preached the meaning of Christ through the lens of the whole of Scripture. It was most powerful when it maintained integrity with God and other human beings.  It was most evangelistic when it understood that adherents of other religions, whether Jewish or Greek or Roman, faced eternal judgment without Christ. – Paul House