Later this month I’ll be going to a local church event called a “Weekender.” The 9Marks church network is hosting the event for pastors and church leaders who want to see the inner workings of how a healthy church is run. I had no idea “weekender” was even a word until a pastor friend told me about it a couple years ago. He said the training he received was one of the most helpful and practical events he had ever attended. So when I saw there was one within driving distance, I jumped at the opportunity.
I’m looking forward to going to this weekend church event because it is a hands on, full-immersion experience of a behind-the-scenes look at a healthy, biblically-sound church. The 9Marks website says, “We encourage pastors and church leaders to attend because, just as every Timothy needs a Paul, so every church needs a model.” The apostle Paul certainly believed in modeling healthy Christian living. He wrote, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 3:19; 4:7 ESV)
The 9Marks Weekender starts on a Friday night and runs all the way to Monday morning. Some pastors and church leaders come from out of state to have their questions answered about how to run a healthy church. The weekend includes attending elder meetings, which would normally be closed to outside eyes and ears, and teaching sessions that include practical, biblically-based insight into how to run meetings, prepare sermons, and lead the local church.
You may be wondering why is it called a 9Marks Weekender? The reason is because it is hosted by a network of churches called 9Marks. Back in 1991, a pastor named Mark Dever wrote a letter to a church in Massachusetts encouraging them to pursue “nine marks of a healthy church.” It was so well received that it was developed into a book and then into a network of churches that all make a commitment to these nine marks.
Now, you must be curious about what they are. You may be asking, “What makes a healthy church?” The book Pastor Mark Dever wrote doesn’t claim that the list is comprehensive in any way. It doesn’t say that these nine marks are the most important part of the church. It does say the book “focuses on certain crucial aspects of healthy church life that have grown rare among churches today.” As I list them for you today, I thought it would be helpful to expand on each of them with a series of articles focused on modeling a healthy church.
I don’t have the space or time to write about each of them now, but over the coming weeks I will address two or three at a time with the aim of helping us all become more discerning in knowing what a healthy church looks like. We all know there is no such thing as a perfect church, but we can all appreciate churches that are trying to search Scripture and understand how God wants them to function. After all, Jesus Christ is the one who said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:8). There is no better way to learn how to be the church than to follow the guidelines he has given us in His word.