9Marks’ Church Mailbag, a great example of “keeping watch on yourself” AKA Practical Theology

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16, NIV)

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16, ESV)

Paul advised young pastor Timothy to do two things. Paul said to watch yourself, and watch your doctrine. People usually focus on one to the exclusion of the other. It’s both of these that make the pastor, and by extension, the Christian. When I share a discernment lesson here on the blog about a teacher I’m concerned with or encouraged by, I always say to watch what they say (doctrine) and watch what they do (life). Barnes’ Notes says of the verse,

Take heed unto thyself – This may be understood as relating to everything of a personal nature that would qualify him for his work. It may be applied to personal piety; to health; to manners; to habits of living; to temper; to the ruling purposes; to the contact with others. In relation to personal religion, a minister should take heed:

I’m encouraged by the men at 9Marks. I like the 9Marks organization. 9Marks was founded by Washington DC pastor Mark Dever in the late 1990s, and has grown to include Jonathan Leeman, and a host of other writers and leaders who contribute to the ministry. I’ve bought and read several of the books Dever has authored, including the original, 9Marks of a Healthy Church. Their own mission statement reads,

9Marks exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God’s glory to the nations through healthy churches. To that end, we want to see churches characterized by these nine marks of health:

The 9 Marks of a Healthy Church
I. Preaching
II. Biblical Theology
III. The Gospel
IV. Conversion
V. Evangelism
VI. Membership
VII. Discipline
VIII. Discipleship
IX. Leadership

John Samson of Reformation Theology wrote in 2009 of 9Marks, that the ministry promotes,

a biblical model for the church actually looks like, building on the foundation of the Gospel. As the book title would suggest, Dr. Dever outlines nine distinctive features of a church that is seeking to conform itself to a biblical pattern for church life and ministry.

If you go to their page, each of the 9Marks is clickable and each one is described on a biblical basis. My own newly planted church was founded based on these marks from the 9Marks’ organization. I like what 9Marks says and I like what they do.

As 9Marks has grown, they began to answer questions that have been submitted to them from the public about church life. I enjoy reading these questions and the answers from 9Marks, for a variety of reasons.

The questions that arise- the ones they publish anyway- are based on scripture. As Paul noted in the verse at the beginning, there’s doctrine, and then there’s living out the doctrine. This interplay between what is written in the Word and how to apply it in life, is always challenging, interesting, thrilling, and open to a variety of interpretations, lol.

The 9Marks people answer these life-doctrine questions from the public according to their best interpretations of scripture. They do so in a way that educates not only according to doctrine, but according to “our life” as Paul had advised. The content of their answers is edifying. The tone of their answers (as far as one can detect on the cold impersonal internet), is also edifying.

Please enjoy the current and previous 7 Mailbag answers and hopefully you will see what I mean and concur. They educate as to doctrine and as to life. Watch both.

Mailbag #47: Applying Paul’s “Able to Teach” Qualification; Confidentiality between Pastors and Members?

Mailbag #46: Tricky Membership Question about Immigration; Pastoring a Church with Lots of Divorcees

Mailbag #45: Transgender Pronouns & Marrying an Egalitarian Couple

Mailbag #44: Applying “Husband of One Wife”; Leaving the Church but Attending Bible Study; Women Voting in the Church

Mailbag #43: Relationship to Excommunicated Members; Baptism & the Developmentally Disabled

Mailbag #42: Hypocritical Church Discipline; Pre-Marital Counseling for Two Unbelievers?

Mailbag #41: When the Church Votes “No” on a Clear Discipline Case; The Biblical Case of “Lay Elders”

Mailbag #40: Too High a Standard for Church Membership; Where Are Churches Commanded to Gather Weekly

Further Reading

Tim Challies’ Book review of 9Marks of a Healthy Church

9Marks Bookstore

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