Dever: MBC won’t go wrong with fundamentals
JEFFERSON CITY—Mark Dever, featured speaker for the 2007 Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Pastors’ Conference Oct. 29 at Tan-Tar-A in Osage Beach, was like a football coach talking about fundamentals when asked about the new church health initiative in the MBC.
Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., was interviewed by phone Sept. 5, the day after the initiative was launched. Dever’s church health model, “9 Marks of a Healthy Church,” is one of five being considered by MBC staffers in the early stages of what may turn out to be a long process.
“Did you first define what a church is?” Dever asked. When told that the opening brainstorming session of approximately 30 minutes did not produce that type of definition, the 9 Marks founder proceeded to go into his “Gentlemen, this is a football!” speech, reminiscent of the late Green Bay Packers football coach, Vince Lombardi.
“Here’s what you need to do first,” he said. “I’ve been involved in many of these conversations. You first need to define what the Gospel is. Make sure you all agree on that. You might not. If you don’t agree on that, you are wasting your time on all of your other conversations.
“If you have agreement on that, then you need to have the substantial conversation, ‘What is the church?’ Not what is a healthy church—what is the church, its essence. And then you might find you have some disagreement over that. Well, if you have disagreement over that, of course you’re not going to have agreement on the following questions about what is a healthy church, and then certainly from that, what would make up such a healthy church. So I think if you go to your more fundamental questions, they’ll be more relevant than you may imagine.”
Getting the Gospel right is not to be assumed, Dever said. Rather, it is a fundamental that groups like the MBC can easily miss in an increasingly pagan culture. The foundation of Christian faith in any given denomination these days may lack integrity, he said. Southern Baptists are not immune.
Getting the Gospel right is like blocking. Getting the church right is like tackling. Execute the fundamentals, the church health coach said.
“I was in a sort of council on ecclesiology discussion for a few years with evangelical Presbyterians, people from Willow Creek, major African-American denominations, Fuller, and the Reformed Church of America,” Dever said. “Everybody in the room would have called themselves a Bible-believing Christian. We talked, on and off, for years, meaning two or three days every summer, about what a church is. Finally, I said, ‘Can I just ask what the Gospel is?’ That proved to be a very interesting and sort of fruitful conversation, but there was a surprising amount of disagreement about it.”
Dever said he is eager to participate in Missouri’s church health conversation on Oct. 29.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “The Gospel is wonderful, and it’s great to get a roomful of pastors together to get excited about the Good News of Jesus Christ.”