Pastors’ Conference aims to revitalize
9Marks presentation to include 90 minutes of questions, answers
JEFFERSON CITY—“Building Healthy Churches,” a theme that fits hand-in-glove with what Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Interim Executive Director David Tolliver has been highlighting recently, will be thoroughly developed over five instructional sessions Oct. 29 in the MBC Pastors’ Conference at Tan-Tar-A, Osage Beach.
Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and founder of 9Marks Ministries, is bringing along Staff Members Matt Schmucker and Jonathan Leeman to conduct a 9Marks workshop on church health.
The www.9Marks.org ministry is one of five whose ideas are being considered by MBC staffers in the early stages of a church health initiative. More than 700 participating churches are identified on a map under the church search function of the 9Marks website.
“We try to summarize the teaching of the New Testament on the church, particularly as it relates to some very practical questions that pastors face,” Dever said.
“People are certainly buying and using the resources, but we’re not trying to quantify it. We’re just trying to be helpful while we can be.”
Schmucker, executive director of 9Marks since 1998, will kick off the conference at 9 a.m. with a teaching titled, “Display God’s Gospel by Listening to His Word.” Dever will then speak on “Preaching & Biblical Theology.” The third message of the morning, on “Conversion & Evangelism,” will be delivered around 11 a.m. by Leeman, who serves 9Marks as director of communications. The afternoon teachings will be “Membership/Discipline,” by Schmucker, at 1 p.m., and “Leadership,” by Dever, at 2:30 p.m.
The workshop is designed to promote interaction. Four separate question-and-answer sessions consisting of a total of 90 minutes are built into the format. Three 20-minute “Q&A” times are scheduled to begin at 10:20 a.m., 11:40 a.m. and 2 p.m.; a final round of 30 minutes is slated for 3:30 p.m.
“It seems that much of the conversation and energy in ministry surrounds issues such as programming, techniques, methodologies, and events,” said Pastors’ Conference President Joe Braden, pastor of First Baptist Church, St. Peters. “While these matters must be addressed, they ultimately must be informed and critiqued by foundational matters. I am learning that knowing the truth concerning the more foundational questions (What is the Gospel? What is a Christian? What is a church?) is far more effective in addressing the health of a local church than being overly consumed with secondary matters of technique.”
The “9Marks” way is to serve pastors and other church leaders by refocusing attention on the value of healthy congregations. As the ministry does this in settings like Tan-Tar-A, it seeks to encourage leaders to rethink the biblical nature, purpose and leadership structures of the church and to reconnect careful biblical theology with responsible church practice.
Dever said he dwells in the land of “the always things,” or “the assumed things.” For example, he does not presume that everyone in his audience has the same definition of the Gospel. And he knows that his commitment to teach the basics leaves much to be desired these days when stacked up next to the marketing savvy of Christian publishing houses.
“Frankly, there’s no financial interest in it,” Dever admitted. “There’s no novelty in it. Everybody believes, of course, that you should say things that are true from the pulpit. Everybody believes that you should preach the Gospel. Everybody believes that you should evangelize. So saying those things doesn’t tend to get anybody excited.
“But what I’m saying is that I know we all say we believe those things, but I think maybe we’ve slipped in what we understand those things to be. I think a careful look at Scripture on some of the most basic things that we take for granted might actually be the very thing we need to revitalize our churches.”
The 9Marks idea is tied to a book Dever wrote concerning areas of emphasis that are “most neglected in most local churches today.” The marks are: expositional preaching; biblical theology; a biblical understanding of the Gospel; a biblical understanding of conversion; a biblical understanding of evangelism; a biblical understanding of church membership; biblical church discipline; promotion of Christian discipleship and growth; and a biblical understanding of church leadership.