Ecclesiological Issues For The Local Church Today -- By: Mark E. Dever

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 172:688 (Oct 2015)
Article: Ecclesiological Issues For The Local Church Today
Author: Mark E. Dever

Ecclesiological Issues For The Local Church Today*

Mark E. Dever

* This is the fourth article in the four-part series “A Puritan Vision of the Church,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 4-7, 2014.

Mark E. Dever is Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC, and President of 9Marks.

What significance does a right ecclesiology have for the church today? A right ecclesiology matters for the church’s leadership, membership, structure, culture, and even character. Ultimately, a right ecclesiology touches on God’s glory itself. The church is not only an institution founded by Christ; it is his body. In it is reflected God’s own glory. How will theology, the Bible, and even God himself be known apart from the church? What community will understand and explain God’s creation and providence to the world? How will the ravages of sin be explained, the person and work of Christ extolled, the Spirit’s saving work seen, and the return of Christ proclaimed to coming generations if not by the church? The theology expounded in every chapter of the Bible presses outward to be known, and it presses outward through the church. Therefore, getting the doctrine of the church right becomes a benefit to people, as the truth about God and his world is more correctly known, taught, and modeled.

This Matters For The Church’s Leadership

Pastors in churches today must recover the understanding that their primary role is to preach the Word of God. This must happen both for the sake of the flock and for the sake of reaching those outside the flock. The purpose of preaching God’s Word to God’s people is to build up, or edify, the church. Whether numerical

growth results from biblical preaching in any given congregation at any given time, Christ’s church will experience true growth and edification through teaching and instruction. To this end pastors must also lead the church toward a recovery of corrective church discipline. This will be accomplished only when the leadership itself understands the Bible’s teaching about the church and then gives itself to patiently teaching the congregation in these matters.

Whenever pastors recover the centrality of preaching in their ministry, beneficial effects follow. Congregations are better fed and healthier, and then they become better witnesses in their communities. Too often leaders promote church growth exclusively through evangelism, but they fail to consider that an untaught and unhealthy church is a poor witness. And a poor church witness will undermine the evangelistic ministries of th...

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