This past month I had the privilege of reading “The Church: The Gospel Made Visible“ as part of our pastoral staff’s ongoing reading program (read a book each month and write a review). The following is my review of this book by Pastor Mark Dever.
As one reads through many of Mark Dever’s books it becomes apparent that he has a desire for people to have a Biblical understanding of “the church”. This desire is seen in his ministry “9 Marks” which details what he believes are 9 marks of a healthy or Biblical local church. In his book “The Church: The Gospel Made Visible” Dever continues his ecclesiological education by, first, running the different aspects of the church (it’s nature, attributes, membership, polity, discipline, etc) through a biblical grid, then secondly, showing how the church or churches stayed true or deviated from biblical teaching throughout history and then finally applying that information to what a local church should look like today.
The first section is foundational to the whole book, and has necessary information for all Christians as they discover their relationship to the body of Christ made visible through the local church. The first 8 chapters focus on answering the question “What does the Bible Say?”. One of the basic principles that he comes back to regularly is that the marks of a church, as seen in Scripture, come down to 1. right preaching (Preaching the Word, built up by biblical theology and centered around the gospel) and 2. Right administration of the ordinances.
The 3 chapters in the second section answer the question “What has the Church Believed?”. Here he covers the history of the idea of the church, the ordinances of the church and the organization of the church. As he explores the history of the church he goes back to the Biblical foundation that he already laid comparing and contrasting the actions of men, churches, traditions and denominations against Scripture.
Finally in the 4 chapters of the third section Dever puts it all together and puts forth what he believes a Biblical church should look like. In summary a biblical church has right preaching, right administration of ordinances, a biblical view of church membership, and an elder led yet congregational governed structure.
If you’re wondering if you should read this book, ask yourself two questions. 1. Do I know what the Bible says about the church? And 2. Do I know why churches today, and specifically my church, believes what we believe and practices what we practice? If the answer to either of those is less than affirmative, then this would book would be an excellent book for you to read.