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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

Mark Dever

Mark Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and the author of What Does God Want of Us Anyway? (Crossway, 2010).

Blog posts by Mark Dever:

How to Survive a Cultural Crisis

Public opinion appears to be changing about same-sex marriage, as are the nation's laws. Of course this change is just one in a larger constellation. America's views on family, love, sexuality generally, tolerance, God, and so much more seems to be pushing in directions that put Bible-believing Christians on the defensive.

New Video: Serving Pastors in 2013


We created a short video about our work in 2013.


Which church should I join?

I've gotten into several conversations with friends lately about which church they should join, or how they should advise their friends to evaluate a church. 
I was recently reading The Top 100 Questions, by Richard Bewes (Rector, All Souls', Langham Place, London 1983-2004), and he had 4 good questions to ask yourself about the church you've been visiting:
1.  Does the Bible actually get opened here?
2.  Is this the kind of church you could take an uncommitted friend to?
3.  Is there a recognisably New Testament feel to the church?
    Here's what he meant in this question:  "Is it Trinitarian in its emphasis on Father, Son and Holy Spirit as equally God?  Is the saving death of Christ at its centre (I Cor. 2:2)?  Do the hymns reflect this?  Are baptism and the Lord's Supper . . . a proper part of the church . . . ?"
4.  On the whole, are the arrows pointing outwards from the church?
In fact, these are 4 good question not just to tell your friend, but for yourself as you pray for and evaluate your own church.

Making Silence Together

One of the most frequently commented upon aspects of the morning Lord's Day service here at Capitol Hill Baptist Church is nothing we do.  Or rather, it is the nothing we do.  It is our moments of silence.
There's silence between various aspects of the service. I encourage service leaders to NOT do the "no-dead-airspace" TV standard of busy-ness. We LIKE "dead air space."  "Dead air space" gives us time to reflect.  To collect our thoughts.  To consider what we've just heard or read or sung.  The silence amplifies the words or music we've just heard.  It allows us time to take it all in, and to pray.  We have silence to prepare ourselves.  We have silence between the announcements and the scriptural call to worship.  We even have a moment of silence AFTER the service!  I pronounce the benediction from the end of II Corinthians, invite the congregation to be seated.  And then, after about a minute of silence, the pianist begins quietly playing the last hymn that we had just sung.  During those few moments, we reflect and prepare to speak to others and depart.  We do business with God.  We prepare ourselves for the week ahead.
I'm a sound addict.  Even as I write about silence now, I've got Paganini blasting in my study!  But yesterday morning in church during one of our silences, I became aware of how corporate a labor such public silence is.  Everyone works to be quiet.  People stop moving their bulletins or looking for something in their purse.  There's no movement.  We, together, hear the silence.  It engulfs us.  It enhances our unity.  It is something we all do together.  Together we consider what we've just heard.  Together we contribute to each other's space to think.
Why has the church forgotten this?  Our culture knows it.  At the most solemn moments, we have a minute of silence.  And everyone listens to the silence.  And thinks about why we're being silent.  Why don't we do this in the church.
In the last century, E. M. Forster, in A Passage to India, referred to "poor little talkative Christianity".  Perhaps there was a day when all Christians did was gather to listen to the Bible read and preached, and to prayers.  But that day is long gone in most evangelical churches.  These days we gather more to watch than to listen.  And to sing. 
But in all the noise of our choirs, and drums, and electic guitars, and organs, and praise bands, where is the solemnity?  Where is the dignity and majesty that is so often indicated in the Bible by a stupified silence, soaked in awe and covered with wonder?
Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent, but we seem to have forgotten today that there is a time for silence.  God calls his people before Him in silence:  "the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him," (Hab. 2:20).
Certainly as Christians we have much to rejoice over--loudly and joyfully and expectantly!  But is no part of our regular assemblies to reflect the weightiness of our sinful selves before a holy God, the silence of conviction, even of sorrow?  Furthermore, is no part of our regular assemblies to reflect the stunning weightiness of our forgiveness in Christ, the silence of marvel, and even the humility of some incomprehension?
We silence ourselves exactly because God has not kept silent.  We silence ourselves in order to hear God speak in His Word (cf. Deut. 27:9)  We silence ourselves to show our assent to God's charges against us (cf. Ps. 39:9).  We silence ourselves to show respect and obedience and humility and restraint (cf. Zeph. 1:7; I Cor. 14:34; I Tim. 2:12).  We silence ourselves to search our hearts (cf. Ps. 4:4).
We silence ourselves in our own times of prayer, reading and meditation on God's Word.  And we should also silence ourselves in our periods of corporate worship.  Making silence together builds and unifies the church, witnesses to the majesty of God and tacitly proclaims His greatness to all who hear.

Possible Outlines

This is how I'm thinking about preaching Revelation chapter 20 tomorrow.  Just thought I'd share the evolution of an outline (that still isn't finished!).

            20:1-3  The Binding of Satan
            20:4-6  The Thousand Years—Christ Reigning with His Saints
            20:7-10  The Final Defeat of Satan
            20:11-15  The Final Judgment of the Dead
            20:1-3  God is Sovereign over Satan
            20:4-6  Christians reign with God & Christ
            20:7-10  Satan will appear to flourish but will be judged
            20:11-15  The dead (and death!) are judged.  Everyone will be judged
            Christians need not fear persecution  20:4-6
            Christians need not fear Satan, 20:1-3, 7-10
            Christians need not fear death, 20:11-15
            Christians need not be scared of Satan, 20:1-3, 7-10
            Christians need not be scared of death, 20:4-6
            Christians need not be scared of God, 20:11-15
            Don’t let threats intimidate you  20:4-6
            Don’t let lies deceive you  20:1-3, 7-10
            Don’t let death fool you  20:11-15
            Christians will be blessed 20:4-6
            Satan will be defeated 20:1-3, 7-10
            Everyone will be judged 20:11-15
            Common myths:
            1)  Christianity isn’t worth it.  20:4-6
            2)  Who’s to say?  20:1-3, 7-10
            3)  People get away with stuff 20:11-15
            Don’t worry  20:1-3, 7-10
            Make sure 20:11-15            Praise God 20:4-10

How To Preach About Hell

Here's how Charles Spurgeon did it on Oct. 30, 1859 as a 24-year-old preacher.  He was talking about the many crowns of Christ (from Rev. 19:12) and he was speaking of crowns of dominions and victorys and thankfulnesses.  And in the crowns of dominion, he extolled Christ's crowns of dominion in heaven, hell and earth.  And this is how he talked about Christ's reign in Hell:
“It is the iron crown of hell, for Christ reigneth there supreme.  Not only in the dazzling brightness of heaven, but in the black impenetrable darkness of hell is his omnipotence felt, and his sovereignty acknowledged; the chains which bind damned spirits are the chains of his strength; the fires which burn are the fires of his vengeance; the burning rays that scorch through their eyeballs, and melt their very heart, are flashed from his vindictive eye.  There is no power in hell besides his.  The very devils show his might.  He chaineth the great dragon.  If he give him a temporary liberty, yet is the chain in his hand, and he can draw him back lest he go beyond his limit.  Hell trembles at him.  The very howlings of lost spirits are but deep bass notes of his praise .  While in heaven the glorious notes shout forth his goodness; in hell the deep growlings resound his justice, and his certain victory over all his foes.  Thus his empire is higher than the highest heaven, and deeper than the lowest hell.”  C. H. Spurgeon, “The Savior’s Many Crowns” Oct. 30, 1859, printed in New Park Street Pulpit, vol. 5, p. 450.

What's going on in the SBC? A shift in trust?

Great meeting this week.  Wonderful displays of unity around the gospel and fulfilling the Great Commission.  Good leadership by Johnny Hunt, Danny Akin & Al Mohler.  Wonderful sermons by J. D. Greear and David Platt.  God is being kinder to us than we deserve--in ways old and new!  The celebration of God's kindness through 150 years of history at Southern Seminary and the new lunch sponsored by Baptist 21 and the 9Marks and 9 events AND the 9Marks booth were all huge encouragements to me.
There were certainly still stresses and strains evident in the convention.  I assume good motives on all sides.  I wonder if there aren't two different views of the SBC's money.  What I would call the older perspective understands that the SBC functions at the generous gift of the state conventions that pass Cooperative Program monies along to the national level.  What I would call the newer perspective senses that through the inerrancy controversies many churches came to have more confidence in the national convention than in their state conventions.  The current giving agreements between the Executive Committee and the state conventions, therefore, perhaps reflect more of the older perspective than the newer perspective.
I don't know which perspective is the case.  I have no objective data.  And I thank God for good work being done in both state and national entities.  But I do wonder if what we're seeing is a shift in trust.  Either way, I pray that God will use us all to His glory.