It’s tough believing that Scripture is enough for building and leading churches. The “old man” in us is continually tempted to build our churches on other things, things we can see and measure. We want to rely on marketing research, personal charisma, good music, force of personality, or other natural devices.
It’s fine to rely on what the eyes can see in many areas of life, but Christian ministry is about supernatural change. Paul observes, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:3-4).
Trusting God’s Word and Spirit to build our churches is an act of faith. Faith in God. Faith in his Word. And such faith is not natural, even for the Christian. It’s super-natural. God must give it. “Is not my word like fire,” he says to us, “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces” (Jer. 23:39).
In this issue of the 9Marks Journal we take up the topic of Scripture’s sufficiency for the life of the church. Bobby Jamieson’s piece on the prescriptive nature of New Testament polity anchors the whole issue. Start here. The interview with Ed Roberts asks the inevitable follow up question to Jamieson: shouldn’t our context affect how we lead and build our churches?
From there we plunge into several discussions about what the sufficiency of Scripture means for our philosophy of ministry, with pieces by Jeramie Rinne, Carl Trueman, Jamie Dunlop, Benjamin Wright, and myself. Let me especially commend Rinne’s first-hand testimony, “I Was a Pragmatist.”
Several articles on the sufficiency of Scripture for our church gatherings follow. Hello, regulative principle. I argue that the regulative principle may seem more restrictive to churches, but it actually frees Christians. Trip Lee and Aaron Menikoff consider what the principle looks like practically in the life of a church. And Robert Letham answers a somewhat common question about whether or not churches should only sing the psalms.
I’ll admit upfront that this issue frustrates me. So many topics remain untouched; so many conversations cut short. But I hope it offers us all a good start.
The Bible on Polity
Does the Bible tell us how to structure our churches? Yes. Read more >
What does a biblical church look like in Central Asia? Is 9Marks’ model really biblical? 9Marks asks a veteran missionary these questions and more. Read more >
The Bible on Philosophy of Ministry
How one pastor found pragmatism exhausting and man-centered, then found a better way. Read more >
What does it mean that Scripture is sufficient? And what is it sufficient for? Read more >
Finding the boundary between commands and sanctified common sense. Read more >
Pragmatism and authoritarianism are opposite errors in a philosophy of ministry. But what’s striking is what they have in common. Read more >
Rob Rienow, Reclaiming the Sufficiency of Scripture. Randall House, 2012. 96 pages. $10.99 Rob Rienow addresses two serious, common problems in his helpfully brief book, Reclaiming the Sufficiency of Scripture. The first is that too few people and churches believe the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. The second is that too many people and churches say they believe it but fail to practice it. Read more >
The Bible on the Church Gathering
If you think the regulative principle is overly prescriptive, think of it like jazz: a little bit of structure makes room for a whole lot of improv. Read more >
Worship in different cultures should consist of the same elements but look very different. Why? Because the gospel doesn’t foster oppressive uniformity but glorious, diverse sameness. Read more >
For our good, God has told us to color in the lines in corporate worship. Here’s some practice finding those lines. Read more >
Should churches only sing Psalms? No, says Robert Letham—but better all Psalms than no Psalms! Read more >
John Dickerson, The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church…and How to Prepare. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013. 256 pages. $14.99 It’s tough to imagine a society more fixated on sermons than colonial New England. And few sermons were more likely to be published and purchased than the type historians came to call the “jeremiad.” Read more >
Jason B. Hood, Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern. InterVarsity Press, 2013. 232 pages. $22.00 “What Would Jesus Do?” is a slogan young Reformed types love to hate. But what if it’s a question more of us should be asking? Read more >
Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine. Matthias Media, 2009. 196 pp. $14.99. Everyone loves simple tasks. Daily life is often frustratingly complicated, so we welcome simplicity. Read more >
Jonathan K. Dodson, Gospel-Centered Discipleship. Crossway, 2012. 176 pages. $12.99 Read more >
Gary L. McIntosh and Charles Arn, What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church. Baker, 2013. 272 pages. $17.99 Read more >
Mark Lau Branson and Juan Martinez, Churches, Cultures & Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities. IVP Academic, 2011. $25.00 Read more >
Joel R. Beeke and Terry D. Slachter, Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help from the Puritans. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013. 211 pages. $15.00 Encouragement for Today’s Pastors is meant for troubled and discouraged pastors. Hebrews 13:17 tells us to learn from the examples of faithful ministers, and Joel Beeke and Terry Slachter use the seventeenth-century Puritans as their exemplars. Read more >
What is biblical theology? The question is unfortunately not as easy to answer as many would like. For some, biblical theology may activate memories of seminary assignments demanding careful historical reconstructions and taxing lexical studies. For others biblical theology evokes anything from the works of Geerhardus Vos to the preaching of Tim Keller to academic debates over theological interpretation of Scripture. Read more >