Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Seven Marks of a New Testament Church"

I had more than a little time to read on my fifteen hour flight from Newark to Delhi. This provided an opportunity to read a book that I've been looking forward to for some time: Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.

The reality in the USA these days is that churches are all over the place in how they function. There's what amounts to an idea that "anything goes." This idea has led to the church in America being in a heap of trouble. While there is much good happening, there is also plenty of far-less-than-good. In light of this confusion, what can be done?

Dave Black provides a suggestion in Seven Marks. In looking specifically at the early chapters of the book of Acts, the author calls us back to seven specific attributes of the early church. In particular, Black points to Acts 2:37-47. The seven marks he discusses are:

1. Evangelistic Preaching
2. Christian Baptism
3. Apostolic Teaching
4. Genuine Relationships
5. Christ-Centered Gatherings
6. Fervent Prayer
7. Sacrificial Living

While Black does not tell us to be a New Testament church, he does strongly suggest that we can and must learn a great deal from the church we read about in Acts. He does an excellent job of both explaining how the church functioned and arguing for our doing the same.

The subtitle tells a great deal about this book: A Guide for Christians of All Ages. Black writes in a basic, straightforward manner that anyone can understand. Also, the book is only fifty pages long, which is ideal for even those who do not enjoy reading.

I agree with almost everything the author writes in this book. For example, he correctly shows that preaching is evangelistic in nature and occurs in the public sphere. He also states that gatherings should be for the purpose of mutual edification within the context of genuine relationships. Black also makes strong cases for prayer and sacrificial living being non-negotiable parts of the Christian life.

The one place where I disagree with the author is that I believe he overstates the importance of the Great Commission. Now, if you've read this blog for a while you know that I'm greatly in favor of evangelistic living. It is something sorely lacking in the church in this country. However, I do not believe it is more important than some other aspects of church life. It appears that the author of this book does in fact think the Great Commission is the most important thing. However, in light of what we read in the bulk of the New Testament epistles, I just do not see this being the case.

Regardless, this is an excellent little book. I encourage all Christians to read it and to purchase a few copies. It would be excellent to give to friends to generate discussion. We can all benefit from looking back to the scriptures to reorient us where we have deviated off course. This book helps with that process.

I also want to recommend the following books by Dave Black (and, yes, I've read them all): The Jesus Paradigm, The Myth of Adolescence (buy it used), and Why Four Gospels?


Henry Neufeld said...

Thanks for an excellent review, including your disagreement! I think I'm closer to Dave, but I hear what you're saying.

Eric said...


Thank you for commenting. As always, I enjoyed Dave's book very much.

On the issue of the Great Commission, I've never encountered a local body that I actually thought was too concerned about missions. I doubt that one exists. As I sit here in India, my heart aches for the vast lostness I see all around me.

As for Dave's book, I like to add some sort of critique whenever I do a book review. Reviews that are 100% positive tend to be less helpful. On that note, I do think a few of Dave's statements about the church and the Great Commission overstate its importance. While I believe it is one of the critical activities of the body, I do not believe it holds higher importance than engaging in mutually edifying activities, serving the poor, and living holy lives. Simply put, I believe they all hold equal importance.

It's a great little book. I'm glad I read it!