Why Ecclesiology MattersBy Cory Varden
In this last post on Mark Dever’s book, The Church, I want to highlight why he thinks a right ecclesiology is important for the church. Dever rightly articulates that, “A right ecclesiology matters for the church’s leadership, membership, structure, culture, and even character. Ultimately, a right eccelesiology touches on God’s glory itself. The church is not only an institution founded by Christ; it is also 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?“
A right eccelesiology effects 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, which is God’s will for the church.”
“A right ecclessiology also has implications for the church’s membership. Being a member of a local church should be made to seem normal for Christians. Lives lived in regular love, fellowship and accountability make the gospel clear to world.”
“A right doctrine of the church should affect not only a church’s leadership and membership; it should also affect its structure. While even the most biblically structured congregations will make mistakes, the nearer a church’s polity gets to recognizing the biblical responsibilities held by the elders and by the congregation, the better protected and prepared the congregation is for the storms that inevitably come to all churches in this fallen world.”
“Not only are matters of leadership, membership, and formal structure affected by a doctrine of the church, so too are matters of the church’s culture… and character. The culture of the church, like the life of an individual, simply reflects the church’s character. If the doctrine of the church… is to be applied, the practice of corrective church discipline must be recovered. The action of excluding the unrepentant enables the church to give a clear witness of the gospel to the world. And it ultimately brings glory to God, as his people more and more display his character of holy love.”
Dever closes strongly by stating that, “Many Protestants have begun to think that because the church is not essential to the gospel, it is not important to the gospel. This is an unbiblical, false, and dangerous conclusion. The doctrine of the church is important because it is tied to the good news itself. The church is to be the appearance of the gospel. It is what the gospel looks like when played out in people’s lives. Take away the church and you take away the visible manifestation of the gospel in the world.”
I commend this book to you in the hope that it will help us to humbly examine our understanding of the church with the end result being Christ’s work proclaimed, and the name of God exalted to the ends of the earth.
If you would like to know more about this topic or about Mark Dever we highly recommend you visit 9Marks, a ministry devoted to building healthy churches.