ep. 85 finding a healthy church

Mark Dever

ep. 85 | Finding a Healthy Church with Mark Dever

On today’s episode of the Journeywomen podcast, I’m chatting with Dr. Mark Dever about finding a healthy church. So you’ll know him a little better, Dr. Mark has served as the senior pastor of CHBC (Capitol Hill Baptist Church) since 1994 and as president of 9Marks (a ministry to churches and church leaders) since its founding in 1998. He’s married to Connie and they have two adult children, both married, and one grandchild. Dr. Mark has authored a number of books, including 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Whether you’re on the hunt for a church or if you’re already involved somewhere, we think you’ll walk away from this conversation with Mark encouraged to follow Jesus with his people for his glory.

  1. Can you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

  2. What is to distinguish and mark a church? What are some characteristics of a healthy church?

  3. Why is it important that we consider whether or not the church we're a part of, or looking to be a part of, is healthy?

  4. What is the most important mark to consider? Why?

  5. How does the gospel undergird healthy churches?

  6. On a practical level, what are some key things to consider when we're visiting churches? What are some things to beware of?

  7. What encouragement do you have for listeners who are already part of a church, but are concerned that it is less-than-healthy?

  8. If we don’t have any other options, what are some ways we can be healthy members of a church that isn’t as healthy as we’d hope for it to be?

  9. How can we joyfully pursue local church involvement and service, even when it feels hard?

  10. Why should we strive to be healthy members of healthy churches? What is the end purpose?


  1. What 3 resources would you recommend for someone who wants to find a healthy church?

  2. What are your 3 simple joys?

  3. Who has had the greatest impact on your own journey with Jesus?


9 Marks of a Healthy Church: right preaching of the Word of God (expositional preaching), Biblical theology, Biblical understanding of the gospel, conversion, evangelism, membership, leadership, church discipline, and discipleship.

“I don’t think Jesus intended us to follow him alone. I think he intended us to follow him with his people.”

“When you look at Jesus’ teaching in John 13:34-35, ‘By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ Not so much by the love we have for outsiders, but the love we have for one another because that will resemble and show and display the love God has for us.”

“The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 are things you wouldn’t see on a desert island, but they are things that you see in relationship with other people.” 

“The local church is built around Jesus.” 

“The real God knows the future and he speaks the truth. He has revealed himself through his Word.”

“If we are Christians and are forgiven of our sins, it’s because we have heard something from God, in particular the message about Jesus Christ. As we respond to that we have a relationship with God of love and forgiveness.  The whole way we relate to God is renewed and begins with his Word. If we are going to keep growing as Christians it has to be by him speaking his Word and he also gives people to teach his Word and to understand his Word which is through the local church.” 

“Unhealthy churches will be built around something other than the gospel.”

“You should hear the gospel articulated. The good news of a holy God who made all of us, men and women, being made in the image of God. All of us being sinful.  In Adam and Eve, our first parents, we’ve sinned. And we’ve confirmed that and ratified that in our own life experience. We’ve rebelled against God. Because God is good we’re in trouble. But God in his great love has sent his own Son to be incarnate as a man, so he’s fully God, fully man, truly God, truly man. He lived a perfect life, trusting his Heavenly Father perfectly. He died on the cross not because he needed to die himself, because he was without sin, but in order to be a substitute--a sacrifice--for all of us, who would turn and trust in him, for our sins. God raised him from the dead. From Roman 4 we know that that’s how we were justified, because we’ve been set right because of that resurrection. We know God accepted the sacrifice. Christ ascended to heaven where he presented the sacrifice to his Heavenly Father. And that’s the good news that we give then, that we can be forgiven of our sins if we rely on and trust in Jesus as Savior. If we’re visiting a church then we want to hear that message in the sermon, we want to hear that reflected in the songs and hymns that are sung, we want to hear it reflected in the Bible passages that are read, in the way the person introduces the Bible passages that are read, in the way they pray, we want to see the people of God as people who have in common not necessarily the fact that they have things in common, but that they all love the gospel. Apart from that we can have a lot of things that are not in common.”  

“Read through the New Testament and start to see things that you see in the New Testament what the local church should be like, make a list, and start praying about those things for your local church.”  

“You don’t want to be seen to support something that will not lead people to the truth.”

“A church can meet in someone’s living room. But it would need to be a regular commitment, presumably on the Lord’s day to have preaching, to have baptism, to have the Lord’s supper, and if you’re not doing those things then you’re beginning to fall beneath the definition of a church, you’re just something else, you’re just another kind of occasional meeting of some Christians together.”

“You need to assume that Christ loves his church. When we see in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Romans he mentions gives gifts that he gives his Church. He gives those gifts exactly because he loves the sheep for whom he died. He wants to see them built up. So he gives elders and teachers to churches exactly to bless people. There’s no reason you would try to live the Christian life apart from the blessing of Christian teaching by the very people that God has given by his Spirit to teach his people. So, you wouldn’t want to do that. You’d want to go to a place where there is the evident work of God’s Spirit giving gifts to people who understand the Word well, who can teach it well, and that encourages you in your own walk with the Lord.”

“When you have hard situations at church and yet it’s a true church… then I think those hard circumstances are actually special platforms for you to use to display the superiority of God in his gifts of trials to his children, in order to show that he is better than comfortable circumstances.

“When Jesus says ‘take up your cross and follow me,’ it has to mean something. We may not literally be crucified, but there may be other ways that we find our flesh put to death as we pursue Jesus. We will have to leave behind some of our preferences.”

“You’re not the world expert on you.”


9Marks Church Search  

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church

The Church: The Gospel Made Visible

Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges



Kids and grandkids

Reading history




Galatians 5

John 13:34-35

Hebrews 10:19-25

Hebrews 12

1 Corinthians 11:28



  1. What are the elements of a healthy church?

  2. Why is it important to exercise community within the context of a local church?

  3. What is the difference between a healthy and unhealthy church?

  4. What is the gospel and what does that look like presented in the local church?

  5. What are you going to do or implement as a result of what you’ve learned this week?


The Marriage After God podcast is intended to encourage, inspire, and challenge Christian marriages to chase after God together and to cultivate an extraordinary marriage. Check them out for yourself by searching for “Marriage After God” wherever you listen to podcasts. Learn more about them at marriageaftergod.com or on Instagram at @marriageaftergod.

Prep Dish is a healthy subscription-based meal planning service. All you need to do is sign up, and you’ll receive an email every week with a grocery list and instructions for prepping meals ahead of time. For a free 2-week trial, go to PrepDish.com/journey.

Crossway's purpose as a not-for-profit ministry is to publish gospel-centered, Bible-centered resources that honor our Savior and serve his Church. Crossways’s new book release, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion explores 12 controversial questions that some say seem to undermine the Christian faith. Learn more about Confronting Christianity and find other resources at Crossway.org/Journeywomen1.



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