Tag Archives: 9Marks

New 9Marks Material on Conversion

The new 9Marks eJournal is out, and as usual it offers much to chew on. In lieu of discussing it, I will list the contents below and encourage you to give them a read.  It’s on conversion, and I think it looks great.

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Things You Should Go To: The 9Marks Weekender

I don’t know if you’ve heard about these, but if you’re interested in entering a full-blown “church lab,” a program that will allow you to savor God’s work to reform one local church–Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C.–then you need to sign up for May’s 9Marks Weekender.

It’s being held from May 17-21, 2012 (update: March is full, but May is still open) at CHBC, just a few blocks behind the Supreme Court.  Here’s a bit more information about this exciting (and often ecclesiologically transformative) event:

Three times a year, 9Marks and Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC host around fifty pastors, seminarians, and church leaders from Thursday night to Monday morning for a full-on immersion in the life and inner workings of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, a church committed to living and ministering biblically.

You’ll have box seats for a new members’ class. You’ll be front and center for lectures from Mark Dever on expositional preaching and implementing change. You’ll even go behind closed doors to observe an elders’ meeting. And all that’s just the first half of the weekend.

From leadership to worship to body life and more, it’s all on the table. So bring your questions, and don’t forget to stash some cash for the CHBC bookstall.

See a sample Weekender itinerary

Why should you attend one?  Well, here’s why:

We encourage pastors and church leaders to attend because, just as every Timothy needs a Paul, so every church needs a model. “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 3:174:9).

You may not implement or even agree with every last thing you see during your visit, but having this biblical model can help develop a more directed movement in the way you serve and lead in your local body.

Then again, maybe you know where to go, but feel clueless about how to get there: “I know I want elders, but what do they do when they meet? I know I need to preach, but how do I go about preparing sermons week in and week out? I know the budget needs work, but I’m no accountant.” The goal of The 9Marks Weekender is to provide an environment in which leaders can observe and discuss the biblical and practical dynamics of nurturing love and holiness in a local church.

Read the whole piece on “Weekenders” over at the 9Marks site.

You don’t need to be a Southern Seminary student or a Southern Baptist or even a Baptist to attend this event.  Regardless of your background, this would be a fantastic way to encounter some really keen thinking on the local church and its polity, its leadership, and the way a healthy church can function.

It would be hard for me to put into words how thankful I am that I did a Weekender and then a CHBC internship (which I also commend to seminarians and future leaders–well worth moving to DC to do!).  Even if you have no prior plans to buy into the “model,” I would encourage you to go, whether you’re from Maine or Chicago or Louisville or Oregon or Brazil or China.  It’s that formative for getting a framework for how to shepherd the members of Christ’s church, the engine of his triumphant, world-defying kingdom.


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Church Membership Is Unimportant

That’s one line you’ll never hear from 9Marks, the ministry outfit helmed by Mark Dever. A few weeks back, 9Marks released a new eJournal on church membership. This is actually the first eJournal they’ve ever done on the topic. It’s quite good, featuring commentary from Matt Chandler, Jonathan Leeman, Matt Schmucker and more.

In a lengthy essay, I reviewed a book entitled The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons for the journal.  The text purports to offer a new way forward for evangelicals today, a more positive, social justice-focused way that is based in a restorative gospel.  Lyons is a gifted strategist and a nice writer, but his book demands engagement and critique on a number of fronts.  I’ll make no claims about quality, but as I said, the review essay does not lack in quantity: over 5000 words.  Happy Memorial Day to you, too.

Here’s a snatch from the review that engages the idea that Christians are just now discovering cultural engagement and philanthropy.  You sometimes hear this from young Christian leaders today, but church history tells a different story, as I argue:

[T]here are a good number of historic examples of Christians who desired “to do good” in the their culture and society as an outworking of their faith. Timothy George has said of the followers of John Calvin that “Like the Franciscans and the Dominicans in the Middle Ages, Calvin’s followers forsook the religious ideal of stabilitas for an aggressivemobilitas. They poured into the cities, universities, and market squares of Europe as publishers, educators, entrepreneurs, and evangelists.”[21] Evangelicals have long been on the bleeding (not the leading) edge of philanthropy, cultural engagement and entrepeneurship. George Whitefield drew much of his living from the wealthy Countess of Huntingdon. The Sunday School was founded in America by Samuel Slater, owner of textile mills. The Clapham Sect and its protagonist, William Wilberforce, were supported by numerous English philanthropists.[22] The Tappan brothers single-handedly funded a substantial portion of the evangelical abolitionist cause in the 19th century. Moody Bible Institute was founded by the largesse of Henry Parsons Crowell, the man who also gave us Quaker Oats. Evangelical history is littered with gospel-minded Christians who used their wealth for noble ends, just as the apostles were supported by rich Christians—a point in favor of managing wealth wisely, not despising it (or spiritualizing poverty, on the other hand).

Evangelicals have historically showed great generosity to the needy. Douglas Sweeney has spoken to the benevolence of Jonathan Edwards, pointing out that “Edwards never made a show of it, but he loved to help the poor.” In addition to speaking about it from the pulpit, Edwards, in the words of his pupil Samuel Hopkins, “practis’d it” in private to such an extent that Hopkins judged that “his Alms-deeds…if known, would prove him to be as great an Instance of Charity as any that can be produced in this Age.”[23] The theology of Edwards included a hugely influential and largely unknown idea called “disinterested benevolence” that helped spawn what historians call the “benevolent empire” of the nineteenth century in which countless Christians, imbued with a love for God and his gospel, gave their time and money to what were called “benevolent societies.” This movement, profiled by Martin Marty, was one of the biggest cultural phenomena of the nineteenth century.[24] The National Association of Evangelicals, formed in 1942 and helmed by Harold Ockenga, included a substantial social outreach component.[25] Even the much-maligned fundamentalists of the twentieth century devoted considerable time and attention to mercy ministry, as Joel Carpenter has shown.[26] This trend continues into the present and recent past. Jerry Falwell, whose death signaled for Lyons the “death” of “Christian America,” founded a thriving, wide-ranging, and virtually unpublicized ministry to unwed pregnant mothers called the Liberty Godparent Home, among other ventures.

Here’s the whole kit-and-caboodle.

And once again, a warm and happy Memorial Day to all of you, one filled with remembrance of those who have sacrificed for our safety and flourishing.

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New IXMarks: Pastoring Women

The new IXMarks eJournal is out, and it’s on pastoring women and honoring and understanding distinctiveness.  Below is a listing of the Journal’s contents.

I. Pastoring Women: Understanding And Honoring Distinctness

 Why Complementarianism Is Crucial to Discipleship  By Jonathan Leeman
If God created men and women differently, discipleship should not be one-size-fits-all. It should cultivate their differences.

Discipling Men vs. Discipling Women  By Deepak Reju
Practically speaking, how should a pastor disciple men and women differently? What kind of strategies and structures should he put in place?

How Pastors Can Equip Women for Ministry  By Bob Johnson
A seasoned pastor provides practical, down-to-earth counsel on training women for ministry.

The Genesis of Gender and Ecclesial Womanhood  By Owen Strachan
Strachan digs into the foundational texts on the differences between men and women in order to present a vision for ecclesial womanhood.

II. Women’s Ministry In the Local Church

Wanted: More Older Women Discipling Younger Women  By Susan Hunt
Titus 2 commands it. Younger women are hungry for it. The church as a whole will benefit from it. So where are the older women who will disciple younger women?

For the Young Mother: Ministry, Guilt, and Seasons of Life  By Jani Ortlund
Young mothers face enormous demands that consume all the energy they have. Here’s why they shouldn’t feel guilty for focusing on the home rather than outside ministry.

May Women Serve as Pastors?  By Thomas R. Schreiner
A trusted New Testament scholar takes on this contentious but crucial topic.

III. Resources For Today’s Biblical Women

Book Review: Radical Womanhood, by Carolyn McCulley  Reviewed by Kristin Jamieson

Book Review: Womanly Dominion: More Than a Gentle and Quiet Spirit, by Mark Chanski  Reviewed by Owen Strachan

IV. Audio Interviews

What is the Gospel? with Greg Gilbert and C.J. Mahaney
The gospel. The cross. The kingdom. The church. Greg Gilbert and C.J. Mahaney discuss all this and more. Posted on July 1, 2010

Biblical Theology in the Local Church with Michael Lawrence
Why is biblical theology essential for pastoral ministry? How do you do it? Find out in this roundtable discussion with Michael Lawrence, Tom Schreiner, and Jonathan Leeman.
Posted on June 1, 2010

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What Is the Gospel, and Why Care?

Greg Gilbert’s brand-new What Is the Gospel? (Crossway–IXMarks, 2010) is dynamite.  Pick this book up to remind yourself of the essential of the essentials.  A short (127pp), small, readable, punchy text, What Is the Gospel? dispels the cloudiness surrounding the exact character of the gospel today.  Pastors, disciplers, Bible study leaders, and many others would find this a great book to pass on to believers, young believers, and unbelievers.

The book’s subject matter is deceptively easy to obscure.  There are many definitions given of what exactly the gospel is today.  Is it the proclamation of the kingdom?  Do we do the gospel?  Or is it a message to proclaim?  If it is a message, what is the core content of this message?  If you read widely in evangelicalism today, you’ll find all kinds of answers given to these questions.  There is indeed a great depth to the gospel, a many-sidedness, but I think Greg is quite right that there is a core to it that cannot be minimized or replaced.

On a personal note, I remember reading Greg’s 9Marks reviews almost a decade when I was a college student.  I read them and thought, “I want to write like that.”  Greg has a sharpness to his prose and a clarity to his thought that is unusual.   With this particular book, I liked Greg’s section on three ways that the gospel is unhelpfully defined.  For example, there is massive confusion today on how kingdom and cross, and social justice and evangelism, fit together.  Do you emphasize one?  Both together?  How do you figure this stuff out theologically, spiritually, exegetically?  Greg’s book is a starting point on this tricky matter.  I hope we’ll hear more from him on this.

Here’s a little bite to chew on from the provocative and rewarding book, which has a foreword by Don Carson and blurbs from too many Christian leaders to count (Mohler, Mahaney, Dever, Akin, Akinola, etc.):

The Bible actually gives us very clear instruction on how we should respond to any pressure to let the cross drift out of the center of the gospel.  We are to resist it.  Look at what Paul said about this in 1 Corinthians.  He knew the message of the cross sounded, at best, insane to those around him.  He knew they would reject the gospel because of it, that it would be a stench in their nostrils.  But even in the face of that sure rejection he said, “We preach Christ crucified” (! Cor. 1:23).  In fact, he resolved to “know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).  That’s because, as he put it at the end of the book, the fact that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” was not just important, and not even just very important.  It was of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). (110)

Amen.  Pick up this little book, and gain clarity on a central matter that we are constantly tempted to minimize, whether on a theological level through direct challenge, or on a personal spiritual level through listening to our doubting hearts.  The gospel is clear, simple, a message to proclaim, and the means by which we and our wicked souls will be saved.

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The Link 12.11.09: Dockers on Manhood, Centered-Set Churches, and the New Scientocracy

1. A buddy of mine tipped me off to this crazy Docker’s “Man-ifesto”.  It’s actually really good.  Readers of this agitated little blog will recognize some familiar themes. Clearly, folks in the culture beyond our Christian circles are seeing a major lack of testosterone in our society, and many problems related to this.

Why you were surfing the Dockers website is another matter, Drew.  Regardless, good looking out.  Here’s the whole text.

2. Jonathan Leeman just wrote a “boring” post on centered-set churches and problems they might face.  Not boring, and very helpful.  I don’t care if you agree with 9Marks or not, when Jonathan writes something about the church, read it.

3. Salvo Magazine on the “Scientocracy” and how it sets the ground rules.  Very helpful for understanding the stuff you may have seen on this blog of late, namely the climate change material.

Good quotation: “In a Scientocracy, unless you’re a scientist, politician, journalist, or citizen who fully accedes to the consensus, then your opinion not only doesn’t matter, it might even be dangerous.”  Read the piece.

4. I blogged him last week, and yes, I will blog him again: Peter Bradley Adams.  His music is incredible.  You must check him out.  You must click.  Also, he just uploaded a live version of “Los Angeles”.  Louisville readers, he’s playing tonight at 9:30pm at a place called “Rudyard Kipling”. (Note: I do not assume that I agree with his worldview; however, he makes great music that thoughtfully tackles the realities of life.  That’s all.)

5. What causes early arthritis in knees? You should know this.  Not to be your mom or anything.

6. Here’s a terrific-looking church plant coming soon to Madison, Wisconsin: the Vine.  Zach Nielsen, a friend of this blog, will be one of three pastors.  We’re looking to get him to TEDS for a Friday morning basketball run.  Great church to pray for–Madison is a very dark place.

7. Also, check out Epic Church in San Francisco.  I first heard about it on Micah Fries’s very nice blog.  (Update: I have just become aware of the fact that the church will have a woman minister.  Sadly, this makes me unable to support this church as I thought I could.  I still hope it will be used to bring the gospel in San Francisco, but I believe the church to be in grave error on this point.)

–Have a great weekend, all.

(Image: smiteme)


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The Link 12.5.09: Great Music, Scanwiches, and Climate Change

1. Here’s a link to some excellent music by Peter Bradley Adams, formerly of the duo eastmountainsouth.  Really–check this guy out.  You can even get a free EP of Adams’s music if you want to test-drive it.

2. Have you seen the site scanwiches.com?  Try looking at it without getting hungry.

3. Here’s a well-funded site, TCK (currently advertising in major media outlets) advocating for major investment in combating anthropogenic climate change.  For those who wonder why I would question this cause, the ethical, almost spiritual, significance attached to it fails my sniff test.  To make anthropogenic climate change–by no means proven to cause the kind of environmental effects some allege–a cause of “justice” is premature and potentially highly problematic.  Sites like this, with language like this, calling for expensive programs and postures like it does, require very careful thought.

4. Check out the latest 9Marks interview with Aussie Philip Jensen.  Knowing Jensen (and Dever’s interviewing style), this can only be provocative.

–Have a great Sunday, all.

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Deep Church Shallow: Greg Gilbert’s 9Marks Review

The new 9Marks eJournal just arrived, and it’s on–take a deep breath here–church discipline.  I know, right–why don’t they settle down and pick a single issue to focus on already?  Good grief.

I’m just kidding.  In actuality, the new issue looks typically helpful.  Some of you will know that I have a particular affection for the writings of one Greg Gilbert, he of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  Greg has a nice review of a hot new book called Deep Church written by a PCA pastor named Jim Belcher that includes some very helpful comments on unity, gospel, and how the two relate in our day.

Here’s a nice chunk (read it all–Greg is a punchy but deep penman):

The real irony of Deep Church is that Belcher actually does a pretty good job of laying out the real, substantive, and ultimately fellowship-breaking issues that stand between emergents and traditional evangelicals, but his whole stated project of finding common ground on which those two camps can reunite falls completely apart, I think, in the first few pages of his book. Let me show you why I say that.

In the book’s introduction, Belcher recounts a meeting between Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and John Piper. The meeting ended badly, with Piper telling Pagitt, “You should never preach,” because Pagitt rejected what Belcher strangely calls “Piper’s view of atonement,” which I have to assume is penal substitutionary atonement. As Piper summed it up, because they rejected penal substitutionary atonement, Pagitt and Jones were “rejecting the gospel in toto.”

Now, this is not the place to rehearse the biblical case for penal substitutionary atonement. I and others have done that elsewhere. So let me just skip to the conclusion of that case and say that Piper is right: To reject the idea of Jesus dying in the place of sinners, taking their punishment on himself for their sins, is to reject the gospel in toto. And therefore it is to make any sort of union between yourself and traditional evangelicalism impossible. To reject penal substitution is to reject the gospel, and to reject the gospel is to put oneself outside traditional evangelicalism.

Gilbert goes on to conclude the point as follows:

Knowing what Belcher was trying to do with this book, I entirely expected him to try to show later in the book how emergent leaders don’t in fact reject penal substitutionary atonement. I expected him to quote a passage here or there in one of their writings which leaves open the possibility of penal substitution. That never happens. Quite to the contrary, Belcher concludes in his sixth chapter, titled “Deep Gospel,” that the emergent church (represented here by Brian McLaren) is indeed guilty of “gospel reductionism” (118). “Nowhere,” Belcher says, “does [McLaren] mention…the doctrines of atonement, justification, union with Christ, or our need to be forgiven” (118). True, Belcher makes that statement about a certain article in which McLaren is claiming to articulate the gospel, but his point is that he doesn’t find those doctrines anywhere in McLaren’s writings.

But then, if that’s the case, what’s up with all this hope for a reunion?  How exactly do you find a “third way” between affirming the gospel and not affirming the gospel?  Yes, of course, Belcher softens his hit on the emergents by saying that traditional evangelicals are guilty of “gospel reductionism,” too. They “make the opposite mistake” of “car[ing] only about their own selves” and ignoring the kingdom of God, he says. But even setting that infuriating straw man aside for a moment, wouldn’t you think that when Belcher finally realized—after a third reading!—that Brian McLaren in fact does not affirm the gospel of forgiveness of sins through the penal substitutionary death of Jesus, he would maybe temper some of the “reunion” talk?

Amen to that.  It’s right to want Christians to unite around the gospel.  Problems arise, however, when people who profess to be Christians won’t affirm the core truths of the gospel.  Who on earth would think that it makes sense to pursue unity of this kind?  And why would a pastor from the PCA, a denomination doing such great good in our day, argue along these lines?


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A Brief Take on Jonathan Leeman’s Explosive “Beware Your Seminary Professors”

Jonathan Leeman of 9Marks just wrote a humdinger of a blog about what he sees as a lack of shepherding among seminary professors.  Leeman suggests in his post that many contemporary theologians conceive of their task in a kind of free enterprise way, rendering them relatively unaccountable and thereby potentially dangerous to the church.

On the contrary, the church elder, in Leeman’s view, is bound to guard the saints and defend them from error.  Here’s a synopsis of this point from Leeman:

Numerous matters like these, all heaped together, reminded me what a different thing the academic enterprise is from the eldering enterprise. One is about intellectual stimulation between supposedly good, rational people; the other is about spiritual warfare between desperate, clinging-to-grace people. It’s as if you enter the Christian academic realm and all the rules for pastoral care and wisdom suddenly change—in fact, it’s as if all the rules suddenly go out the window. “We’re all equals here. We’re all discerning and wise and godly. Take no heed!”

I praise God for the faithful academics who trained me in seminary. Yet the best ones were good because they were churchmen first and academics second. Any academic who takes offence at my remarks, I dare say, just might take offense because he or she finds more identity in being an academic than in being a churchman.

Leeman goes on to offer the following word of advice to Christian academics:

If you are an academic, may I propose, do not conceive of your students, colleagues, journal editors, and publishers any differently than you conceive of the members of your church. All of them are sheep who are threatened with temptation and deception on a minute-by-minute basis. Remember that you, too, are a sheep, and that you need the accountability and restraints of your church and its elders in your academic work, even if you are smarter than all of them.

Read the whole thing.

There is a great deal here to think about and chew on.  Let me just note that I would agree with Leeman’s broad point.  Christian educators are responsible to God.  They are driven by the teaching of the Bible, and as Christians, they are not fundamentally called to innovate as a duty, but to pass on the faith.  This involves creative and fresh thinking as it naturally arises, yes, but fundamentally Christian academics are called with all leaders of the church to be faithful to Scripture and its teaching.

On a practical level, I would suggest that it is essential that academics be accountable to a university or seminary statement of faith, to a broader denominational statement of faith or confession (if their institution is part of a bigger movement), and to their local church.  Currently, in some settings, none of these guidelines are followed.  Teachers say what they like and we all hope for the best.

It is optimal to have local church elders aware of what teachers stand for in the classroom.  They need not and should not critique every sentence, every word of instruction, but they should be aware, I think, of what academics are standing for in their teaching and writing and they should hold them to the church’s confession of faith.  In addition, the school itself should have a confession that guides and bounds the teaching of professors.  Beyond this, denominational officials should possess awareness of what instructors are saying and should also hold professors accountable.

This kind of threefold accountability, practiced with care, would greatly help our present situation.  From my limited vantage point, many contexts today offer precious little accountability for Christian teachers.

Finally, I might say that in my opinion, many of us evangelicals place far too much emphasis on creativity, flexibility, and charity.  We need to incorporate these things in our scholarship as the Bible allows, but we need to remember that the Bible is given for things like “correcting” and “rebuking,” according to 2 Timothy 3:16.  Professors are not necessarily pastors, but they are in a Christian context leaders, and thus they are responsible to help the church fulfill its broader mission in whatever role they play.

The New Testament has a very strong emphasis on correcting which, to be frank, is not in vogue in modern thought.  But this is an essential work of Christian leaders, be they pastors, professors, or organizational heads: “guarding the deposit” (1 Timothy 6:20).  We can be fresh thinkers, yes, but we fundamentally need to guard the people of God from error, which the Bible presents as everywhere in this fallen world.  We need not be fearful, but we must be careful.

This is a much bigger conversation, and I love the academy and its ability to stimulate fresh thought and insight, but I do think that the pendulum has swung too far, and we need a greater emphasis in our day on accountability, for one, and on the essential tasks of staying faithful to the teaching of God’s holy Word.

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The Link 9.25.09: Glenn Beck, The Way We Die, and Driscoll’s Free Stuff

GlennBeckThis is an eclectic day.  As usual.  For the report on Ravi Zacharias, see number 7.

1. Time Magazine recently ran a piece on conservative commentator Glenn Beck.  Interesting read.

2. A piece to read from the NYT on the debate over health-care, end-of-life issues, and “death panels.” There’s a bunch to sort out here, but we need to note at least one thing: while it’s important to focus on reforming end-of-life care, Christians have a huge interest in preserving the lives of the elderly and the right of the elderly and infirmed to live.

3. Mark Driscoll lists some free stuff that Mars Hill is and has been giving away.

4. Just heard this cutting-edge Chicago band: Milano.  Check out “Zombie World” toward the end: “the dead are going to live, the living are going to die.”  That’s going to be true, one day soon.

5. Theologian and Evangelical Theological Society president Bruce Ware on “Missional Christology.”

6. Soon and very soon, Andrew Sherwood of 9Marks is going to blog the “God Exposed” at Southeastern Seminary featuring names like Dever, Akin, Anyabwile, and McKinley.  My friends on Baptist21 are doing a panel: here’s a pic.  Looks like another packed event for B21…

7. For those who are wondering, the audio and video from the Henry Center’s Kantzer Lectures and Ravi Zacharias events will be online soon.  We had an incredible response to Ravi’s visit–ATO Chapel was completely filled, between 100-200 people filled the overflow room as well, and we had many more by webcast (including some of you–thanks for watching!).  We are grateful to God for this response, for Ravi’s global ministry, and the chance to participate in it in our small corner of things.

–Have a great and God-saturated weekend, all.


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