This past week I had the privilege of attending a 9Marks Weekender in Washington D.C. at Capital Hill Baptist Church. In recent months, I’ve been exposed to the plethora of biblical resources they have to assist and inform pastors and churches of what the Bible teaches concerning what a healthy church looks like. And as I’ve said time and time again, one of the truths that I pray, by God’s grace, stays close to my head and heart is that I don’t have it all together. Pastoring a church has exposed many inadequacies I have as a leader, as well as brought to the forefront my spiritual immaturity in certain areas, particularly in loving people and exemplifying patience. That being said, my reasoning for going was to learn, plain and simple. As I type these words, I’m reminded of the passage I’m preaching tomorrow (Matthew 13:1-23 “the parable of the seeds,” which is more commonly understood to be “the parable of the sower,” but as I’ve studied this past week the parable Jesus tells is about the “seed” [i.e. a human’s heart], rather than the sower) and how the disciples were continually learning from Jesus and how none of them ever “arrived.” Jesus shares a parable and afterwards the disciples wander up to Jesus confused and dumbfounded by His words and ask Jesus “what in the world are you talking about?” (Nathan Millican paraphrase) It’s a good reminder to me that the disciples who left jobs, families and the comforts of life to follow Jesus, who spent time seeing him preach and teach about the Kingdom of God and who actually performed miracles, still didn’t have it all together. And if that applies to the disciples then it most certainly applies to me. Okay, if you’re still reading, I’ll stop rambling and tell you once and for all my thoughts and takeaways from tke 9Marks Weekender and so I’ll be succinct and concise I’ll do so in bullet-form (and yes, you can say “thank you!” or “finally!”).
- I was discipled and mentored in a church that is markedly different from Capital Hill Baptist Church in many respects, and for that reason alone attending the 9Marks Weekender was a good opportunity for me to pursue.
- As Capital Hill Baptist Church functions in a plurality of elders, I was amazed at the humility and unity they exemplified. As “weekenders” we had the privilege of observing their elder’s meeting where in this particular meeting the elders were discussing an individual who was involved in some egregious sins. As they discussed what to do with this individual several elders came from a very compassionate perspective, whereas two others came from a more disciplinary posture. The outcome of their discussion isn’t my concern here but the specific nature of that discussion that ensued which involved two very different “camps.” The nature of the discussion was amazingly done so with love, humility and unity. This to me was one of the most encouraging and challenging things I saw the whole weekend. When so many Christian men in leadership exemplify god-hating pride when sharing or discussing their viewpoints, these men did so with a God-honoring humility that I found refreshing and challenging right down to my bones.
- At Capital Hill Baptist Church there is a remarkably high view of membership. And as I’ve studied membership more closely and even preached on it several weeks ago I believe God, in His grace, has prompted my heart to more clearly and accurately see the seriousness of membership. Membership is in fact, an affirmation of the church to an individual that you are indeed a Christian; we’re allowing you to join our local fellowship because you’re first and foremost a believer in Christ. What church would allow someone to join their fellowship if they (1) didn’t believe that person was a believer or (2) even if they had doubt? I guess it would be helpful to tag a qualifier on that previous question – what biblical church would allow someone to join their fellowship if they didn’t think a person was a believer. Now, there are many reasons that we won’t allow people to join our fellowship and we’re not saying that each and every time we disallow someone to join our fellowship they’re not a believer. But at its most basic level, membership is an affirmation that someone is a Christian. Conversely, when a church exercises church discipline on a member, specifically excommunicating them and treating them like a tax collector that church is saying they do not believe that particular person is a believer (after following Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians, 6:1-2, etc.), which is weighty isn’t it?!? So why do some churches approach and take membership so flippantly – not sure?
- The word inactive-membership is an oxymoron. Think about it…
- Capital Hill Baptist Church and their ministry 9Marks is investing in hundreds, if not thousands of men every year; a legacy that pastors everywhere should take heed to. If you’re not investing in men and raising up a generation of men who will know, embrace, live and teach the gospel then what in the world are you doing – it was a great reminder to be unapologetic in my commitment to the men of the church, as well as being strategic and intentional about that investment.
- Every Sunday night they do sermon review, and though I think some of the individuals giving feedback were a bit nit-picky, overall it’s something every pastor should do. We don’t do it because we’re prideful. And God hates pride. Furthermore, Proverbs 12:1 tell us that the man who can’t take correction is stupid. I don’t want to be stupid. Unfortunately, a lot of times I am. But one of the ways I’m ensuring that humility will be developed in my life is being intentional about asking people in the church how am I doing at preaching, specifically such questions like, was I clear, did I get convey the point of the passage, did I appropriately and biblically give application, did I do anything that was distracting, did I tie in the passage to the person and work of Christ and many, many more questions.
- Lastly, I was deeply stirred by Pastor Mark Dever’s committment to the Word of God. In fact, at one moment he was moved to tears as he discussed the context of Ezekiel, specifically the prophet’s word that God will one day remove their heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. God used his words, that were so filled with passion, commitment and love to stir in my own heart a deeper love for God’s Word and subsequently, a desire to preach it.
If you’ve been to a 9Marks Weekender, then I’m sure these experiences resonate with you. If you haven’t then I’d encourage you, if you’re involved in ministry or have plans to enter into ministry to attend one of the weekenders.