True friends stab you in the front. Oscar Wilde
The Necklace courtesy of Hubble
If you have been following the Sovereign Grace Ministries debacle, you have likely heard that C.J. Mahaney, who recently stepped down as SGM’s president, is no longer attending the “dearest place on earth” – Covenant Life Church – where he pastored for 27 years. Instead, C.J. and his wife Carolyn are worshiping at Capitol Hill Baptist Church where Mark Dever presides as senior pastor.
Dee and I first began investigating Sovereign Grace Ministries in the Fall of 2008, and since that time I have been extremely curious about C.J. Mahaney’s relationship with Mark Dever, who earned his undergraduate degree from Duke University. It’s a small world after all because Mark and I were students at Duke during the same time period, although I am a year his senior. In fact, it’s such a small world that we lived fairly close together on East Campus. During the 1979-80 academic year, Mark lived in Room 322 Pegram (an all guys dorm), and I lived in Room 210 Giles (an all girls dorm). If you were to visit Duke’s East Campus, which features Georgian, not Gothic, architecture, you would see just how close together the buildings are situated. In the tiny College Station post office, Mark was assigned Box 6184 and my address was Box 7186. There is a high probability that we crossed paths often on the quad, in the dining hall and library, at the campus post office, on the shuttle between East and West campus, etc., but I was never acquainted with Mark. I did have two guy friends of impeccable character who lived in his dorm. I even visited the church he attended – Blacknall Memorial Presbyterian Church – once but decided to attend Duke Chapel instead. It’s amazing what kind of information you can find in an old Duke student directory…
One of the reasons I have been so curious about the Dever/Mahaney friendship is because I have always theorized that Mark played a significant role in the doctrinal shift of PDI, which later became Sovereign Grace Ministries. At long last, C.J. Mahaney confirmed how long he has been friends with his BFF Mark Dever in a February 27, 2011 message delivered at Capitol Hill Baptist Church entitled "Called, Loved and Kept".
Here is an excerpt from Mahaney's message:
“Prior to the meeting, Mark informed me that today – that 133 years ago this day – the inaugural meeting of this church took place on this property, and I began to reflect on your history, and as I reflected on your history I began to reflect on my history with your senior pastor and this church. I began to reflect on my 15-year history, for 15 years ago at the kind invitation of your senior pastor, I found my way to that entrance to meet with your senior pastor. I was eager to meet him; I had heard much about him. I was not only eager to meet him, I was eager to learn from him, but there is no way on that day I anticipated the gift of his friendship over these past 15 years Mark is a true friend, and he is a CLOSE friend. He is not only a true and close friend, he quickly became a mentor, and that has continued to this day as well. I have learned much from your senior pastor and often will refer to him as “O Captain, My Captain”. It’s an expression of my heartfelt gratefulness to him and an acknowledgment of my deference to his leadership.
I didn’t anticipate 15 years ago all that would take place in my life as I arrived on this site (in) my relationship with Mark, and I didn’t anticipate all I would experience in my relationship with you. Mark and you – this church – have influenced my life and influenced all of Sovereign Grace and I am indebted to you, and I just want to say thank you." (bring on the tears!)
I happen to know that it was Mark Dever who first sought out C.J. Mahaney. In a 9 Marks interview with Mahaney, Dever explains how he drove by Covenant Life Church years ago and decided to make the acquaintance of CJ. Unfortunately, Mahaney was tied up in a meeting, so I assume Dever left his card and/or a message that he had stopped by. I’m fairly sure Mark’s commentary was in an 9 Marks audio recording called Life and Ministry with Mark Dever (where the tables turn as C.J. Mahaney puts Mark Dever in the hot seat and interviews him). Unfortunately, the link no longer works. Hmmmm……..
It’s obvious that the interview existed on the 9 Marks website because there is a link to it at The Gospel Coalition website.
There was another 9 Marks interview between these close friends entitled “Building Healthy Churches with Mark Dever" and it, too, has disappeared from the 9 Marks website. Here is the link.
Once again, The Gospel Coalition featured this Dever/Mahaney interview, but that link no longer works.
Why are there missing audio files on the 9 Marks website? Has Mark Dever been taking lessons from Mark Driscoll on how to remove incriminating evidence? Why are these resources no longer available? It’s a conundrum…
Well, let’s get back to Mahaney/Dever friendship. Without looking back at the transcript, how long have these two men known each other?
Answer: 15 years (as of February 27, 2011), which Mahaney stated FOUR TIMES!!! In fact, he reflected on how long he and Dever had been friends in preparation for his message at Capitol Hill Baptist Church; therefore, there’s no mistaking how long they have been friends.
Now let’s take a look at Mahaney’s recent post on his “A View from the Cheap Seats” blog in which he explains his decision to worship at Dever’s church. Mahaney writes: (link)
“Many of you have kindly inquired about my leave of absence and how I will be spending my time during this season. Before I give you an update, I want to take this moment to thank each of you who have expressed your encouragement and your support in prayer.
Some of you have asked where I will be attending church during my leave. That’s a good question, as it’s not uncommon for pastors to take a leave in a church that is away from their home congregations, and this seems wise. During my leave of absence I will be attending Capitol Hill Baptist Church where Mark Dever is the senior pastor. After seeking counsel about this decision, I’ve concluded that this is the best place for Carolyn and me to receive care and counsel, to examine my life and leadership, and to consider my future during this season of reflection. I want to learn all I can during this season, and I pray that this time will benefit not only me but Sovereign Grace as well.
Mark and I have a rich history of friendship. I met Mark thirteen years ago and since then we have become very close friends. Mark has been not only a unique friend but also a mentor to me. I want to continue to take advantage of our friendship and his mentoring as much as possible during this time, benefiting from Mark’s unique pastoral wisdom and his gift of leadership. I am deeply grateful for his kindness and this opportunity. Actually, other than my wife Carolyn and those with whom I have served closely in Sovereign Grace Ministries, no one has had more influence on my life in the last ten years than Mark.”
What??? “I met Mark thirteen years ago…” Mahaney spoke at Capitol Hill Baptist Church almost a half a year ago at which time he stated that he met Mark 15 years ago. Remember, he said it FOUR TIMES. Why the contradiction? Anyone care to speculate?
There is so much more I could share about the friendship between these two men, but I’ll spare you. There can be no doubt that Mark Dever has had a tremendous impact on C.J. Mahaney’s life, as evidenced by his choosing to worship at Capitol Hill during this extremely difficult “season”. And the folks at Dever’s church are accustomed to having Mahaney in their midst. CJ delivered another message at Capitol Hill Baptist in May 2008 entitled “Adoption”.
Mahaney’s message begins as follows:
“Please turn in your Bibles to Galatians chapter 4, and before I have this distinct privilege to address you from God’s Word, I want to address you as a church and communicate my gratefulness to God for this particular church. For all guests present today, it’ll be important for you to understand that the senior pastor of this church, Mark Dever, is a gift from God to me, and his friendship is a unique gift from God to me.
I lack the benefit of formal education, and so what I’ve done in order to compensate is I’ve created my own seminary, created my own seminary, I’m the president of my seminary, and I’m the only student in my seminary. I really like my seminary, and Mark is a part of the faculty of that seminary, and I have just benefited, you need to know, I don’t flatter, I have benefited immeasurably from this man, from his friendship, from his example, from his teaching, and from his instruction, and so I come with a deep gratefulness and a fresh gratefulness for his leadership at Together for the Gospel.
And I must make at least one brief comment about Together for the Gospel. If you aren’t aware of this conference, it just took place a few weeks ago in Louisville, Kentucky. It was attended by over 5,500 primarily pastors were in attendance. This conference is really the fruit of your senior pastor’s leadership, your senior pastor’s friendship with a number of individuals. He is the primary means of grace for in effect the creation and execution of this conference, and I believe that the fruit from this conference is, well, no less than massive.”
Who needs to go to seminary when you have a scholarly BFF like Mark Dever? Here’s my question. If Dever has had such a significant impact on Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries as C.J. claims, then is Dever in any way responsible for what has happened in this “family of churches”? Based on Mahaney’s testimony, Dever’s influence has been tremendous. Finally, should BFF Mark Dever be the one looking out for Mahaney’s soul? How can he possibly be objective?
Stay tuned as we explore our theory regarding why C.J. and Carolyn have made Capitol Hill Baptist Church their current place of worship. (Hint: T4G 2012). More on Wednesday…
Lydia's Corner: 1 Kings 18:1-46 Acts 11:1-30 Psalm 135:1-21 Proverbs 17:12-13