9Marks and ‘Biblical’ Church Membership?

 "KEEP AN EYE ON THE BACK DOOR

So pastors, just as you pay careful attention to the front door of your church, keep a close eye on the back door, too. Make sure that the sheep can’t simply open the gate themselves and disappear from sight. Refuse to allow people to resign into thin air, both for the sake of your church’s witness to the gospel and for the good of every single sheep—especially those who tend to wander off."

Bobby Jamieson – 9Marks

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=40685&picture=barsSheep Behind Bars

Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC), and Matt Schmucker, who we believe was instrumental in recruiting Dever to the church back in the nineties, worked together to reform CHBC. It was from that experience that the nine marks came to be.  According to the 9Marks website:

"At Matt’s prompting, Mark wrote the self-published booklet “9 Marks of a Healthy Church,” which several years later became the Crossway published book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. As more and more pastors found the conversations begun by Mark and Matt helpful, an organization was birthed in the late nineties, which has grown little by little since then." 

The website further states that "9Marks exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God's glory to the nations through healthy churches."

Here is Mark Dever introducing his 9 Marks and calling attention to two of the marks that have caused some controversy.

Once again, here are the nine marks as listed on the website

"The nine marks are (1) expositional preaching, (2) biblical theology, (3) a biblical understanding of the good news, (4) a biblical understanding of conversion, (5) a biblical understanding of evangelism, (6) biblical church membership, (7) biblical church discipline, (8) biblical discipleship and growth, and (9) biblical church leadership. These are not the only things which are necessary for building healthy churches, they are nine practices which many churches today overlook and that need to be emphasized once again."

Did you catch the repetitive modifier 'biblical'?  Stating that something is 'biblical' or 'healthy' does not make it so…

Now let's revisit a post we published almost four months ago entitled You Can't Resign Without Permission.  It was written in response to a 9Marks post by Bobby Jamieson called Pastors, Don't Let Your People Resign Into Thin Air.  Jaimeson's controversial post probably broke the record for the most comments on the 9Marks website.

If you haven't read it, I highly encourage you to do so.  Here are four practical implications he includes in the post:  

"1.The troubler of First Baptist Smallville needs to either reconcile with that church or join another one where he can be more content. He can’t simply resign his membership and sit on his couch on Sundays. If that’s what he intends to do, FBC Smallville’s response should be church discipline, not “See you later!”

2. Churches’ membership procedures should reflect the fact that the church, not the individual member, has authority to accept and dismiss members. A member cannot unilaterally resign. A member can submit their intention to resign to the church, and the church will either accept or reject that intention…

3.Churches’ governing documents (constitution, by-laws) should reflect the fact that individual members do not have the unilateral right to terminate their membership. Instead, that prerogative belongs to the church. Therefore, the church has the right to refuse someone’s resignation and pursue discipline instead. It’s important to have this clearly stated in a church’s documents for both pastoral and legal reasons.

Here’s an example of the kind of language I’m talking about, from the constitution of the church I’m a member of (Third Avenue Baptist in Louisville):

“Clause 3. The church shall have authority to refuse a Member’s voluntary resignation or transfer of  membership to another church, either for the purpose of proceeding with a process of church discipline, or for any other reason the church deems necessary or prudent.”

One important note: Numbers 2 and 3 in this list should probably be well established before a church attempts to resist someone’s resignation, whatever the circumstances.

4. The pastoral specifics of how churches handle individual resignations will vary. For members who have moved out of the area, I’d suggest that a baseline requirement on this front might be something like “they intend to join another evangelical church in the immediate future.”

I’m using slightly squishy language like this because churches’ membership practices vary. Some churches only take in new members once a year, for example. And some metro areas have a number of solid evangelical churches, and it might take a while for a family to settle on one. And it doesn’t always help to keep a church that’s 3,000 miles away on the line that whole time.  

For members who intend to go to another church within the same metro area, the standard should probably be a little bit tighter. This will help to ensure that the member doesn’t fall through the cracks before they’re safely tucked into another sheepfold."

When I first read Jamieson's post last February, I was appalled!  I thought there was no way churches would be following these rules.  

Was I wrong!  In recent days we have discovered to our utter shock that some 9Marks affiliated churches are following that protocol.  

We have been hearing from our readers via comments and e-mails regarding their unusual membership experiences in 9Marks affiliated churches.  Here are just three of them.

One gentleman explained:

"…my wife and I tried to do just that with a 9marks/SBC type church. After 4 months we were kicked out because we would not formally join. They make not signing their documents, a sin and then discipline for that. It's completely circular."

Another shared this gut-wrenching testimony:

"I had wanted to be somewhat vague on this site about the exact “9 Marks” churches that I attended, but in light of some of the very disturbing links provided by Janey, I now think that I should be explicit. One of those churches, the first one, was Capitol Hill Baptist Church. It was there that I was schooled in the 9 Marks thinking. I embraced it fully, believing it to be “faithfully Biblical” at the time. In retrospect, I can see that one of the dangerous things about the 9 Marks philosophy is that it does strongly address some genuine weaknesses in many American evangelical churches. However, I can say, from experience, that some of the proposed “solutions” are as bad as (and sometimes worse than) the problems.

Here is one example. At the time that I moved from the MD/DC area to New Mexico, in 2007, I had been a member of CHBC for approximately two years– a very happy member. After my move, I immediately began attending another “9 Marks-affiliated” church in Albuquerque. I was happy there too and desired to quickly begin the process of becoming a member, but at the time that I began attending, one cycle of membership classes was winding down, so I waited for the next cycle to begin taking the classes. I had been in touch with people from CHBC, including at least one deacon that I can remember, both just before I left for New Mexico, and after I arrived there and began attending the new church. I made it clear to the CHBC people that I was trying to seek membership at a new church, given my geographical move, for which members of CHBC had actually graciously helped to pay (they do help their members in many ways, and I was thankful for the help!).

However, due to the delay in my membership process in the new church (waiting for the next cycles of classes to begin), it took about three or four months before I was able to actually finish the classes, sign the church covenant, and become a full-fledged member. During this “interim period,” I received a letter from one of the CHBC leaders, informing me that if I did not contact them before the next members’ meeting, I would be disciplined, and my membership would be terminated, given that it had, apparently, taken too long for me to become a member of the church in Albuquerque! I was absolutely stunned. I had been such an enthusiastic supporter of the “9 Marks philosophy,” both at CHBC and at my new church, yet now, I was being threatened with discipline for, seemingly, not sticking closely enough to one aspect of it! (It’s not as though I had had no contact at all with people from CHBC since I moved to New Mexico!) To be fair, I did contact someone from CHBC, after receiving the letter, and explained that the membership process was taking longer than I had hoped, and that I would soon be a member of the new church– thus averting “church discipline” from the CHBC elders. Still though, I just don’t see why that letter even had to be sent! I was not some kind of drifter who had become a member at CHBC and then refused any genuine fellowship and accountability in the church, finally moving, unbeknownst to anyone, to another church in another state, not ever contacting CHBC. Far from it.

About the senior pastor/main preaching elder … who unfriended me on Facebook, without a word, after I returned to the Catholic Church in 2010? His name is Mark Dever. That unfriending broke my heart. I could understand that Mark didn’t consider me a brother in Christ anymore, given that he believes (and teaches at CHBC) that the Catholic Church holds to a “false gospel of works-rightteousness.” I didn’t *agree* with that assessment of the Catholic Church and its teaching anymore, by the time that I returned to the Church, but I still understood how Mark had a very different view and was thus unable to continue viewing me as a brother in Christ. Especially given that I knew that he *did* hold such a view though, it broke my heart that he simply unfriended me, never writing or calling me at all to express concern or to ask me about my decision to return to the Catholic Church. His own teaching in the 9 Marks books and articles does not advocate such silence toward one who is considered an “apostate!” I still don’t understand it.

I have long refrained from telling most people about the things that I have revealed in this comment. Part of the reason for that is that I did not want to engage in gossip with other believers about aspects of my former church. I am still very grateful for much of the solid Biblical teaching and genuine Christian love that I did receive there from so many people– including, in many ways, while I was there, Mark Dever and the other elders. Looking back though, there were also real aspects of CHBC that were unhealthy, and I can no longer remain silent about them. I feel the need to speak out, partially to provide people who may still be there, or who may be considering attending or joining, with some relevant information that they may not get from the elders."

And then there was this situation in the northeastern part of the country which involved a member of a 9Marks affiliated church — a resignation letter was submitted by this individual to the church leadership.  A number of months have gone by since the church was notified of the membership termination; however, the leaders of this 9Marks affiliated church refuse to remove their former member's name from the membership roll.  Why?  Because apparently the church covenant states something to the effect that when a member leaves the congregation they promise to join another church ASAP.  It certainly appears that this former member's name will remain on the church roll until (s)he asks for a letter of transfer to another church.

If you have had a similar experience in a 9 Marks affiliated church, we would love to hear from you! Mark Dever will be speaking at the upcoming SBC Pastors Conference (held prior to the SBC Annual Meeting / Houston), and Southern Baptists might be interested in reading about your experiences.  

We leave you with an interesting comment Leigh wrote on our blog :

"The 'wee little sheep' comment sounds far too familiar. The pastors of our previous church frequently attended the Together for the Gospel conferences and also the Shepherds Conference. I remember one Sunday just after they had all returned from one of the two, they were commenting and laughing from the pulpit about their favorite quote from the conference. “The pastor’s job is to lead and feed, the sheep’s job is to swallow and follow”….ummmm, no thank you…not for me."

All I can say is – these BIBLICAL church membership rules being promoted by 9Marks are BAAAAD!!!

Lydia's Corner:   2 Samuel 19:11-20:13   John 21:1-25   Psalm 120:1-7   Proverbs 16:16-17

Comments

9Marks and ‘Biblical’ Church Membership? — 241 Comments

  1. “So pastors, just as you pay careful attention to the front door of your church, keep a close eye on the back door, too. Make sure that the sheep can’t simply open the gate themselves and disappear from sight. Refuse to allow people to resign into thin air, both for the sake of your church’s witness to the gospel and for the good of every single sheep—especially those who tend to wander off.”

    If this sort of thing spreads, more and more normal people aren’t going to want to have anything to do with the church, regardless of their beliefs.

    Btw, the cover of Dever’s book reminds me of the “For Dummies” books. I wonder if that’s intentional?

  2. These people’s first mistake was signing any kind of “church covenant.” Their second “mistake” is giving a rat’s behind whether their name is removed from the church roll or not. How is some 501(c)(3) halfway across the country going to “discipline” anyone? For pete’s sake, shake the dust off your feet and don’t look back!

    Is it just me, or does that book cover look like something from the “_______ for Dummies” series?

  3. notastepfordsheep wrote:

    Is it just me, or does that book cover look like something from the “_______ for Dummies” series?

    Exactly. I think that may have been an intentional marketing decision by the publisher.

  4. I was about to comment on the overuse of the word “biblical” in the 9Marks site description when I saw I was beat to it:Did you catch the repetitive modifier ‘biblical’? Stating that something is ‘biblical’ or ‘healthy’ does not make it so… A long time ago, after my Mom and I watched an action adventure movie on cable that had lots of four letter words in it – the “F” word was the favorite – my Mom turned to me and said, “If it wasn’t for the “F” word, this movie would not hardly have any dialog.”

    I feel the same way about some of these guys tendencies to toss “biblical” into every other sentence. If they were not allowed to use that word, their blog pages would be empty.

  5. Quote from “You Can’t Resign Without Permission”

    He [church member] can’t simply resign his membership and sit on his couch on Sundays

    But sitting on my couch on a Sunday morning eating Cheeto’s watching repeats of Mad Men is preferable to attending a church with such Draconian membership requirements and rules.

    Jesus said he came to lift burdens from people, not add more hoops to jump through.

    Reading the rest of the author’s suggestions, (“You Can’t Resign Without Permission”)

    “…membership procedures should reflect the fact that the church, not the individual member, has authority to accept and dismiss members. A member cannot unilaterally resign.”

    “Individual members do not have the unilateral right to terminate their membership. Instead, that prerogative belongs to the church…”

    in my mind I heard the Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme music) from Star Wars playing while I read his list.

    Does he have small print at the bottom saying a church should also demand every member’s first born child, or next closest family member, as a sacrifice for leaving?

    If I remain a Christian, seeing stuff like that gives me no incentive to visit a local brick and mortar church on occasion, let alone join one as a member.

    These 9Marks people have made joining and leaving a local body much too complicated and creepy. I don’t think being in a church is supposed to be that tricky or complicated.

  6. Rule of thumb: any religious group/organization that says “you can’t leave” is a cult.

  7. @ Daisy:

    “If I remain a Christian, seeing stuff like that gives me no incentive to visit a local brick and mortar church on occasion, let alone join one as a member.”
    +++++++++++++++

    I would say that you and a few spiritually like-minded friends and Jesus/Holy Spirit/God the Father can do all sorts of Holy Spirit-infused exploits, brick-&-mortar-establishment-free.

    you can enrich your world and leave it a better place one kindness at a time. simple as that. beyond the control of salaried clerical collars you’d otherwise be funding.

  8. I’ve got a friend who just took a new job in another city. She’s looking for a church. I looked at the 9Marks church search locator on the 9Marks website and recommended she *avoid* those churches.

    She’d already had experience with people from one 9Marks church — they were 20-somethings but even as young lay leaders they were very controlling. She started attending one of their Bible studies at the university and within 6 months felt very uncomfortable. It was hard for her to get out because she wanted to leave on good terms. It was a matter of prayer for several weeks. Eventually she left and was very happy to find a healthier campus ministry to join.

  9. What is wrong with the wiring in heads of people that find this kind of controlling church appealing? Jesus never spoke of adding larger and more restrictive yokes. His message was freedom and access to God. Control by churches is satanic in that it is based on fear and not love.
    I managed to escape a Calvary Chapel church with my faith intact,but leaking oil. The American Baptist church I now attend is old school baptist, in the sense that it emphasizes the freedom of the believer. They do have a membership agreement, but it is completely innocuous. I feel so at home. I do feel empathy for those who feel safer at home. I hope you can find a safe church.

  10. Loren Haas wrote:

    What is wrong with the wiring in heads of people that find this kind of controlling church appealing?

    You don't get told about these things the first day or month. You typically make/have friends their before you find out.

    Once you join something like this you tend to believe it not really how things will happen.

    These rules are only to deal with the "bad" people.

    And mainly, once you're in a social group you really don't want to leave because it means you were wrong about joining the group in the first place. And most people are loath to admit that.

  11. Biblical? How’s THIS for biblical:

    “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” 1 Cor 12:13

    and

    “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” 1 Cor 12:18

    Seems the BIBLE says that the Holy Spirit made us members of the church when we were baptized, and that God put us there. Hmmmmm. Time to re-think my bible?

  12. “The nine marks are (1) expositional preaching, (2) biblical theology, (3) a biblical understanding of the good news, (4) a biblical understanding of conversion, (5) a biblical understanding of evangelism, (6) biblical church membership, (7) biblical church discipline, (8) biblical discipleship and growth, and (9) biblical church leadership.”

    So what’s “Biblical” mean? This is incredibly vague (except for pt. 1) unless we assume that Biblical actually means “Calvinist.” In which case only Calvinist churches can be healthy. (And by “expositional preaching” I’m going to assume he means “really LOOOOOOONG sermons” since that was all it ever meant in the church I went to.)

  13. “3.Churches’ governing documents (constitution, by-laws) should reflect the fact that individual members do not have the unilateral right to terminate their membership. Instead, that prerogative belongs to the church. Therefore, the church has the right to refuse someone’s resignation and pursue discipline instead. It’s important to have this clearly stated in a church’s documents for both pastoral and legal reasons.”

    There it is . . . LEGAL!!!

    As we have been harping on when discussing church covenants, they are in all likelihood written under the watchful eyes of attorneys.   These 9Marks guys are slick – they know how to control the flock. 

    BEWARE OF SIGNING CHURCH COVENANTS! 

    If the church leaders start pressuring you into joining, that’s a HUGE RED FLAG!

  14. Note: the church I went to wasn’t a 9Marks church but was into Neo-Calvinist stuff and took pride in the fact that sermons were long.

  15. 2 Thoughts:

    1) I would want to know if Dever thinks pastors are exempt from such expectations….trying to think of an example…oh yeah, CJ running away to CHBC.

    2) Can’t believe we didn’t get video of Hotel California at the end of this post.

  16. @ Matt Redmond:

    I had the same thought about Mark’s BFF hiding out at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

    You can be sure that I was singing Hotel California as I was writing the post.

  17. In case you’re interested, these are the church covenants of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

    Here is the portion that applies to changing churches:

    “We will, when we move from this place, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.”

  18. Steve Scott wrote:

    Biblical? How’s THIS for biblical:

    “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” 1 Cor 12:13

    My thoughts exactly. We all just celebrated Pentecost, the birthday of the church. The first church didn’t look at all like a 9 Marks church:
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%202:14-47&version=NASB

    Peter’s Sermon

    14 But Peter, [a]taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the [b]third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

    ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
    ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all [c]mankind;
    And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    And your young men shall see visions,
    And your old men shall dream dreams;

    Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
    I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
    And they shall prophesy.

    I guess Peter didn’t get the memo about women. Or the memo saying that the disciples would have the only true message. How did the church survive 1500 years without Calvin?

  19. Good grief, such a crock of you-know-what. Dever says in the video, “It is actually true that the Bible teaches us that we should commit ourselves formally, we should join a local church.” Oh, no, it doesn’t! I abhor prooftexting, but show me one single verse in the Bible that says that anyone in the first century church formally joined an organization or one that commands Christians to join local church organizations. I can’t stand the way these guys lie and manipulate people. I guess they’ll say anything for the sake of building their empires. What’s so sad is that you know thousands and thousands of people hear statements like that and just stupidly nod their heads in agreement. “Oh, Mark Dever said it, so it must be true.” Gaah!

  20. Church membership can only be compulsory. It cannot be SELF compulsory, because that is voluntary. So you stay or go based on the good graces of the “leadership”.

    People, this is insanity. How can any American, knowing of the millions of lives it costs to keep us free, throw it away on this kind of despotism?

    This Marxist thinking is completely antithetical to our democracy. You board this Borg ship at your own peril.

    “Hello, my name is 7 of 7”

    God help us if these men ever get power of the state.

  21. I had personal experience with the “shepherding movement” in the mid to late 70’s. It was a nightmare. Many lives, marriages, and personal relationships were irreparably damaged. But if there is any hope for those trapped in or flirting with this latest iteration of church rule by fiat, it is the abundance of sites like this one that not only call attention, but offer alternatives to such cultish organizations. And to all of you who are fed up with the circus… the Episcopal Church welcomes you 🙂

  22. From the Bethlehem Baptist church covenant:

    “5. We moreover engage that when we remove from this place, we will, if possible, unite with a likeminded church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant.”

    Let’s compare that with the pertinent portion from Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s covenant:

    “We will, when we move from this place, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.”

  23. Mark Dever was one of the guest speakers during the second week of the New Word Alive 2013 conference, held in the UK last April. I wonder now what did he talk about… I know some people from my church who attended during the first week but they didn’t see him.

    I attended in 2009 and Don Carson was one of the main “guest stars” that year. In 2010 they had Wayne Grudem. And I just discovered that in 2008 both John piper and Don Carson were invited to the conference… So you can see that it has a rather Neo-Calvinist flavour. As far as I know, before 2008 it was part of a larger evangelical event known as Spring Harvest, but the people organising the Word Alive section decided to part ways. According to the Wikipedia page it was due to doctrinal differences on the atonement with one of the leaders of Spring Harvest.

    Can’t really judge on that last point because I don’t know the story behind it. And I have to admit that attending the conference was personally helpful, as I was coming out of a pretty confusing church experience… Even more, I’ll say that at the time I became a relatively strong follower of authors like Piper and Carson, and the ideas behind them.

    However, I can’t avoid being concerned about the way things have been progressing since 2009. For example, I’ve never liked much how some of those ‘Christian leaders’, often the most prominent ones, have expressed themselves about issues like complementarianism or other doctrinal differences… It’s always been too much ‘our way or the highway’.

    And the way they’ve handled issues like the SGM scandal is extremely worrying, especially considering the large influence they have in some sectors of Christianity. They may not be that big in the global context, but the damage may still be pretty large.

    I guess that there must be some good ones in there… But I feel that there are others, which may look fine and even sound finer, that hide a rather ugly Pharisee under their surface, and it doesn’t take much to find it. It makes me somewhat sad that because of those ugly ones I want to distance myself from all of them.

  24. Daisy wrote:

    some of these guys tendencies to toss “biblical” into every other sentence. If they were not allowed to use that word, their blog pages would be empty.

    Great biblical comment.

  25. From the 9 Marks own website. This is chilling. Here’s how their pastors and elders treat people who leave their churches.

    3 Examples of “9 Marks” pastors and staff encouraging each other to monitor you and your family members wherever you go:

    • Mark Dever’s associate pastor admits that he looks forward to calling other pastors about you if you don’t leave the way they approve – http://www.9marks.org/blog/gospel-minded-churches-cooperating-pastoring

    • One of Mark Dever’s elder writes a very unsettling post on making life miserable for former church members – http://www.9marks.org/blog/churches-cooperating-discipline

    • The same associate pastor at Dever’s church recommends about maintaining information on your family members –
    http://www.9marks.org/blog/why-use-house-church-membership-directory

  26. Daisy wrote:

    But sitting on my couch on a Sunday morning eating Cheeto’s watching repeats of Mad Men is preferable to attending a church with such Draconian membership requirements and rules.

    Another great biblical comment.

  27. Reading this article brought to mind two things:

    1) When I was a wee lad my dog (a beagle) would go into the field then jump up on the back of the sheep while they were eating and pull their wool out (without their permission). Bet they wish they had a crack in the fence or a back door to escape the torment.

    2)We were part of a church plant spear-headed by a recent Master’s Seminary graduate. Several years later he brought on another Master’s Seminary graduate who was ousted from his flock. Conflict arose within leadership shortly afterwards with the new guy being “gently” encouraged to find a new flock…I mistakenly put my nose where I shouldn’t have (asked the wrong questions)…. he ended up finding a new flock out of state. A short while later the the first grad puffed out his chest like a toad while he took his finger and pounded it on my chest saying “if you stay as a member I will bring you under church discipline”. Needless to say I have very little respect (overall) for TMS and their grads (though I have met several that were not ruined by it).

  28. Reading this post made me feel almost like I couldn’t breathe. This is oppression pure and simple. It weighs heavy on the soul. How can this be happening. I guess this must be somewhat similar to how the SGM lawsuit victims are feeling. I just read that CJ is a founding partner of T4G. It’s heartbreaking to know that I helped this come about by being a member of CJ’s happiest place on earth. I always felt that we were just an audience to the kingdom.
    Deb, it helps me to read that part of the post with the facts about CHBC. When I read about factual accounts (which I believe it is) it makes it all that more real.
    Thanks for this place of safety for having our say!

  29. RE: the comment from Bobby Jamieson at the top of the page – I am insulted by that statement. I am not a child. I will go where and when I like.

    If Paul thought membership covenants were so important, why isn’t there a list similar to 9Marks in the new testament?????? Can someone please show me where Jesus told the Apostles what the membership covenant is and what it should entail????

    No one can, because it is not in the bible, therefore is is not BIBLICAL!!!!

  30. Pingback: 9Marks and ‘Biblical’ Church Membership? UNITED STATES

  31. Leaving my SGM (now recently ex-SGM) church, noticed that the membership contract has the “find a new church” clause. I doubt they’ll enforce it though. Though one elder tried to talk me into staying at this church while I searched for a new one. No thanks.

  32. Daisy wrote:

    Instead of making the molester guy leave church, they made the kids leave.

    There is much more to this story. We have covered the Darrell Gilyard fiasco since we started blogging. This guy was being pushed by Paige Patterson, etc as the next golden boy of the SBC. They refused to listen to the many reports that he was going after young teen girls. Years later, he finally got caught and sent to jail. When he got out, this church hired him, knowing his background.

    Here is my recall of the chronological events. They (the church) petitioned the court to let kids come to the church. They could not with Gilyard present. The courts said “Heck, no.” The fact that the leaders of the church wanted him as a pastor and then tried to get kids into his presence is absolutely astonishing.

  33. ken wrote:

    Needless to say I have very little respect (overall) for TMS and their grads (though I have met several that were not ruined by it).

    Ken — Two arrogant John MacArthur-spouting lay people came into my church about 20 years ago. Our pastor wasn’t tough enough to get rid of them. Their poisonous “my way or the highway” message ruined the church. I’m glad to be gone. When you see how refreshing a healthy church is, it’s hard to believe you stayed so long.

  34. In a previous life I used to be a lawyer. My first reaction is, DON’T SIGN A CHURCH COVENANT. Second, if you feel pressured to sign it, tell the pastor, “Well, it’s a contract. I’m going to have to run this by my lawyer first.” As I’ve said previously, I think the pastor would snatch the covenant right out of your hands. You might also be shown the door, but you would have saved yourself from a world of hurt.

  35. dee wrote:

    There is much more to this story. We have covered the Darrell Gilyard fiasco since we started blogging. This guy was being pushed by Paige Patterson, etc as the next golden boy of the SBC. They refused to listen to the many reports that he was going after young teen girls. Years later, he finally got caught and sent to jail. When he got out, this church hired him, knowing his background.

    I was telling a friend about the SGM/Mahaney child sexual abuse lawsuit, and how Dever, Mohler, Duncan, DeYoung, Carson, and Taylor are standing by their man. His initial thought was they must have child molester cover-ups going on in their own churches. After reading this, perhaps that’s not so far-fetched.

  36. Janey wrote:

    ken wrote:
    When you see how refreshing a healthy church is, it’s hard to believe you stayed so long.

    I’d like to see a healthy church near me – I punched in our zip in that 9Marks church locater and found 4 dozen or so all around me. I’m surrounded by the control freaks.

  37. @ Martos:
    Hi Martos *waves* This is one of the reasons I haven’t gone to Word Alive for years, though it’s very popular at the church I’m still a member at, it’s just so doctrinally limited to one part of the spectrum. I think it parted ways from Spring Harvest over the doctrine of the penal substitution theory of atonement being challenged by Steve Chalke I think…some people think he’s a heretic: http://www.banneroftruth.co.uk/pages/articles/article_detail.php?654, some, not so much: http://vanguardchurch.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/nt-wright-steve-chalke-does-not-deny.html

    I for one am extremely tired of the narrow narrow path dictated by these guys, the road to heaven appears to be only one doctrine wide at some points, if they are to be believed….

  38. ken wrote:

    I’d like to see a healthy church near me – I punched in our zip in that 9Marks church locater and found 4 dozen or so all around me. I’m surrounded by the control freaks

    Ken — I am surrounded by 9 Mark churches too. But I contacted a couple of families who left my church a while ago and found out where they attend now. It was a smaller church that wasn’t even on my radar. I met with the pastor. He’s of the same mind I am about the control freaks.

  39. dee wrote:

    Daisy wrote:
    Instead of making the molester guy leave church, they made the kids leave.
    There is much more to this story. We have covered the Darrell Gilyard fiasco since we started blogging. This guy was being pushed by Paige Patterson, etc as the next golden boy of the SBC. They refused to listen to the many reports that he was going after young teen girls. Years later, he finally got caught and sent to jail. When he got out, this church hired him, knowing his background.
    Here is my recall of the chronological events. They (the church) petitioned the court to let kids come to the church. They could not with Gilyard present. The courts said “Heck, no.” The fact that the leaders of the church wanted him as a pastor and then tried to get kids into his presence is absolutely astonishing.

    Didn’t someone once say something about letting the little ones come to him, & not hindering them? This ‘church’ are maybe too busy being biblical…seriously this makes me want to poke my eyes out with blunt spoons.

  40. We have a covenant at our church. Any person interested in membership is given our covenant and explained that it is basically a mini doctrinal statement about what we as a church believes the Bible teaches about church membership. They are also given the BFM 2000 and given an opportunity to ask questions. They are not asked to sign it, and they are told it is not a legally binding document at all. They are asked if they agree, affirm, and to commit to it if they want to join. If they don’t, they are still welcome to attend any and all meetings, functions, outreaches, etc. We will still love them as a brother and sister in Christ, and serve along side us, but they just can’t vote or hold any leadership/teaching positions. As in all doctrinal statements, our folks are always encouraged to test these things by the Bible, and submit a change if they feel it is necessary to do so.

    9 marks didn’t come up with covenants. It’s actually been around a while. My church where I pastor was founded in 1805, and it adopted a covenant as best as I can tell sometime between 1900s and 1920’s. It actually had a clause about abstaining from alcohol if you want to join (that has since been removed; our church used to be in a community where every farm made their own gin). I think it is a good thing to have, but like all things it can be abused if it is emphasized greater than it should.

  41. All I have to say is this will do more to drive people from the church than to it…..and maybe that is their goal…have a core of folks who will do anything for the “Blessed Pastor.”
    I think I am going to be ill…..

  42. Below is the typical church covenant that many SBC churches used for years in the more traditional sense. This has nothing to do with Calvinism/Arminianism or the authority of the pastor or elders. Rather the whole purpose was the to outline how the body of the local church would function in relation to one another. There was no obligation to sign this but it was more of a generally agreed upon ethic
    and pattern of lifestyle. You may notice that it mentions the abstintion from alcohol, which is a prominent feature of Baptist life during prohibition.

    Having been led, as we believe, by the spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior.

    And on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

    We do now, in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ.

    We engage, therfore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love ; to strive for the advancement of this church, in knowledge, holiness, and comfort;

    To promote its prosperity and spirituality ; to sustain its worship, ordinance, discipline, and doctrines;

    To contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.

    We also engage to maintain family and secret devotions; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances;

    To walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment;

    To avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger;

    To abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage, and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Saviour.

    We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love;

    To remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech;

    To be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.

    We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will, as soon as possible , unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word

  43. PP wrote:

    We have a covenant at our church. Any person interested in membership is given our covenant and explained that it is basically a mini doctrinal statement about what we as a church believes the Bible teaches about church membership. They are also given the BFM 2000 and given an opportunity to ask questions. They are not asked to sign it, and they are told it is not a legally binding document at all. They are asked if they agree, affirm, and to commit to it if they want to join. If they don’t, they are still welcome to attend any and all meetings, functions, outreaches, etc. We will still love them as a brother and sister in Christ, and serve along side us, but they just can’t vote or hold any leadership/teaching positions. As in all doctrinal statements, our folks are always encouraged to test these things by the Bible, and submit a change if they feel it is necessary to do so.

    9 marks didn’t come up with covenants. It’s actually been around a while. My church where I pastor was founded in 1805, and it adopted a covenant as best as I can tell sometime between 1900s and 1920′s. It actually had a clause about abstaining from alcohol if you want to join (that has since been removed; our church used to be in a community where every farm made their own gin). I think it is a good thing to have, but like all things it can be abused if it is emphasized greater than it should.

    Yes, this is my experience as well in the church I am a member of and the churches I have pastored.

  44. In order to avoid this kind of cult thinking I wrote up a list of what I was looking for in a church. I really like the words ekklesia (body), oikos (family) or bride of Christ rather than church. This is not necessarily in order of importance, just how I wrote it. It is not written in stone and if the Holy Spirit leads me to change it I do.

    1. One anothering. There are at least 57 of these in the NT.
    2. Royal Priesthood, that is the Ekklesia is to consist of the priesthood of the believer.
    3. Do as I do not do as I say and the do reflects Christ at all times. No Lording over, but elders are to be examples of Christ-like behavior.
    4. All participate openly – the hand, the foot, the unmentionable part.
    5. Christ is the only head. He is our kephale (source).
    6. Servanthood – including feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc.
    7. The whole body keeps our eyes on Christ so that we may become more and more like him. As we become more like Christ we are becoming glory sharers (1 Peter 5:1). When we keep our eyes on men we have only the tyranny of demanded conformity.
    8. The body is relational not institutional. There is no pastor to laity distinction but extended family in which all mature Christians (men, women, married, single, etc) will be examples of Christhood.
    9. The Holy Spirit draws you in, teaches you, leads you, comforts you and counsels you. The Holy Spirit will not force you to stay in an abusive, cultlike church.

  45. SBC Chaplain wrote:

    Rather the whole purpose was the to outline how the body of the local church would function in relation to one another.

    I think this is key – a church “covenant” should be viewed as a mutual agreement among everyone in the congregation. It is when this document draws a line between “ordinary member” and “church leadership” as two separate parties it starts to become fishy.

  46. Wow….having moved a couple of times in my adult life, I cannot imagine moving and having to immediately figure out which church I wanted to join in my new town, just to satisfy the impatience of my former church! It takes time to choose a good place. You can’t just make that happen on your own timetable, and failure to do so doesn’t make you lazy!

    I was part of a church once (not a 9 Marks church) that had some unhealthy leadership tendencies. Shortly after I left, a friend of mine also left. The pastor told her that God hadn’t told him that he should allow her to go. She was like “well, too bad, ’cause I’m going!”

  47. @ Kristin:

    Yes that’s the key. This is one of the core tenants of congregationalism. But its not just a feature of congregationalism, I have seen this work in presbyterian and episcopal governed churches as well if there is a right balance between clergy and laity. This is why many in SBC life are concerned with the direction that the SBC is headed as it is losing much of its congregationalism to heavy handed authoritarian leadership.

  48. Daisy wrote:
    Quote from “You Can’t Resign Without Permission”

    He [church member] can’t simply resign his membership and sit on his couch on Sundays

    But sitting on my couch on a Sunday morning eating Cheeto’s watching repeats of Mad Men is preferable to attending a church with such Draconian membership requirements and rules

    Your comment about the Cheeto’s made my morning! Too Funny 😉 …and yes, we can actually do this guilt free!!

    Our acts of service for the church should not be the measuring stick for gaging the level of our commitment to Jesus Christ. We are commanded to be salt and light. We are to be in the world living out our beliefs. How can we really do this when a church requires our every breathing moment? Oh, but without our slave labor, and I call it this because really, are people literally doing all of this “service” for God’s glory, or for the approval of control freaks who monitor their level of commitment?

  49. sad observer wrote:

    Wow….having moved a couple of times in my adult life, I cannot imagine moving and having to immediately figure out which church I wanted to join in my new town, just to satisfy the impatience of my former church! It takes time to choose a good place.

    Perhaps that was one of the motivations behind the 9Marks church directory. If a member is leaving a 9Marks affiliated church, the pastors may recommend some similar churches in the area to which (s)he is moving.

    SGM was known to do it that way, and Dever and Mahaney have enjoyed a CLOSE friendship for 17+ years now. You can hear C.J. Mahaney describe his deep appreciation for Mark Dever in this message given two years ago at Capitol Hill Baptist Church – Called, Loved and Kept

    By the way, Mark Dever will be speaking at Mahaney’s church on Sunday, June 2.

  50. One thing I am wondering….what do these leaders do with those who are part of home fellowships that may or may not even meet on a Sunday? Are those not considered to be real churches? They list what they believe to be the marks of a health and I would imagine that some of those are being done more “biblically” in these settings. For example,church discipline. In a smaller group as promoted by George Barna, Jon Zens, and Frank Viola, the one anothers would actually be able to be practiced and any problems would be met earlier on with the goal of repentance and restoration being more easily accomplished. I would think, given the more intimate relationships. Are these considered “healthy” churches? I think “church” and “healthy” are pretty subjective.

  51. And can anyone who has read or listened to these teaching in detail give brief run down of their apologetic for membership being required in Scripture?

  52. Argo wrote:

    Church membership can only be compulsory. It cannot be SELF compulsory, because that is voluntary. So you stay or go based on the good graces of the “leadership”.

    People, this is insanity. How can any American, knowing of the millions of lives it costs to keep us free, throw it away on this kind of despotism?

    This Marxist thinking is completely antithetical to our democracy. You board this Borg ship at your own peril.

    “Hello, my name is 7 of 7″

    God help us if these men ever get power of the state.

    I used to think to myself, why do I let SGM push me around when my father was part of WWII to protect my freedom. This was when I was still part of the CULT.

  53. Martos & Beakerj,

    Good to see some other Brits here!

    I agree with everything you say. Word Alive is part of the broad grouping called Conservative Evangelicalism, and as you say they are calvinist and complementarian. Another associated bunch are the people who organise the London Men’s Convention and its offshoots – they brought Mark Driscoll over a couple of years ago.

    One of the underlying issues behind what you both say is that evangelicalism is so focussed on the idea of “truth” that it can’t handle doctrinal differences. The way it copes with these is by splitting. Steve Chalke questions the accepted wisdom in atonement theology, becomes unacceptable to the conservatives behind Word Alive, and they part company with Spring Harvest. In the Church of England, there’s this group called Reform that are totally opposed to women’s ordination and have threatened to leave if women get to become bishops.

  54. For whatever it’s worth…”membership” was floating around GOB back in the 80’s with Larry and C.J…although it was more likely to be worded as “Who’s authority are you under” rather than “Where are you a member” or being bound by contract.

  55. thatmom wrote:

    And can anyone who has read or listened to these teaching in detail give brief run down of their apologetic for membership being required in Scripture?

    I still have the “Starting Point” membership book from my former SGM church (which is listed in the 9 Marks directory, btw) and here’s what it says:

    The New Testament is clear that each Christian is allotted by God to a specific local church and to the eldership of that church. This divine assignment results in numerous benefits:

    * It helps to ensure that believers are properly cared for.
    * It provides an explicit context in which believers are to serve others.
    * It helps leaders to identify those for whom they are accountable before God.
    * It creates an accountability arrangement in which unrepentant believers can be cared for biblically and redemptively.

    1 Peter 5:2-3: “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”

    Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with you and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

    Funny, the spellchecker here doesn’t recognize “eldership”, “biblically”, or “redemptively.” 😀

  56. Marge Sweigart wrote:

    The New Testament is clear that each Christian is allotted by God to a specific local church and to the eldership of that church.

    Where on earth is this in the NT??!! “Alotted?”

  57. Fendrel wrote:

    For whatever it’s worth…”membership” was floating around GOB back in the 80′s with Larry and C.J…although it was more likely to be worded as “Who’s authority are you under” rather than “Where are you a member” or being bound by contract.

    In GOB, we had to testify in a Sunday service that we were committed. I told my husband, like to an insane asylum. I was only joking at the time but now… I don’t think so.

  58. I noted that a couple of people referred to Heb 13:17. I have a couple of notes in my Bible. The word obey is Peitho in the Greek and means be persuaded. The word leaders means guides. If I am going on a journey and need a guide so I wont get lost then that guide better be able to persuade me that they know what they are doing. IF I get lost and drown in the swamp because the guide was inadequate to the job they would have to give an account to my family and possibly the legal authorities. The same applies in the church except the leaders are going to have to give an account to God.

  59. @ Kristin:
    They get that “allotted” thing from the 1 Peter 5 passage. The NASB says “nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”

    Their reasoning is that if these elders had a flock allotted to their charge, then that means that all Christians are allotted to a particular flock to be led by a particular shepherd. Their twisting of Scripture never ceases to amaze me.

  60. Nicholas wrote:

    Exactly. I think that may have been an intentional marketing decision by the publisher.

    Just like when Left Behind hit the best-seller lists, Hal Lindsay’s publisher re-released all Lindsay’s books with new covers that were obvious LB cover knockoffs.

  61. Herschel Hobbs, in his book on the Baptist Faith & Message, described the fundamental Baptist distinctive as “The competency of the soul in religious matters”. Translation: Priesthood of the believer. How in the world a church sees itself as transcending the Priesthood of the Believer, in determining where someone should worship, or where one’s membership rests, is beyond me. And how they think a church covenant can override the Baptist Faith & Message, I similarly don’t understand.

    The Baptist Faith & Message states “That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.” Apparently some folks don’t believe that. Well, I do, and would NEVER sign a “church covenant”, which would insert another document in front of the Bible, and in front of our only consensus statement of faith, in order of importance.

    No thanks.

  62. elastigirl wrote:

    you can enrich your world and leave it a better place one kindness at a time.

    And if the Christian faith’s primary intent (according to the actions of some) is not to build a better world, what’s the point?

    “Our lives are not our own.
    From womb to tomb, we are bound to others.
    Past and present.
    And by each crime and every kindness,
    we birth our own future…”

    from David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas

  63. dee wrote:

    Here is my recall of the chronological events. They (the church) petitioned the court to let kids come to the church. They could not with Gilyard present. The courts said “Heck, no.” The fact that the leaders of the church wanted him as a pastor and then tried to get kids into his presence is absolutely astonishing.

    JMJ/Christian Monist once recounted having a child-molesting elder in his church when he was growing up. It was an open secret and everybody looked the other way because Elder Pedo quoted all the right Scriptures and did all the Godly/Biblical preaching. The most disturbing thing about it was the Good Christians in the church not only giving Elder Pedo a free pass, but steering him towards the children of new church members so he’d rape the newbies’ kids instead of their own.

  64. @ Dave A A:
    Oh yes, Kevin DeYoung – that brilliant and highly objective discerner who declared C.J. Mahaney ‘fit for ministry’…

    How interesting that upon his return from Orlando where he spoke at SGM’s Transfer conference, he wrote the following on his blog:

    At a recent conference the three of us on the panel (all pastors) were asked the question, “As a layperson, should I start a grassroots movement to change my church?” All three of us basically said, “No.”

  65. Dave A A wrote:

    Must reading DeYoung article from yesterday and comments section, where DeYoung is MIA so far.
    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2013/05/29/should-i-start-a-grassroots-movement-to-change-my-church/?comments#comments
    A couple good comments on this topic and one chastening TGC for disallowing comments on SGM silence.

    As usual commenter “Tom” has intelligent things to say and a nice way of saying them.
    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2013/05/29/should-i-start-a-grassroots-movement-to-change-my-church/?comments#comment-37097

  66. @ Marge Sweigart:

    The word allotted actually has to do with casting lots. In some ways who ends up in your flock or stays in your flock is “random”. By the way in the KJV God’s heritage is used. So the leaders are to be Godly examples to God’s heritage or allotted not lording it over them.

  67. I didn’t mean to imply that who gets saved is random but that where you end up in church or life is not under the pastor’s control.

  68. Muff Potter wrote:

    And if the Christian faith’s primary intent (according to the actions of some) is not to build a better world, what’s the point?

    Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation?

    That’s become the tunnel vision of a LOT of Fundagelicalism. Along with Fluffy Cloud Heaven replacing Resurrection into a New Heavens and New Earth (New in the original Greek meaning completely refurbished).

  69. @ Wisdomchaser:
    Yes, and their point is that if you’re a Christian, then you’ve been allotted to a particular flock and it’s your duty to find out which one and then follow the shepherd(s) who oversees that flock. And, in their minds, this means that you must become a card-carrying member. You need to know who your shepherd is and they need to know who their sheep are. I’m not saying I agree with this. I’m just trying to explain what I think their “biblical” reasoning is for requiring membership. I hope I’m making sense.

  70. Kristin wrote:

    Where on earth is this in the NT??!! “Alotted?”

    It’s the Speshul Sekrit Revelation (i.e. Occult Gnosis) which God Hath Revealed to 9Marks and 9Marks alone.

  71. Marge Sweigart wrote:

    elders had a flock allotted to their charge,

    It appears that we are commodities to be put in a column and checked off. “We have been allotted 2 bloggers from NC to discipline.”

  72. thatmom wrote:

    One thing I am wondering….what do these leaders do with those who are part of home fellowships that may or may not even meet on a Sunday? Are those not considered to be real churches?

    Nothing that is NOT under a 9Marks’ leader’s thumb can be a Real Church.

    Control freaks do NOT like independents of any sort.

  73. @ Deb: Yo Deb
    Did he get paid or was this out of the goodness of his heart to help a Christian brother’s ministry? I am sure that was the case. Sacrifice and all that. Probably stayed in a Motel 6 to save them money.

  74. Dee wrote:

    It appears that we are commodities to be put in a column and checked off. “We have been allotted 2 bloggers from NC to discipline.”

    Is that anything like a concentration camp being allotted 2 dissidents/politicals for “special treatment”?

  75. @ Marge Sweigart:

    I know you don’t agree with them. Yes, you are making sense. I’m just glad that Jesus is my only shepard and when he calls I listen. I belong to the body of Christ and will never become a “member” of a church again. None of these men are my shepard.

  76. Daisy wrote:

    But sitting on my couch on a Sunday morning eating Cheeto’s watching repeats of Mad Men is preferable to attending a church with such Draconian membership requirements and rules.

    With me it’d be My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic or Game of Thrones instead of Mad Men. (And you can’t get two fantasy worlds more different than Equestria and Westeros…)

  77. Nicholas wrote:

    I wonder if Dever believes that churches pastored by rapists are healthy churches?

    If they are 9Marks Churches (i.e. “Gooble! Gobble! One of Us!”) with Perfectly-Parsed Theology, YES. “One of Us” and “Purity of Ideology” is what REALLY matters.

  78. you know, my understanding of “membership” (from my Lutheran background + time with Catholic charismatics, back in the day) = baptism plus confirmation.

    Basically, the crux of it is whether you agree with what’s in the apostles and Nicene Creeds.

    There’s NO signing on the dotted line, let alone anything about “church discipline.” Of course, I’d be foolish to ignore the fact that there authoritarians in every denomination – but that doesn’t negate the fact that for a lot of us out here, this whole 9marks membership think sounds like a memo from none other than Josef Stalin himself.

  79. Dee/Deb,

    This might be something to watch:

    http://actlikemen.com/

    I considered going to the Hamilton conference. It is near my city and I’m very curious to witness the spectacle for myself. But it is $91.00 to go – that’s too much money to satisfy my curiousity and sense of irony! What, are they planning to pay off James Macdonald’s gambling debts?

  80. the other significant thing: if you believe, you are part of the body of Christ, the church universal.

    Nobody can “un-member” you from that. Not one single human soul, even those who might perform a rite of excommunication (in certain denoms).

    It is a very different way of looking at things, and one that’s a great relief to me!

  81. “Toxic Eekklesia?”

    hmmm….

    The term ‘Church’   Gr : “ekklesia”  today is simply defined by an American 501c corporation, it’s lawyer(s), and  it’s legally binding covenantal membership agreements. Convenient portions of the bible have apparently been included as an Add-On addendum. 

    Hence, the new Sola…. 

    Sola Church Leadership?

    hmmm….

    ….seems like it.

    (sadface)

    Sopy

  82. Deb wrote:

    Oh yes, Kevin DeYoung – that brilliant and highly objective discerner who declared C.J. Mahaney ‘fit for ministry’…

    How interesting that upon his return from Orlando where he spoke at SGM’s Transfer conference, he wrote the following on his blog:

    At a recent conference the three of us on the panel (all pastors) were asked the question, “As a layperson, should I start a grassroots movement to change my church?” All three of us basically said, “No.”

    What makes DeYoung so special? He tries to control people in his church using similar methods used by cult groups. He’s pleased that the (alleged) victims of sexual abuse under Mahaney’s oversight turned age 21 so the lawsuit couldn’t be heard in court. He doesn’t acknowledge that several of the defendants in the lawsuit have already gone to jail. He thinks Mahaney is only being targeted because he’s a high-profile Christian. And he thinks Mahaney is fit.

    Really? And we’re supposed to believe DeYoung’s a good Christian leader?

  83. Marge Sweigart wrote:

    The New Testament is clear that each Christian is allotted by God to a specific local church and to the eldership of that church. This divine assignment results in numerous benefits:
    * It helps to ensure that believers are properly cared for.
    * It provides an explicit context in which believers are to serve others.
    * It helps leaders to identify those for whom they are accountable before God.
    * It creates an accountability arrangement in which unrepentant believers can be cared for biblically and redemptively.
    1 Peter 5:2-3: “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”
    Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with you and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

    Wow! You’ve really got to twist these verses around to come to these conclusions about their meaning. These guys must be on one huge ego trip to want this level of control over peoples lives. I’m not ready to believe they actually care anything at all about those they are leading.

  84. I’ve thought for awhile best way to view the function of “pastor” is like a team captain on a sports team. There is definitely a level of responsibility and respect that goes along with being a captain but they are still just team members like everyone else and it isn’t an authoritative role. Any thoughts on that?

  85. It is SO not my intent to insult anybody, but I keep being reminded of an old commercial for an insect trap. You know, “…..check in but they DON’T check out…” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKhGHxO-woc or this line from C.S Lewis, “Easily in but not easily out, as the lobster said in the lobster pot.” (from The Horse and His Boy)

  86. Beakerj wrote:

    seriously this makes me want to poke my eyes out with blunt spoons.

    Beaks – if you were a clearer thinker, it wouldn’t make you want to poke out your eyes with blunt spoons.

    (Paraphrasing the late, great Douglas Adams!)

  87. Kristin wrote:

    Marge Sweigart wrote:
    The New Testament is clear that each Christian is allotted by God to a specific local church and to the eldership of that church.
    Where on earth is this in the NT??!! “Alotted?”

    And does it apply to pastors as well??!!

  88. DaveinTN wrote: (quoting a 9Marks-style source)

    The New Testament is clear that each Christian is allotted by God to a specific local church and to the eldership of that church.

    No, in 1 Corinthians Paul expresses his astonished outrage that such a thing should happen. The NT clearly bans such practices and states them to be evidence that the local church has already been totally defeated.

    Sooner or later, the deception gripping these people will be so strong that they will claim the NT explicitly commands us to lie, steal and murder. These people are not even heretics; they are making up their own religion, tailored to slake the raging lusts of their flesh for power and status, and foolishly pretending the “bible” (whatever that word is supposed to mean when they use it) has told them to do it.

  89. To be honest, thought the Kevin DeYoung article “Should I Start a Grassroots Movement to Change My Church?” was relatively OK.

    He is basically telling calvinists not to cause trouble in non-calvinist churches. That has to be a good thing!

    This remark from near the end was key:

    What I am saying is that practically you should not spend your life trying to do what has very little chance of success, theologically you should obey and respect your leaders, and spiritually you should not be divisive.

    To me, that does seem reasonable.

    Where it falls short is if a church is abusive and is hurting people. In that case, I’m sure people should call for change as it is our duty to protect the vulnerable.

    Feel free to disagree with anything I’ve said if I’m talking rubbish, and no, this isn’t an endorsement of Kevin DeYoung.

  90. After being in the ministry 41 years and many as pastoring, I came to terms with this issue of pastoral authority. The pastor is the spiritual leader by virtue of God delegating two primary responsibilities to hum; both found in Hebrews 13:7. He has no authority of his own, he does not own the church nor is he in a role above any member. In fact, he is accountable to every member. But, his two distinct roles are, 1. Preach the word and 2. Live and conduct his life in a God honoring manner. That is his authority. Stay true in the word and in his character. 1 Timothy 3. A man who is doing this should be followed even though humanly he will err. He should be tender, teachable and if he is doing these things he should fear no reprisal or fear criticism. When he gets out of the word and fails to exemplify the character traits he should be lovingly confronted an shown the error of his way in hopes he will repent. When he steps out of these roles he cannot continue to belief he is above reproach and that God is automatically affirming his leadership.

  91. Wisdomchaser wrote:

    I noted that a couple of people referred to Heb 13:17. I have a couple of notes in my Bible. The word obey is Peitho in the Greek and means be persuaded. The word leaders means guides. If I am going on a journey and need a guide so I wont get lost then that guide better be able to persuade me that they know what they are doing. IF I get lost and drown in the swamp because the guide was inadequate to the job they would have to give an account to my family and possibly the legal authorities. The same applies in the church except the leaders are going to have to give an account to God.

    Thank you wisdom! I would recommend folks do a real in depth study on that passage IN CONTEXT. It was translated by those laboring in a state church paradigm. But when proof texted totally contradicts quite a few other passages concerning not lording it over, submit to one another, etc, etc.

    Here is a better translation that fits with how the same words are used in other passages of the NT but they chose not to use the same interpretation in Hebrews when it comes to what they saw as “authority”:

    “Trust them that are your leaders and be yielding: for they watch in behalf of your souls….”

    If the King James translators would have given us that translation, and subsequent versions would have followed their influence (as they did anyway), then we might not have had the controversy over authoritative officials.

    The other problem with this verse is we do not know who the “leaders” are. Obviously “leader” does not denote the same Western understanding we have which is basically from the Roman chain of being. (hierarchical) Elders are not mentioned in the context either. A better way to understand leader might be “those who have been refined by the fire” since the context is about the beginnings of persecution for these believers. Just some thoughts from lots of studying on this much abused passage.

  92. @ SBC Chaplain:

    In the SBC I grew up in we were taught that your “Yes was Yes and your No was No and no need to “swear” by any statement for the Body of Christ. We were not creedal nor would we ever sign any belief statement. That would have been considered horrible. Sigh. Things have changed A LOT.

    Now I see why concepts like Soul Competency, Priesthood of Believer and other such things concerning creeds were drilled into our heads.

  93. Muff Potter wrote:

    And if the Christian faith’s primary intent (according to the actions of some) is not to build a better world, what’s the point?

    Muff, You always bring it back to the simple but profound truth. And this is where I think Western Christianity got off the tracks with the idea that everything in the world is evil and our only job here was to evangelize for the next better world. What you remind us of is what being salt and light would look like.

  94. Ian wrote:

    He is basically telling calvinists not to cause trouble in non-calvinist churches. That has to be a good thing

    Ian, ONe of the big problems here is that Non Calvinist churches are unknowingly hiring Calvinist pastors because they are not forthcoming in interviews. So once that pastor is in he starts to teach Calvinistic principles, garners some influencers to his side and starts to take over. Shuold the people who built the church not try to deal with that? I think DeYoungs advice is dangerous because it puts the pastor on a pedestal he should not be on. You have to read these guys with analytical glasses on. They are slippery.

  95. Anon 1 wrote:

    So once that pastor is in he starts to teach Calvinistic principles, garners some influencers to his side and starts to take over. Shuold the people who built the church not try to deal with that?

    Great comment.

  96. Ian wrote:

    To be honest, thought the Kevin DeYoung article “Should I Start a Grassroots Movement to Change My Church?” was relatively OK.
    He is basically telling calvinists not to cause trouble in non-calvinist churches. That has to be a good thing!
    This remark from near the end was key:
    What I am saying is that practically you should not spend your life trying to do what has very little chance of success, theologically you should obey and respect your leaders, and spiritually you should not be divisive.
    To me, that does seem reasonable.
    Where it falls short is if a church is abusive and is hurting people. In that case, I’m sure people should call for change as it is our duty to protect the vulnerable.

    I agree. And it falls short if a church promotes policies which promote abuse — even if none is apparent yet. Commenter AJ Holmes asked, “Pastor Kevin,
    I’m wondering if your answer remains identical in the situation that the concern of a layperson has primarily to do with church policy or method, not theology. Granted theology should be the pot that these things grow out of.”
    Steve elaborated well. Kevin failed to answer.
    Also, it’s ironic that Kevin suggests people just move along, after speaking at a confernce for a movement (SGM) which is hemorrhaging leaders, a family hemorrhaging churches, and churches hemorrhaging members, and they can’t stop the bleeding.

  97. Jesus recognized free will, and when he was teaching, if his followers turned away, he let then go.

    What gives a Church Institution/Pastor/Eldership the authority to disregard our God-given free will?

  98. Anon 1 wrote:

    Ian, ONe of the big problems here is that Non Calvinist churches are unknowingly hiring Calvinist pastors because they are not forthcoming in interviews. So once that pastor is in he starts to teach Calvinistic principles, garners some influencers to his side and starts to take over.

    i.e. A Stealth Takeover. Bait and Switch.

    Using the same “Salami Tactics” Stalin used to take over Eastern Europe after WW2. Force one little concession at a time, like a slow-boiling frog, until you have it all. After which there is only praise of “URRA STALINO!”

  99. Ian wrote:

    Kristin wrote:

    Marge Sweigart wrote:
    The New Testament is clear that each Christian is allotted by God to a specific local church and to the eldership of that church.
    Where on earth is this in the NT??!! “Alotted?”

    And does it apply to pastors as well??!!

    Kristin, it is in 1 Peter 5:3. “…nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” in the NASB.

    Here we should not have a problem with the word “allotted,” but rather with WHO does the allotting. Notice from the grammar that the passage doesn’t say “those who you have allotted to your own charge,” nor does it say, “those who have allotted themselves to your charge.” So, neither the shepherds nor the sheep are the ones in control of the allotting. That leaves…Guess Who? (hint: upper case letters used to reference deity)

  100. Steve Scott wrote:

    Biblical? How’s THIS for biblical:
    “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” 1 Cor 12:13
    and
    “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” 1 Cor 12:18
    Seems the BIBLE says that the Holy Spirit made us members of the church when we were baptized, and that God put us there. Hmmmmm. Time to re-think my bible?

    Yep. And all membership requires in the Catholic Church is baptism. That means you are a member. End of discussion. (And before anyone chimes in…yes, children later receive first communion and confirmation and converts have all three at once, but membership is based on baptism not the rest). When you go to a parish church, you do not join it as you are already a member. You can, and are encouraged to, register in that parish. That is primarily for the purpose of communication. No covenants or contracts. Just a form with names of those in your household and your contact info.

  101. Ian wrote:

    And does it apply to pastors as well??!!

    Of course not!

    “All Animals Are Equal
    BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS!”
    — G.Orwell, Animal Farm

  102. @ Steve:

    And there’s nothing in 1 Peter to indicate that God is up there with a big map drawing immutable church “districts” (like election districts) to “allot” believers to. Parishes, etc. are a manmade construct for bureaucratic purposes, etc.

    So can a pastor “redraw” his “allotment” map and start gerrymandering? ; )

  103. K.D. wrote:

    All I have to say is this will do more to drive people from the church than to it…..and maybe that is their goal…have a core of folks who will do anything for the “Blessed Pastor.”

    With armbands and blood-group tattoos.

  104. Also, speaking of Neo-Calvinist wonkiness, my ex-pastor put this on his FB:

    “We all need a little more conversion each day or we will not be fit for heaven.”

    Proving my worst fears right, one FB post at a time…

    I know this is off-topic but I couldn’t help myself.

  105. Lynn wrote:

    Loren Haas wrote:

    What is wrong with the wiring in heads of people that find this kind of controlling church appealing?

    You don’t get told about these things the first day or month. You typically make/have friends their before you find out.

    i.e. Love-Bombing and Salami Tactics.

    (Like how Scientology doesn’t tell you about Xenu until you’re well-past Clear and striking for OT3…)

  106. The problem is that these guys are trying to do “Biblical” theology without reference to church history or tradition. Their model of membership is a relatively recent invention, and that should tell you something: Either it’s not really in the text as they say it is, or we went the first 1700 years of Christianity without this supposedly essential feature. I’m gonna go with the former. It is the result of a Reformed view of Scripture which sees the entire book as a set of instructions to be followed (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth). There is no room for grace or the Gospel in this paradigm.

  107. Anon 1 wrote:

    The other problem with this verse is we do not know who the “leaders” are. Obviously “leader” does not denote the same Western understanding we have which is basically from the Roman chain of being. (hierarchical) Elders are not mentioned in the context either. A better way to understand leader might be “those who have been refined by the fire” since the context is about the beginnings of persecution for these believers. Just some thoughts from lots of studying on this much abused passage.

    Anon 1, I think you are right on with that. Unfortunately, our understanding is definitely flawed on that.

  108. Hester wrote:

    @ Steve:…So can a pastor “redraw” his “allotment” map and start gerrymandering? ; )

    Well, if you read all the calvinista literature on church membership, then, yes, this is what they are saying. They claim that with soooooo many peoples walking thru the door each week, they can’t possibly know who THEIR sheep are. So they create the membership system.

  109. @ unshaken:

    Jesus recognized free will, and when he was teaching, if his followers turned away, he let then go.

    I’d question your notion of free will. IMO, a person who walks away from Jesus is no longer free, because true freedom is found in Christ alone.

    But aside from that, I agree with you actual point. Church membership, in a free society is VOLUNTARY, and any attempt to change that is delusional. They can’t make you attend, worship, participate, give or serve. All they can do is harass you when you refuse to comply. That can make for a tough experience, but IMO it is a cult tactic, so you’re better off on their shit list anyways.

  110. @ unshaken:

    Most of these leaders do not believe in free will, so, er . . . their own doctrines, which they ask you to submit to, gives them the right to control you in a way that Jesus didn’t do. It’s the doctrine of “make pastor’s life a joy or the boot.”

  111. John wrote:

    After being in the ministry 41 years and many as pastoring, I came to terms with this issue of pastoral authority. The pastor is the spiritual leader by virtue of God delegating two primary responsibilities to hum; both found in Hebrews 13:7. He has no authority of his own, he does not own the church nor is he in a role above any member. In fact, he is accountable to every member. But, his two distinct roles are, 1. Preach the word and 2. Live and conduct his life in a God honoring manner. That is his authority. Stay true in the word and in his character. 1 Timothy 3. A man who is doing this should be followed even though humanly he will err. He should be tender, teachable and if he is doing these things he should fear no reprisal or fear criticism. When he gets out of the word and fails to exemplify the character traits he should be lovingly confronted an shown the error of his way in hopes he will repent. When he steps out of these roles he cannot continue to belief he is above reproach and that God is automatically affirming his leadership.

    Amen.

  112. John wrote:

    Where does the Bible teach we have ‘God given free will?’ Just curious

    We see lots of things in both old and new testaments telling us to do or not do certain things or make choices. Seems rather cruel that would be the case if humans have no ability to do that. I have even heard some in the Calvinista world suggest Adam and Eve had no choice. It has all been cosmic cruelty so God can show His Glory to us.

    When we start with the premise that man has no volition we end up with some really nasty doctrine that impugns God’s character.

  113. @ Miguel:

    The problem with “tradition” in church history is that it is mostly church/state. So you were a “member” whether you wanted to be or not.

  114. @ Anon 1:

    I had never really thought about it this way. I guess you could even argue that in the absence of free will, there would be no need for the Bible (if you regard it primarily as an instruction manual); we wouldn’t even really need Christ to come to earth and die for our sins, since there would be no ability to choose to accept that sacrifice. Without free will, being one of the chosen is sort of like a cosmic roll of the dice. Or from a darker perspective, like coming off the train at Auschwitz and being sent to the left or to the right.

  115. @ Anon 1:
    Mostly church/state, but not originally. Plus of all Protestants, the Baptists are the most fundamentally against state churches, so the irony of these groups taking such a heavy-handed approach to membership is tremendous. It actually represents a regression: people were more free under the Roman Church than they are under Sharia-style totalitarianism where the state’s authority is held in check by the church.

  116. A mentally healthy adult with intact ego boundaries would look at these “rules” and say “so what”? However someone who is wounded, needy and unsure of themselves is like a lamb among the wolves.

  117. John wrote:

    Where does the Bible teach we have ‘God given free will?’ Just curious

    Every place in scripture where a decision is made, an action or choice is made reflects the person’s right to do so. For example, in the OT in 1 Kings 13, the people insisted they have a King like the surrounding nations. God didn’t want them to, but conceded to their wishes but warned them of the consequences. In Hebrews 12:25, Paul admonishes the Jews to not refuse to listen to Him who was speaking. 1 Cor. 7 reflects choices to marry or not to marry. In Acts 15, Judas and Silas were chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas on their journeys.

    Choices throughout scripture reflect freedom to do so with God-given intelligence.

  118. Argo wrote:

    People, this is insanity. How can any American, knowing of the millions of lives it costs to keep us free, throw it away on this kind of despotism?

    God help us if these men ever get power of the state.

    It would be like John Calvin and Michael Servetus. If you remember, seven years prior to Servetus traveling through town Calvin wrote to his friend Farel (I think) that “Servetus would get the death penalty if his authority had any weight”.

  119. I’m going out of state and will be sitting in a hotel room next Sunday, probably eating cheetos, humming Hotel California and watching… oh whatever I darned please!

  120. Lisa wrote:

    Servetus would get the death penalty if his authority had any weight”.

    Shhhhh, you are never, ever supposed to discuss that little hiccup.

  121. I was one of the first, several years ago to do the membership covenant and signing the document. This, like anything can be abused. Whereas at one time such covenants (which do date back several hundred years) were intended to be a standard or goal that every member should strive for. It is like taking biblical requirements and placing them in one form to summarize the church’s goals as a covenant community. However, it seems today that these covenants are designed to control instead of pointing to a goal. Basically you simply cannot control anyone or their actions. Set the goal, preach the word and let the Spirit effect the changes. If I were still in the pastorate (just retired) I would have a covenant that would be a goal for our church to strive for but would not require a signature.

  122. Janey wrote:

    From the 9 Marks own website. This is chilling. Here’s how their pastors and elders treat people who leave their churches.

    This is sickening. And the part about pastors maintaining your information is frightening!

    3 Examples of “9 Marks” pastors and staff encouraging each other to monitor you and your family members wherever you go:

    • Mark Dever’s associate pastor admits that he looks forward to calling other pastors about you if you don’t leave the way they approve – http://www.9marks.org/blog/gospel-minded-churches-cooperating-pastoring

    • One of Mark Dever’s elder writes a very unsettling post on making life miserable for former church members – http://www.9marks.org/blog/churches-cooperating-discipline

    • The same associate pastor at Dever’s church recommends about maintaining information on your family members –
    http://www.9marks.org/blog/why-use-house-church-membership-directory

  123. alr wrote:

    And all membership requires in the Catholic Church is baptism. That means you are a member. End of discussion. (And before anyone chimes in…yes, children later receive first communion and confirmation and converts have all three at once, but membership is based on baptism not the rest).

    Actually, when my SBC-raised son joined the Catholic church several years ago, he was confirmed but he was not re-baptized. They accepted his previous baptism.

  124. @ John:
    Ten years ago my family was involved with a church plant, and all of us signed a church covenant. I thought it was a terrific idea at the time. A couple of years later there was much strife in the congregation, so we left and never looked back.

  125. Victorious wrote:

    John wrote:

    Where does the Bible teach we have ‘God given free will?’ Just curious

    Every place in scripture where a decision is made, an action or choice is made reflects the person’s right to do so. For example, in the OT in 1 Kings 13, the people insisted they have a King like the surrounding nations. God didn’t want them to, but conceded to their wishes but warned them of the consequences. In Hebrews 12:25, Paul admonishes the Jews to not refuse to listen to Him who was speaking. 1 Cor. 7 reflects choices to marry or not to marry. In Acts 15, Judas and Silas were chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas on their journeys.

    Choices throughout scripture reflect freedom to do so with God-given intelligence.

    And another thing, Jesus started His ministry on earth with: Repent and believe! If some of the people listening were not “elected” before the earth was created then what are we to make of that? That would call Jesus’ moral integrity into question by telling them to do something He had purposely not given them the ability to do.

  126. Lisa wrote:

    Argo wrote:

    People, this is insanity. How can any American, knowing of the millions of lives it costs to keep us free, throw it away on this kind of despotism?

    God help us if these men ever get power of the state.

    It would be like John Calvin and Michael Servetus. If you remember, seven years prior to Servetus traveling through town Calvin wrote to his friend Farel (I think) that “Servetus would get the death penalty if his authority had any weight”.

    Yeah, you are supposed to believe Calvin had no power in Geneva. At least that is the explanation on YRR blogs.

  127. @ nmgirl:
    You are so right! My husband grew up in a healthy home and had the wits and strength to not follow the yellow brick road! I, on the other hand, did not. In trying to make a better life for myself, I was drawn to the “rules” and the “discipline” that some of these groups espouse. Fortunately, we escaped and I look back with horror at everything that went on. So thankful I’m out!

  128. Where in the Bible does it say we do not have free will? Where in the Bible is the Trinity, complementarianism, total depravity, limited atonement, and many other things?

  129. Why did God give the ten commandments? Why does Christ give the command to repent if men are incapable. These things are given to show our inability and the need for Savior

  130. Marge Sweigart wrote:

    “It is actually true that the Bible teaches us that we should commit ourselves formally, we should join a local church.” Oh, no, it doesn’t! I abhor prooftexting, but show me one single verse in the Bible that says that anyone in the first century church formally joined an organization or one that commands Christians to join local church organizations.

    Isn’t there some verse that says “where ever two or more meet in my name there I am in their midst” which means any two believers together can be the “formal” church, if they’re meeting to worship together/ discuss the Bible whatever.

  131. Bridget,
    Where in the Bible does it say we do have free will, and where does it say there is no limited atonement, complementarianism and total depravity? Not trying to be argumentative. These issues are subject to proper methods of hermeneutics and the believer to seek God’s truth. Good and godly believers may disagree on such matters. I think we know in part but one day we shall know in full. I can show you these very things and I’m sure you could show me from your differing perspective.

  132. Another one of my thoughts…;-) Many churches, particularly the large ones, expect you to complete an attendance card every Sunday. Oftentimes they justify it as keeping church members accountable and to “help shepherd the flock” and to see whether or not you have a need (if you’re missing all of a sudden).

    Which begs the question–if you aren’t in a close relationship with someone at church for them to notice your absence and whether something is amiss with you or your family members, then what kind of community is that? Why bother?

  133. @ John:

    Exactly! There are good and Godly men and women who believe a variety of different perspectives on these and many other issues. The problem is when those of one persuasion claim to hold “the” correct perspective and the others are considered wayward, or backsliders, or heretics. I hear subtle innuendos to this effect quite often.

  134. Deb wrote:

    Ten years ago my family was involved with a church plant, and all of us signed a church covenant. I thought it was a terrific idea at the time. A couple of years later there was much strife in the congregation, so we left and never looked back.

    I could imagine that it made sense at the time b/c you saw it as protection of what you were building. Some yrs ago we were involved with a church start-up (not the original planters) and fell right into the membership agreement. It worked ok as long as we did what leadership wanted. Then we started noticing things…the pride, the arrogance, the mocking of others from the pulpit, the twisting of scripture, the unapproachability of the leadership. And how quickly they turned on us when we woke up and became discerning. When we made it clear we were leaving, they wanted to meet with us and that started back and forth e-mails and phone calls. We couldn’t understand the drama. (We were ignorant to the membership exit drill.) Fortunately we escaped their control tactics, but it took months for me to shake the feeling that they were somehow slandering our name in church circles. That was our introduction to the “emergent church” culture.

  135. Food for thought–

    Saw a documentary on cults on tv and heard this statement, “Members [of cults] don’t know how to function autonomously.”

    Many people have their whole world wrapped up in their church organization, rather than wrapped up in Christ.

    If you can’t bear the thought of leaving your church, then that should be a red flag. Now I understand that we need fellowship and God is pleased with healthy Christian fellowship. But, I believe that we oftentimes place our church institution (and all the duties that come with it) above our relationship with Jesus Christ. And that is outright idolatry.

  136. From the “9Marks” blog:

    “…the church must retain the right to refuse someone’s resignation and send them out another way—through excommunication..”

    At least in most corporations they give you the option of quitting rather than firing you (unless you were a horrible employee). But in the 9 Marks system, for some reason, they want to purposely attach the “excommunication” stigma to you. (Makes me think of Christian in the Pilgrim’s Progress…that huge burden on his back. It’s like Christian laying the burden at Jesus’ feet and here comes the church leadership running after him with the burden–wanting to re-attach it to his back.)

  137. ForgivenMuch wrote:

    Saw a documentary on cults on tv and heard this statement, “Members [of cults] don’t know how to function autonomously.”

    Bingo! And we are seeing that become policy in YRR land.

  138. Anon 1 wrote:

    Ian wrote:

    ONe of the big problems here is that Non Calvinist churches are unknowingly hiring Calvinist pastors because they are not forthcoming in interviews. So once that pastor is in he starts to teach Calvinistic principles, garners some influencers to his side and starts to take over. Shuold the people who built the church not try to deal with that?

    This is exactly what happened to a tiny SBC church in my hometown, prompting my brother and several other long time deacons to resign. The pastor says he is Calvinist and 99% of the farmers, mechanics, etc… that make up the church have no idea what he’s talking about! They sure have an idea they’re not putting up with it though!

  139. To Anon: ,I clearly stated I believe in free will. Thus, I exercised mine and wrote the post.
    Caleb, I believe the Bible teaches we have free will except in the matter of relating to God. We must be regenerated first. Until then as Romans 3 says: No man seeks God.

  140. @ Lisa:
    No one should EVER underestimate the salt of the earth Christians you have described. Please let us know what happens at that church.

  141. He can’t simply resign his membership and sit on his couch on Sundays.

    Of course not!
    How dare he!
    He needs to be in the audience clapping and supporting me as I pontificate every week.
    And, people need to see him put money in the offering bucket so they will feel obliged to do the same.

  142. ForgivenMuch wrote:

    Food for thought–
    Saw a documentary on cults on tv and heard this statement, “Members [of cults] don’t know how to function autonomously.”
    Many people have their whole world wrapped up in their church organization, rather than wrapped up in Christ.
    If you can’t bear the thought of leaving your church, then that should be a red flag. Now I understand that we need fellowship and God is pleased with healthy Christian fellowship. But, I believe that we oftentimes place our church institution (and all the duties that come with it) above our relationship with Jesus Christ. And that is outright idolatry.

    I couldn’t agree more. Our experiences that have continued to leave us abandoned from the Christian circles and even our immediate family have taught us to say that Christ is all we need, but we are always looking for fellowship with those that love him. We won’t stop looking. Moses went through 40 years of being alone with God…what’s a few here and there compared to that?

    The Master’s seminary grad later told me my response to his chicken pecking my chest bewildered/confused him. I told him my weeping was not a result of his threat, but rather the realization that he was showing himself unqualified as a shepherd, and that our friendships were done. My wife was best friends with his wife. Our kids played together. Seems like this scenario has played itself out multiple times in our lives since then, but ultimately it has caused us to love Jesus even more.

  143. Patti wrote:

    @ John:

    Does Romans 3 say that no one is able to seek God?

    Good catch Patti. Paul is using a metaphor of “man talking to God” which is Hebrew Poetry. If we take Paul’s quoting Psalms as a literal interpretation for ordor salutis, we have a problem because there are Psalms pleading for enemies babu’s heads to be dashed agaisnt rocks. So what to do with the imprecatory prayers? Are we to interpret those literally and apply them?

    The other problem we have with the misuse of this passage is that we know a few examples such as both Cornelius and Lydia, converted Jews, “seeking God”.

  144. Yes Patti, Romans 3 does say no man seeks God, none is righteous and no one understands, Ephesians 2 is a great illustration of what we were before God regenerated us. Paul used the quite from the Psalms to illustrate the depravity of man. The Lord know who are his. Just like the Ethiopian eunuch was reading Scripture, God sent Philip to him to explain. God was drawing Cornelius and Lydia but then messengers were sent and they were converted to the Gospel message. No natural man, left to his own devices seeks God until he is regenerate. Ephesians 2 says, But God, rich in mercy, made us who were dead, were made alive, by grace we were saved by faith. I rejoice today that you, Dee, Anon and others including myself were made alive unto receiving the great gift of eternal life. I bet Lydia is glad God opened her cold dead heart too.

  145. John wrote:

    No natural man, left to his own devices seeks God until he is regenerate.

    It’s my understanding that according to the Bible people are not regenerated until after they accept Christ as savior, not before. Calvinism puts the cart before the horse on this one.

  146. Daisy,
    Yours is a common belief. Ephesians 2n says otherwise. We were dead, God made us alive. Grace, (the power and the desire to do God’s will ) was given by God to enable us to act in faith.

  147. The case for our present practice of church covenants, statements of faith and membership do not appear to align with Scriptures. Most of the arguments for ‘formal membership’ comes from a series of arguments/points, weak on their own, but seeming to be stronger cumulatively. Simpler ways may be best.

  148. A lot of things accepted in Christianity do not find their alignment in Scripture but do not violate Scripture either. Blogs are not in alignment with Scripture, nor hymnbooks, pot luck suppers or many other things we embrace in Christianity. Covenants and statements of faith are particularly helpful in delineating beliefs especially on critical doctrinal issues. I would not align myself with certain churches because of their doctrinal practices and probably many here feel the same way. Ninety percent of the time the church is referenced in Scripture it is in reference to the local church or congregation. It is interesting that there is documental evidence that in some of the early churches, converts were not allowed to be baptized until they had completed a “Two year” membership education in order to be grounded in the faith. Not a bad thing in light of the fact of this day of easy believism.

  149. @ John:

    In scripture it appears that baptism followed immediately, or very soon after conversion. I was baptized before I was grounded in the faith. I wonder why these early churches would suggest a wait and learn period.

  150. @ Bridget:
    @ John:

    The two of you have the seeds of a very interesting (in a good sense, not the soap opera sense) discussion. As you John points out, the majority of NT references to “church” are to the local church. But, and this is an important point, reference to the “local church” is almost always to the entire body of believers in that locality. (The exceptions are Paul’s passing greetings to or from “the church that meets at so-and-so’s house”.) The locality in question is sometimes a province, usually a city. The splitting of that local church into separate “churches”, each of which now calls itself “a local church”, is actively counter-scriptural. It’s not simply “not in the bible” in the sense that chocolate, radioactivity and Scotland aren’t in the bible. But at least 90% of the time, when Christians today refer to “the” local church, they mean the local chapter of a particular denomination, or else the separate congregation they’re part of.

    Maybe the practice of delaying baptism was a practical response to too many conversions that appeared to produce little fruit. The council at Jerusalem (for want of a better title for it) in Acts 15, and the revolutionary letter to the gentile churches that came therefrom, were a practical response to recent developments. To me, the challenge is this: the splitting of the local church into independent sects is unbiblical. “Everybody’s doing it” has never been considered an acceptable excuse for sinning before. On the other hand, how does one go about living differently without forming a sect of one’s own? Or worse, a sect on one’s own? (That’s the topic of my own, blog, btw…)

  151. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    @ John:

    When John refers to “documental evidence,” I’m not sure if he means scriptural evidence, as in first century churches, or if the “early churches” he is referring to were early as in the second and third century churches. Since he didn’t claim there was scriptural evidence, I assumed they were later churches. Since that was my take on it, I’m left wondering if a change from what we see in scripture isn’t more of a concern. How is “saved by grace” understood if one then needs to “prove” understanding and comprehension of basic truths before baptism?

    The only thing I was asked to understand and confess was faith in the work of Jesus to save me and that Jesus was Lord. In my personal story there was a three month lapse between salvation and baptism, which means nothing to me. The church wanted baptisms to be scheduled and be done in front of the church. There is no scriptural reason for this that I can see. The church I’m in now insists that baptisms “have” to be done in front of the church and the pastor has to “approve” the person. I’m not convinced that a pastor needs to arbitrate this process.

    Nick,

    I’m pretty much on the same page as your last comment. I’ll check out your blog. I hadn’t read it in awhile. Honestly, I did check it on and off for a bit, but it was unchanging so I stopped. Glad to know your writing 🙂 I think you have much to offer.

  152. ForgivenMuch wrote:

    Which begs the question–if you aren’t in a close relationship with someone at church for them to notice your absence and whether something is amiss with you or your family members, then what kind of community is that? Why bother?

    Exactly. When we stopped attending our SS class at Bellevue not one person called or seemed to notice. And it was a small class. I stumbled upon an online review of Bellevue a few years ago in which the writer described the people in the SS class s/he had attended (I think it was a singles class, but this would apply universally) as “friendly as a prisoner that’s been in solitary confinement for 30 days.” The reviewer went on to write, “If you’re going to try to be social some better places to go would be work, a grocery store or wherever else is a better place to meet new friends. They only want you if you look, feel and smell the ‘Bellevue’ way.”

    A friend recently “fussed” at me because we’re not attending any church right now and how we need to be a part of the “body” and “fellowship” with people… as if being an active member of a 501(c)(3) is the only way to be a part of the Body and you’re a heathen if you’re not. I have to work many Sundays, and there are other limitations which would make weekly Sunday attendance difficult at best and often impossible even if that were a priority right now (which it’s not). While it would be nice to have a local group of Christians with which to associate, I find I have more in common with the people I’ve met through the internet the past few years, some of whom I’ve met “in real life” but most I have not. I’ve been introduced to so many new ideas and interesting people through the internet, so much more so than if I had confined my “family of friends” (Bellevue’s motto) to the local 501(c)(3). The world has simultaneously become a much bigger place and a much smaller one.

    This is sort of off topic, but I was having an e-mail discussion with one of those “internet” friends last night. He wondered if all the gay people we hear about in families today are a sign of the end times. I think the fact that we know about more LGBT folks in our families and communities, other than the fact people are simply more open and accepting of it today, is the same reason people think we’re experiencing more earthquakes than we were 100 or more years ago. We’re not. It’s just that we have TV and the internet and instant access to news as it happens. I was watching the tornadoes blowing through OKC live while I replied to him last night. I couldn’t have done that even 20 years ago.

    We’ve had LGBT folks in our families and communities since time began. I had a great uncle who was queer as a three-dollar bill. He didn’t start out that way, but he sure ended up there. He was only 6 months older than my dad, so they were more like brothers growing up. My dad always said “Pete” liked the girls, but after he came back from the service (WWII) and joined Bellevue (yes, Bellevue), he developed a preference for men. He was a deacon at Bellevue for many years and even chauffeured the great R.G. Lee around. Anyone who ever met him would have known what he was. It was pretty obvious. It would not surprise me to learn he was “introduced” to the lifestyle at Bellevue.

    There’s always seemed to be a rather significant cadre of them there. A self-professed gay man who was never a member of Bellevue but who helped with many of their musical productions told a mutual friend that “Bellevue is full of them.” (He was minister of music at another SB church for two decades.) He said one of the biggest ones was a soloist featured at Bellevue for several years. He has been mentioned on my blog in the last year or two after we found police reports in Houston from him allegedly molesting a teenage boy. He left Second Baptist in Houston (where he was THE minister of music) and then another area church, both under “mysterious” circumstances. He’s living near Fort Worth now. When asked about him, a former Bellevue staff member replied, “Everyone knew he was a pedophile, but no one wanted to report him.” Amy Smith did some blog articles where she mentioned him by name and posted redacted copies of the police reports. (I have copies of the originals.)

    http://watchkeep.blogspot.com/2011/10/whats-at-stake-protecting-and.html

    http://watchkeep.blogspot.com/2012/06/secret-history-of-sexual-abuse-great-is.html

    Bellevue people and others still gush over this man today (“godly” is a descriptor I’ve often seen used), and he occasionally lashes out at the “haters” and “bloggers” on Facebook.

    With Facebook and Twitter and other social media and some people’s propensity to broadcast every. minute. detail. of. their. lives, we just know more about people (and find it out faster) than when we had to rely on the old-fashioned grapevine. We live in the information age. Maybe that’s a sign of the end times, but there’s nothing new under the sun.

    Anyway, just some of my thoughts this morning. I had a good blog article almost ready to post last week when Blogger ate it. 🙁

  153. I think the particular reference to waiting for baptism until instruction probably had much to do with clarifying doctrines to enable stability In the faith and to insure evidence of fruit in the professing believers life. This was by no mean’s a standard practice by all churches. All of these comments are very enjoyable reading.

  154. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Everybody’s doing it” has never been considered an acceptable excuse for sinning befor

    The major problem with church unity is what we see on this blog. Certain nonessentials become essential nonessentials. It is next to impossible to exist in a church environment in which one is attacked for certain beliefs in eschatology, baptism, creationism, etc. We have failed in this arena and I see little hope for any sort of unity among the thousands of denominations.

  155. John wrote:

    I think the particular reference to waiting for baptism until instruction probably had much to do with clarifying doctrines to enable stability In the faith

    The same happened for church membership. I believe that new converts were required to wait a certain amount of time to be sure they understood to what they were committing.

  156. @ dee:
    and
    @ John:

    Are you two speaking of the early church (1st century), after the first church period, or Reformation time period when you speak of these waiting periods for baptism or memberships?

  157. @ Bridget:
    “Catechumens”, who had faith and were getting more instruction before baptism, arose early, and there’s some evidence of them in the NT– such as Gal 6:6 “him who is being taught”.
    As catechumens became more widespread, the time period and requirements also increased until:
    “In the fourth century, a widespread practice arose of enrolling as a catechumen and deferring baptism for years, often until shortly before death, and when so ill that the normal practice of immersion was impossible, so that aspersion or affusion—the baptism of the sick—was necessary. Constantine was the most prominent of these catechumens. See also Deathbed conversion.” (From Wikipedia—my apologies)
    9 Marks tends to push delaying baptism (until people, especially young ones, understand the faith well enough) and they had quite a heated discussion about it on the blog awhile back.

  158. @ notastepfordsheep: There is a difference between being gay and having a sexual relationship with another adult (and being attracted to physically/emotionally mature adults) and what you describe at the church re. the guy who was after teenage boys.

    The latter is a paraphilia – and criminal.

  159. On another note, we almost lost our family dog today. He had a reaction to his vaccines. Vet said no more vaccines for him (he is 13). Glad I didn’t leave quickly, or he wouldn’t have made it.

  160. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    “The splitting of that local church into separate “churches”, each of which now calls itself “a local church”, is actively counter-scriptural…
    To me, the challenge is this: the splitting of the local church into independent sects is unbiblical. “Everybody’s doing it” has never been considered an acceptable excuse for sinning before. On the other hand, how does one go about living differently without forming a sect of one’s own? Or worse, a sect on one’s own?”
    I think a lot about this and have done for years. If I put a compass point at my home and the pencil at the place I meet with believers (walking distance) and draw a circle, I think there are around 2 dozen protestant churches inside. (Along with a large Catholic church and a large Mormon building). My goal is to bring some measure of real unity within that circle– to the end that the world might know that the Father sent Jesus. (John 17:21) Do I “visit” all the buildings and home meetings? Enlist my pastor’s help? Start a prayer meeting? Just keep praying?

  161. Bridget

    I am speaking of the 1st and 2nd century church until Constantine who held the sword over people to get them to convert.

  162. John wrote:

    I rejoice today that you, Dee, Anon and others including myself were made alive unto receiving the great gift of eternal life. I bet Lydia is glad God opened her cold dead heart too.

    That is the whole point. Her heart was not cold and dead. She was with a group… where? and doing what?…when she met Paul. What she lacked was knowing “the rest of the story” concerning the true Messiah. Some of us do not read scripture with the Augustine/Calvin filter. we do not read Eph the same way, either, as some reformed do. So debating proof texted passages is futile when we are reading from a different hermeneutic. You are free to keep yours and Patti and I will keep ours. And we can coexist. I do get upset with Reformed proof texting when it heaps on more abuse on victims with it’s monsterous god who loves his own glory at the expense of his creation and I am trying to be more tolerant of the other stuff. But it is not easy.

  163. Bridget wrote:

    On another note, we almost lost our family dog today. He had a reaction to his vaccines. Vet said no more vaccines for him (he is 13). Glad I didn’t leave quickly, or he wouldn’t have made it.

    That must have been frightening. I hope your dog is O.K.

  164. @ Deb:

    Thanks, Deb. He’s fine now. But if I had left the vet and driven home, he wouldn’t have made it. It was that fast. The vet was able to give him several adrenalin shots and an IV immediately. He is getting up there in age. This has been our only dog as a family, so not looking forward to “that” day when it comes.

  165. @ Bridget:
    I agree the overwhelming NT practice was baptism immediately following faith, several times including whole households, with no evidence they waited for a certain level of understanding first.
    (We almost lost our dog the same way a few years back, but we rushed her back in and a strong antihistamine fixed her up.)

  166. Bridget wrote:

    Nick… I’ll check out your blog. I hadn’t read it in awhile. Honestly, I did check it on and off for a bit, but it was unchanging so I stopped.

    Hmm… yes, after an initial flurry of putting pages up, I did rather lose focus and forget that if one presumes to call oneself a blogger, then one must actually blog. (Red-faced emoticon.) Thankyou for your gracious vote of confidence – I’m upping my workrate deliberately now!

  167. @ dee: Quick question-are you a 5 point Calvinist (or even a 4)? I ask because it sometimes is helpful to know where people are coming from as I dialog with them

  168. @ Anon 1: I think what causes me concern is the absolute certainty that their particular flavor (and that varies a bit amongst Calvinists) is absolutely not debatable. I have heard, for example, that the traditional Presbyterians do not much care for the Neo-Cavinists. If they all can’t agree, how in the world can we come to a mutual respect?

  169. @ Dave A A:

    Dave, Gal. 6 is about sharing one another’s burdens and the “one being taught” is an example of a type of person that shares in the burdens . . . it doesn’t seem to signify one waiting to have understanding so they could then proceed with baptism/membership.

  170. @ Bridget:
    Right! That’s just where the advocates of “catechumens” got the word! I don’t support it. I understand Mark Dever to support something like it. I lived something like it, just because I’d been baptized as an infant, and only 5 years after I was born again did I become convinced I should be immersed. Technically I’m one of the Anabaptists so hated by many of the Reformers.
    One article about Dever’s position http://thewartburgwatch.com/2010/04/19/paedobaptists-react-to-mark-dever’s-strong-words/

  171. Dave A A wrote:

    @ Nick Bulbeck:
    Would love to see you examine the DeYoung article from this perspective. The first commenter Naive Elder touches on the same topic.

    Dave – happy to oblige… my comment runs thus. For once I managed to get the html tags right, too!

    Re your later question regarding what one does about it; I’m inclined to think the answers are, “all of the above”. Lesley and I are starting, however, from the basis (you could call it a statement of faith) that Jesus is building his church. In other words, our part is to seek/watch/discern where and what he’s building, and to co-operate with it. Much more could be said on that, of course; I’m just starting a series of posts on it (first one out tomorrow, I hope) and your thoughts would be more than welcome.

  172. Hey Dee,
    Were you addressing me on if I was a Calvinist? I kind of got lost in the thread. I f you were I will be happy to share my position. Now I know some on here have disagreed with some of my statements. That’s great. I enjoy this dialogue especially when such a Christ like spirit is portrayed. Regarding Lydia, I believe a clear reading of Scripture indicated she was regenerated and had her opened by God to receive the gospel knowledge. Just like Ephesians 2 says that when we were dead, God made us alive. Dead clearly means an absence of life. In this regard, an absence of spiritual life. The natural man receives not the things of the spirit as they are spiritually concerned. Therefore, he must be regenerated or ‘born again.’ Born again literally means, ‘;born from above.’

  173. John wrote:

    Dead clearly means an absence of life. In this regard, an absence of spiritual life. The natural man receives not the things of the spirit as they are spiritually concerned. Therefore, he must be regenerated or ‘born again.’ Born again literally means, ‘;born from above.’

    I totally disagree.

  174. John

    The reason I ask is quite simple. I have reached an impasse in my own life regarding Reformed theology and Arminianianism. In case you think it is due to not “really studying the obvious Scriptures” I would caution you. I have. I have read much of the Institutes, Sproul, Spurgeon, Edwards, a few Puritans and others. I kept a notebook listing my agreement and disagreement. However, I could not come to a conclusion.

    I am not the brightest bulb on the block. So, as always, I look to those who are far more intelligent and gifted than I. I have come to the conclusion that if this argument cannot be categorically proven to the satisfaction of many people who love the Lord, cherish His Word and have awesome IQs, then it is not going to be proven by a back and forth argument between average me and anyone else.

    We all agree on the essentials. I cannot save myself. Jesus has done that. I am secure in my salvation. Whether He saves via regeration prior to faith or He saves by giving us the capacity to accept or reject is an interesting argument but one that I do not feel will be won until He returns and slaps us all upside the head and says “Consider this, friend.”

    In the end, it boils down to this. Speak the Word to all, seek Him daily, deeply love others and trust Him to work in and through us; even those of us who do not see what is so patently obvious to others.

  175. Thank you Dee for your response. I sincerely hope that I have not been guilty of even insinuating in any way that lack of understanding of any doctrine is due to not studying the obvious Scriptures. I hold you and Deb to be quite mature and knowledgeable in you faith and I particularly enjoy the way you are able to articulate things. It is obvious that the doctrine of free will, etc. cannot be proven to the satisfaction of many godly believers just as views on complementarianism and differing views of the millennium and the second coming cannot be agreed upon. . I agree we see through a glass darkly and Christ will indeed instruct us and clarify many things when he returns. I stated a belief about regeneration and being born again to which Daisy stated above, “I disagree.” That is fine, and she is dogmatic in her stance. I respect that and even commented on how I appreciate the banter between saints in a Christ like spirit.

    I do not consider myself a Calvinist. I disdain the term. I do not follow Calvin and in fact know little about him. Theologically, Calvin was not a Calvinist as the 5 points were not solidified until 60 years after his death at the Synod of Dort. Calvin did not believe in a, “particular atonement” as I understand it. I simply like to refer to myself as a Biblicist. I teach at a Christian college in the south and one of my subjects is Biblical hermeneutics. I think it is vitally important to use the Historical -Grammatical method of interpretation and such principles guide my understanding of Scripture. I refer to a wonderful post that was written by Wade Burleson on, “Don’t call me a Calvinist.” I readily identify with his reasoning. Technically I would be considered a Calvinist by most of your readers,. I just think many times people confuse Calvinism with being believing in double predestination, which I do not.

    Dee, I wholeheartedly agree with you on your statement about the essentials and what boils down in the end. You are spot on. I am most grateful to interact with you and am so glad to call you my sister in Christ.

  176. There is one aspect of church membership which involves the member’s unilateral resignation being problematic. Take 1 Cor 5 for instance. There you have a professing Christian living in arrogant, unrepentant, scandalous sin before the church and the world. Now, what if that fellow was admonished for his sin, and then he sent in a letter of resignation, informing the church that he outta there and thus they can do nothing? I would argue that church discipline must proceed, that the Lord Jesus’ instruction to us is not to be disregarded simply because the fellow dropped a letter in the mailbox, threatening to sue if we announced his sin to the church. Such an instance, I believe, is one in which before the Lord such a person cannon just up and resign. Many times, for instance, an abusive spouse will do this very thing and yet behind the scenes through the week he continues to work evil against his wife. Are we to have our hands tied in helping her through making his evil known to everyone, simply because he sent in his resignation letter? I don’t think so.

    Of course what normally happens in abuse cases is that the abuser is embraced by the church with the arrogance denounced by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 5, while the victim is the one who is put out.

  177. @ Dave A. A.:

    Interesting that Dever called infant baptism a “sin” because wasn’t baptism one of the things that the Gospel Coalition/T4G (can’t remember which) said was secondary (when called on making egalitarianism primary but ignoring baptism).

    As a paedobaptist I would never say that a credobaptist was “in sin” for not having his kids baptized. Baptism being a debatable issue and all that. The only time I would start to wonder is if we were talking about a Christian adult who adamantly refused to be baptized for some reason.

  178. @ Jeff: I’m sure you’re right, in that the Corinthian church should and probably would then have publicised the man’s sin and made sure he didn’t sneak some friendship via the back door. (We know from 2 Cor that this situation was resolved properly, after all.)

    One thing is different today, though, in that it would be easy for the chappie in question to decide he didn’t like the no-sleeping-with-your-stepmother squad, but still liked to call himself a Christian; in which case he could just wander off and find another church. In the first century, that would have meant moving cities and hoping nobody found out why.

  179. Jeff Crippen wrote:

    Take 1 Cor 5 for instance. There you have a professing Christian living in arrogant, unrepentant, scandalous sin before the church and the world. Now, what if that fellow was admonished for his sin, and then he sent in a letter of resignation, informing the church that he outta there and thus they can do nothing? I would argue that church discipline must proceed, that the Lord Jesus’ instruction to us is not to be disregarded simply because the fellow dropped a letter in the mailbox, threatening to sue if we announced his sin to the church

    We have written about this particular situation and another one at Pete Briscoe’s church as examples of good church discipline. However, the “discipline” that we are targeting with this post is the abusive discipline which is inherent in these authoritarian settings. Many of these people are getting disciplined for “sinfully craving answers.”

  180. John wrote:

    Technically I would be considered a Calvinist by most of your readers,. I just think many times people confuse Calvinism with being believing in double predestination, which I do not.

    Can you explain what you mean by double predestination? Also, can you tell me why believe in single(?) predestination does not effectively produce the same results as double predestination?

    I am aware that there are many of the Reformed tradition that do not subscribe to excesses of Neo-Calvinism.

  181. @ Anon: You know it. These guys make a mockery out of the Scripture. Oh yeah, that’s right. You are NOT supposed to do word studies either.

  182. Hester wrote:

    Interesting that Dever called infant baptism a “sin” because wasn’t baptism one of the things that the Gospel Coalition/T4G (can’t remember which) said was secondary (when called on making egalitarianism primary but ignoring baptism).

    Wonder if he told Ligon Duncan that? :o)

  183. @ Anon 1:

    I’m beginning to believe that these guys can’t remember what comes out of their mouth from one minute to the next.

  184. Bridget wrote:

    @ Anon 1:
    I’m beginning to believe that these guys can’t remember what comes out of their mouth from one minute to the next.

    Just wait until the judge reconsiders the plaintiff’s case in the SGM lawsuit – or it gets remanded on appeal – and these backslappers get receive subpoenas. We can expect a case of mass amnesia!

  185. emr wrote:

    alr wrote:
    And all membership requires in the Catholic Church is baptism. That means you are a member. End of discussion. (And before anyone chimes in…yes, children later receive first communion and confirmation and converts have all three at once, but membership is based on baptism not the rest).
    Actually, when my SBC-raised son joined the Catholic church several years ago, he was confirmed but he was not re-baptized. They accepted his previous baptism.

    Minor error of writing on my part not of knowledge. Yes, any baptism done in the trinitarian form is accepted by the Catholic Church for conversion. In my conversion class of eleven adults, two of us were baptized and the rest only had to be confirmed. Communion is not a sacrament of initiation but is received for the first time as part of conversion for adults.

  186. alr wrote:

    Yes, any baptism done in the trinitarian form is accepted by the Catholic Church for conversion.

    Thank you for the clarification. That’s good to know.

  187. @ dee: Dee, Many people associate Calvinism with Double predestination. Their concept is that before the foundation of the world, God arbitrarily chose some to go to hell and some to go to heaven. In truth, when God made his choice,He chose from all people being already fallen. He simply chose some for mercy and others to receive justice. In regard to the non believer he simply passed over them and withheld grace. Just like Pharaoh. God does not harden hearts actively. He simply passes over them to the device of a heard heart that only gets harder without grace. The thing is, God was under no obligation to save anyone, but chose some for adoption into his family. All His decisions are according to His perfect will and pleasure. Why did he not raise everyone in the Bethany cemetery but only raised Lazarus? According to demonstrate His perfect will and pleasure. I like to think of it in two aspects regarding His decisions. Psalm 115:3 says our God is in heaven and does whatever he pleases. But, Romans 9:14 says there is no injustice with God. I may not understand it but he has the right to do what He wants but all decisions are just and perfect. This is only my understanding and you are right that even in the reformed tradition there is disagreement. I appreciate the opportunity to share.

  188. John

    By simply passing over some individuals, God effectively condemns them to hell. If I see a car load of people on a train track about to get hit by a train and am only able to choose one to save, I have, by my choice, condemned some to death, albeit not actively. I could say. "Well, it was their choice to drive onto the railroad tracks so they are to blame." Somehow, I do not believe that is how god perceives our sad estate. I hate  the term "vessels of wrath." I believe that God views us flawed beloved.

    I also know that God is not under obligation to save anybody. The father of the prodigal son was also not obligated to welcome his son back home. Yet, it says he ran to greet his son when he returned home a broken man. I believe that God wishes all might be saved, not because He is obligated to do so but because He deeply loves His people whom He has created in His image. I am not a universalist by any stretch of the imagination. I believe it is is possible that God gave mankind the ability to choose to follow Him. If he did so, salvation is only achieved via His grace yet there is an element of free will still present.

    I have often said that neither side of this argument fully gives me the answers that make perfect sense to me. Is it because I am stubborn? Perhaps. But could it be that God is allowing me to see the difficulties inherent in both sides? I don't know. I do know that mankind is binary in viewing such decisions. It is viewed as either/or. Perhaps it is something more.

     

  189. dee wrote:

    By simply passing over some individuals, God effectively condemns them to hell. If I see a car load of people on a train track about to get hit by a train and am only able to choose one to save, I have, by my choice, condemned some to death, albeit not actively.

    And IF I’m driving the train and see the car ahead and don’t stop, I’m ACTIVELY condemning them. And if I built the car, and locked the passengers inside after their great-granddaddy drove it onto the tracks, how can I say that the passengers I choose not to save are only getting their just desserts?
    (I know this isn’t your point, but if I’m only ABLE to choose one, what’s that say about my sovereignty?
    If I’m only WILLING to choose one, what’s that say about my “love” for the rest?)
    I have 4 children. Let’s say I strictly warn all 4 not to cross the tracks when a train’s coming. I know they won’t listen, but give them the car keys anyway. All 4 disobey me. 3 get crushed. It’s all their fault. I don’t shed a tear. I stand in front of the fourth to keep her off the tracks (and she runs me over). I take the punishment on behalf of the child I intend to save. Then I tell her– Let’s have a big party! She says– How can I party when you let my brother and sisters get crushed by train? You could have stopped them too! Then I say– Who are you to talk back to your Dad? They got justice! You got mercy! Be thankful I saved you, you ungrateful snot! Let’s party!
    As Piper says, “Sigh…Oh My…”

  190. Indeed. Here’s what happened:
    God created everything and man rejected God and wanted to do it his way. And God has, rightly, hated man ever since. Every human being, from the tiniest still-born baby to the oldest, hardened career criminal is nothing but filth and evil, and God has to throw them all into hell to punish them forever. It’s good and right that he does this, and we should be glad and praise him for it. He’s God, after all, and besides, he throws people into hell to show his love for them because he’s good. Nevertheless, to all intents and purposes he hates you for having the wanton audacity to be born; at least, he hates everything about you. Because he’s God, he’s right to do hate everything about you and you should thank and praise him for it.

    But the good news is that God sent his sonjesus [I often hear evangelists talk about God’s sonjesus, incidentally, but I don’t know what one is – ed] to die on the cross for your sin, and as a result, he’s resolved his hatred of some people. He still hates the rest – indeed, that’s what he created them for – but he’s right to do so and we thank and praise him for it. Those few people he no longer hates can go to heaven, and we thank and praise God for this. Amen.

    I suppose one might bow to the logic of serving such a tyrant; but I don’t see how you could love him. Then again, I can’t even see how Jesus represents such a tyrant. Perhaps God is a tyrant, and caused me to hate tyranny so that he could be justified in sending me to hell…

    Perhaps.

  191. @ Nick Bulbeck:

    So . . . man was “sovereignly” born (he couldn’t be born if God didn’t decree it) to be hated by God . . . and maybe, that, for eternity. Likewise, Adam and Eve were preordained to sin, so that mankind would fall, so God could put himself on the cross. 🙁

  192. @ dee:
    @ Dave A A:
    Thanks Dee for sharing. I’ll add this and say no more. By passing over some God did not condemn them. They were already condemned and He was just by allowing them to receive justice because of their choice. They were not His children until He chose them and adopted them into His family. Hey, I* would love to see a thread or discuss the subject sometime about the issue of, Are we really created in the image of God?

  193. John

    I knew you were going to say that and tried to preempt it by my comment but failed. I am a bit of a dunce on this matter. If God chooses some to be saved, has the ability to choose more to be saved and does not, then my brain processes that as God lets some go to hell and that means he chose not to save them.  It looks like double predetination to me either way. Dee cannot jump over this hurdle(and has tried on many occasions) which probably means, in RC Sproul’s world, that I am a Christian, but barely.

    However, if God somehow interacts with our will, giving us the ability to have some choice in the matter, then Dee feels a bit better. (At this point, most Reformed people facepalm and write me off as hopelessly unregenerate). Thankfully, God bears with me in my limited intellectual ability and loves me anyway.

     

  194. @ John:
    How incredibly boring for God to have chosen picked/chosen every last thing from before the beginning. I don’t know how He/She stays awake through the sheer dullness of watching it all play out exactly as He chose. And for what?

    Why would someone that huge and grand not involve Him/Herself in something that is, at least, entertaining?

    People think that these doctrines show how immense God is, that they give God His/Her proper immensity/sovereignty but I think it makes God much too small.

    How much grander is the God who creates works of genius so astonishing that they can genuinely choose their relationship with Him/Her. And when they made a terrible choice, this grand God came down to restore to them their ability to choose. And He/She is now on a huge adventure with these treasured creatures, deepening their beings (still creating them, in fact!) so that they will eventually be made whole *and more*, creatures who have known both good and evil and have chosen the good even in the context of their brokenness. These will be creatures worth of companionship with God.

    That would be a grand God indeed!

  195. Dee, I would hope no one would ever make such a declaration that you were barely a Christian. I think you and Deb have a very deep insight into spiritual matters and you all certainly challenge all people to think. I do agree that God interacts with our will and by His regenerating grace changes our sinful disposition to one that desires him in His fullness. That is the grace that produces faith.

  196. Finding that if a person needs to write a new books I guess I am just suspicious that its a money or name publicity thing. Clarification on issues where there is a lot of triangulation of an issue are usually not bad books though.

  197. “Compliance: Don’t Let The Pernicious Religious Bugs Bite?”

    hmmm…

    Today, certain 501c non-profit professional religious men,  i.e. pastors are presently seeking to establish temporal power and political control over their respective congregations.

    What?

    Both (temporal power and political control) are strictly outside the constitutional scope established here in the United States for religious establishments .  But that does not stop them (these professional religious men ) from trying. 

    huh?

    Religious faith & belief in this country is based solely upon the free exercise of a fundamental right, and the free expression of conviction, a matter of the conscience, and therefore (religious expression) can not be forced. 

    To accept or reject religious belief  in this free society, is at the sole discretion of the individual citizen’s constitutional rights. 

    Religious conviction in relation to the confines of  conscience becomes a matter of choice. Under the United States Constitution, each citizen is free to choose a religious persuasion, or none, for than matter. 

    Religious persuasion can not, in a free society, be forced upon its citizens.

    Crunch!

    To the extent a religious establishment seeks to enforce its published rules upon a individual member of such an religious establishment, –this enforcement is strictly voluntary, and at the soul desecration of the individual  religious establishment member.  

    A church membership agreement is “at will” and binding only so long as both member and said religious establishment are in one accord.   

    Both member and the respective religious establishment are free to volunteer membership resignation/termination at any time.  Again, both member and religious establishment can “at will” constitutionally terminate the said membership agreement at any time. 

    (let’s unpack)

    Each signing member agrees to abide by certain guidelines established (hopefully, for the good of all) by said religious establishment, and as such –non-compliance can be construed as an inability to comply , subjecting a individual member in violation, to membership rules, and or termination in said religious establishment.  

    (Should a disciplinary clause have been include in the religious establishment membership agreement, a member need only notify in writing their intention to dis-establish voluntary association  in said religious establishment, to nullify its effects. Member pursuit by said religious establishment in cases where  a member freely terminates said agreement in writing , can be constituted as harassment on the part of the said religious establishment and subject to individual state laws where applicable.)

    (rewind)

    People forget that the Israelites bought into a certain religious system and way of community life voluntarily. They were all given a choice. No one twisted their arm. Once in agreement with said religious establishment/community, it was with the understanding that these individuals would freely comply with the established rules of said community/society. Each agreed to compliance and subsequent enforcement.  To be a member of that society required compliance  with certain established laws and ordinances.

    (fast forward)

    An association in an  religious establishment today is strictly voluntary . When one commits to such a religious establishment, one does so with the understanding that compliance with certain appropriate rules and guidelines are  necessary to the good order and discipline of any free religious society. Yet religious establishment membership compliance or termination remains strictly voluntary for both parties.

    Careful, the choices you make.

    Don’t let the religious bedbugs bite!

    (grin)

    hahahahahaha

    Sopy