"Your church is not a project to be fixed. It is a people to be loved."
If you are a Christian who hasn't yet heard of 9Marks, chances are you will. This organization, initially called the Center for Church Reform, is based out of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington D.C., where Mark Dever serves as Senior Pastor. It began in November 1998 (according to a Ligonier Ministries interview with Mark Dever), and its foundational document is what was initially a self-published booklet by Dever called Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. The Nine Marks have been expanded into a lengthy book published by Crossway.
As the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement has been gaining momentum over the past decade, Nine Marks has been gradually expanding its influence. The 9Marks website serves as a hub of information, featuring articles, a church directory, and other resources and information. In addition to the boatload of books it has to offer, there is a multitude of events hosted by Dever and gang. There are three Weekender events each year at CHBC, the 9Marks at 9 gathering during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, the Together for the Gospel (T4G) Pre-Conference, 9Marks Workshops in cities such as Knoxville, Lynchburg, and Pittsburgh, not to mention 9Marks events in exotic places such as Hawaii, Barcelona, and Dubai, and annual 9Marks events at various Southern Baptist seminaries and a Christian university.
This past weekend (September 30-October 1), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) hosted its 8th annual 9Marks event. The first 9Marks event at Southeastern took place in the fall of 2009, and the theme was God Exposed. We will always remember the launch of that particular SEBTS event because Mark Dever brought his BFF C.J. Mahaney, who delivered a message on "Expository Faithfulness", which you can access over at The Gospel Coalition website.
This year I was able to listen to much of the event because it was live streamed via the 9Marks Facebook page. I actually enjoyed some of the speakers, who talked an awful lot about humility and repentance. Believe it or not, Trip Lee, a Christian hip-hop artist and rapper, was one of my favorite speakers. Why? Because he hammered pastors who come into a church and try to take over. Throughout his talk, he stepped on quite a few Calvinista toes. As a case in point, here is one of Lee's remarks, which was featured on the 9Marks Facebook page (see screen shot below).
Some of the panel discussions were interesting. During one of these discussions, Jonathan Leeman polled panelists on matters such as: whether a pastor should do an altar call, how young is too young to baptize someone, and how do you handle a church that has the American flag and Christian flag on full display, among a range of other topics. The third one surprised me. Yesterday morning I noticed that my church displays both flags, and I was pleased that they were featured prominently at the front of the church. I was grateful that not all panelists agreed on these topics; however, it goes to show the degree to which 9Marks is attempting to influence the way church is done.
Just as I was becoming hopeful that the 9Marks gang was finally realizing the error of their ways and toning down their authoritarian approach to ministry (with a heavy emphasis on church discipline), I noticed a barrage of new articles published on September 30th (the first day of the 9Marks event at SEBTS). Check out the screen shots of some of these articles below.
If there's one thing we can agree on, it's that authority can be dangerous, especially when a 9Marxist is in charge. And speaking of the descriptor "9Marxist", you will recall that Jonathan Leeman recently wrote an article called "Don't Be a 9Marxist" (which is included among the 21 articles in the 9Marks Journal). He garnered over 30 comments in response and in the blink of an eye they disappeared!
Out of sight, out of mind? Not so fast… You may recall that we recently featured one of Todd Wilhelm's posts on this very subject. He and Janna Chan were able to retrieve the long lost comments using the wonders of technology, and voilá!
Perhaps the most recent development over on the 9Marks website is that they are NO LONGER ALLOWING COMMENTS on regular articles; however, they are continuing to permit comments in response to Mailbag questions.
In the long run, we believe 9Marks will regret that decision. The comments section is a great way for believers to wrestle through tough issues. Such dialogue, if mediated well, will allow truth to rise to the surface. If what 9Marks teaches is true, we would think that 9Marks would jump at the opportunity to mediate a robust comments section to let that truth shine forth. Shutting down the comments section gives the impression that 9Marks is either unable or unwilling to address concerns, disagreements, and misunderstandings. We're hoping that the decision will eventually be reversed. It will make for a much more interesting site. And it would help 9Marks to maintain a crisp message.
This disturbing lack of communication, coupled with a whopping 21 articles on authority, is deeply troubling.
Not only has 9Marks removed ALL comments on previous posts and disallowed any future comments, but they deleted a controversial post that received well-deserved criticism via the comment section. After quite a few months, the article was reposted with no commentary explaining that they had done so. More on that in an upcoming post…
Given these manipulative actions, we are left wondering…
Just how 'healthy' is the 9Marks organization and what are Mark Dever, Jonathan Leeman and gang afraid of?