" But I wouldn't be there if it weren't for your [Mark Dever's] interest and what you [Mark] did paving the way. They would never have gotten my name."
Just over five years ago (May 8, 2012), Andy Davis, who serves as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Durham, was interviewed by Mark Dever and Matt Schmucker. The 1 hour and 20 minute audio Revitalizing a Church can be heard on the 9Marks website. This interview followed an article written by Andy on the Reformation of First Baptist Church of Durham that had recently appeared on the 9Marks website and in its EJournal.
Here is an overview of how Andy Davis came to be pastor at First Baptist Church in Durham.
Andy was raised in eastern Massachusetts and attended MIT where he majored in mechanical engineering. He grew up Catholic and got involved with Campus Crusade for Christ early in his college career. One of Andy's fraternity brothers led him to faith in Christ during his junior year. Andy graduated from MIT in 1984 and began his secular career.
He soon met Mark Dever, who was a seminary student at Gordon-Conwell. A 1994 Urbana gathering appears to be where Dever and Davis first met. Together Mark Dever and Andy Davis began planting a Southern Baptist church in Topsfield, Massachusetts, which came to be known as New Meadows Baptist Church. Andy was strongly committed to sharing Christ in the workplace and had a flourishing Bible study.
During this time Mark exhorted Andy to go and hear Roger Nicole in the evenings as he (Roger) was retiring at Gordon-Conwell. Andy enrolled in the M.Div. program at Gordon-Conwell so that he could get course credit for the two semesters of systematic theology he planned to take.
Not long after that a woman in Andy's church prodded him to go on a 10-week mission trip to Kenya. That would necessitate Andy quitting his secular job because he only got two weeks of vacation. He prayed about it and decided to resign and go on the mission trip. Andy later met his future wife, and they were married in 1988.
Diversion from the interview:
Mark Dever, who was living in Cambridge, England and working on his Ph.D., was contacted by members of the New England church he had planted (New Meadows Baptist Church) for advice on how to choose a new pastor. On October 30, 1991, Mark responded with a list of nine must haves. These became the Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Last fall the 9Marks organization proudly reprinted that letter on its 25th anniversary.
As you might have guessed, Andy Davis was called to pastor New Meadows Baptist Church, where he served from 1992 to 1993 for a total of 15 months. Based on Dever's letter to New Meadows, it appears Andy followed a pastor named 'Zane'. We presume this was Zane Pratt, whose bio indicates he began serving as a church planter in 1991. Zane also earned his M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell. He earned his undergraduate degree from Duke, where he first met Mark Dever. In fact, when Zane Pratt joined the faculty of Southern Seminary a couple years ago, I remember reading what another SBTS faculty member wrote about Zane. Tom Schreiner revealed that it was Zane Pratt who influenced Dever to become not just a Christian but a Calvinist!
Back to Andy Davis… We're not sure why his ministry at New Meadows was cut short. We are wondering whether the church still exists because we cannot find anything about it on the internet. Perhaps it merged with another church or was an unsuccessful church plant. If anyone knows what happened to New Meadows Baptist Church, please let us know.
Andy's next career move was serving as a missionary in Japan from 1993 to 1995. He admits during the 9Marks interview that he did not feel called to a ministry of missions, although he did see some fruit while in Japan. Later in the interview, Andy reveals that he pastored a small group (10 people) while in Japan.
In 1995 Andy Davis began pursuing his Ph.D. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. While there, he attended Highview Baptist Church (which happens to be the church Al Mohler attends). Andy earned his Ph.D. in Church History in 1998, finishing in just 3-1/2 years. His dissertation was on Calvin's Eschatology. Andy stated during the 9Marks interview that he learned a lot from John Calvin about how to study the Bible.
Beginning at the 15 minute mark, Andy Davis reveals that it was Mark Dever who recommended him to the pastor search committee at First Baptist Church Durham. Interestingly, the pastor search committee was initially interested in Mark Dever coming to pastor the church (after having been at Capitol Hill Baptist Church for four years). Mark and Aaron Menikoff drove down to Durham to meet with them. The meeting lasted 5 hours. Mark was in the midst of making significant changes at CHBC, so leaving that church was not feasible.
In August 1998 FBC Durham began considering Andy Davis to serve as its senior pastor, and on October 1998 he was called to pastor the church. Next year he will mark his 20th anniversary as pastor of FBC Durham.
Just after the 20 minute mark, Andy was encouraged to share what happened after he arrived at FBC Durham. He revealed that if he had known how painful the process of reforming the church would have been, he wouldn't have accepted the position. Andy shares that the first three years were rough!
The primary issue Andy Davis and the congregation struggled over was 'gender and authority'. Andy explained that the polity was of a different type (not elder led) when he first arrived.
I'm not going to summarize the rest of the audio which provides much detailed information of what happened as Andy Davis attempted to revitalize FBC Durham. we highly encourage you to listen for yourself all the way to the very end. It's quite eye-opening!
Remember, back in the 1998-2001 time frame, most Southern Baptist congregations knew nothing about the stealth mission to bring back Calvinism. Furthermore, it was in 1998 that the SBC revised its statement of faith to stress gender roles. Just after the 58 minute mark Andy Davis explained that most of the people that had problems with 'gender and authority' left the church rather than stay and fight.
On another note…
In a comment under our previous post regarding Andy Davis and FBC Durham, Jerome shared with us that back in October 1998 (the same month Andy was called to pastor FBC Durham) Andy delivered a sermon at Capitol Hill Baptist Church called "Sure and Certain Signs of the End" (see screen shot below):
I was interested to hear what Andy had to say back then, so I went to the Capitol Hill Baptist Church resource page, clicked on "Sermons" and selected October 1998. Here is what I found:
10/25/98 – Justice Up Close
10/18/98 – Vision for Missions
10/11/98 – Arrival of Justice
The sermons delivered on October 11th and October 25th match the information procured through the wayback machine; however, it appears that Dever's "Vision for Missions" talk was substituted for Andy Davis' message that he delivered on October 18, 1998. The "Vision for Missions" message is categorized as a 'bonus talk' rather than as a 'sermon' like the other messages. (see below)
Here is further proof that Andy Davis delivered that message – he submitted it to SermonCentral.
In closing, the reason we are taking issue with Andy Davis and his recollection of what happened at First Baptist Church of Durham, particularly during the 1998-2001 time frame, is because 9Marks has made such a big issue of it. Multiple posts have been written about the 'reform' of FBC Durham and distributed far and wide on the 9Marks website, the 9Marks EJournal, Southern Seminary's Magazine, The Gospel Coalition website, etc. Not only that, Andy Davis has written a book titled Revitalize to encourage other pastors to follow his lead in transforming a church.
We take issue with all of these publications because we believe they provide only one side of the story – the pastor's.
We hope you will take the time to listen to the lengthy 9Marks audio Revitalizing a Church and share your thoughts with us.
For more information on Andy Davis, you might want to read Tim Brister's post NCFII: Andy Davis on "Dangers in Reforming a Church", published way back in 2008.
a series of interviews with Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; Andrew Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina; and Croft. The interviews present evaluations of necessary components of church revitalization, including frank and honest assessments of the pastors’ early years of ministry in churches that experienced revitalization. (link)