Mark Dever (9 Marks) Refuses to Post Sermons/Services During the Pandemic Because It’s Against His Rules for Covenant Membership

“If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”  CS Lewis


When I became a Christian at the age o 17, I had a view of God that compelled me to want to follow Him. The God  who created the universe loved me and wanted to have a relationship with me. Thankfully, for many years, I encountered pastors and parachurch folks who actually seemed delighted to see me and to encourage me in my faith journey.

Was I a sinner? Of course. Was I encouraged to seek forgiveness to walk the walk? You bet. I enjoyed church, especially the sermons, which motivated me to learn more about my faith as well as being a source of peace during hard times.

I learned to read my Bible while at the same time having pastors who taught me that I needed to major on the majors and minor the minors.  I would say that I am at least as well read as many long time followers. I suspect that, for groups like 9 Marks, there is no such thing asa minor matter. It is all a hill to die on and they are darn sure that God smiles upon them for all of their rules.

I believe that this pandemic is exposing the problems inherent in the 9 Marks system. Their views on the church have become so inwardly focused that they appear to be in danger of redefining what constitutes the church. They have invented a system that is full of rules and regulations, many of which are conjecture. Yes, they quote Scripture but they often interpret Scripture through their own peculiar lens.

These are the guys who dreamed up the concepts of retroactive church discipline, not giving communion to members in nursing homes, delaying baptism until people are judged to be old enough while exhibiting the *correct* attitude which means they are saved unto membership, 9 Marks style.

This group has more *how to*  books on covenant membership than you should have time to read.

9 Marks: Don’t stream services during pandemic because Dever knows it’s wrong to do so.

This pandemic has opened my eyes into their increasingly rigid rules for *how to run a church,*  especially in the midst of trials in a society. A TWW readers in the UK first drew my attention to the fact that Dever was not posting church services online during the pandemic.

Stupidly, I wasn’t sure if I believed this to be true. How could a church ignore the possibility of reaching out to and providing comfort for their membership, as well as t heir community, during a time such as this? However, Jerome jumped right on into the conversation ands provided this for TWW readers.

Huh?!!!! Why? This made absolutely no sense to me. Just about every church in every denomination in my area  are offering online worship during this time. My own Lutheran church, which takes worship quite seriously, is doing the same. But none are as faithful as 9 Marks who really know how to do it.

9 Marks covenant membership means that streaming a sermon is unbiblical…

So, here is the infamous Twitter thread which proves that 9 Marks is *against* online services which must mean they are unbiblical.

Here is his letter to the congregation, informing them of the only possible Biblical response to online streaming…

Here are Dever’s extra biblical or unusual beliefs:

  • A covenant membership means that a service streamed online cannot be a substitute for meeting together. Therefore, even when they can’t meet together, they will not allow their church to stream a service, even for comfort and learning during a pandemic. No Scripture referenced.
  • Since they can’t meet together as a church, Gods grace will be absent from the streaming a service. It will mean absolutely nothing God’s eyes. No Scripture given.
  • It is somehow healthier for church members not to meet since doing so would disrespect God’s strange providence. No Scripture given.
  • Dever believes that this pandemic is God’s strange providence. Why?
  • He believes that even if the CDC recommends that the church not physically meet for 8 weeks, his *opinion* still stands. I wonder if he would reconsider if it was 6 months? What is the Biblically correct cutoff date after which Dever is biblically allowed to encourage members via posted sermons and services?
  •  Dever believes that not streaming their service will cause his *covenant* members to reflect on their life, their community, helping others and praying for others more so than if they did stream the service. Are we then to believe that an allowed 9 Marks services when they are all present do not encourage people to pray, help others or to reflect during regular services? Sounds like his church members are pretty weak.
  • He appears to believe his church body is really stupid since they might mistake a live stream as being the real thing. Dumb sheep theory?
  •  Live streaming will interfere with the *chastening* benefits for the soul.The definition of chastening is (according (to Dictionary.com )
    “to inflict suffering upon for purposes of moral improvement;”
    It appears that Dever knows God’s reason for this pandemic. Joyfully suffer, even if it is needless to do so, because its good for you.
  • He’s super excited that his members will be mourning over the loss of their service. Someone might interpret this to mean “They’re going to miss me.”

Mark Dever appears to be convince that his way is *God’s Way.* I understands what he’s saying. He’s building a monument to his understanding of the right way to do church membership. I am grateful to God that He has allowed me to be in the company of many leaders and churches who have encouraged me to seek the freedom that we have in Christ. I truly don’t get Dever, 9 Marks or his acolytes.

The one thing I’ve learned from this pandemic is that there are church leaders who have placed an extra=Biblical burden of rules and regulations on the lives of their people. Jesus had something to say about that.Matthew 23:4 NIV.

They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

To those stuck in such churches, don’t try to change them. You will merely get beat up. These guys are the masters of church discipline and imposed guilt. Run. Find freedom. It really doesn’t have to be this way. Instead seek and find love and goodness beyond the manmade rules.

In the meantime, you can bet that Mark Dever and the dudebros will live stream T4G and charge you an arm and a leg for listening to their wisdom.


Comments

Mark Dever (9 Marks) Refuses to Post Sermons/Services During the Pandemic Because It’s Against His Rules for Covenant Membership — 131 Comments

  1. Maybe it will be a good thing. His members might stream a service from other churches, wake up and never go back to his churches. Also, since the church has abandoned its members shouldn’t their covenant be null and void? If I was a member of one of his church, I would say if you can’t stream the services, I’m not tithing.

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  2. It is not appropriate for Dever to close his letter with “Your Pastor.” The content of his message to church members has little to do with pastoral leadership during this crisis. For the life of me, I don’t understand why folks attend such churches, given the manipulation, intimidation, and domination of believers within the 9Marks system. This sabbath from the sabbath should give them plenty of time to reflect on what they have enlisted in and the bondage awaiting their return. IMO, New Calvinism is a pandemic within Christendom.

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  3. Funny. Just this morning I was thinking that God might glorify Himself during this pandemic by shutting down churches that preach a Gospel other than Christ crucified, or are nothing but white-washed social clubs. How? When the emergency is over, and churches can meet again, how many people will decide that going to a Sunday-morning social club, or a “church” led by someone who claims to be a shepherd but practices “Respect my authoritah” really isn’t preferable to sleeping in.

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  4. You know, when Paul (or John, or Peter, or Priscilla, or whoever) was not able to meet in person with a particular community of believers, they wrote a letter. And lo and behold, we have the epistles of the New Testament.

    I can’t help but think that if the epistle authors had had access to live-streaming, they would have seen that as an acceptable substitute for “gathering together” during times like this.

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  5. Dever’s reasons have for me a bit of the feel of (maybe it is a 9Marks or YRR thing) an interpretation of what in Reformed circles is called the “regulative principle”, that everything a local congregation does “in the name of Christ” has to be explicitly warranted in Scripture. Things that aren’t explicitly warranted in Scripture are not to be done, lest they anger the Deity and bring upon the congregation or its leaders the kinds of punishments that one sees from time to time in Scripture for transgressions related to the details of worship (e.g. premature death for partaking unworthily, 1 Cor, or death for offering “strange fire”, Leviticus). It might be sort of a “whatever is not commanded is forbidden” mentality.

    This is such an extraordinary set of circumstances that it might feel safer to simply do nothing “as a church, in the name of Christ” at all.

    I agree that there does appear to be a kind of mechanical view of grace implied in his expressed concerns, which is a bit odd from a more traditional Reformed point of view, I think (perhaps I am mistaken). As I understand it, the benefits of partaking in the Sacraments, for example, are all apprehended by faith. One would think that a live-streamed or even a recorded message could be an instrument of grace in this sense, that it would stimulate the faith of the remote participant.

    It is hard not to suspect that something else might be going on, and perhaps not at a conscious level. Perhaps offering a “substitute” remote means of participating would have the effect of weakening the perceived-by-the-laity necessity of showing up in person. That possibility might be troubling to someone with as high a view of the importance of his own authority over the flock as Dever’s.

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  6. *very long sigh*
    This entire issue is based on the issue of power: who has it, who claims they have it from God, and how they use it. The more that “believe” in this manifestation of power also “believe” in those who proclaim their position. *yawn*

    Convincing yourself there’s a God so that you’ll become motivated to ratchet up your morality a notch or two? Embracing a fairy tale so you’ll sleep better at night? No thank you, I thought to myself. If that’s faith, I wasn’t interested. – Lee Strobel

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  7. Neo-Cals are just another manifestation of Fundamentalism which has to do with power and control. As my late Professor of New Testament at SEBTS (back when it was a real seminary in the 1980’s) Dr. Donald E. Cook defined Fundamentalism:

    “I can see the fun and I can see the damn. But I’ll be damned if I can see the mental.”

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  8. Re: whether the 9Marks model works with a longer suspension of periodic pastoral authoritative communication toward the flock,

    It is conceivable to me that there may be no return to the status quo ante in terms of large meetings. Dr Fauci is warning that Covid-19 may become a seasonal thing:

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/fauci-says-us-needs-to-be-prepared-for-coronavirus-to-be-cyclical/ar-BB11I0s1?ocid=spartanntp

    It seems likely that vaccines will be developed, but it’s hard to know at this point how protective they will be. Common cold coronavirus does not seem to be amenable to the development of an effective vaccine.

    It is conceivable that “return to more nearly normal” will entail public health advisories against meetings as large as the megachurches are accustomed to.

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  9. I’m sitting here with my mouth open.,,it’s rather like saying women shouldn’t take drugs for pain in childbirth since God didn’t okay it officially in the Bible.

    Meanwhile, I’m taking my box of Resurrection Eggs down to church tomorrow so I can be taped for a children’s message in Spanish for Easter Sunday. Don’t tell Mr Dever!

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  10. No. No! Wait just one cotton-pickin’ minute.
    If Dever thinks on-line services are “unbiblical”, then why aren’t on-line tithes and donations “unbiblical”, too????
    Y’all just have no clue how happy I am to know that that man (and I use the term loosely) packed up and left Kentucky! ……. can’t help but wish he’d left the USA.

    Mark Dever isn’t a pastor. He’s a hireling …… on an extended vacay………… waiting for those Benjamins to roll in through on-line giving.

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  11. Interesting article Dee. I would like to hear the full explanation behind Mark Dever’s choice not to livestream their Sunday morning service. Maybe you could invite Jonathan Leeman – Devers sidekick and unofficial spokesman – to add a comment. Leeman used to be a member of CHBC but now is a member of Cheverly Baptist Church. Cheverly Baptist Church has also chosen not to livestream their Sunday morning service. It’s worth noting that two other churches with ties to CHBC – Del Ray Baptist Church and Third Avenue Baptist Church of Louisville – have chosen to livestream their Sunday morning services.

    I was recently looking through a book titled, “Biblical Arguments on How to Conduct Church Life,” edited by Mark Dever. It can be found here: https://www.9marks.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Polity.pdf

    I came across the following:

    SAMUEL JONES – A Treatise of Church Discipline and a Directory
    CHAPTER VIII
    THE DUTIES OF MEMBERS TOWARDS EACH OTHER. -page 151

    “10. Should not divulge what is done in church meetings, Cant. iv. 12. It is a shame to divulge the secrets of a family, much more those of a church.”

    I am unsure whether this entered into the decision by CHBC not to livestream their services, but it is perhaps an interesting insight into the thought process of the elders of CHBC. I should add that it’s not clear to me whether the duty above would be applied to worship services or business meetings conducted by CHBC, or both.

    In another chapter I found an interesting point – one of the reasons listed for the necessity of a plurality of elders, which 9Marx churches adhere to – would seem to apply to the current pandemic. It would be interesting to know whether CHBC considered taking this approach to Sunday morning worship, that is, whether they considered meeting in small groups in homes with an elder present to lead the worship service.

    Greg Wills – “The Church: Baptists and Their Churches in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries” – page 35
    “The texts reprinted here taught that the apostolic churches practiced plural eldership. Reynolds and Williams argued that a plurality was then necessary because persecution forced congregations to meet separately in small groups in houses and each meeting needed the services of an elder. But since modern congregations can meet together, they no longer needed plural elders. Jones on the other hand argued that although plural eldership was not mandatory, the practice secured important benefits and ought to be continued. Johnson taught that Christ strictly required each church to have plural eldership.” –

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  12. Samuel Conner: Dever’s reasons have for me a bit of the feel of (maybe it is a 9Marks or YRR thing) an interpretation of what in Reformed circles is called the “regulative principle”, that everything a local congregation does “in the name of Christ” has to be explicitly warranted in Scripture.

    Except everything they do is extremely cherry-picked to create the cult atmosphere they are after and they blatantly ignore some pretty clear verses in favor of others that aren’t quite so clear.

    Like the other day when they used a verse about sex to mean Christians aren’t supposed to isolate.
    Like there are no church membership covenants in the Bible.
    Like the “church” is all Christians everywhere and not a local body.
    Like that we’re all priests under Christ our High Priest.
    Like we’re to all submit to each other.

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  13. Linn: I’m sitting here with my mouth open.,,it’s rather like saying women shouldn’t take drugs for pain in childbirth since God didn’t okay it officially in the Bible.

    As far as I can recall, in the sixties and seventies Catholic hospitals in my area were said not use anaesthesia readily for women in childbirth, because of Gen 3,16:

    To the woman he said:

    I will greatly increase your pain in childbearing.
    With painful labor you will give birth to children.

    I may be wrong, it’s a long time ago.

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  14. To a point, I can understand Dever not wanting people to see online church as a substitute for the corporate gathering.

    HOWEVER,

    This position is just really odd. How many true Christians will actually think this is a full-on substitute for the “real” thing. (I’m talking about Christians who are normally able to leave the house, not shut-ins). It’s a stopgap measure to help people in a time of crisis. It seems that if he is going to be consistent, he should tell congregants not to stream any church’s worship service or any Christian teaching. At least that would be more coherent even if still mistaken. That’s why you last comment, Dee, is spot on. If you really think the local church is the key part of the Christian life and your local church can’t meet, why is this other stuff like T4G acceptable. Simply because it will be only sermons/talks? Then just stream a sermon/talk to your people each week. It certainly is possible for Dever’s church to do this.

    If a congregation is used to hearing from its pastor, wouldn’t it be better for that congregation to still hear preaching from that pastor in a crisis even if not in person?

    When the Apostles couldn’t gather with Christians in the ancient world, they sent letters. Modern pastors aren’t Apostles, but why can’t Dever just apply a similar principle. He can’t meet with Christians, but He can send a sermon.

    It just makes very little sense, especially for churches that make preaching central to worship, which Dever’s church certainly does.

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  15. Samuel Conner:
    Dever’s reasons have for me a bit of the feel of (maybe it is a 9Marks or YRR thing) an interpretation of what in Reformed circles is called the “regulative principle”, that everything a local congregation does “in the name of Christ” has to be explicitly warranted in Scripture. Things that aren’t explicitly warranted in Scripture are not to be done, lest they anger the Deity and bring upon the congregation or its leaders the kinds of punishments that one sees from time to time in Scripture for transgressions related to the details of worship (e.g. premature death for partaking unworthily, 1 Cor, or death for offering “strange fire”, Leviticus). It might be sort of a “whatever is not commanded is forbidden” mentality.

    This is the same mentality that many conservative Churches of Christ have; if it is not explicitly authorized in Scripture, it is forbidden. Hence our many arguments over whether or not we can have instrumental music since there’s no specific authorization for it.

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  16. Max,

    I don’t get him whatsoever. I have talked to a number of people who have left his church. Some have developed sneaky ways to leave so they won’t get disciplined. I wish I could tell you what they do but my lips are sealed. However, I do help people who call to ask me how to leave 9 Marks churches. What was that old song “There must be 50 ways to leave you lover.”

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  17. Robert: To a point, I can understand Dever not wanting people to see online church as a substitute for the corporate gathering.

    P&P has been hitting this point hard over the last week or so. I guess the fear is people will quit coming to church when they realize what they haven’t lost. Here is P&P’s example from today:
    https://pulpitandpen.org/2020/03/26/christianity-today-compares-having-church-amid-covid-19-to-snake-handling/

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  18. Samuel Conner,

    Great comment.

    Samuel Conner: Perhaps offering a “substitute” remote means of participating would have the effect of weakening the perceived-by-the-laity necessity of showing up in person. That possibility might be troubling to someone with as high a view of the importance of his own authority over the flock as Dever’s.

    This cuts both ways Is Dever implying that his people are so dumb that they won’t show up at church if he live streams it? That sounds really, really bad.Maybe people are tired of his lengthy sermons and new and improved rules?

    I really love my church. I enjoy the Saturday evening service. I like seeing the people who are there. I miss communion. Yes, I can follow along online. But, I cannot wait to be able to gather together again in my church building. I wonder if the poor people at CHBC view this time as a relief.

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  19. Samuel Conner: It seems likely that vaccines will be developed, but it’s hard to know at this point how protective they will be. Common cold coronavirus does not seem to be amenable to the development of an effective vaccine.

    I’m more interested in all those experimental drug treatments, from Remsivir to Hydroxychloroquine. I keep hearing a lot of anecdotal evidence that at least some of them work, and they have a shorter time to deployment than a vaccine.

    Even if they just damp down the infection to the point you don’t require hospitalization and/or keep you out of ICU, that would be an improvement. I’m afraid that by the time clinical trials pan out and get approval, too many will have died.

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  20. Dee, Thank you! Your post really hits the nail on the head about Dever and 9Marx. Jerome, thanks for your detailed research.

    With Dever and his 9 Marx club, it seems to get harder and harder for an ordinary Christian to live the Christian life ‘correctly’. They seem to have forgotten Jesus’ words that His yolk is easy and His burden light. They also seem to have forgotten that when Jesus saw people’s needs (practical and spiritual) he had compassion on them and met their needs, whether it involved breaking the Pharisee’s rules and regulations or not.

    It must be virtually impossible to live up to their man-made (yes, man made as they don’t allow women to be involved) systems of ‘church’ and ‘Christian’ living.

    As I was reading the post and the comments, I was reminded of the Parable of the Talents. Remember the man who buried his one talent in the ground rather than doing anything to put it to good use, because he was afraid that his master was a ‘hard man’? I wonder if Dever and his crew view God as a ‘hard man’ and are afraid to do anything lest it be incorrect and anger him?

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  21. JennY,

    “Is he taking an eight week break from his salary?”
    ++++++++++++++

    the sheer weight of responsibility on his shoulders is work enough, no actual tasks or productivity required.

    (which can be an imagined thing)

    [i’ve observed at least one pastor spending the greater part of his time chatting and being a self-described ‘internet junkie’. he carried himself like he was a valiant hero for carrying such a heavy load with such a weighty burden.]

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  22. “Because a video of a sermon is not a substitute for a covenanted congregation assembling together and all the various means of God’s grace in that.”–Mark Dever
    ++++++++++++

    ‘God’s grace in that’ = i think he really means, “magic”

    in fact, it is so magic you don’t even know it is happening.

    wow, it’s so magic that people leave the mystical ‘covenanted congregation assembling together’ not remembering anything that was said!

    must be some deep magic indeed. 😐

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  23. Brian: Impression: Withdrawing worship services, even live streaming as if it is reward for even being able to attend.

    Have you ever seen a pastor’s letter so thoroughly and unnecessarily lawyered over? And the abstinence theme makes me cringe.

    One part of their logic is that Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in DC suspended gatherings in 1918. Live streaming was not an option back then.

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  24. elastigirl: must be some deep magic indeed.

    My dog knows about this deep magic. I took her on a wellness walk today as a break from this evil teleworking confinement and she deposited some of her magic. She knows how valuable it is because I carefully collect it and deposit it into a special vault so that the city can collect it once a week for its archives.

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  25. I haven’t read this yet, just saw the headline, and it looks germane to the OP (I have skimmed it a bit):

    How a church can worship ‘together’ during COVID-19 by Scott Aniol
    https://www.christianpost.com/voices/how-a-church-can-worship-together-during-covid-19.html

    Snippets:

    At the end of the day, I think we need to avoid trying to “reproduce” normality through digital means. It is not normal, nor should it be, for churches to “gather” virtually.

    Some churches are choosing to live-stream services.

    Personally, I’m not sure the real value in that unless you feel like you need to reproduce the “professional production” of a Sunday service, which may indicate a problem with how we conceive of corporate worship.

    Rather, we should feel uncomfortable with being apart; this is not how it’s supposed to be.

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  26. elastigirl: i’m not good at ‘lawyered over detection’ — what do you see?

    I could be wrong. But there’s a lot of parsing of local health directives, plus disclaimers and citations in footnotes. A letter to a congregation in distress needs to be simple and consoling, not jam-packed with facts and a couple of disclaimers, comparisons with schools, and so on. It’s almost as if they want to refer back to it in future…

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  27. Abigail: if he is not actually preaching then he should temporarily be cut from the payroll….right?

    I don’t know what Mark Dever normally does during the week, but writing sermons and preparing for services does take a lot of time.

    The clergy at my church are still working very hard, just not in the usual way. Every member’s needs and circumstances have changed, and we suddenly have to do everything virtually. But our folks are still writing sermons and preaching. It consoles me to know that they are still conducting worship services, even though they are recorded for play at members’ convenience.

    Strange realization: I miss our comforting worship space as much as I do the gathered people.

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  28. Ken F (aka Tweed): My dog knows about this deep magic. I took her on a wellness walk today as a break from this evil teleworking confinement and she deposited some of her magic. She knows how valuable it is because I carefully collect it and deposit it into a special vault so that the city can collect it once a week for its archives.

    That stuff could be valuable, if processed properly. There’s a whole chapter in Les Misérables about how the sewers of Paris were a wound in the body of France, bleeding the nation’s wealth into the Seine.

    And then, of course, there is The Humanure Handbook .

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  29. “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

    Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

    The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

    Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!” Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?”

    John 4:19-27 NLT

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  30. dee: Some have developed sneaky ways to leave so they won’t get disciplined.

    Just tell Dever that you have a bone in your leg and can’t attend his church any longer. Then show him your elbows and derriere as you walk out of the church, never to return again. Congratulations if they shun and excommunicate you later.

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  31. Daisy: At the end of the day, I think we need to avoid trying to “reproduce” normality through digital means. It is not normal, nor should it be, for churches to “gather” virtually.

    Some churches are choosing to live-stream services.

    Personally, I’m not sure the real value in that unless you feel like you need to reproduce the “professional production” of a Sunday service, which may indicate a problem with how we conceive of corporate worship.

    Rather, we should feel uncomfortable with being apart; this is not how it’s supposed to be.

    I agree with these snippets from the article, and like the ideas proposed in most of the rest of it.

    However, the author discourages folks from taking part in communion while worshiping at home, saying that communion should be reserved for communal gatherings. I don’t necessarily agree with this part. Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me,” not “Do this in remembrance of all of you gathered together.” And even if it was “in remembrance of all of you gathered together,” wouldn’t that be all the more reason to do it while apart from the rest of the “body,” to remind us that we’re in this together and not all on our own?

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  32. JennY:
    Is he taking an eight week break from his salary?

    Better still, he could donate it to those who are, perforce, taking a break from their salary as their livelihoods close down. Perhaps the requests for money to keep T$G going were in order that its leaders could all forego their salaries and distribute it to everyone who had need.

    OTOH, those kinds of actions were perhaps only for the apostolic age, along with healing and tungz.

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  33. Wottevahhh. *

    Meanwhile, local church congregations, and ministers, here are helping organise support for the elderly, those who are otherwise clinically vulnerable on health grounds, and frontline health professionals who are working long shifts and can’t necessarily get to the shops even to the degree that they stock any food.

    I’ve no doubt that other Wartburgers, on all sides of the Atlantic, can tell similar stories involving ministers who are not famous, who never have been, and who do not aspire to speak at conferences or, by other means, to preach to the largest groups of christians they can. Also of christians, singly and in groups, who are not professional clergy but who demonstrate their faith by the way they love their neighbours in deed, not just in word.

    I’m reminded of the John Oliver ** episode on televangelists. He begins it with: There are over 350000 congregations in the United States and many of them do great work: feeding the hungry, clothing the poor. BUT, this is not a story about them…

    * This works best in a kind of London accent. I’m struggling to find examples on FaceTube so far.
    ** He has a Birmingham accent – as in, THE Birmingham. He grew up very near where I did, actually, and if I were to spend any length of time speaking to him, I’d drop back into the same accent! Although I kind of lost mine while living in Cambridge.

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  34. Wild Honey: However, the author discourages folks from taking part in communion while worshiping at home, saying that communion should be reserved for communal gatherings. I don’t necessarily agree with this part. Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me,” not “Do this in remembrance of all of you gathered together.”

    They use communion as a way to “allow” people to be in the church. They believe they have the “keys to the kingdom” through communion and the choice to approve or deny someone being elected through communion. Which makes no sense even in their own theology, since in Reformed belief God chooses the elect AND nobody can really know who is elect and who is not. They also believe that only pastors/elders have authority and can administer communion.

    None of that comes from the Bible or even the beliefs they claim to adhere. Once again, it goes back to wanting the pastors and elders to hold all the power over members and members having no autonomy.

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  35. Nick Bulbeck: I’ve no doubt that other Wartburgers, on all sides of the Atlantic, can tell similar stories involving ministers who are not famous, who never have been, and who do not aspire to speak at conferences or, by other means, to preach to the largest groups of christians they can. Also of christians, singly and in groups, who are not professional clergy but who demonstrate their faith by the way they love their neighbours in deed, not just in word.

    They usually seek mainline denominations, in my experience, as pastors don’t often have the power in mainline denominations to start their own churches, but they do have lots of resources to render aid.

    The culture for pastors inside the SBC and at the seminaries is more about becoming rich and famous than being a minister to others. I do believe that many attend seminary with a heart for others, but that can easily go astray when surrounded by people who think being a pastor means starting a megachurch.

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  36. It appears that Devers is issuing his divine right to religious sanctions against his members as remedial punishment for situations he cannot manipulate and control.

    When personal and community crises occur, many have experienced genuine love and helping thy neighbor from the non-card carrying members of the body of Christ. I, personally, can always count on the “done and none” former churched members who exhibit more Christlike characteristics and fellowship than the prideful religious people such as Devers.

    Evidently his sermonettes aren’t worth anyone’s time to listen too via the internet. So special thanks go out to Devers personally, for sparing church members wasting their time on him!

    Dee, I sure enjoy and have learned much from Wade Burleson’s sermons here on the internet. Thank-you for providing that fellowship resource.

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  37. Yesterday I went to tape my Spanish Easter lesson for the kids I love so much at my church. There were three of us in the room-the videographer, the English speaking teacher, and me. It was great to know that we could see and talk to each other in person (proper social distance, of course), and know that we are providing positive resources for our congregation and community. No, it’s not the same as being all together, but it’s better than no contact- and we’ll all be together when this over.

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  38. Karen: It appears that Devers is issuing his divine right to religious sanctions against his members as remedial punishment for situations he cannot manipulate and control.

    Hopefully, the Deverites, Mohlerites, Piperites, etc. are using their down-time to come to their spiritual senses … a break from the routine of doing church the Dever-way to realize how off-course the New Calvinist movement and its band of elite leaders really are. If so, this bad time in America could be good in the long run if it puts the brakes on the aberrations of the new reformation. The American church needs to get back to worshiping Jesus, instead of celebrity preachers.

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  39. ishy: The culture for pastors inside the SBC and at the seminaries is more about becoming rich and famous than being a minister to others.

    Yeah, few seminarians want to be a small town/small church pastor. They want to be mega as quickly as possible. God’s calling doesn’t seem to be in operation in much of the Christian Industrial Complex these days … too many folks are “going into the ministry” for selfish reasons.

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  40. Wry song parody lyrics posted this week by former 9Marksist Gregory Thornbury:

    https://twitter.com/greg_thornbury/status/1242594735065358336

    he tweeted:

    “I put new lyrics to Pete Seeger’s ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’ for our current moment in culture.
    @DavidDark asked if I’d make it public with the lyrics…

    “Where have all the streamers gone? Long time passing.
    Where have all the streamers gone? Long time ago.
    Where have all the streamers gone?

    Left their pastors everyone.

    When will they ever learn?”

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  41. Thornbury was with Dever and Schmucker at the start (when they were being bankrolled by the “generous neighbor” who “wasn’t a believer”):

    https://web.archive.org/web/20010411184327/http://ccr.bigstep.com/employeebios.jhtml

    Two decades later, Gregory Thornbury is running in quite different circles. He’s now Vice President of Development at the New York Academy of Art (art school founded by Andy Warhol and others in 1982). Here he is at the school’s ‘Take Home a Nude’ event:

    https://bfa.com/people/gregory-thornbury

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  42. Daisy: Rather, we should feel uncomfortable with being apart; this is not how it’s supposed to be.

    Many people have mentioned that when we are apart from friends and family, separated by distance not virus, we call, send letters, or yes, now, video chat. Why is this different?

    We did a small group on zoom. I hate that they seem to be shaming people for having some type of message on Sunday’s..

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  43. ishy,

    “They also believe that only pastors/elders have authority and can administer communion.”
    ++++++++++

    so, i’ve ‘done communion’ on my own, by myself, at my kitchen table.

    it was more real and genuine than any silly cracker and tiny plastic cup of grape juice in an auditorium.

    it was a very experiential metaphor of the metaphor “i am the vine, you are the branches”. God Godself living in me, in my bloodstream (so to speak), and all the help and relational closeness that can be.

    —————–
    (a metaphor of a metaphor…. interesting… do the realities behind metaphors lose their potency each time they are generated / there is a generation?

    or, all they all equivalent? like, origami – a piece of paper can be folded into one shape, then folded again and it becomes another shape, and so on. unfold it and it’s still the original piece of paper)
    ——————-

    yes, mark dever, i ‘administered it to myself‘.

    so, ishy, what would mark dever say to me? did i do something terrible? did i sin?

    he can’t say it didn’t count, because God’s not counting.

    it served its purpose — it gave me courage and strength and helped bring me closer.

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  44. I continue to read the O.T. prophets and I choose to meditate on how what they said, so long ago, is relevant to us today. In Zeph. 3, I find points to meditate on. The first four verses talk about the people of God in the symbol of the city where the temple is:

    “Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled!
    She obeys no one, she accepts no correction.
    She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God.
    Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves,
    who leave nothing for the morning.
    Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people.
    Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.”

    These verses speak very much of where we are at today with evil politicians and the fact that very few have any interest in responding to a call to actually repent themselves. Repentance is something the others guys need to do. It does not apply to the guy looking back at me in the mirror. Our religious prophets are false profits and are truly treacherous people. Many of our pastors are doing violence to God’s Word to twist it into saying something that it does not say.

    Then it switches and talks about God Himself:

    “I have destroyed nations; their strongholds are demolished.
    I have left their streets deserted, with no one passing through.
    Their cities are laid waste; they are deserted and empty.
    Of Jerusalem I thought, ‘Surely you will fear me and accept correction!’
    Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed, nor all my punishments come upon her.
    But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did.
    Therefore wait for me,’ declares the Lord, ‘for the day I will stand up to testify.
    I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms
    and to pour out my wrath on them—all my fierce anger.
    The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.”

    The “deserted streets” remind me of pictures of our big cities that have almost no one walking or driving through them. So is God again thinking that we will certainly wake up with this now and “Surely you will fear me and accept correction!” Will we be like Judah that refused to stop acting corruptly? People claiming to be Christians keep telling me that God does not have fierce anger and that He judges no one. So I have a few questions: Why does God promise that the “whole world will be consumed” then? Is He deceptive? Is He too confused to actually say what He means? Does the N.T. cancel out the Old? That is not what Jesus said. He came to fulfill it. What about the N.T. prophecies? Does “the Lamb of God” actually give decrees, like the breaking of seals, that release judgments on the earth much more severe than what is happening now?

    Next it talks about the restoration of Israel with promises that have not happened at this point. God’s wrath is over then only

    “because I will remove from you your arrogant boasters.
    Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill.
    But I will leave within you the meek and humble.
    The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the Lord.
    They will do no wrong; they will tell no lies.
    A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths.”

    These things certainly have not happened at this point. Then God speaks of his blessings and that God “will rejoice over you with singing.” And then comes the most fascinating part to me at this moment, “I will remove from you all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals, which is a burden and reproach for you.” Is God saying that all our appointed festivals, from Easter to Christmas and the whole “church calendar” are things that are both a burden and and evil that we are doing? There are many mourning the loss of those right now as many an Easter service is pretty much sure not to happen next month. Why does God say that if the Jewish, and our, appointed festivals are really the great things that our religious leaders say they are? Again, is God confused? Does He not know that these words are troubling to us who like such things? Is He lying? Is He really talking about something totally different, like some kind of idiot who does not realize people will misunderstand Him? Or are all these things really got no future at all in some point in time in the future?

    The chapter ends with more promises to those righteous who are left and have not been taken in judgment.

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  45. elastigirl: so, ishy, what would mark dever say to me? did i do something terrible? did i sin?

    he can’t say it didn’t count, because God’s not counting.

    I doubt he would agree with you about God not counting. And you are female, so of course you couldn’t be a pastor or have any authority in Dever’s mind. Women are subhuman and their only purpose is to obey and serve.

    I’m not sure you can apply logic or even theology to what they preach. They have created a religious system that revolves around themselves. If they aren’t the center of it, it doesn’t happen.

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  46. Mr. Jesperson: The “deserted streets” remind me of pictures of our big cities that have almost no one walking or driving through them. So is God again thinking that we will certainly wake up with this now and “Surely you will fear me and accept correction!”

    The streets are not empty because of sin and corruption.

    The streets are empty because billions of people are trying to limit a worldwide contagion.

    I would think that God is relieved we are staying indoors.

    By sitting at home, mere individuals are correcting earlier official failures to contain covid-19. Why would God punish entire nations for this?

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  47. Lea: I hate that they seem to be shaming people for having some type of message on Sunday’s..

    Just speaking personally, I wouldn’t mind “some type of message” on Sundays. It’s sitting and trying to focus on a 50 minute sermon while the comments from other viewers are scrolling past, my kids are restless, my stomach is rumbling, and the sunshine is calling that was distracting. But then, I was getting restless with 50 minute sermons every week, anyways, so this is probably more my problem than their problem 🙂

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  48. ishy,

    “I doubt he would agree with you about God not counting. And you are female, so of course you couldn’t be a pastor or have any authority in Dever’s mind. Women are subhuman and their only purpose is to obey and serve.

    I’m not sure you can apply logic or even theology to what they preach. They have created a religious system that revolves around themselves. If they aren’t the center of it, it doesn’t happen.”
    +++++++++++++++

    it’s like an imaginary world. like the neighborhood of make-believe on mr. roger’s neighborhood.

    mark dever is like king friday. well, a number of men act like kings (so a king saturday, king sunday, king monday, king tuesday, king wednesday, king thursday)

    megalomaniacs… with paper mache heads and little handerkerchief bodies, short little arms authoritativey flapping about…all around 12″ tall.

    can’t say i don’t take pleasure in totally disregarding their imaginary authority.

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  49. me:
    I have to say that I agree that abstaining from his services / sermons is a good idea. They should not start again when the contagion ends, though.

    I think it’s a fair chance that “social distancing” may become “the new normal” even if effective therapies and/or a vaccine are found. This is likely to be seasonal and even with therapies available, large gatherings may be, going forward, a bad idea.

    I’m guessing that a lot of the mega-people right now are trying to figure out how to monetize TV and internet “ministry”.

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  50. Todd Wilhelm: I am not aware of a radio ministry, but he does participate in a podcast on the 9Marx website:
    https://www.9marks.org/pastors-talk/episode-120-on-shepherding-saints-while-sheltered-in-place-with-garrett-kell/

    Next Thought: It’s okay to participate in podcast, but not okay to livestream church services/sermons? I’m missing something in this thought. Physical presence requirements are different between the two.

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  51. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “Hmmm… Individuals empowered with courage and strength apart from a membership covenant and heavy-handed discipline?!? Tsk Tsk Tsk!”
    ++++++++++++

    “Stop, Wonder Woman! Stop, I say! You do not have the authority to fly fist first through that rock mountain to save us all!”,

    said King Friday Mark Dever, 12″ tall and flapping his little flappy arms about, right before she zooms in and swoops her hand into his handkerchief body and paper mache head, flying him to safety.

    “You are under church discipline for being sinfully strong and courageous!”, he said, still chattering, as she set him down at his castle before flying off and away to rescue the other pastors in one armful.

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  52. About six weeks ago, four golf buddies and myself got together to do daily morning devotionals by email. Each of us has a weekday. It has been an incredible blessing. We each get the opportunity to share our spiritual insights while at the same time growing more intimate as brothers in Christ.

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  53. elastigirl: it’s like an imaginary world. like the neighborhood of make-believe on mr. roger’s neighborhood.

    I think you are exactly right. They are so depraved and corrupted that they created their world to serve them. What’s really strange is that they know they are depraved and have to imagine it on everyone else like some equalizing factor, then they still place themselves above others.

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  54. Dale:
    About six weeks ago, four golf buddies and myself got together to do daily morning devotionals by email. Each of us has a weekday. It has been an incredible blessing. We each get the opportunity to share our spiritual insights while at the same time growing more intimate as brothers in Christ.

    Dale, that’s awesome! You are being the church, instead of sitting as an observer instead of a participant.

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  55. Wild Honey: But then, I was getting restless with 50 minute sermons every week, anyways, so this is probably more my problem than their problem

    Ah. See our entire service is about 50 minutes! The sermons are 15-20m tops. The service itself online is actually shorter than a normal service too since a lot of the corporate stuff is cut out…I have enjoyed them and I actually liked the Facebook live commenting because it was nice to see people but the only did it the first weej

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  56. Friend: The streets are not empty because of sin and corruption.

    The streets are empty because billions of people are trying to limit a worldwide contagion.

    I would think that God is relieved we are staying indoors.

    Indeed. The world is doom and gloom enough right now I don’t especially want to hear mr js version of why.

    Although interestingly people are taking a lot of walks where I live….so the streets aren’t really empty.

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  57. Muff Potter,

    “Thing is though, Mr. Rogers was the real deal, he went out into the world and practiced Jesus. He helped make the world a better place in the here and now.”
    +++++++++++++

    indeed. i love mr. rogers. i didn’t appreciate him as a little kid — he wasn’t kool and exciting like The Electric Company was (i’m talking very young, here).

    but watching footage now… he really moves me to tears, his kindness and sincerity. agenda-free. selling nothing. just giving. totally devoid of self, zero false humility.

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  58. elastigirl,

    I agree. I loved watching both Mr. Rogers and the Electric company in the television entertainment world. Never liked nor watched Sesame Street or anything muppetish as everything we watch has an agenda. Watched Billy Graham as a child and found myself turned off by his message of self righteousness while earning volumes of money from religion. His religious and monetary empire reaches into the millions all the while Jesus never had a place to rest His head.

    Guess using the name of a jesus figure earns one millions, glory, fame, and a following like Diotrephes.

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  59. Muff Potter,

    “but watching footage now… he really moves me to tears, his kindness and sincerity. agenda-free. selling nothing. just giving. totally devoid of self, zero false humility.

    Quite a far cry from the fundagelical pretenders huh?:
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    yes, i had added some extra footnotes on the striking contrast… but nixed them (erring on side of being happy-go-lucky)

    but, (now erring on the side of being too negative — let’s just call it realistic), even at my most recent church (which was the best of churches, with very good people as leaders), the whole “way of doing things” just can’t help but have an agenda, can’t help but sell something, can’t help but promote self, with a variety of masks including false humility.

    smaller groups, no stage, and no money in the equation…i have to think these things would help.

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  60. Samuel Conner: Things that aren’t explicitly warranted in Scripture are not to be done, lest they anger the Deity and bring upon the congregation or its leaders the kinds of punishments that one sees from time to time in Scripture for transgressions related to the details of worship (e.g. premature death for partaking unworthily, 1 Cor, or death for offering “strange fire”, Leviticus). It might be sort of a “whatever is not commanded is forbidden” mentality.

    Wait… was electronic amplification available to Jesus?

    Electric guitars in the praise worship band?

    Was email to cancel church meetings available in Paul’s time?

    I think not. The whole thing falls apart pretty quickly if you give it any thought and have read scripture for yourself.

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  61. Mrs Clutterbug: If I remember correctly Mark Dever will not give communion to his friend Ligon Duncan a Presbyterian because he baptizes babies.

    Here is what Dever says he can and cannot tolerate:
    https://www.9marks.org/article/what-i-can-and-cannot-live-pastor/

    Note his emphasis on slowly changing immature congregations. There is no question about whether the pastor is wrong in wanting to make those changes. When people complain abouy the YRR playbook, this is the complaint.

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