I am a long-time lurker and seldom commenter at TWW. I left a spiritually abusive church after 15 years. They are Mohler/T4G/Gospel Coalition/CBMW sycophants, chock full of male headship and church discipline. I was dug deep in at church for a time, drinking the Kool-Aid and thinking that we were the only church that had Christianity really figured out… leaving has been painful but I am thankful we are out.Reason I write is that I still keep tabs on my former church, and they announced that they were joining a new fellowship of churches… “ACME Fellowship” My first thought was I’m so thankful they’re publishing the members of this group because those would be churches I would absolutely positively avoid.Beyond that, I thought it might be something worth looking into. I’d love to read your take on their requirements for membership in the fellowship.
Knowing that I spent four years of my life in a 9Marx church in Dubai that sounded similar to what our reader endured for fifteen years, Dee thought I may like to look into this “association of churches” that calls themselves ACME. Dee was right.
I am 65 years old and I realize things have changed from my childhood days, so the younger generation may not track with me on this, but the first thing I thought of when I heard the word “ACME” was my favorite Saturday morning cartoon – The Road Runner. I spent many Saturday mornings in front of the television watching Wiley E Coyote attempt to capture the elusive Road Runner. To my delight, Wiley E Coyote was never successful. He made elaborate plans to catch the Road Runner, often with equipment he obtained from ACME, but his plans always backfired.
Why the 9Marx book on top of the anvil? Stay tuned! What follows is a brief look into ACME.
From the ACME website, I found this:
- ACME stands for “Association of Churches for Missions & Evangelism.”
- “ACME exists to unite and mobilize like-minded churches to fund pastors, church planters, missionaries, and other projects around the world.”
- “ACME pools money from its member church to provide grants. These grants will fund like-minded work such as church plants and revitalizations, international missionaries, and other like-minded ministry.”
- “Ideally, ACME churches would give between 2-4 percent of their budget to support this work.”
As you will soon see, many of the churches in the ACME Association are SBC churches. The SBC gives millions of dollars every year to support both North American Missions and International Missions, so why the need for ACME? I believe our reader hit upon the reason when he stated, “I was dug deep in at church for a time, drinking the Kool-Aid and thinking that we were the only church that had Christianity really figured out…”
Come to find out they weren’t the only church that had Christianity really figured out – it would appear ACME consists of a subset of Baptist churches that felt the need to start their own Association of churches that have Christianity figured out!
Our reader said he would love to read our take on their requirements for membership in the ACME fellowship. From the ACME website, here are what member churches affirm.
For starters, this ACME document of Affirmations states “ACME promotes biblical principles that link churches across geographic, ethnic, and denominational lines. ACME Churches adhere to the eight following Member Church Affirmations.” But the second affirmation appears to be counter to linking across denominational lines!
Historic Baptistic Ecclesiology
We are Baptist in our understanding of baptism and polity. This means that we stand with Baptists throughout history in affirming that the Bible teaches that baptism is a personal and public declaration of one’s faith in the Lord Jesus, and therefore its only proper subjects are those who personally and credibly profess faith in him. Likewise, the only proper candidates for membership in a local church are those who have been baptized as believers.
ACME doesn’t seem to want any Presbyterians in their midst. I guess the member churches have officially closed the book on “Together 4 the Gospel.” (Thanks C.J. Mahaney! So long, Ligon Duncan!)
What impressed me from these 8 Affirmations is how closely they follow Mark Dever’s “9 Marks of a Healthy Church.” Below is the table of contents from that book. Compare it to the Affirmations above.
That isn’t the only connection to 9Marx. Take a look at the ACME member churches. Notice the top line of the middle column – Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Cheverly Baptist Church is the church where Jonathan Leeman is an elder. River City Baptist is pastored by Matt Smethurst. Smethurst was a Dever intern and then an elder at Greg Gilbert’s Third Avenue Baptist- also listed below. Gilbert is also a former Dever intern. Mount Vernon Baptist is pastored by Aaron Menikoff. Menikoff was one of the original assistant pastors of Mark Dever. I don’t have time or space to go through all of these churches at this time, but there are many with connections to Mark Dever/9Marks.
Now look at ACME’s Board and their ties to Mark Dever/9Marx.
Geoff Chang, Wornall Road Baptist Church, Kansas City, MO – Mark Dever intern – Fall 2006.
Greg Gilbert, Third Avenue Baptist Church, Louisville, KY – Mark Dever intern – Fall 2000.
Omar Johnson, Temple Hills Baptist Church, Temple Hills, MD – Mark Dever Intern -Fall 2017.
Michael Lawrence, Hinson Baptist Church, Portland, OR – 9Marks author of “Conversion:How God Creates a People” -former Associate (8 years) Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
Aaron Menikoff, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA – Former staff member and elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Friend of John Folmar. When Folmar added 6 additional months to his first 6-month sabbatical he made Mount Vernon Baptist Church his home. He preached at Menikoff’s church on at least one occasion.
Jonathan Rourke, Tri-City Bible Church, Vista, CA. – Masters Seminary, assistant pastor at MacArthur’s Grace Church for 9 years. See his 9marx article on church merger https://www.9marks.org/article/when-two-become-one-legal-considerations-of-a-church-merger/ Mahaney imitation at Resolved Conference – https://youtu.be/dE1yKTS3WFY?si=wKhm4YOj8RnbF6Yg
Juan Sanchez, High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, TX – 9Marx video on church discipline. Authored 9Marx book What Do Deacons Do?” 9Marx video When to Leave a Church. SBTS graduate Masters and PhD. Friend of John Folmar – Folmar had one of his assistants preach at the church in Texas he was pastoring while on sabbatical from Dubai.
ACME’s connections to Mark Dever/Capitol Hill Baptist Church/9Marks should be obvious to all. My question is why was ACME formed? Is this Association preparing to leave the SBC? I doubt it. I go back to the comment above that said they think they are the only ones doing church right. They want to produce new churches in their “image.” It would be interesting to note if these ACME churches have cut their donations to SBC missions.
For some interesting background on SBC missions, I suggest reading this article in SBC Voices written in 2014 by William Thornton.
One last thing. ACME is having a “National Strategy Conference” in May 2024. I would love to hear what is discussed at that 3 day event!