9Marks Writes on Church Membership and Discipline, Again. Always Read Between the Lines.

“Never laugh at live dragons.” JRR Tolkien


It is no surprise that 9Marks (aka 9Marx) writes about their favorite subjects: church membership and discipline. It often becomes necessary not to let that organization forget the abuses of the system it set up. Folks, always read between the lines so you don’t get trapped in a system that may treat you unjustly. Recently, they posted Church Discipline and Expressive Individualism by Johnathan Parnell.

Parnell discusses expressive individualism, which has two components.

  1. Exclusive humanism means humans on their own, without God.
  2. Immanent frame: if that meaning can’t be found in transcendence, then it must be found in what is immanent—in what is here, accessible, earthly.

It is no surprise that such thinking leads to individuals seeking meaning in the present moment and then advertising their individualism with symbols such as favorite sports teams whose emblems they display on their cars, clothes, etc. CJ Mahaney, a great friend of Mark Dever, displayed his “sports persona” by wearing shorts and discussing his favorite teams. I once attended a church to hear him speak. It seemed like he discussed a local basketball game for 10 minutes. But he threw in God and church discipline for good measure, so he was only a partial adherent to finding transcendence in pretending he was a sporty kind of guy.

Finding transcendence in earthly things is not just found in the here and now. I recently watched a series on the “Gilded Age.” It is fascinating to find that such expressive individualism was front and center in the “court” of Mrs. Astor. God may have been mentioned, but only rarely in order to pretend they were interested in more than Mr. Vanderbilt’s stunning Biltmore House. Bringing focus to what is available in earthly pleasures is a problem of the ages. Just look at the conga line of fallen pastors.

I was about to say: here is the real topic of interest when it appears the author does it for me.

So now we come to the real topic. FIRST, CHURCH MEMBERSHIP

He then moves quickly on to the second topic: The “audacity of the discipline.”

Why is church membership vital in order to achieve the audacity of discipline?

It always revolves around church discipline. Some 9Marx churches will hound you to join ASAP. They have a job to do on you.

Therefore, for a Christian to even join a local church—or rather, to submit to a local church—they must directly renounce expressive individualism by accepting the church’s role in announcing and shaping their public identity.

For pastors, explaining this counter-cultural reality of church membership is the first step to teaching our people the necessity of church discipline.

9Marx appears guilty of audacious and erroneous church discipline.

Parnell gives one example.

For example, imagine that a church member abandons his spouse because he finds the marriage no longer fulfilling. He’s convinced that Jesus desires his personal fulfillment above all things, and so he walks away from his marital vows, disobeying Ephesians 5:22–33. What’s really happening here is that the member is forsaking Jesus to serve self, and it’s the church’s responsibility to exhort the member to stop.

There are few Christians, myself included, who would disagree with the need for some input into this man’s life for duping his spouse.

So all is well, right? Many Christians assume this is the sort of thing the church will be disciplining, and they might find they have been wrong, really wrong.

Check your church manual. See if you can find a list of things they will discipline. I feel that many of you will not find such a list. Guess why?

It goes a little deeper. It appears that churches are getting pushback on how they apply discipline. The writer leads the reader to assume that it’s just the silly, expressive individual who disagrees with the audacity of discipline.

Increasingly, though, the mindset of expressive individualism tempts Christians to disagree with the church’s judgment or even count such confrontations as sinful. In many cases, the individual will find a way to justify his behavior on the grounds of what Trueman calls an “anarchic emotive morality.” Expressive individualism cares less about unrepentant sin and more about the unrepentant audacity of the church to judge behavior sinful when the individual disagrees.

Could it be that Church discipline is often applied unjustly by pastors? I have written post after post about the application of unjust discipline. Todd Wilhelm was unjustly disciplined in his 9Marx church for refusing to sell CJ Mahaney books in the bookstore and then resigning from the church. They applied “retroactive church discipline,” a term I invented after that audacious discipline failed.

Cultish or poorly trained pastors cause real pain by imposing unjust discipline.

I would not trust any 9Marx church to apply church discipline. They will not accept blame for the outcome in many churches that have audacious church discipline. They won’t give anyone a list of what they discipline because they want the freedom to discipline whatever they please and whenever they feel like it. That is audacious because it leads to unjust discipline by poorly trained and/or cultish pastors.

Here are some things to think about.

  • When you sign a church covenant, you are signing a legal document. Churches will use these in a court of law to prove they can discipline you in case you decide to sue them. I do not advise signing such a document. If they tell you it isn’t a legal document, they are either ill-informed or obfuscating.
  • They will tell you that you must get their permission to resign or face the consequences (discipline.) You may leave any church, anytime, and you do not have to give them a reason. It is helpful to send them a certified letter stating you have signed but don’t speak with them after you have done so.
  • Ask for a list of things that they will discipline. If they won’t give you one, be very careful. People have been unjustly disciplined for not sharing a pastor’s “vision casting.”
  • If your church uses 9Marks material, be very careful.

Many years ago, I wrote Church Discipline and Abuse. In the post, I wrote about a number of abusive church discipline practices. I am going to reproduce it here since it is chock full of the abuses of church discipline. It sounds nice when you read it in Scripture, but never, ever forget that pastors and church leaders are still sinful as we all are. Some people use the church for their own ego trip (“admirals in rowboats.”) So here’s some advice with a little bit of expressive individualism thrown in. Take care of yourself and your family. There are live dragons masquerading in pulpits all over. Yes, there are wonderful pastors, but not ALL are who they appear to be. Be smart.

(PS This was written before Grammarly, and I can’t afford an editor.)


Church discipline is today’s hottest topic in churches. There is no question that 9Marks is the leader in the need to discipline in the church. They define it thusly:

Church discipline is the process of correcting sin in the life of the congregation and its members. This can mean correcting sin through a private word of admonition. And it can mean correcting sin by formally removing an individual from membership. Church discipline can be done in any number of ways, but the goal is always to correct transgressions of God’s law among God’s people.

The Process based on Matthew 18:15-20

  1. A congregant is told to stop and repent of a particular sin.
  2. If he doesn’t, then two or more people are told to confront him.
  3. Then it gets announced to the church.
  4. Then the congregant gets kicked out of the church. if he doesn’t *repent.*

The Real Problem: What should be disciplined is not defined a priori.

We are all sinners and all of us are dealing, day to day, with our walk with God. What sins should be disciplined?

There is no question that some sins are severe. 1 Corinthians 5 deals with a case of incest in the church. I doubt there are many who would disagree that such a sin should be disciplined. Other such sins might include cases of adultery in which a man leaves his wife and children, someone who embezzles money from the church, etc.

The bad news is this.  Many churches decide, on the fly, to discipline just about anything. This might include pride, divisiveness, arrogance, sinfully craving answers to questions (we kid you not), resigning from church, asking questions about budgets, disagreeing with a pastor, etc.

Why won’t they define which sins they punish up front?

Unfortunately, church leaders are sinners just like the rest of us. They can use these poorly defined rules to stifle disagreement, to play “I’m the authority around here” card, to get rid of opposition so the pastor can do things his way, or just because they are in a bad mood. One man got disciplined for not smiling at his pastor in the supermarket!

Would you move to a country that had no defined laws and a police force that could arrest you for anything? Why should you be member of a church that practices church discipline and refuses to tell you what they will discipline?

Two classic examples of abusive church discipline

1. Karen Hinkley and Matt Chandler’s Village Church

Karen discovered that her husband was viewing child pornography while they were together on the mission field. There were confessions of pedophile behavior as well. Karen returned home and the state of Texas allowed her an annulment of her marriage.The church put her under discipline and claimed that her ex-husband was *walking in repentance* after about a month of counseling. Along with Amy Smith of Watchkeep, we broke this story which became known internationally. The actions of the church were so grievous that eventually Matt Chandler had to apologize to Karen and state that she was certainly justified in seeking a divorce from her pervert husband. The embarrassment and harassment from the church that Karen endured are well documented in our series.

The Village Church, Child Pornography and a Hero Makes a Statement

Part 1-Jordan Root Is a Confessed Internet Child Sex Abuser: Should The Village Church Trust Him?

Part 2: The Abuse of Church Discipline at The Village Church

Watchkeep: Karen Hinkley’s Response to The Village Church Email

The Village Church: Child Pornography is Child Sex Abuse/ Josh Duggar /Christian Janeway’s Story

Matt Chandler’s Sermon Asking for Forgiveness While Stressing the Need for Church Discipline

An Apology from Matt Chandler/Elders of The Village Church and a Statement of Forgiveness from Karen Hinkley

The Village Church and 9Marks Demonstrate Why Church Discipline Is Not Ready for Prime Time

My Comment on The Village Church’s Discipline Was Not Approved at First Things. Why?

Why Is Bryan Loritts Featured at The Village Church Website? Doesn’t Matt Chandler Get It?

Lessons Learned From The Village Church and Matt Chandler on Membership, Abuse and Repentance

A TWW Tutorial Analyzing The Village Church Elders Apology to Karen Hinkley and Others

2. Todd Wilhelm and UCC Dubai- a 9 Marks church

Todd Wilhelm, a member of UCCDubai was being considered for a position of leadership in the church. He discovered that the church was selling CJ Mahaney books in the bookstore and that 9 Marks, as a whole continued to support CJ Mahaney after the accusations of the coverup of child sex abuse against Sovereign Grace Churches. Mark Dever, the head of 9Marks, remains a very close friend and supporter of CJ Mahaney.

Todd, an advocate fighting against child sex abuse, said he could not, in good conscience, support the bookstore. When the church refused to remove CJ Mahaney’s books, he decided he would resign from the church. Being a person of intelligence, he decided to look at a variety of churches before joining one. This was in direct violation of their membership covenant (we will be writing on this next week) which states you must join an approved church immediately. Wilhelm was put on a list of possible people to be disciplined (names a care group) for 6 months.

Todd offered to sign a waiver so that the church would publicly discuss why they put him on the discipline list. 9Marks declined.

So, here you have a man making a principled stand in a foreign country. Child sex abuse mattered more to him than pushing books by CJ Mahaney for 9Marks. He was abused by the church for acting in a rational, Biblical manner.

Oddly enough, when CJ Mahaney was disciplined by his own church, Mark Dever allowed him to attend Capitol Hill Baptist Church, even allowing him to preach, which demonstrates that church discipline only applied to the little guy in their system.

My, My Dubai: 9Marks Played Hardball While Lifeway/ David Platt Stretched the Truth

The Magisterium of the United Christian Church of Dubai Have Spoken (By: Todd Wilhelm)

TWW Suggestions

We do not believe you should officially join a church that strongly emphasizes church discipline unless you have observed them in action for a few years. We believe that such churches are itching for an opportunity to exercise their authority. We also believe they do not understand common sense. If Matt Chandler couldn’t get it right, and he is a really in with the 9Marks boys, then why would any other pastor get it right?

However, if you have signed on the dotted line and the membership contract states you cannot leave a church while under discipline, you can legally leave the church, no matter what they say. You can resign from your church whenever you wish. Please refer to  “How to Resign From Your Church,” and we will give you tips.

Finally, if you must attend one of these church, look for a large(meg) New Calvinist church. There are several in our area. There are so many people attending that you can go to church each week and participate in activities and they will not know if you are a member of not.

Another story of church discipline/abuse

Heritage Bible Chapel Admonishes a Former Member to Repent or Else…

Are Pastors at Heritage Bible Chapel Re-Abusing Wives Harmed in Abusive Marriages?

Did Southern Baptist and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminaries Replicate a Hotel California at Heritage Bible Chapel in Princeton, MA?

Links to stories of church discipline

The following links are from stories that we have written on church discipline. We hope you will find them helpful as you explore this area. We are one of the few blogs that has written extensively about abusive church discipline and we have one thing to say. Caveat Emptor!

Church Discipline – A Difficult Task? Guest Post by Todd Wilhelm

Fellowship Memphis: It Appears Seeking Truth and Righteousness Deserves Church Discipline

The Allegedly Abusive Church Discipline Practices of Steve Estes: Senior Pastor of CEFC and Lecturer at Westminster Theological Seminary

2015: Abusive Church Discipline, Gender Confusion, Defective Membership Contracts and the Silence of Gospel™ Leaders

If *Simil Justus et Peccator;* Then What Should the Churcch Discipline?

9Marks and Church Discipline at SEBTS: What About Case Studies?

Guest Poster at SBC Voices Shares Concerns About Extreme ‘Church Discipline’

Jonathan Leeman and 9 Marks: Abusive Church Discipline and the Problem With Matthew 18

Membership Covenant Abuse: A Rebuttal to Leadership Journal Post on Church Discipline

Capitol Hill Baptist Church/9 Marks: The *Hotel California* of Church Discipline

Is This Church Discipline Acts 29 Style?

Ill-defined Church Discipline in the Hands of Sinful Leadership

Church Discipline Is Ill-Defined/ The Wounded Warriors

Abusive Church Discipline: How to Recognize It and Escape

Should Autonomous Churches be Cooperating in Church Discipline?

Is Church Discipline Going Rogue?

Is Church Discipline Getting a Bad Rap? Yes and No

My Experience with Church Discipline at Covenant Fellowship – Debra Baker

TGC Takes ‘Church’ Discipline to a Whole Nutha Level!

Churches Attempting to Force Mediation and Limit Members’ Right to Resign Under Discipline™

Evangelical Free Church of America Intervenes in Punishment of Abuse Victim; Steve Estes Thumbs His Nose and Westminster Theological Seminary Remains Silent

What Should We Do About 9Marks and Other Abusive Churches? Guest Post by Dale

What Makes 9Marks Churches So Unhealthy? – Guest Post by Dale

Should Members Keep Giving Money to a Church That Refuses to Disclose the Pastor’s Salary?

The Gospel Coalition Gives Potentially Problematic Legal Advice on Church Covenants and Civil Lawsuits

How to Research and Avoid Churches Like Heritage Bible Chapel, Charles River Church, or Southshore Bible Church

Ryan Ashton’s Experience of Abuse in Monday Nights, a Redlands, CA House Church

Tim Challies: Church Members Drool; Pastors Rule

Update on LaVonne Pfeil: The Little Old Lady Who Was Lied About and Thrown Out of Her Church

Jessica Fore, a Victim of Domestic Violence, Is Indicted by The Presbyterian Church in America for Contempt Toward the Church and Its Leaders

Nine Marks of an Abusive Church

NeoCalvinists in Charge: Are They Creating a Divisive *Us versus Them* Church Culture?

A TWW Tutorial: Steve Estes of Community Evangelical Free Church (EFCA) Excommunicates Domestic Violence Victim Who Was Married to His Son

Ken Ramey and Lakeside Bible Church Elders Cause Pain for a Young Rape Victim and His Mother

Ken Ramey of Lakeside Bible Church, a John MacArthur and 9Marks Supporter, Has a Disturbing Response to a Young Teen’s Rape

9Marks and Grace to You: You Dumb Sheep Can’t Last Without an Approved™ Church to Protect You

You Thought Skynet Was Bad? Wait Until You See What Is Coming to a Church Near You

Woman Excommunicated from Lutheran Church Takes Legal Action

Pastor Who Ejected 103 Year Old Church Member Voted Out by Congregation

Banned From Church – Two Christian Grandmas Kicked to the Curb by Their Pastors

Have You Been Reported to Your Church Leaders? TWW Has Got You Covered!

The Dones: Faithful Church Refugees and the DeChurched Project

Do Acts 29 Churches Share the Same DNA as the Mothership – Matt Chandler’s The Village Church?

The Presumption and Favoritism Involved in the 9 Marks View of Church Resignation

71-Year-Old Granny Perp-Walked Out of Church – Say It Ain’t So!!!

First, It Was Biblical™ and Gospel™; Now They Are Messing with Love™


Comments

9Marks Writes on Church Membership and Discipline, Again. Always Read Between the Lines. — 96 Comments

  1. Given how common marriage breakups are, even in the churches, I would think that it might be prudent to discourage marriage at a young age and counsel more prolonged courtships, with a lot of counseling. I have the impression that the opposite is the case in many of these churches. Maybe strong marriages are actually not wanted; this is a cynical thought, but strong relationships within subgroups might be subversive of the authority of the “lead” hierarch, particularly if husbands and wives listen to each other and trust each others’ judgment.

    > One man got disciplined for not smiling at his pastor in the supermarket!

    Another advantage of NPIs such as N95 respirators.

    And then there’s the standard public-health principle of avoiding infectious people. 100m from the spreading event location should be sufficient distance. That might be close enough that one could still hear the singing (along the coughing.)

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  2. I spent many years in a 9Marx, discipline-heavy church. 4 years ago I left that toxic mess and nearly left Jesus, too. (I recall thinking at the time “if this is the good news about Jesus, I want nothing to do with him!”)

    Fast forward to today: Sunday after next I will join a lovely Lutheran congregation. After the membership class I asked my Pastor “what’s the next step? Do I need to sign a doctrinal statement or something?” He gave me a quizzical look and replied “um, no, we don’t do that here. After service we will welcome you to the fellowship. It’s pretty simple”

    I will never forget the look of bemusement and mild confusion on his face – it said so much – The idea of signing something to join the church was completely foreign to him… imagine that!

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  3. the article on 9 marks sounds like setting the foundations of a new holy catholic church dogma. ‘relinquishing’ one’s rights is a weird manner to describe what’s done upon membership, sounds cultic. at the end, we all are individually blessed or condemned based on our faith in christ, or not. in seeking to make our calling and election sure, it’s helpful to know we are a specific part of the body of Christ, but to transliterate that to one local governmental expression and relinquishing rights, just doesn’t sound right. this is prior to folding in the rottenness of many church leaders today, and the lack of commitment leaders have demonstrated to individual members… I’m thankful for the good leaders through the years, but not all were.
    not gonna relinquish anything to be part of a group, I’m already part of the body. 1cor11.28-32

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  4. “…submit to a local church…”

    Really, a “local church”? How does a “local church” define itself? I went to a 9Marks-affiliated church. It was explicitly stated in the bylaws that only the elders had decision-making authority in the church. Members had no authority whatsoever.

    So, who were the elders? The senior pastor and his two loyal friends/disciples. If a member thought they were submitting to “a local church”, what it meant in my context was submitting to the senior pastor and his two flying monkeys.

    Hard pass.

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  5. A friend was interested in joining CHBC a couple of years ago. He had been baptized as an infant in a Presbyterian church. Dever or an elder told him to join he’d have to be baptized by immersion. Friend says, that’s fine, I don’t have a problem with that. But that made the guy mad. No, you have to affirm baptism by immersion, not just be baptized and be OK with it. Friend had been a sound believer for 30 years. He gave up on CHBC which is a good thing IMO. I wonder if Dever and Co. still hold to this view.

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  6. Jes: not gonna relinquish anything to be part of a group, I’m already part of the body. 1cor11.28-32

    Exactly.

    Re: discipline in churches … the Ananias and Sapphira event was purely a work of the Holy Spirit. God Himself deals with people, without question.

    It is on church members to not support predatory leaders, however. Not supporting predatory perverse profiteering power hungry leaders would be a reasonable great start to authentic church “discipline”. Matthew 10:14, the disciples are told to “shake the dust off your feet.”

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  7. There is no doubt that there are those in the church who openly rebel and defy God through their behavior. But many of the ones that these guys harshly criticize as deconstructionists or “exclusive, humanists” are actually rebelling against a corrupt and oppressive institutional church. They will be held responsible for their roles in making people both inside and outside the church defame the name of Christ.

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  8. Godith,

    I have a friend in a similar situation. Grew up in a Presbyterian church and baptized as a youngster. Now a long time attender of the 9Marxist church I formerly attended. Not only is this person being pressured to get ‘re-baptized’, but also being pressuerd to join and is forbidden now to partake of communion until those things happen. Power trip indeed!

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  9. Jes: Sounds more like a power struggle.

    Just like Dobson’s child-rearing (and dog-training).
    Everything is Power Struggle between parent and child or owner and dog. EVERYTHING.
    Hold the Whip or Feel the Whip, nothing in-between.
    And when God comes into the picture, it’s only to Hold the Biggest Whip of all.

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  10. Paul K: “…submit to a local church…”

    Really, a “local church”? How does a “local church” define itself? I

    Well, during the “CULT! CULT! CULT! under every bed!” paranoia of the Seventies there was this one Only True Church that actually named themselves “The Local Church” and claimed that every reference to “Local Church” in the NT referred to themselves and themselves alone. I don’t know any details beyond that.

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  11. Samuel Conner: Given how common marriage breakups are, even in the churches, I would think that it might be prudent to discourage marriage at a young age and counsel more prolonged courtships, with a lot of counseling.

    But that goes right against “Salvation by Marriage Alone” church culture.

    Where if you’re not equally yoked by 21 (at the latest) you’re the target of every whispering campaign and if you’re 30+ you graduate to “FAG! FAAAG! FAAAAAAAG!”

    And where just saying “Hi!” to someone is Commitment to Marry on pain of Defrauding (with God holding the shotgun).

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  12. FreshGrace,

    Godith,

    Just an aside, but, as far as I know, all SBC churches require baptism in an SBC church to join an SBC affiliated church. I grew up SBC, but, as a child, I accepted Jesus at a General Baptist church during VBS. I was baptized at the GB church (full immersion), but later, I had to be baptized AGAIN to become a member of an SBC church. It took some long discussions between a teenage me and the pastor to convince me to be baptized again, and to this day it still makes on sense. (This pastor was one of the good guys, he couldn’t make it make sense to me, but he did gently help me understand that this was necessary to be part of the church body.)

    Sheeesh! The Ethiopian eunuch would have to get baptized again to become a member of an SBC church!

    The only way to become a member of one SBC church with out getting dunked again is to already be a member of another SBC church, and just request a membership transfer.
    During my 50+ years in SBC pews, I’ve witnessed a lot of debates between potential new members and pastors/deacons over this.

    Just sayin’ that’s how it is……….I am definitely not defending 9Marx in any way, shape or form, and I never will.

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  13. Jeffrey J Chalmers: We have a Mega church in town, has been a “Mega Church” for over 35 years, and it is from the Christian Brothern flavor.. You need to be dunked, three times FORWARD. If you were forward dunked just once that is not good enough.. sigh… it never ends..

    We also have a ‘Mega Church’ in my nearby area.
    Judging by the high-end rides that pack their parking-lot and how traffic gets snarled every Sunday morning, they gotta’ be pulling in mega-bucks too.

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  14. Jack: Check out Deuteronomy 23 verse 2

    So men can have their “parts” removed to get out of a 9marks contract. Since men are the “head” of the family (if you’ll allow me a small “bon mot”) then their wives and children are off the hook too. Single women are kind of hooped but can’t sign any contract without a male covering anyway so yeah, alls good.

    No registered letters, no court orders.

    Everyone is free, no one is excommunicated, and you save 10% with no more tithes!

    Theology at work!

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  15. Thank you for you continuous information about church memberships and contracts. I encouraged a co-worker to read a few of your writings/articles about it when she told me her pastor asked her to become a member along with her husband. She said they had a lot to discuss after reading here.

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  16. Headless Unicorn Guy: there was this one Only True Church that actually named themselves “The Local Church” and claimed that every reference to “Local Church” in the NT referred to themselves and themselves alone. I don’t know any details beyond that.

    That was Witness Lee, the semi-cultic disciple of Watchman Nee. I’ve always wondered why Mark Dever has pushed the term “local church.”

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  17. When CJ Mahaney fled church discipline to the hub church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church and the esteemed pastor Mark Dever, who accepted him with open arms and did not insist he go back to the church seeking to ask him questions, that told me all I needed to know. If you know the esteemed pastor then church discipline wasn’t that big a deal after all. Start poking around and you will probably find that church discipline for these folks of 9Marks is only for convenience. When it comes to a buddy or something inconvenient, they will pass.

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  18. A few days ago I mentioned that I was re-reading The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by Johnson and VanVonderen, thinking about lending it to a friend. I had already lent her Ruth Tucker’s book Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife. She has since read that and returned it, and took the Johnson/VanVonderen book, as well as Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That?: inside the minds of angry and controlling men. Much of what those authors write applies to her situation.

    Anyway, I’m now re-reading Ruth Tucker’s book which, along with Dee, also mentions the Karen Hinckley story and Matt Chandler’s church (page 78), so that’s timely with this blog, but then I tend to obsess on a few things, and lots of crap is timely with this blog.

    Just to say, again: I highly recommend any of those books.

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  19. “expressive individualism” … “exclusive humanism” … “imminent frame”

    The New Calvinists are trying way too hard to come across as intellectual … but it is not smart to substitute intellectual pursuit for spiritual ascent when it comes to the things of faith. The 9Marxists serve up a cold stale religion framed in doctrinal propositions about grace, rather than a personal experience of Grace through an encounter with Christ. There’s no life in it, just jots and tittles of authoritarian law and discipline. Buyer beware!

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  20. Ken A: Start poking around and you will probably find that church discipline for these folks of 9Marks is only for convenience. When it comes to a buddy or something inconvenient, they will pass.

    The NeoCal dudebros protect and cover for each other until the potato becomes too hot to handle. Then it becomes “Driscoll who?” … “MacDonald who?” … “Mahaney who?” … etc. etc.

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  21. Rapid Roy: I spent many years in a 9Marx, discipline-heavy church. 4 years ago I left that toxic mess and nearly left Jesus, too. (I recall thinking at the time “if this is the good news about Jesus, I want nothing to do with him!”)

    When the NeoCal bubble breaks (it will), multiple thousands will be left confused and disillusioned … they may never venture into Christian faith again … whose plan would that be? A careful observer will note that “Love” is not on the 9 Marks of a healthy church.

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  22. Godith,

    I did say AFAIK, and I’m not all that surprised. I’m sure (and happy) that they are a few churches somewhere that will accept baptisms by other faiths, and no particular faith. Even as a former SBCer, having to be baptized AGAIN to join an SBC church seems pretty conceited to me — a cuz they’re God’s Special Pets kinda thing???

    BTW, the SBC and the AMC were initially one and the same, with a Triennial Convention. They split over slavery, and became the Northern Baptists (changed name to American Baptist later) and the Southern Baptists. From what I understand, beliefs are still very similar (except for women’s “roles”).

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  23. Ted: That was Witness Lee, the semi-cultic disciple of Watchman Nee.

    Witness Lee (real derivative name) wasn’t the only “semi-cultic disciple” out there.
    When I was in-country in the mid-Seventies, Watchman Nee was yet another 67th Book of the Bible, sharing that spot with Hal Lindsay.

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  24. Muff Potter: We also have a ‘Mega Church’ in my nearby area.
    Judging by the high-end rides that pack their parking-lot

    “High-end rides” as in $90,000 Thicc Trucks the size of WW2 tanks, weighing 3+ tons, jacked to where their hoods are taller than a pedestrian, and a truck bed sized around 2-4 golf bags?

    (My father used to say if a pickup or station wagon (remember those?) couldn’t haul 4×8 (120x240cm) sheets of plywood or drywall, it wasn’t worth the name.)

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  25. Headless Unicorn Guy: pickup

    I bought my last Chevy pickup 23 years ago … no power windows or computer screen on the dash … still running good (Praise the Lord!) … the only luxury feature is AC … use it to go fishing and haul whatever I need to. I lament the passing of “real” pickup trucks. They departed from the scene about the same time that big screens, fog machines and skinny jeans took over the American church.

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  26. Muff Potter: Makes me think of the scene in Soylent Green where old timey actor Edward G. Robinson weeps into his hands saying:
    “How did we come to this?”

    It would be refreshing to see an outbreak of that in the American church! … for the people of God to come to their spiritual senses, look around at how we are doing church without God, and weep before the altar in humility and prayer for God to forgive us and change us. Maybe then there would be hope for a better day and a return to the Great Commission rather than the feeble self-centered mission we are on. May the Body of Christ rise up this Sunday and shout “How did we come to this?!”

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  27. SarahM:
    Nancy2(aka Kevlar),
    Being baptized in an SBC church is not SBC policy. That was local church policy. I was baptized in a North American Baptist Church and many years later joined an SBC church. It was not an issue.

    Close. One of the things that got some churches in Oklahoma in trouble with the SBC was accepting “alien immersion” meaning some other Baptist body or Church of Christ, etc. The little church in our village in NM where I grew up wanted to accept a lady from a Primitive Baptist background into the church. The local and state associations made it clear she got rebaptized or we would be ousted. She chose to just attend and serve without membership.

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  28. Max: A careful observer will note that “Love” is not on the 9 Marks of a healthy church.

    Happy Easter Max and to all your loved ones.

    I dug up this useless fact from Jonathan Leeman’s “ The Church and the SURPRISING OFFENSE of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline”

    He uses the word ‘love’ 1697 times in the book in an attempt to persuade us that church discipline is what we need!

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  29. Lowlandseer,

    I was at IHOPKC where Mike Bickle regularly preached about the “offense” of God’s love. It was all a ploy to get people to second-guess their very reasonable, logical, godly offense when they saw people mistreated or abused.

    What people actually find the most offensive in the gospel is the cross. We want a king who will crush our enemies. Instead, Jesus offers his life as an atoning sacrifice for them. Judah Maccabees shouted curses on his executioners. Jesus asked his father to forgive them.

    When Leeman abuses people under the guise of “church discipline”, he wants the onlookers to question their own sanity.

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  30. Mr Parnell , the author of the article, much loved by 9Marks,TGC and John Piper, cites John Knox as his hero – “a man who stuck to his lane”. If boy he had read a dent biography of him , he might have come to a different conclusion.
    Knox would have preferred teaching a small class of students at St Andrews but was persuaded to take up the Reformation cause.
    He would have preferred Frankfurt but was persuaded to go to Geneva.
    Much as he loved the place, he and Calvin didn’t always get on.
    He thought the (ana-)baptists were cult like.
    His First Book of Discipline had this to say of ministers –
    “ Persons Subject to Discipline

    To discipline must all estates within this realm be subject if they offend, as well the rulers as they that are ruled; yea, and the preachers themselves, as well as the poorest within the church. And because the eye and mouth of the church ought to be most single and irreprehensible, the life and conversation of the ministers ought most diligently to be tried…… Yea, the seniors ought to take heed to the life, manners, diligence, and study of their ministers. If he is worthy of admonition, they must admonish him; of correction, they must correct him. And if he is worthy of deposition, they, with consent of the church and superintendent, may depose him, so that his crime so deserves”
    It wouldn’t sit well with the SBC cover-ups or the current neocalvinist nonsense.

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  31. Serious question: why does the practice of church discipline matter?

    We still have freedom of association so if they “excommunicate” me, who cares. I didn’t want to go there anyway.

    Why do we need to send registered letters and all the hullabaloo.

    Just walk.

    If they don’t like you then they really didn’t like you to begin with.

    Is there some US law that I don’t know about that compels you to tithe or run a ministry if you sign the contract?

    I don’t get it.

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  32. Another good example: Natalie Hoffman and her emotionally abusive husband. She trusted the church leaders and engaged in the process in good faith. Initially a few of them acknowledged there had been abuse and even wondered if her husband was a believer or repentant. But ultimately as the process dragged on and they insisted she stay married to this abusive man, she reached her limit, and for her own sake and that of her kids she initiated a divorce. And then they publicly excommunicated her, claiming she had not submitted to them and had done so based on what they called a “biased narrative”.

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  33. Nancy2(aka Kevlar):
    Godith,

    I did say AFAIK, and I’m not all that surprised.I’m sure (and happy) that they are a few churches somewhere that will accept baptisms by other faiths, and no particular faith.Even as a former SBCer, having to be baptized AGAIN to join an SBC church seems pretty conceited to me — a cuz they’re God’s Special Pets kinda thing???

    BTW, the SBC and the AMC were initially one and the same, with a Triennial Convention.They split over slavery, and became the Northern Baptists (changed name to American Baptist later) and the Southern Baptists.From what I understand, beliefs are still very similar (except for women’s “roles”).

    Jack:
    Serious question: why does the practice of church discipline matter?

    We still have freedom of association so if they “excommunicate” me, who cares.I didn’t want to go there anyway.

    Why do we need to send registered letters and all the hullabaloo.

    Just walk.

    If they don’t like you then they really didn’t like you to begin with.

    Is there some US law that I don’t know about that compels you to tithe or run a ministry if you sign the contract?

    I don’t get it.

    Because they spread rumors about you under the guise of church discipline and ruin relationships that you’ve had for decades. After all- the pastors wouldn’t lie???

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  34. Julie,

    I was young and now am old. I remember a time in America when Sundays were treated as the Lord’s day, businesses were closed, churches were packed, sports events didn’t compete with Sunday services. There just seemed to be a more respectful reverential treatment of Sundays. Times change and us old fuddy duddys are left with memories.

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  35. Lowlandseer,

    I dug up this useless fact from Jonathan Leeman’s “ The Church and the SURPRISING OFFENSE of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    doctrines schmoctrines

    never heard of these until i heard the name Jonathan Leeman.

    i might as well introduce my Doctrine of Ladybugs, which draws heavily from Paul.

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  36. I wonder: are they worried about “expressive individualism” or “expressions of individuality?” People expressing their individuality- using their own judgement, honoring their own needs and feelings as well as those of others-are a threat to high control systems.

    What even is “expressive individualism” and what is the connection with irresponsibility towards one’s spouse, or flaunting wealth? People have done that since time immemorial, and in much more collectivistic cultures than ours (see: the whole Bible). That’s entitlement and the power to exercise it. Individualism not required.

    To be fair, excessive individualism is problematic. But when folks of an authoritarian bent start fretting over it, and warning everyone that the solution is “submit to our authority,” not “love thy neighbor,” you have to wonder.

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  37. Max–and I remember when the key issue to Baptists was “have you been born again?”

    Beyond that we could disagree about the end times, or about systematic theology, or about the color of the carpet, or how best to make pecan pie.

    But Southern Baptists were ALL on board with the burning issue being a focus on seeing folks born again.

    When was the last time you heard a sermon on that from the SBC pulpits? Now if you dip into them online many are actively poo pooing the whole concept.

    They don’t so much need a name change, a theology change, a leadership change, or a music change as they need revival.

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  38. Meanwhile, here in the Ozarks, bad storms may come tomorrow.

    But today is resurrection Sunday. The chapel built by God is warm and humid, smelling delightfully of the blooming trees. We are enjoying the sights and smells of the redbuds, the dogwoods, plums, and cherries blooming. The choir of song birds is bringing quite the spring concert.

    He is risen! And even if we become faithless, He is faithful still.

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  39. Doubtful: Because they spread rumors about you under the guise of church discipline and ruin relationships that you’ve had for decades. After all- the pastors wouldn’t lie???

    I think there’s two categories in play.

    1) you have decided to no longer be part a church community – you wish to dissociate completely.
    2) you’re being unfairly targeted. It’s not you choice to leave the community.

    Option 1 is what my question applied to. Depending on the involvement in the community you leave, keeping past friends may not be realistic. Sometimes that road closes because you have drifted too far apart – if the common denominator was only church then there’s likely nothing left to talk about. Like some jobs I’ve left, you had good friends within the company but the common denominator was the work. No hostility required, just no common ground anymore.

    Number 2 is a more painful event but then you have to ask, if they were really solid folks, they would stand by you. I don’t have a frame of reference in a church context but my family cult ran me out on a rail due to “mommie dearest” – in vernacular of the movie ‘Aliens’, some relationships you just have to dust off and nuke from orbit.

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  40. CMT: I wonder: are they worried about “expressive individualism” or “expressions of individuality?” People expressing their individuality- using their own judgement, honoring their own needs and feelings as well as those of others-are a threat to high control systems.

    In the words of the prophet Steve Taylor:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKeHqXVPFno

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  41. Max: I lament the passing of “real” pickup trucks. They departed from the scene about the same time that big screens, fog machines and skinny jeans took over the American church.

    I’m not sure there’s a connection between the two.
    Except maybe Pretentiousness.

    P.S. I drive a 1996 Honda Del Sol, which keeps hiding behind normal-size cars in parking lots, never mind Thicc Trucks whose front hoods are five feet off the pavement. With 60% of what’s on the road being Urban Cowboy Fantasy Escape Vehicles, I’m getting to fear for my life every time I go down my driveway. (And I grew up driving Los Angeles traffic!)

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  42. I’ve attended a couple churches that would be considered “mega churches” based on the community size around them. They weren’t 9Marx affiliates but they loved to pick on anyone that questioned their motives, budgets, leadership, etc. Meanwhile, a couple child predators flourished (that were part of the ministry team) and one lady in particular (wealthy, praise team member) was the most diabolical, evil, narcissistic sociopath I’ve still ever met. I could go on and tell numerous stories but I’m of the opinion that church discipline is only for the low hanging fruit. If you put enough money in the offering plate, you’re part of the team, or related to the team, it’s a hard pass. The wolves continue to eat the flesh of the sheep and the sheep are left to die in the parking lot. But don’t dare die in the “reserved for pastor” parking spot.

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  43. EW66: If you put enough money in the offering plate, you’re part of the team

    Church elder boards across America are populated with big donors who pay to play, successful businessmen, member of a controlling family in the church, etc. Most don’t meet qualifications for the sacred office of elder nor have a spiritual bone in their bodies, but they are in the inner ring.

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  44. Rapid Roy: I will never forget the look of bemusement and mild confusion on his face – it said so much – The idea of signing something to join the church was completely foreign to him… imagine that!

    You won’t find any of that off-the-wall horse-poo-poo in Lutheranism.
    Just ancient liturgy and great folks to have coffee and donuts with after service.

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  45. Max: Agreed.What they are calling “pickups” today are pitiful representatives of that utilitarian name.

    Max, On the subject of such “pickups”, here are some fake “Maxed out” truck(TM) commercials I came across on YouTube a couple weeks ago:

    The 2024 Chevy Goliath: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI7Tq6sRxE4

    And the Sidewinder (with optional Ophanim wheels): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiEow9uEPsU

    The 2024 Ford Mammoth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47KJyuOwbbY

    The 2025 RAM Long John: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SitbrsXUKu0

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  46. linda: Southern Baptists were ALL on board with the burning issue being a focus on seeing folks born again.

    When was the last time you heard a sermon on that from the SBC pulpits?

    That would have been pre-2000, pre-New Calvinist. “Ye must be born again” and “Whosoever will may come” are not in the mouths of the new generation of SBC pastors.

    SBC is done … it just hasn’t quit yet.

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  47. linda: SBC … They don’t so much need a name change, a theology change, a leadership change, or a music change as they need revival.

    It’s going to take a wake-up call, slap in the face, kick in the behind, soul-shaking from God for this new generation of Southern Baptists to humble themselves, pray, repent, and seek Him as they ought. I don’t see much movement in their ranks at present toward genuine revival and spiritual awakening.

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  48. Increasingly, though, the mindset of expressive authoritarianism tempts leaders to disagree with God or an individual’s judgement or even coun such confrontations as sinful. In many cases, the leader will find a way to justify his behavior on the grounds of what Solomon called “arrogance” or “ge’ah” in the Hebrew in Proverbs 8:13. Expressive authoritarianism cares less about unrepentant sin and more about the individualistic audacity of the leader to judge behavior sinful even if the Bible or other Christians disagree.

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  49. Lowlandseer,

    Knox would have loved to semi-decalvinise the English, but sadly they weren’t having any of him, allowing too much foothold for muscular christianity to spread now. I knew the goons would start naming & claiming him like they name & claim another of their antitheses, Dr M Lloyd-Jones. Neither JK nor MLJ was politically or commercially connected.

    Nor was Jacob Arminius who lost his family at the hand of foreign invaders at age 16, and died of illness when part way into his work to make Calvinism into what it was always supposed to be, by introducing honest logic into it, amidst oppressive commercial countermanoeuvres.

    Dutch history is everybody’s history. The Prince of Orange of the time rallied poor provinces because he wanted a cut of the Holland trade near monopoly. Holland went – whether for good reasons or bad – for well thought out versions like Arminius’ while the prince latched onto the shoddy variant of international agitators. Sadly Holy Spirit got squeezed out of the compromise.

    I note other factions of lookalike hoodlums long sullied the name of Arminius * by their degeneracy on the sham supposition of not being overt calvinists.

    By – through their, blaspheming against Holy Spirit, works of the flesh, megaphoning, dominionism and theology of the body – falsely blackening the name of their own and their pretend opponents’ unwitting or witting figureheads simultaneously, these identikit gangs of thieves starve the wouldbe faithful and set secular sectors a bad example: “you would want to follow the bad boys WOULDN’T you”.

    { * folk pronunciation: Armenians }

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  50. Jack,

    ~ trigger warning ~

    The “men of Sodom” whom Abraham, Mamre, Aner and Eshcol saved from an Assyrian fate, had a guillotine operated horizontally, according to an extra-biblical source (and God wants us to remember background knowledge). It’s useful to hypothesize any various meanings drawn from Jonah’s appearance, and the personal history of Daniel who prayed ch 9 vv 3-21 which humble and self-righteous adherents alike ought now to continually recite.

    Hope will triumph because the staff of the then Jezebel instance (only incidentally female in her case) and the wimp Ahab enabler, were by Holy Spirit strength able to feed needy canines. The kingdom of God – where male and female make no difference – is being able to do works of the spirit (see Mk 9:39 and the meaning of Ascension) by exchanging gifts unvetoed.

    488499″>Headless Unicorn Guy,

    ~ trigger warning ~

    Maidwell Hall to eyewitness reports promoted an odour of muscular christianity (though without vicars on staff). The head had a cane, used for no reason, with a bendy tip to scar the front of boys’ groins. A teacher would hold a pupil to his swollen clothing, while the assistant matron aged 19 (passed as debutante in her native neighbourhood did she?) examined which she would have to bed especially the “potent”. Typical parents were NOT working abroad but neighbours and showed indifference to their absconders. This attracted the establishment (Stott fold) who are a model for other countries. Damning boarding schools per se is a snakish diversion from the badness of some – as these witnesses point out.

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  51. Max: It’s going to take a wake-up call, slap in the face, kick in the behind, soul-shaking from God for this new generation of Southern Baptists to humble themselves, pray, repent, and seek Him as they ought.

    Even that might not be enough.
    Remember the refrain of Rev 16:9 and 16:11?
    Where in the midst of the “bowl plagues”, the only reaction is to double down?

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