“Pastors like myself have spent large amounts of time over the last fifteen years picking up the pieces of broken lives that resulted from distortion of truth by extreme teachings and destructive applications on discipleship, authority, and shepherding.
Victims of this movement are usually born-again Christians and are fundamentalist and evangelical in their orientation. The errors are covered in many different terms like delegated authority, covering, unquestioned submission, covenant, commitment to a fellowship, etc…. Terms change from time to time. Submission may be called “commitment,” “covenant relationship” or “divine order” in church government. Many times terms aren’t used at all; it is the actions that tell you what is going on.”
-Gilbert Trusty, “Recovering From Abusive Authority” (Conference Evangelical Ministries to New Religions in Philadelphia, PA, Sept. 14, 1994).
“No one believes that their discipleship is abusive; it’s always the other group. Look more closely; you may be surprised.”
-Mary Alice Chrnalogar, “Twisted Scriptures: Breaking Free From Churches That Abuse”
“The beloved disciple sends a message both to the sinner covered with shame and to the local church tentative and slow to forgive for fear of appearing lax or liberal. The number of people who have fled the church because it is too patient or compassionate is negligible; the number who have fled because they find it too unforgiving is tragic.”
-Brennan Manning, “Abba’s Child”
To which I reply: Define “spiritual things.”
“Your leaders are like wolves who tear apart their victims. They actually destroy people’s lives for money!” Ezekiel 22:27 NLT (bible says, pastor beware how you treat the sheep entrusted to your care)
It appears that the cries of the rock-throwing peasants are being heard by the royalty inside the safe haven of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. You will recall that Mark Dever, Senior Pastor of CHBC, and his lieutenant, Jonathan Leeman, run a para-church organization called 9Marks. Billed as an organization that “exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God’s glory to the nations through healthy churches,” they trumpet 9 items that a healthy church must be doing to display “God’s glory.” I could list all nine for you, but will refrain from doing so. It is my observation that you really only need to be familiar with two of the nine marks, the other seven are mainly window dressing. I am sure the dynamic duo, pictured below, would strongly disagree with me, but they can make their case at their breakout session of the T4G conference.
What are the 2Marks? Membership and discipline, discipline and more discipline. Did I mention discipline? Membership is important only because you can’t very easily discipline a non-member. (Although I wouldn’t put it past Leeman to turn some new ground by writing a book on that subject.)
Tired of the seemingly endless parade of mangled people resulting from the application of Dever and Leeman’s ceaseless teaching on discipline (may I refer to the tandem as “Deeman” to save keystrokes?), we rock-throwing peasants have tagged their organization with the moniker of “9Marx.” Much to the chagrin of Deeman, the moniker has caught on and there seems to be a groundswell among the proletariat of opposition to the heavy-handed application of discipline by Deeman’s disciples.
Realizing their fiefdom is in danger of being toppled, or, more likely, facing a dwindling revenue stream, Deeman has cleverly decided to diffuse the uprising by good-naturedly poking fun at themselves. They will be conducting a breakout session utilizing the 9Marx moniker. Watch the short video below to understand what I am talking about. (I also included an audio only file below the video.)
Dever admits that he and Leeman may be numbered among the “stupid pastors” who unwisely implement discipline, drawing lines in the wrong places, etc. (This may be as close to an admission of guilt for Dever allowing CJ Mahaney to flee to CHBC to escape discipline at Covenant Life Church, Mahaney’s home church that we will ever see.) Dever’s allowing Mahaney to flee to his church was to totally undermine everything he teaches on discipline, but, as the Wartburg Watch stated: “Mark Dever continues to support CJ Mahaney who is the best example of failed church discipline that exists. That is the problem. You see, church discipline is only for the little people.”
Two things bother me in this video. First is Dever’s attempt to blame most discipline problems on young, overly zealous, unwise 25-year-old pastors. While I have no doubt that there are many young pastors who are wreaking havoc in their churches by implementing Deeman’s model of church discipline, there have been numerous cases of older, experienced pastors also misapplying church discipline. Chief among these is Matt Chandler. His church was about to discipline a woman who returned from the mission field and sought an annulment of her marriage because she discovered her husband was a pedophile. Facing a certain lawsuit, Chandler wised up and apologized to the woman. More recently we have seen the horrible handling by pastor Ken Ramey of a child rape case. Need I mention CJ Mahaney or Mark Driscoll? I also have a good friend who was excommunicated from my former church, UCCD, in what can only be classified as a total miscarriage of justice. Fortunately for UCCD, my friend is much more gracious than the pastor and asked me not to go public with his story. The pastor of UCCD? John Folmar, a man who was mentored by Mark Dever and served as an assistant pastor at CHBC for several years.
The second thing that bothered me was Leeman’s flippant comment at the end “that we are all in a learning process of how to do these things well.” Really? How many more lives must you and your disciples ruin in your learning process, Mr. Leeman? I pray that on behalf of those on the receiving end of your disciplinary process that you quickly come to the realization that your process doesn’t work.
Here is a quote from a great article. I have linked to it at the bottom of the quote. If you care to go to the article and read the comments you will see that Mr. Leeman replied to Jason Harris’ charges.
“When it comes to church discipline, where is the line between loving confrontation and abusive harassment?
… in recent years, I have noted a trend which I believe is dangerous both in the damage it does to individuals and in the damage it will do to the church as the state steps in to protect individuals from further damage.
One author promotes abusive discipline in this way:
“If someone tries to resign mid-process in order to “escape discipline,” should the church just let them go? Of course not. That would defeat the whole point of church discipline. Instead, the church must retain the right to refuse someone’s resignation and send them out another way—through excommunication.”
A second author says that one of the mistakes churches make in practicing church discipline is that “they fail to teach new members as they enter the church about the possibility of church discipline, and that preemptive resignations don’t work.” In other words, once you’re a member, you cannot resign church membership without the permission of the church/pastor.
Of course we might not be too surprised to find such thinking in the extreme backwaters of Fundamentalism, but neither of the above comments come from Fundamentalism. Rather, both were published by 9Marks, a ministry connected with Mark Dever who is a mainstream conservative evangelical and has been a catalyst in the resurgence of the practice of church discipline. A closer look at Dever reveals that the constitution of the church he pastors contains the following statement:
“The church shall have authority to refuse a member’s voluntary resignation or transfer of membership to another church, either for the purpose of proceeding with a process of church discipline, or for any other biblical reason.”
Raising the alarm
I appreciate Mark Dever’s ministry in general and have no desire to attack him or the ministry he is connected with. However, I believe this 9Marks-promoted teaching on church discipline is dangerous and needs to be addressed. I am, therefore, raising the alarm. Brothers, we must not mar the purity of Christ’s church either by refusing to exercise church discipline or by exercising it abusively. Doing so will damage individual believers, churches, and the reputation of Jesus Christ in the eyes of the world.”
-Jason Harris, “When Church Discipline is Sin”
In Focus, 26 March 2013
In the short video clip below, Wayne Jacobsen discusses a better alternative to the 9Marks way. You can see the entire video here.
“When committed Christians regularly see other members’ salvation questioned when they leave their church, it is very difficult for them to consider leaving – God, salvation, and the group seem to be synonymous.
-Mary Alice Chrnalogar, ”Twisted Scriptures: Breaking Free From Churches That Abuse”