An overview of two recent mailbags that Jonathan Leeman wrote. Jonathan Leeman is the editor of 9 Marks which is a ministry of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, here in Washington, D.C. Since we’re talking about Jonathan Leeman again Cartman from South Park is back. The mail bag questions I focus on are about exposing false teachers, and about elderly individuals not becoming members of the a church. Also Mark Dever believes that elderly should be denied communion when they are in a nursing home as communion can only be done in the body.
“It’s been said that only the educated are free, but I contend. Only those who are educated with TRUTH can be inherently free. Otherwise, you are simply indoctrinated with error.”
“It was once said that the moral test of government is how government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord
Leviticus 19:32 NLT
Edited 3/3/16 for flow
I’ve been sitting on these 9 Marks mail bag posts for a couple of months. There is more material than time and I keep finding it. I have been wanting to do this for a while but decided to work on this past Monday evening. Since we are talking about Jonathan Leeman and 9 Marks Cartman from South Park is back!! The message is the same and continuous, with a constant emphasis of “respect my authoritah!” (I’d love to hear Jonathan Leeman say that in person, maybe that will happen as we live in the same city.) There are a couple of mailbag articles that I want to review. The first mailbag article I want to analyze is from mailbag number 24. In it Jonathan Leeman takes a question about speaking out about false teachers in the area. You can read the entire mailbag here. The second one is from mailbag 25 and deals with an elderly couple who want to join a church. You can read the entire mailbag here. My comments below will be in red from here on out.
How would you advise pastors to speak of false teachers in the area? There is a massive church in our area that is doing some serious damage with their unbiblical methodology. We are a lowly church plant with minimal influence, but our people are being impacted by this church if by virtue of nothing but its sheer size.
Is it unwise to publicly “take a stance” as it were concerning this church and their leadership?
—Trevor, South Carolina
It depends. It might be unwise, but it might also be the way of righteousness and faithfulness. Think of how often Paul and John and Peter warned against false teachers, even referring to specific parties.
I find this article to be rich as I have lived in the D.C. area for 10 years and I have heard comments from time to time by a few Capitol Hill Baptist members in the past who gladly have passed judgment on other nearby evangelical churches. I remember one guy years ago (who left btw…) who told me that National Community Church wasn’t preaching the Gospel. That is why when I wrote a post about NCC and Mark Batterson I made reference to the claim that the only people who seem to have a problem with NCC are the hardcore Neo-Calvinists.
My first question is, what do you mean by “unbiblical methodology”? Are they a bit seeker-sensitive? I would not encourage you to call them out. Do they preach a prosperity gospel? Then, yes, you might call them out. The great dividing line here is the gospel itself. I think we should exercise tremendous charity toward fellow evangelical (gospel-preaching) churches. So you will never hear our elders criticizing other evangelical churches in our area, even if they are shallow, pragmatic, or Presbyterian! (A playful poke to my Presbyterian friends.) But yes, we will “take a stance” on gospel denial.
Here is the question I have? How does Jonathan Leeman define prosperity gospel? How does he define seeker sensitive? You are dealing with an ideologue who is the spin and the brains behind the organization. When you are so far off the deep end the question goes back to …how do you define these strands of theology? The funny thing is I hear this call of tremendous charity towards other evangelicals and yet I seldom see it. Some of the harshest comments I hear about other churches come from those involved in 9 Marks churches. So again I go back to don’t listen to what is said, watch the actions instead.
But that leads to my second question: what do you mean by “take a stance”? Do you mean you will teach against something, or do you mean that you will treat it as a matter of church discipline? Those are the two ways churches can take a stance on something.
Let’s start with teaching. I am presently teaching a class on biblical theology, and just last week I pointed to Bruce Wilkinson’s use of Jabez’s prayer (1 Chron. 4:10) as a bad example of proof-texting. I didn’t say anything about Wilkinson as a person or as a Christian or about his ministry overall. I pointed to one very narrow fact—his failure to put 1 Chronicles 4:10 into canonical context. In that sense, I took a stance on what I believe is a wrong use of a text because I know Wilkinson’s book has made such a broad impact.
It’s one thing to take a stance on wrong teaching; it’s another thing to take a stance on a wrong teacher or a wrong church. I think there is a place for both, but I think the bar is quite a bit higher for taking a stance on a whole ministry. I know almost nothing about Bruce Wilkinson or his ministry. I just know I don’t like what he’s teaching people to expect by praying 1 Chronicles 4:10. So that’s what I mentioned.
Here is the problem with what Jonathan Leeman is saying….look at how the Neo-Calvinist movement views Greg Boyd. Heck John Piper has made it personal and tried to get him fired from Bethel in the past. In many ways John Piper went after his ministry. So I write this to say that much of this is fluff. But that is my take…if you disagree please let me know.
The question I have for you and this massive nearby church is, can you address just the teaching or do you need to address the teachers? Pull a few weeds or condemn the whole garden? In so far as you can, stick with the former.
But now let’s go back to the great dividing line of the gospel. If someone leaves our church to join a church that denies the gospel, we will “take a stance” by proceeding toward discipline. This is a whole garden problem, not just a weed problem. For instance, a woman left our church to join a Oneness church that denies the Trinity. We “took a stance” by excommunicating her. That means we formally said, “We can no longer affirm that this woman is a Christian insofar as she has joined herself to a church that denies the Trinity.”
What is “denies the gospel” mean? Does it mean that if a person doesn’t believe the determinism that John Piper teaches that they are denying the Gospel? Does it mean if someone doesn’t kiss the ground that C.J. Mahaney walks on that they are denying the Gospel? Definitions are everything! And that is especially true in this situation. Denying the trinity I would suggest is a massive heresy however, let’s be frank. Many Neo-Calvinists make secondary issues primary. Its an all or nothing group think I would propose. If a person wanted to leave Capitol Hill Baptist and join Mark Batterson’s National Community Church what would happen?
Obviously, we only take a stance through discipline when the gospel itself is at stake.
Nope Jonathan…you guys are control freaks who yield discipline irresponsibly and do it in the same way a young kid finds a loaded gun in his parents bedroom. You do discipline in a very irresponsible fashion. I am still waiting for Mark Dever to face church discipline! Why you ask? For letting C.J. Mahaney flee church discipline at Covenant Life Church? Or does the “Gospel Centered Bribe” that Mahaney made exempt him from that? Care to respond Jonathan?
All this, Trevor, brings me back to my original, it depends. If your neighbor church is gospel-preaching, I would encourage you to lean hard toward graciousness. If it is gospel-denying, I would urge you to take a stance. If it is in the squishy middle and you aren’t sure, as can be the case with prosperity-gospel churches, you might occasionally target a false teaching. And you might quietly warn individual sheep who are thinking about joining that church, or who want to use their material. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is to provide a positive, healthy, life-giving, Bible-preaching alternative.
I would really need to know more specifics before getting more concrete, but I hope this gives you a good start.
Again I have to ask….what is a “Gospel Denying Church?” Is a “Gospel Denying Church” a non-Neo-Calvinist? Is a “Gospel Denying Church” a church that doesn’t have a pastor that puckers up and kisses C.J. Mahaney’s rear end? You know “Gospel Centered Brown Nosing!” 😛 Definitions are everything in theology. How is a “Gospel Centered Church” going to be defined?
There is an older married couple living in a town next to us who wish to join our church. The trouble is, both are very ill (he is dying; she is going through chemotherapy) and cannot leave home. They were members of another church, but left over doctrinal issues. God providentially brought a member of our church, who is a nurse, to care for them. She has done wonderfully. Three of our elders have also visited them and cared for them, even having a one-time Bible study with them. Others in our church have served them in meals and cleaning. They have been loved, and have fallen in love with our people.
Now, they wish to join our church. They desire pastoral oversight, accountability, the opportunity to give, and a church family to care for this man’s wife when he passes.
What do you think?
Before I encourage you to let them join your church, let me explain why you are right to have pause. The act of gathering together is a constituent part of a church becoming a church and a member becoming a member (see Matt. 18:20; 1 Cor. 5:4; 11:18a). No gathering, no church. And no attending, no member . . . ordinarily. Without physical presence, we cannot fulfill everything else it means to be a church: preaching and listening, exhorting and encouraging, serving and keeping one another accountable through the ordinances.
That is not church. What Jonathan Leeman is advocating is not church. This is what happens when the concept of “the local church” is made into an idol. It comes at sacrificing other aspects. You can have all the above and still not have a “healthy church.” I present Sovereign Grace as exhibit A. How healthy is that denomination? In this globalized age I think of the challenges that poses and the problems that exist. I think of the transitory nature of Washington, D.C. of people leaving and moving, etc… Jonathan Leeman has the definition of a church …backwards.
I want to be explicit about this principle, because many of our evangelical friends forget it, and then they do crazy things like start multi-site churches, declare themselves members through the internet, keep members on the roles who have not attended in years, or run away with the circus.
Question for you Jonathan…for members of the military who are overseas and deployed in places like Afghanistan or elsewhere what are they supposed to do? Are you willing and eager to fly into those places to do a church plant and serve the needs of troops in this pastor centric model you are touting? What about people who spend a lot of time on the road for work? What about college students are in a town for a few months? I want to be pretty explicit about this…but I think you don’t have a grasp on the basic Christian faith. We are called to serve and not be served.
Having enunciated the general principle, let me now admit that I’m willing to entertain exceptions. You can give this couple an irregular form of membership, provided that members of the church are willing to continue doing what you said they were doing: making regular visits, opening the Scriptures, offering accountability, and so forth. Plus, I would encourage the couple to listen to the sermons on your website, if they are able.
In other words, church membership depends upon making covenantal commitments to one another through the ordinances in the context of a gathering (see Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:41; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:33), just like the commitment of marriage depends upon making a covenantal commitment, in part, through the one flesh union (see Gen. 1:24). And in both cases, these are God-ordained processes for making those commitments. Now, I know of married couples who have verbally committed to one another but have been unable to consummate the marriage due to medical issues—and I’m still willing to say they are married. Nonetheless, this is exceptional, and not what you would ordinarily wish for a marriage. So with the church: making such a covenantal commitment apart from gathering for the ordinances is hardly ideal, and not normally what you want. It produces an intrinsically weaker bond because it doesn’t depend upon physical presence. But for the sake of a couple stuck at home due to sickness, I’m willing to accept that weaker bond.
I would strongly caution you, however, against letting the exceptional become the ordinary (as in many churches today). When a church becomes characterized by these weaker bonds (due to allowing for “commitments” apart from the physical presence), either because the church has gone multi-site or because they allow non-attenders to remain on the roles, that church undermines its own integrity as a church.
Much of what is written above comes about when certain aspects become idols. What Jonathan Leeman is doing is making aspects of the church deified. Its also Lordship as that is another term…who has the right to determine who can worship the Lord and who is not? Who has that authority and power to say, “this is what worship is” in some specific frame of mind? I am not an advocate of the mega church at all, but what is needed is middle ground. I really don’t see much flexibility, even it what Leeman is saying with the intrinsically weaker bond. I say that because it views those as being weaker in their faith and that is false. I have to say something…in 2012 I had a close call with my life and an experience with a Chaplain gave me pause. In scripture Jesus says when two or more are present he is there also. That includes hospitals as well. Maybe I should ask it like this…does Jonathan Leeman or Mark Dever have a problem with Jesus’ teaching?
Incidentally, the principles at stake in your question also arise in the question of whether or not to serve the Lord’s Supper to members in nursing homes. As you can see here, Mark Dever and I disagree on this topic, and the answers there might have bearing here.
I pray this is helpful.
Mark Dever on Denying Communion to Elderly in a Nursing Home?
It’s a wonderful thing to remember those who are separated from us, especially by disability or age. Prayers, Scripture reading, visits, and encouragements of many kinds properly express Christ’s love and ours for such a brother or sister. But what about “taking them the Lord’s Supper”? No, I don’t think you can serve the Lord’s Supper to one person alone any more than you can baptize an infant. It’s outside the definition of what the Lord Supper is by its very nature. In my mind, therefore, this question is comparable to the question of how we should think about baptizing someone unable to be baptized. In the case of both the person in the nursing home and the person who is unable to be baptized, their inability morally excuses them from the command. It’s the nature of the Lord’s Supper to be an expression of the unity of a congregation (1 Cor. 10:17). While all members of a congregation may never be present, the public meeting should be one of which all members are welcome and most members usually are present. Someone’s inability to assemble with the congregation—we trust then—will be accompanied by God’s special provision for them during their trials or extended absence.”
Can you believe this? I had no idea that Mark Dever advocated denying communion to those in a Nursing Home. What type of arrogant bastard has such a policy? Stop and think of the other complications of this policy. It means you can’t serve the Lord’s supper to someone in terminal end of life Hospice Care. Someone dying of pancreatic cancer, a brain tumor, or Leukemia, they are in the final stages of life and according to Dever’s warped and twisted definition they can’t be served communion?!? Not only that but it also shows that Mark Dever has a problem with the command by Jesus where two or more are present he is there also. This is sick way of looking at the situation. Now let’s flip it around…what does it mean when Mark Dever is in nursing home one day? Mark Dever’s birthday is August 28, 1960. That means he is 55 years old. Now the average age of nursing home residents is 85. I Googled this, and yes this information is out there. So basically in 30 years we can expect to see Mark Dever in a nursing home. Now should he be denied communion under his own rules? Or are there going to be exceptions? Pardon me for saying this…but when Mark Dever is having his diaper changed, just like someone will one day change mine, should he be denied communion and told under his theology that he can’t receive it? A lot can happen in thirty years. Let’s see what happens. The tone of this post may be more combative as usual. if I am too aggressive please let me know. Otherwise I love you guys and keep in touch! 🙂