Responding to Jim Davis of 9 Marks Grace Bible Church in Oxford, Mississippi on College Students and Church Membership

Jim Davis of Grace Bible Church in Oxford, Mississippi wrote an article that talks about why college students should became church members. Jim is towing the 9 Marks line and he greedily reaches for more Kool Aid along the way in order to make the claims that he does. This is about a pastor who is lost and has made church membership an idol, and is worshiping that over Jesus. 

“Slavery is what slavery’s always been: About one person controlling another person using violence and then exploiting them economically, paying them nothing. That’s what slavery’s about.”

Kevin Bales

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”

Abraham Lincoln 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 NLT 

We are going to be talking about 9 Marks again, and I saw an article that was just released that needed a response. Its is called, “4 Myths that Keep College Students from Joining a Church.” The article deals with church membership and college students and comes from Jim Davis of Grace Bible Church in Oxford, Mississippi. Jim grew up in Orlando, Florida and he graduated from Florida State University. He spent 9 years on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, with 5 years in Italy and 4 years working at Mississippi State University. He is currently working on a Masters of Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary from Orlando. As Jim has worked on staff with Cru I want to feature two articles I have done over the past two years that are a comprehensive review of Cru’s winter conferences. “A Comprehensive Overview of Cru’s Winter Conferences for December 2015/January 2016 … Paul Tripp, Curtis Allen, Kenji Adachi and Scott Nickell are Some of the Speakers” and “Cru Winter Conference Review 2016-2017: David Platt, Matt Smethurst, Jackson Crum and J.D. Greear are Some of the Main Speakers.” Jim wrote an article that 9 Marks re-ran on its website. This article is deeply flawed and reveals the systematic and systemic issues with 9 Marks. It shows how unreasonable 9 Marks is, plus you couple that with that fact that C.J. Mahaney ran and hid behind Mark Dever’s ass at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and this further cements the problems that exist. All that 9 Marks says about membership is to be dismissed. There is a lot to say, and I am going to comment below in red

It’s more than a month into the semester and some first-year college students are narrowing down their church search. If that’s you, you’re in a small minority of college students, so well done!

Most church-going college students never join a church during their time away, electing either to retain membership at their old church or not join anywhere. The question they ask is this: If I have community, am mentored, receive Bible teaching, and am engaged in mission, then why do I need to join a church?

This previous section really shows that for Jim Davis, his God is church membership. That is what he prostrated before face down and worshiping, and that comes out in this section. Why do I say this? Because church membership should not be an issue for a 19 year old kid who is attending college. He has enough issues on his plate, and for Jim he has missed the central point of Christianity. Being a Christian should not be about having church membership. But let’s look at the four points below and discuss what he says. 

If you’re asking that question, then you’re believing some combination of these four myths.

Myth #1: There’s no real benefit in church membership.

Church membership isn’t simply a name on a piece of paper—and if that’s how your church views membership, it’s time to look for a new church. Church membership is clarifying to the leaders of the church who it is that God has placed in their care. Hebrews 13:17 teaches church leaders that they have a special responsibility for those in their care, a responsibility for which they will be held accountable.

Now, local churches should certainly want to care for anyone inside their relational circles, especially those who are suffering. But the responsibility toward church members is different. For one, it’s not just a reactive caring, but a proactive one. If you’re a member of a church, you’ll have people proactively walking with you and thinking about ways you can be equipped for a lifetime of following Jesus.

At our church (and others in our town), the college students who join will be known, prayed for regularly, and equipped in a way that we simply can’t do with everyone. Not to mention the free meals and career advice!

What is the very first Bible verse that comes off in Jim’s article? Its Hebrews 13:17. You think of all the verses that could be said that could communicate a lot more about the Christian faith and that is the first go to one that Jim Davis pulls out. For me this reveals that Jim Davis has ingested large sums of Kool Aid and is being quite greedy about it in my opinion. The argument Jim uses is flawed. Is the pastor ultimately responsible for a person’s soul? I would say no, that is making a pastor an idol. Jim’s arguments are flawed, let’s continue.  

Let me ask this about what Jim said. Should the church only care for their own? If you have a person outside your relational circle dealing with cancer who is in a hospital down the road from Grace Bible Church should they be ignored because they are not a member? Jim’s faith is backward, he’s confused and he is lost. Part of the reason why I selected this article is because of what he says in these sections.  Does one need to be a part of a church to be proactively walking with Jesus? What about the atheist that shows greater live and fruits of the spirit then the member of Grace Bible Church? What about the Air Force Captain from Redeemer Arlington who taught me why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military from a false accusation. He had the same views about membership that Jim currently does. Was he walking with the Lord when he almost destroyed my job and ability to earn income? And why does Jim think that a pastor can give the best career advice? There are so many pastors who live and function in bubbles and seeking advice from them in the end is foolish. If you want career advice use the tools that your local university or education department you are enrolled in. 

Myth #2: Membership at my church back home is enough.

Simply put, 99% of the time your home church can’t care for you the way a church in your college town can. How can they when they don’t see you for months on end?

I appreciate the emotional attachment many students (and parents) have for the church in which they grew up, but I’m almost certain your pastor back home will agree with me: You should join a church where you live.

This reveals what I wrote up top. For Jim Davis his God is church membership, and he has made it an idol. Love in this sense is warped and cult like. Love should not be through the lens of a 32 page membership covenant (I saw a disturbing one the other day that I will be writing about in the near future.) Plus a pastor should not have the final say on these topics. If a pastor agrees with Jim then I would run from his church. 

Myth #3: I get everything I need from my campus ministry.

I was in campus ministry for nine years, and the church I pastor now was started by Cru staff. I have a deep appreciation for campus ministry. I know the student ministry leaders at our local university and can say with 100% assurance that they agree with me in saying that their ministry is no substitute for the local church.

Campus ministries are vital to universities. If they were to disappear tomorrow, churches would hopefully act quickly to recreate them. They provide students with Christian friendships, tools to engage the campus well in evangelism, and contextualized teaching at a crucial juncture in life. But they don’t connect you to the larger, more diverse body of believers.

The church’s goal is to equip college students to be fruitful in the post-college world. While plugging into a campus ministry can be a vital part of that mission, it’s never the whole part. A campus ministry doesn’t baptize, serve communion, or practice church discipline—or at least it shouldn’t. College students need to be around people younger than 18 and older than 25. After all, while it’s great to be invested in by an upperclassman, the advice you’ll get from someone in their 20s is quite different than someone in their 40s, 50s, and older.

On top of that, the local church loses out if we don’t have you. College students bring life into a church. They bring energy, excitement, world vision, and optimism that would otherwise be lacking. If you believe Myth #3, then we both suffer.

When you think about it para-church organizations like Campus Crusade, Intervarsity, and more are like missionary organizations. They can do many things that the “local church” can’t do. This article by Jim reveals what an idol Jim has bought into. Plus here is the issue with what Jim says about membership. The average age of some of the 9 Marks, or Acts 29 churches I write about is 25 to 35. You won’t find people who are in their 40’s 50’s and more. Can we be honest that Jim is involved in a movement that also makes youth an idol as well? Doubt me? Go check out a nearby Acts 29! I sat in one service recently in preparation for writing about issues in this Acts 29. Now here is another aspect, what is this damn obsession with church discipline? Jim when C.J. Mahaney or Mark Driscoll faces church discipline lets talk. But when C.J. Mahaney fled Covenant Life Church and hid behind Mark Dever’s rear end, that said all you need to know. Church discipline doesn’t apply to the leadership. Jim Davis will never face church discipline. To read about the problems of 9 Marks because of Mark Dever taking in Mahaney read,9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless.”

Myth #4: I’ll worry about that after college.

Here’s the main problem with this: you won’t. Overwhelmingly, students who are plugged into a campus ministry but not a church don’t go on to join a church after graduation. At least not until they have children.

The habits we develop in college are often true for the rest of our lives. Church is no different. The reasons students don’t join a local church during college are the same reasons they don’t join after graduation. But there’s one big difference: there aren’t any campus ministries and their spiritual lives begin a downward spiral.

Students who appreciate the local church will become graduates who appreciate the local church. They’ll also be on the fast track to becoming leaders in their churches and making the difference they dreamed of in college.

This section deeply reveals Jim’s lack of faith and his insecurity. People change and life does as well. Jims’ advice on church membership will backfire if you are a member of the military who is forward deployed in places like Afghanistan or more. Jim’s belief about church membership will backfire for those who are in first responder jobs or who travel because of work. Is someone who lives in Oxford, Mississippi but who travels across the southeast lack any serious faith in God because he is not a member? The habits you form in college change when you re-locate, change jobs, join the military, have kids, and more. I know this is a hard hitting post by Jim is off base in this article deeply. 


I recently had the pleasure of leading a new member class with college students and will be introducing them soon to our church as new members. Each time we recognize a college student as a new member, the maturity of that decision is seen, felt, and greatly appreciated.

Do you want to faithfully follow Christ during your college years? Then join a church.


Jim I am Grateful you are no Longer on Staff with Cru

The Wondering Eagle writes about issues in Cru (formerly Campus Crusade) What this article has done is made me deeply grateful that Jim is off staff, out of Orlando and no longer serving in a staff capacity. Jim’s blind commitment to Neo-Calvinism makes him toxic, out of touch and far from being “sound.” Jim is largely removed from indoctrinating people with the 9 Marks message as most Cru chapters do not promote 9 Marks. There are a few here and there, but I am baffled as 9 Marks believes that para-church organizations should not exist. But a this stage in Jim’s life his career is going to be about promoting the Reformed Industrial Complex which enables his mindset. So Jim, I say this as the writer of this blog. I am deeply and profoundly thankful that you are out of Cru and no longer working on there. From the depths of my heart, thank you. 


Why Church Membership should be Rejected 

I have come to the conclusion because of reading and writing about articles such as this one, as well as previous church experiences that church membership is to be rejected. In modern evangelicalism church membership is controlling and deeply flawed. With the systems that are in play today its far too easy to become ensnared or trapped. Membership in 9 Marks churches is all about control and Lordship. It has nothing to do with following God. Jim is a master manipulator in writing this article and imploring people to become members when they are in college. Plus I would also say that membership in the context of what Jim is teaching just is not Biblical. And no, its not because I have a consumerist viewpoint. The church is far bigger and broader than how Jim has defined it. The church includes local people as well as brothers and sister starving to death in internment camps in North Korea. You are not defined by church membership and if you are then the problem isn’t you, its people like Jim Davis and his teachings. But I have come to the conclusion that it is highly unlikely that I will be in church membership ever again. Again its time for these systems to be dismantled as all they are, are modern day versions of slavery. To learn more about membership covenant and their issues I would recommend the following article called, “Neo-Calvinist Membership Covenants: The New Berlin Wall Amidst a Theological Cold War?” That is it for the day guys, take care!