One of the most read articles at the 9 Marks website deals with churches who do church discipline wrong. One point in Jonathan Leeman’s article led to a question at The Wondering Eagle. With how the 9 Marks editor describes Biblical conversion the question must be asked, is C.J. Mahaney a Christian? Especially in light of how he has continually fled? Also will a 9 Marks pastor like Garrett Kell or Mark Dever ever face church discipline? Finally how my unresolved conflict with Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington shows that 9 Marks is a total failure and to be rejected.
“What I fear most is power with impunity. I fear abuse of power, and the power to abuse.”
“They fail to teach their congregation about biblical conversion, especially the need for repentance.”
Jonathan Leeman from his appendix of his book on church discipline.
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 NLT
Jonathan Leeman from 9 Marks
Since we are discussing Jonathan Leeman, South Park is back at The Wondering Eagle!
In 2012 Jonathan Leeman published a book through Crossway which is titled “Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus (9marks: Building Healthy Churches).” The book is part of a series of 9 Marks books being published. I did a post about Mark Dever’s newest book which is about discipleship. You can read that post in “A Look at Mark Dever’s Newest Book – Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus.” Jonathan Leeman’s book looks at the issue of church membership from differing sides. In the book he looks at what a “healthy church” looks like with fully committed members who submit to leadership. He defines what a church member is and the standards for church membership. He concludes by talking about how church membership defines love. Recently at 9 Marks one of the most read articles is from the appendix of Jonathan Leeman’s book and is called “22 Mistakes Pastors Make in Practicing Church Discipline.” There are a lot of issues with this article. The biggest issue will be the final point I would like to tackle, and that is this question. If Jonathan Leeman believes that a church fails to teach a congregation about biblical conversion and the need for repentance; then he believes that person is not truly converted as they do not understand their need for repentance. The question must be asked, is Jonathan Leeman therefore saying that C.J. Mahaney is not a Christian? Especially when you contemplate the situation of his running in light of him continually fleeing? Let’s explore this question at the very end.
Responding to a Couple of Jonathan Leeman’s Points
There are a couple of points that The Wondering Eagle would like to respond to, and with that said let’s commence.
A Church Fails to Practice Meaningful Membership
In the appendix of Jonathan Leeman’s book point number two is the following.
“They fail to practice meaningful membership, which includes (1) teaching people what membership entails before they join; (2) encouraging casual attenders to join; (3) carefully interviewing everyone who wants to join; (4) giving regular oversight to all the flock; and (5) maintaining an up-to-date membership list that accurately reflects who is present at the weekly gathering.”
I read this and laughed out loud. What are people joining? A church or the Central Intelligence Agency? What is next? Psychological assessments and polygraphs as a part of the membership process to see if someone is committed to the church? That will keep away the casual attenders for sure. The mentioning of carefully interviewing people I find disturbing. What churches like Capitol Hill Baptist Church are looking for are people they can control. People who won’t ask questions and blindly submit. This point in the article reveals why Jonathan Leeman’s concept of regular oversight is indeed flawed. Its not realistic in today’s day and age to have that point of view. People are on the go, first responders are working on weekends, members of the military deploy abroad and more. This situation reveals that the church can’t solve the problems of its members and is elevated too high. The church should not be the primary focus of a person’s life and in how Jonathan Leeman is interpreting this situation, it reveals that the church is now the subject of worship.
Members are not Allowed to Leave
In that same appendix Jonathan Leeman also says the following.
“They fail to teach new members as they enter the church about the possibility of church discipline, and that preemptive resignations don’t work.”
What is church discipline in the context of some of the stories I have written about? For example you had Karen Hinkley of The Village Church who annulled her marriage to a child pornography addict. Why did Matt Chandler’s 9 Marks church try and impose church discipline on her? Also who is a pastor to say a member could not leave? What gives a pastor the right to control another person’s life? But in the context of the C.J. Mahaney fiasco I find Jonathan Leeman’s words particular damning. Who gave C.J. Mahaney permission to flee Covenant Life Church and hide behind Mark Dever’s rear end? Did the leadership of Covenant Life act in such a way? Honestly I think not. Members should be allowed to come and go as they please and the reality is that if the church treats them right then any 9 Marks church should not live in fear. That is the problem with this situation. This is about controlling people and nothing more.
How The Wondering Eagle Learned Why 9 Marks is a Failed System
My situation with Jordan Kauflin and Eric Simmons Redeemer Arlington also should be brought into this post because it shows how 9 Marks as a system also has failed. When I faced a false accusation from an Air Force Captain which taught me why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military Jordan and Eric fumbled the situation. When the unresolved situation dragged on and popped up in my Mom’s hospital room before her death, Redeemer Arlington was mostly silent. The Air Force Captain who taught me why rape is a problem in abusing his authority was let go by Jordan. There was no attempt at contacting his church in Colorado Springs and bringing this situation to their attention. Especially with the way memberships are transferred among 9 Marks churches. It was just left to drag on unresolved. I had no plans of writing a blog like this but the reality is that my hand really was forced. Another reason why I am inserting Eric Simmons church into this post is due to the extremely close connections Redeemer Arlington has with Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Its my goal in time to write more about those connections as I continue to pick apart the 9 Marks network.
So in taking Jonathan Leeman’s article what can we learn about Redeemer Arlington as a 9 Marks church since they failed to use their reach to still deal with this unresolved issue of church discipline? According to Jonathan Leeman it means the following. They failed to teach an Air Force Captain that he too is also subject to church discipline by letting him go. Redeemer Arlington also has no meaningful membership in how this unresolved conflict carried on. An Air Force officer fleeing (maybe he was emulating C.J. Mahaney in running and hiding) revealed that the 9 Marks network is flawed and favoritism is an issue. Not “justice and walking humbly with your God ” (Micah 6:8) There was never any sense of legitimate Biblical conversion either by the Air Force Captain or the leadership of Redeemer. This was an issue that was muddied by 9 Marks in that they let someone flee, and a church under the wing of Mark Dever didn’t practice what they claim to practice. There was little understanding by Jordan Kauflin to my situation and faith, even though I did something at the time that neither C.J. Mahaney nor Mark Driscoll did not do. Jordan was an epic failure in letting this drag on as he failed both an Air Force Captain, his God and later on my Mom who died in a hospital room in California. Must these situations pop up in a hospital room as I learned? It also means that Redeemer Arlington fails to teach God’s word each week. Therefore it begs the question, why would someone attend such a place?
Will Mark Dever or Garrett Kell Ever Face Church Discipline?
Here is another aspect to this onion that I would like to peel. When it comes to the actual process of church discipline itself will the senior pastor of any 9 Marks church ever face church discipline for sin or any wrongdoing? Will that ever take place? Will Garrett Kell who leads Del Ray Baptist (or Kell Ray as they say at Capitol Hill Baptist) ever face church discipline? I would argue strongly by stating no that will never happen. A 9 Marks pastor will never face church discipline for wrong doing or sin. I will refer to Mark Dever’s behavior in allowing C.J. Mahaney to flee to Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Mark Dever revealed that 9 Marks do not apply to your closest
business partners whoops I mean friends. In the process Mark Dever practiced the sin of favoritism and interfered with justice by giving him refuge. Instead of giving C.J. a good strong kick in the ass he further enabled his corruption by taking him in. Will Mark Dever ever face church discipline for undermining “sound doctrine” and also Covenant Life’s doctrine? After all can it be said that to the community of Covenant Life Church, Mark Dever is their Judas Iscariot? These are questions that must be asked. Since Mark Dever will never face church discipline all I can say is the following. If you have a number of publications by Mark Dever and you are at Del Rey Baptist or Capitol Hill Baptist I hope you need a lot of toilet paper. Because that is all Mark Dever’s books are going to be good for in the end.
The question on C.J. Mahaney from below is what The Wondering Eagle asks
According to what Jonathan Leeman Wrote Does the 9 Marks Editor Believe that C.J. Mahaney is a Christian?
What led to this post being created is the third point of Jonathan Leeman’s article.
They fail to teach their congregation about biblical conversion, especially the need for repentance.
Think about that and let’s look at something that happened right before this entire book was written by Jonathan Leeman. In 2011 C.J. Mahaney who was a member of Covenant Life Church led Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). In 2011 hundreds of pages of internal documents poured out on the internet related to issues regarding C.J. Mahaney. People learned that the author of “Humility” had practiced blackmail. They also became aware of allegations of child sex abuse that was covered up by Mahaney’s ministry. Mahaney in a veiled reference to Charles Spurgeon called the church” the dearest place on earth” if I remember correctly. Membership was everything and showed your commitment to the local church. After all C.J. Mahaney pushed Mark Dever’s ministry as well and was close to him. On July 6, 2011 due to internal conflict C.J. Mahaney stepped down from the head of SGM. He then fled and took refuge from the growing crisis at Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He gave a sermon on September 25, 2011 inspired by Jude 1:22 called, “When Someone Doubts.” In the talk he talks about how Mark Dever is his pastor, not Josh Harris. In time he fled again and eventually ran to Louisville. He hides behind Mark Dever’s ass in Washington, D.C. and then Al Mohler’s ass in Louisville, Kentucky. Here was someone in the midst of sin I would think who fled and in the process fled church discipline.
So in Jonathan Leeman’s article point number three above the following question must be asked. If a person flees and does not repent have they had a bona fide Biblical conversion? Are they are a Christian? In this case is C.J. Mahaney a Christian based off of what Jonathan Leeman has written? The timing of Leeman’s book especially in light of the SGM scandal is rich in my view. It also undermines Mark Dever’s teaching as well. Inmost situations I would not be questioning someone’s faith and yet after all that Mahaney has done to others, and publicly claimed why can’t this be asked of him? That’s it for the day guys, I hope you have a good day. Take care of yourselves.