The Theological Conundrum Reston Bible Church Faces. Plus Why Reston Bible is Ripe for a Theological Coup Similar to What McLean Bible Experienced

Reston Bible Church is an evangelical mega church of about 1,800 attenders in Sterling, Virginia. Reston Bible is a church that has systemic issues under the surface. And those issues are not due to not believing in church membership. This is a church that has a conundrum. While it doesn’t believe in membership, its a church that is recommending individuals like Matt Chandler, Al Mohler, John Piper, etc… who advocate for covenant membership. Its The Wondering Eagle’s belief that Reston Bible Church in time will face a theological coup just as McLean Bible did. 9 Marks is in the process of expanding in Loudoun County and that makes Mike Minter’s church a target to be seized. 

“The most confused we ever get is when we’re trying to convince our heads of something our heart knows is a lie.”  

Karen Marie Moning 

“I’m not confused, I’m just well mixed.”

Robert Frost

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 6 But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. 7 They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.

1 Timothy 1:5-7 NLT

Virginia countryside in winter. 

Mike Minter from Reston Bible Church

The Wondering Eagle has been writing about the challenges and issues that have been ongoing at McLean Bible Church in Tysons Corner, Virginia; here in the Washington, D.C. area. What has happened at McLean is that Mark Dever from Capitol Hill Baptist Church allegedly conspired with Dale Sutherland to flip a church and make it Neo-Calvinist. Much of this was done behind Senior Pastor Lon Solomon’s back. In the face of layoffs at least 132 pastors and staff of McLean Bible took buyouts. As the staff was being let go the church was hiring a number of people from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church has a close relationship with Southeastern. Its the belief of The Wondering Eagle that in order to understand modern evangelicalism one needs to cease studying the Bible and instead study George Orwell or Sun Tzu. Why do I say that? Because what happened at McLean Bible is about power, control, and money. It is not about honoring the Lord given the pain it has been causing people, and how deceitful it was. There are a couple of articles out of many that I have researched and written. You can read those two in, “According to Christianity Today McLean Bible Joined the Southern Baptist Convention in 2016; If True Why did Elder Larry Cooper Lie Before the September 21, 2017 Town Hall Meeting?” and “Indicators and Warnings of McLean Bible’s Theological Hijacking that Would Culminate with David Platt Becoming the Teaching Pastor: An Overview of the Changes Chronicled by The Wondering Eagle from 2015 Until 2017; Plus What I Believe is Coming Down the Pike.” In that prior article in October of 2017 I predicted that the next step for McLean Bible is membership covenants. Recent developments  in the spring of 2018 have proven The Wondering Eagle correct. You can read about this in, “Eric Saunders Recent Message on Biblical Membership to McLean Bible Arlington Must be Rejected. Today’s Wondering Eagle Explains Why.”  Jim Supp who has been on staff at Reston Bible Church since May of 2017 is one of the pastors who faced a layoff and took a buyout. He is one of the pastoral refugees from McLean Bible. Today as people leave McLean Bible I have received an occasional email by someone asking where they can go? So before I use this blog to recommend another church I take the time to go there and check it out. On Sunday June 2, 2018 I drove out to Sterling and sat through a service at Reston Bible. I also studied the book store and asked a number of questions at the welcome desk. This blog post was unexpected but I realized that Reston Bible has deep issues and that currently it runs the risk of being theologically flipped as well. Let’s look at all this in today’s post. 

 

An Overview of Reston Bible Church

Reston Bible Church has existed since 1975. If my research is correct it grew out of the home of the Charles Swift in Reston. The church was founded by Mike Minter. This church that is located in Sterling, Virginia has grown and moved several times. Reston Bible moved from a home to hold its first service at Sheraton Hotel in Reston. It remained at the International Center for two years and then in 1977 it moved again to Forest Edge Elementary School. It remained there until 1978 where it went to Terraset Elementary. After two years it moved again to South Lakes High School. Reston Bible thrived at South Lakes from 1979 until 1984. The current location where Reston Bible is at came about in 2010 when they moved again, and also constructed their current building. You can read about the history of Reston Bible from 1975 until 2000 in detail in, “Preserving the History of Reston Bible Church in Sterling, Virginia.”

Mike Minter founded Reston Bible Church. Mike was born into a Navy family in Providence, Rhode Island. His father was an Admiral in the Navy, and Mike himself attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. In addition he attended Old Dominion University and picked up a degree in political science. While traveling in Europe a personal friend led him to the Christian faith. In time Mike attended Florida Bible College in 1972 and graduated in 1974, in the process he also met his wife. Since coming to Reston Bible he has remained with this church for over 40 years and still teaches. 

 

Reston Bible Doesn’t Believe in Church Membership 

Reston Bible does not believe in church membership. They have believed this for quite a long time from my understanding. Recently, on May 25, 2018 the church issued a formal statement on why they do not have church membership. The statement appears to be written by Executive Pastor Bruce Campbell. In the article which you can read above it explains that scripture doesn’t believe in mandated or formal membership. The issue has come up off and on over the past thirty years at Reston Bible Church. I won’t get into all the theological beliefs why, you can read that in the statement above. However, there is one positive aspect to this situation. In such a setting Reston Bible cannot practice church discipline. (BTW..that is what David Platt is starting to preach and roll out at McLean Bible, church discipline now.) Neo-Calvinism has been very abusive as this blog has written about repeatedly. Here are a couple of examples of abusive church discipline. 

At Matt Chandler’s The Village Church they had a situation in May of 2015. Karen Hinkley who was a covenant member of The Village Church was a missionary with her husband Jordan Root. While in the missionary field she discovered that her husband was addicted to child pornography and as a pedophile was sexually attracted to young children. The missionary agency evacuated them from Asia and brought them back to Texas. While in Flower Mound her husband was declared to be repentant despite her concerns about the situation. After realizing the enormity of the situation with her husband she had her marriage annulled. It was as if she was never married. The Village Church cracked down on Karen Hinkley and threatened to invoke church discipline if she did not submit to the elders. As the church started to shun her, and as she left Dallas the church wanted to bring her back from North Carolina for the process of church discipline. It became a huge scandal and showed the problem with membership covenants and church discipline. You can read more in, ““The Explicit Gospel” at Matt Chandler’s “The Village” Includes Child Pornography, Church Discipline and Membership Covenants” and “Has Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Recovered from the Karen Hinkley/Jordan Root Scandal?” By the way the title for that first post about Matt Chandler was inspired by the book “The Explicit Gospel” which is currently for sale in the Reston Bible Church bookstore. Another story comes from the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) which this blog writes about, and broke. In Elverson, Pennsylvania which is an hour or so outside Philadelphia a dark story of alleged domestic abuse took place at a church called Community Evangelical Free Church (Today its known as Brick Lane Community Church). Steve Estes is the Senior Pastor and known in evangelicalism for discipling Joni Erickson Tada. Steve’s son Brock allegedly was an alcoholic and abusive. While allegedly intoxicated he raped his wife. And on another occasion he allegedly pointed a loaded gun at her. His wife realized that she could be dead because of the alleged domestic abuse. When she filed for divorce the senior pastor had his daughter-in-law subjected to church discipline through her membership covenant. They held a special ex-communication service and the church prayed that the senior pastor’s former daughter-in-law be turned over to Satan. At the same time this church protected the alleged rapist. The issue was so controversial that it went all the way up to the chain of command of the EFCA in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can read the story in, “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity” and “Hurit’s Public Excommunication While Alleged Criminal Activity by Brock Estes is Withheld from the Congregation: Appeals for Help Fall on Deaf Ears to Steve Musser of the Eastern District and National Evangelical Free Church of America.” Membership covenants in the opinion of The Wondering Eagle are a form of modern slavery. And while the people in the pews have to submit to them, the reality is that many pastors do not. If you want to read about the problems with membership covenants you can do in, “Neo-Calvinist Membership Covenants: The New Berlin Wall Amidst a Theological Cold War?

 

Look at all the John Piper being pushed at Reston Bible, David Platt also. 

Then you can see all the Matt Chandler and some 9 Marks material as well. 

The Theological Issues that Will Haunt Reston Bible in Time

Okay, so Reston Bible doesn’t believe in church membership. In the modern world of evangelicalism I think its a plus. However, lets stop an look at a serious problem. When you go to the Reston Bible book store what books and material is being pushed? Look at the pictures above. A lot of the material being sold is by the likes of Matt Chandler, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, J.D. Greear, Al Mohler, and other like minded personalities. Plus they are also pushing authors from Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist and 9 Marks. What struck me as I was studying the bookstore on Sunday morning is how much Matt Chandler and John Piper is being pushed. In both cases they had almost two book shelves dedicated to each Neo-Calvinist personality. This is a growing cancer inside Reston Bible Church, and The Wondering Eagle believes that it will lead to its demise in time. 

Here is the problem, you have a church that states that they do not believe in church membership or coventing in membership. And then in their book store they are pushing Neo-Calvinist pastors who explain, mandate, call for biblical membership, membership covenants and more. This is why Reston Bible is unhealthy and has systemic issues. Its almost theologically schizophrenic and explains why evangelical Christianity can be deeply unstable. After all when you think about this in the greater picture there are two messages being sent. The church telling people they do not believe in membership, while pushing material that undermines its doctrinal position.  What is happening now and in the course of time is that people are going to take in what Matt Chandler, John Piper and more say about membership. Its going to influence the church.  Reston Bible is not as theologically sound as this church appears. Much of the Neo-Calvinist movement is about a cult of personality. People flock to a person and read and process without knowing what the person advocates or believes theologically. Reston Bible wants to look trendy and hip by pushing the latest book by John Piper or Matt Chandler but what is happening is that Reston Bible is undermining itself and becoming vulnerable. In the course of time this I believe will be the church’s downfall. 

 

Why Reston Bible is Ripe for a Theological Hijacking 

The Washington, D.C. area has a total population of at least 6 million, with an area that is greater than that of the Philadelphia area. Inside the Northern Virginia area that county that is experiencing substantial growth is that of Loudoun. Since the 2010 census Loudoun has grown 26.8%. Its space and schools make it attractive for many people. This growth has been noticed by evangelicals, especially the Neo-Calvinists. One of those ministries 9 Marks has taken an interest in churches in Loudoun county. There are already established churches such Reston Presbyterian Church and Bob Donohue’s Grace Community Church. Grace Community it should be noted was planted by Sovereign Grace Fairfax in 2001, and today is still a part of C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Churches.   Now consider some of the churches that have popped up recently in Loudoun County or the vicinity. You have Cascade Bible Church which is under the influence of John MacArthur as Jeff Casali is from the Masters Seminary. If my research is correct they have been around since at least 2010. In 2013 Sterling Park Baptist which is led by Mike McKinley was formed. I have written about Sterling Park Baptist in, “From Nick Roark’s Franconia Baptist to Mike McKinley’s Sterling Park Baptist Church; Why is 9 Marks Silent about Rachael Denhollander’s Statements About Allegations of Child Sex Abuse Cover-Up in Sovereign Grace?” In Herndon which is still in Fairfax County but on the edge of Loudoun you have Grace Hill Church which is led by Allan McCullough. You can read about their creation in April of 2017 here. Then you have the newest 9 Marks church in Loudon. Its led by Matt Felton and David Chung and is planted by Sterling Park Baptist, The Summit Network, McLean Bible’s New City Network and Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. This church is called Trinity Church and The Wondering Eagle wrote about this outfit. You can read more in, “Does the Washington, D.C. Area Need Another 9 Marks Church? Deep Concerns about Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma Sponsoring Matt Felton and David Chung’s Trinity Church of Loudoun County.” So Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church is interested in Loudoun County. What could be better for them, then to take over and flip a church like Mike Minter’s Reston Bible Church?

The Wondering Eagle believes that Reston Bible is theologically unstable. Their theology is all over the place. I illustrated that with what this church says about membership and then showed what the book store is pushing. Reston Bible Church in 2018 is where McLean Bible Church stood in 2012 to 2015. You have a congregation that in all likelihood doesn’t know what the new Neo-Calvinist movement is about. How many people at Reston could discuss the difference between Arminian and Calvinist? My guess is not very many…so this organization wouldn’t know what happened to it before its too late. Next combine that with the age of Mike Minter who is nearing retirement and a church that is going to be looking for another senior pastor and you have a delicate situation. One of the major downfalls of evangelical Christianity is that it is personality driven. That also makes Reston Bible Church vulnerable. After all Reston Bible isn’t committed to doctrine. It doesn’t know what it believes. If they did would they be selling and pushing material in the bookstore that undermines its foundation? I am going to go on the record and state this, but I believe that Reston Bible Church will be theologically flipped in the 2020 to 2025 time frame. What will happen next will mirror what is happening at McLean Bible today. There will be a flood of refugees. Families and friendships will be torn apart. Some people will be so hurt they will be done with Christianity. 9 Marks and Mark Dever will have another conquest and they will have a large church from which to train and use for other church plants. Like McLean Bible many of the children’s programs at Reston Bible Church will be cannibalized and closed. The money will then be used for church planting. People at Reston Bible Church will not know what has hit them. That is my prediction and that is what I am standing by. Take care Reston Bible Church.