Mark Dever Celebrates 25 Years as a Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. A Reflection on a Theological Autocrat

Mark Dever celebrated being a pastor for 25 years at Capitol Hill Baptist Church on September 22, 2019. This blog had a solid source who conveyed quite a bit about the culture and issues at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. But in the end how should Mark Dever be remembered? He should be remembered for his autocratic theology and his authoritarianism. 

“I don’t care if they respect me, so long as they fear me.

Caligula 

 “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?

Joseph Stalin 

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 NIV

Mark Dever 

At this blog he was a close friend of mine.  He reached out to me before I was writing and we got to know each other well. He was a covenant member of Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church and it was something that he struggled with. Carson Wilson (a pseudonym) came from the American heartland. If you think Kansas, Nebraska or Oklahoma your thinking would be correct. He grew up in the Southern Baptist Convention and sought out SBC churches as he moved around. He also spent some time in the military. When he came to Washington, D.C. he went to Capitol Hill Baptist became a member and didn’t think much about it until problems began to develop. Carson when he met with me shared about the issues and concerns he had with Capitol Hill Baptist. He discussed the culture, his Bible study, Sunday school, Jonathan Leeman and issues that happened behind the scenes. He revealed about what people were saying and questions that were raised at congregational meetings. For example one time he told me that in a congregational meeting they spoke about efforts to get 9 Marks into the Christian community in China. He asked me not to write about it and I agreed until he gave me permission. Later on I wrote about 9 Marks efforts to get into Pakistan. I had a dialog with one of the 9 Marks pastors in the United Arab Eremites about the issues with 9 Marks and the problems with Pakistani culture. I wrote about that in, “Does the Christian Community in Pakistan Need Mark Dever’s 9 Marks?

Carson told me about how people had questions about Mark Dever’s relationship with C.J. Mahaney. At Capitol Hill Baptist Church people were discouraged from discussing the Sovereign Grace scandal. As it was explained to me you didn’t ask questions about Mark Dever’s friends, it was none of your business. In a congregational meeting several years ago the issue came up and Mark Dever made a comment that Mahaney was listening more to his lawyers than his friends. According to what this blog heard that was the last time the issue came up. When the Washingtonian article about the Sovereign Grace scandal came out Carson told me that it bothered people at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and people had concerns about Dever’s connections to Sovereign Grace. When Jonathan Leeman discouraged para church ministries Carson raged over a beer often telling me what the Navigators meant to him when he was in the military, and how Leeman should know better but he didn’t. What also influenced Carson was when Capitol Hill Baptist Church practiced church discipline on a member that was over the top. It was very heavy handed. Carson was upset and he started to consider going to other churches, but he was enslaved by a membership covenant. From Mark Batterson’s National Community Church to Eric Simmons Redeemer Arlington I heard quite a bit about how those churches and other churches were looked at through the lens of covenant members at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Redeemer Arlington was given praise whereas Mark Batterson’s church wasn’t considered to be Christian. Once when I asked him about how Mark Dever was regarded, Carosn told me that many people worship Dever and become his fanboys. 

Carson and I often met in the D.C. suburbs of Ballston or Clarendon. Over a beer or dinner he talked about much of this. He couldn’t stand his Bible study which did nothing but have guys who psychologically beat each other up over masturbation. He told me once, “That’s all they talk about!” One day he sent me a text and he told me that his employer was moving from Washington, D.C. Carson told me that he would eventually be moved from the D.C. area. That opened up a new chapter in the relationship. It was helping someone to make a bolt from a cult like organization. Before it happened he spoke about wanting to escape from Capitol Hill Baptist Church. When we met he discussed what he was going to say. As the day drew near he feared speaking to the leadership at Capitol Hill Baptist. One person in leadership was upset and asked him how he was going to find an equally strong Gospel Centered church when he moved? Another had mixed feelings and when he spoke to Mark Dever himself he released him from his membership covenant. I met with Carson one final time before he left at Buffalo Wild Wings in Ballston. He told me the story and he looked happy. It was almost like I witnessed a person who scaled the Berlin Wall and made a bolt for freedom. I wrote an open letter to Carson in, “An Open Letter to Carson Wilson (Former Member and Blog Source from Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church)

 

Mark Dever Celebrates 25 Years as a Pastor 

On Sunday September 22, 2019 Capitol Hill Baptist Church celebrated Mark Dever being pastor for 25 years. Dever on his Twitter account tweeted pictures of his ministry over the years. At Capitol Hill they had pastors who were linked to Mark Dever. Present were Garrett Kell of Del Rey Baptist (Or Kel Rey Baptist as they say over at Capitol Hill) or Mike McKinley of Sterling Park Baptist. Many 9 Marks churches in the D.C. area were present. A while back I looked at a couple 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?” But many people turned out in a way to support Mark Dever. 9 Marks actually did a podcast that I listened to before writing this post. The podcast consisted of Mark Dever, Jonathan Leeman and Isaac Adams. 

 

25 Years of Being an Autocrat

This blog is going to give a different take on Mark Dever and 9 Marks. While many people fawn and will shower Mark Dever with praise this blog has a much darker perspective. What should Mark Dever be remembered for 25 years after he came to Capitol Hill Baptist? In this blog’s opinion Mark Dever should be remembered for his corruption in the Sovereign Grace scandal, totalitarian theology, control and church discipline issues. 

Mark in the Sovereign Grace scandal deeply undermined the entire 9 Marks theology system. When C.J. Mahaney fled and hid at Capitol Hill Baptist, Dever in accpeting him not only showed the issue of favoritism. He also undermined a good portion of 9 Marks. You can read how that happened in more detail in “9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless.” Mark Dever should also be remembered for his totalitarian theology. 9 Marks churches have a reputation for a top down  leadership and autocratic issues. I have had a number of people who have told me that they have had issues at 9 Marks churches in the United States. Mark Dever should also be known for control. One thing that weighed on Carson that came up fairly frequently is that he spoke about how controlling Capitol Hill Baptist was at a church. 9 Marks can be controlling in many ways and very little of your life is not subject to scrutiny. A Bible study in a 9 Marks church can be frustrating and difficult. Finally Mark Dever should be remembered for reviving church discipline. Remember when Matt Chandler’s church attempted to practice church discipline on a female who annulled her marriage to a child pornography addict in 2015? The Village Church was heavily influenced by 9 Marks. There are so many other situations as well. Sovereign Grace is known for church discipline. So is Acts 29 in which 9 Marks is frequently used. In the end Mark Dever should be remembered for authoritarianism. 

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