There was a disturbing article on 9 Marks that needed a response. It comes from a 9 Marks pastor in Zambia, Africa. What is troubling is how authoritarianism is being exported abroad. This is a 9 Marks pastor take on 4 members who are critical and problematic for a church.
“Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.”
He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
Matthew 2:4-6 NLT
Mark Dever of 9 Marks
One of the concerns this blog has with 9 Marks is it being exported to different parts of the world. I already wrote one article that critically looked at efforts to get 9 Marks into Pakistan. You can read that in, “Does the Christian Community in Pakistan Need Mark Dever’s 9 Marks?” The United States is known for exporting more cults into the world. 9 Marks is known for its authoritarianism. If one were to ask what is Mark Dever’s contribution to the Neo-Calvinist movement I would state that it would be authoritarianism. Regularly this blog hears of challenges and problems with 9 Marks and has looked at issues with it in the past and current.
Today I am going to look at a post by a 9 Marks pastor in Zambia. Chopo Mwanza is involved in The Gospel Coalition Africa and leads Faith Baptist Church Riverside in Kitwe. Kitwe is a large city in Zambia. But Chopo writes his own blog here and he publishes at 9 Marks. The article Chopo wrote is called, “4 Members Who Tear Down the Church.” Below I am going to write a response to his article down and my comments will be in red.
Healthy churches are a powerful and attractive witness. In a recent article, I described six kinds of members who build up the church. Unfortunately, even in a healthy church, not every member pursues unity.
What kind of members wound our witness? What kind of members do not build up the body of Christ? Consider these four:
1. The member who loves to be an armchair critic.
These days, cynicism seems cool. In a world dominated by social media and self-expression, cynicism is easily mistaken for wisdom and enlightenment. In Christian circles, people build entire ministries on cynicism; their purpose is to tell you what’s wrong with everyone else. And in our self-deception we manage to veil our critical spirits as wisdom.
Armchair critics are bent on finding fault with what others are doing while doing nothing themselves. They’re apathetic to things that are going on and are disappointed when you succeed. They’re quick to condemn and slow to commend. They falsely place themselves as judge, and you never hear them admit wrong. Cynics can never be pleased nor satisfied.
More often than not, cynicism hides the wounds of bitterness and even hatred. This type of member can destroy the unity and joy of the church.
This section by Chopo has a lot of issues that need to be faced. So my question is every time a person asks a question at a church they would be a cynic? Would they be an armchair critic? A person is to go blindly along with the leadership and follow no questions asked. Its wrong for Chopo to say that were disappointed. I will say when I see people rally around a pastor or ministry that also has covered up child sex abuse or fraud that doesn’t give glory to God Since this is 9 Marks the best example I can think of is Mark Dever standing by C.J. Mahaney even as all the child sex abuse problems hemorrhage out of Sovereign Grace. The question I would like to ask Chopo is the following is child sex abuse a crime or sin? And as for never admitting wrong just the other day in talking about Pentcostal Gangs in Brazil who are engaging in crime and murder, I had a pastor that reached out and asked me some questions. So I thought about some of what he asked and did indeed change some aspects.
2. The member who never attends.
It’s amazing how many people are eager to be “members” of a local church without also being eager to faithfully attend. It’s far too common for churches to have vast discrepancies between the membership roll and actual attendance on Sunday. Most churches have far more members on paper than in reality.
The New Testament encourages believers to gather weekly to worship God and serve one another (1 Cor. 11; 16:2); it even warns believers about the dangers of non-attendance (Heb. 10:23–25). This invariably means that non-attending members are willfully disregarding the Lord’s command to fellowship with other believers and pursue discipling relationships. Granted, there are some valid reasons for not attending.
Non-attending members are an oxymoron. They don’t want to serve and use their gifts to edify other believers, and by not attending they actually remove themselves from the platform where they can minister and be ministered to. Over time, they harm the unity and mission of the church.
Its profoundly sad that non-attending members are called oxymoron. To think that the arrogance of 9 Marks churches are being exported abroad is sad. When you read what Chopo says about non-attending members it also becomes clear that he does not believe that spiritual abuse can happen. In my experience there are legitimate reasons why people should not pursue church and walk away. When you consider how many people are getting hurt in church, well that is a legitimate concern.
3. The member with a divisive spirit.
Divisive people are often driven by a desire to be in charge. They want their opinions heard and implemented—with near total agreement from everyone else. Divisive people expect you to consult them about an issue, and if you don’t not consult them in particular, they rise lash out.
The ironic thing about people with a divisive spirit is that they sometimes have a sincere concern about the church’s well-being. Jamie Dunlop sums it up perfectly: “We rally support to get people to see things our way. Behavior like that, no matter the virtue of the original concern, quickly causes factions and dissension within the church, something Paul lists alongside idolatry, witchcraft, and fits of rage (Gal. 5:20). We must address discontentment carefully because it so often bears the fruit of discord.”
This 9 Marks author has his eyes set high and is climbing up the ladder in the evangelical complex. Why do I say that? Well he quotes from Jaime Dunlop. Jaime Dunlop is an associate pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and also an author at 9 Marks and The Gospel Coalition. When 9 Marks is teaching people to brown nose you know people are being indoctrinated well. Here is the one problem in this section divisive is not defined. What is a divisive member? Chopo could have done a better job in this section in my opinion.
4. The member who loves to meddle and gossip (a.k.a., the busy-body).
Meddlers often gossip. They’re in the business of gathering information about people and their affairs with the purpose of sharing it with others. They have an inquisitiveness masked as care and concern, when in actual fact they simply cannot mind their own business.
Such people make healthy discipling relationships very difficult because you have to be guarded around them for fear of your issues being shared with someone else. Busy-bodies cause strife between saints, and always find themselves in the middle of conflict between others.
There are two words that have deep issues. One of them is gossip and the other is slander. Often one of the problems is that the words of gossip and slander are thrown around by power hungry authoritarian pastors. What is gossip? What is slander? I wrote once about how pastors engage in gossip which you can read in, “Guest Post: Confession, Gossip, and Ashley Madison; How Pastors Gossip” Then I also wrote about the issue of gossip and how controlling and questionable churches use gossip as a means to silence and intimidate people. Chopo has this in mind with what he writes about gossip. You can read more in, “What is Gossip? What is Slander? Addressing the Issue of Bitterness; Finally the Word Bitter will be Banned at The Wondering Eagle.” But what Chopo writes there could well describe how a 9 Marks church operates.
The arm chair critic, the non-attending member, the divisive member, and the busy-body. They all have a common thread: self-centeredness. They’ve missed the very essence of salvation; they’ve failed to love God and love people with every ounce of their being.
Furthermore, they forget that the church of God doesn’t exist for their comfort and happiness but for the glory of God. And in God’s design, that means loving people with diverse preferences and opinions—and yet still loving like Christ loved us.
What’s the result of this kind of love? A unity that displays the power, wisdom, and glory of God, a oneness that becomes a powerful witness to the world.
I found this article at 9 Marks to be warped and problematic. How some of these people can be defined is problematic. 9 Marks is an authorterian system and that can have a broad definition. What Chopo doesn’t apply to many pastors. Here in the United States I would suggest a lot of people are out to make money. In Zambia I am not going to say that, but I will state that one has to be a die hard kool-aid drinker to write such an article from Africa. It was disappointing to see this. 9 Marks can be very cult like in the United States and to see this being exported to places like Africa is troubling. 9 Marks has no place in places like Africa, China, Pakistan or elsewhere. This is the darker side of fundamentalism that is being exported.