This was the day I got to experience a Capitol Hill Baptist Church service along with a Sunday school class and a members meeting.
The Sunday school class was led by Associate Pastor and Elder Deepak Reju. He was lecturing on discipleship and it was great to see how Capitol Hill train and care for the people that want to go deeper into theology and ministry in their congregation in this way. Next was the service and honestly, I was disappointed. I was told it was conservative but it was too conservative for me. Dever preached a great sermon, the singing was great but there were just a few cultural things that I just didn’t dig. Among the things I didn’t dig were the high cultural forms of music, language and attire. In the middle of the service I was thinking of all my non Christian friends who of them would feel comfortable at this service? Sadly, I could only name one. This made me sad because the biblical content and the gospel preaching was very clear and winsome.
After the service the lead pastors were invited around to Mark Dever’s house for lunch and we were able to ask any question we wanted and give any feedback we though could be helpful. It was great to hear what people liked about the service. I decided to go for the jugular and express my concerns about the culture of the service. To this Mark responded not with the defensiveness that I have experienced in so many Christian leaders but with open and honest engagement with what I said. We disagreed to be sure but I was encouraged by this brother’s modelling of humility and leadership.
Just before the service the elders met together talk about the upcoming service and a few other things. Once again these brothers modelled humility, respect and candour that was extremely refreshing.
The night service is CHBC’s ‘family time’ it is time for them to pray together, to sing together and to hear a short talk from Gods word. The prayer time was done mainly by the congregation with floating mics going out amongst them. The guy who preached the sermon (I forget who it was) was given a really tough text (I forget what the text was too but it was a few obscure verses from the Old Testament) and it made me think about Dever’s nine marks, two of which are Expository preaching and biblical theology. I thought about these two marks because I thought the preacher was given a text which made it really hard for him to preach expositionally and to do biblical theology.
After the service was the members meeting where we could really see congregational church government at work. Every prospective member was introduced to the members by way of having their photo up on the screen with their email. The elder who interviewed them for membership gave a short bio and testified that they professed to be a Christian. The members were then asked if they had any questions and then a vote was taken as to whether they would be accepted into membership. Now CHBC makes a huge distinction between elder led (congregationalism) and elder governed (the elders are the final authority in the church) church government. For me this distinction broke down at the members meeting because when the members voted on each prospective member they were really only voting that they accept what the elder have put forward. So the elders really were still governing with the members merely affirming the decision that was made. There was no way that the congregation could have decided about each new prospective member and so therefore they were not the final authority even though it seems like they are. A fuller discussion about church government will have to wait till another blog.
Points of learning
Confidence and criticism: Dever is confident you can tell that after 1 minute with him,. He speaks directly and passionately. He is not arrogant but humble and he is a blast to be around. This combination of confidence and humility allows him to lead his church strongly and yet not be offended when people (like lanky Aussies) criticise him. A leader must have enough confidence to speak clearly and lead strongly and yet have the humility to accept criticism graciously. This is a tough balancing act which I know I am still working on. I would love to hear your thoughts on how to be confident and yet humble.
Giving people a go: One of the great things about Dever is that he gives others a go at things which he could d like preaching. But as I have stated I thought he gave the guy who preached on Sunday night an impossible task. When we give people a go at doing stuff our job as leaders and pastors is to make their job as easy as possible.
Hearing the congregation: Even though I do not think congregationalism is biblical (but that’s for another post) I do love how congregationalism allows members to have a significant voice in the direction of the church. I want to think about how Resolved can be a church which really listens to its members and yet is led well by its elders.