• Days Five and Six at Capitol Hill Baptist

    Day five was the end of the 9 Marks conference. We got to share about what we learnt and were encouraged by and then it was all over. For lunch I got to hang out with my very close friend Matt Freeman who is Mark Dever’s PA. In the afternoon I went to play Bball with some of the Cap Hill staff and some guys who were down at the court. It was fun to let loose and play some ball. My team won which is always nice. I also go called Steve by some people who were watching us because I sounded like Steve Irwin! I guess you can never blend in the crowd when you have a Bogan accent!

    Day six was the day I flew out and I had the great opportunity to sit down with Matt Freeman and Gary Ricucci. Gary was one of the founding members of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg Maryland and is now there on the pastoral staff. We talked about their view of charismatic gifts and how the gift of prophecy works out in their church service (on this see below), church government and how Covenant Life got started.

    As I said, I asked Gary about the way prophecy functions in their church services. He said that at Covenant life they have a ministry microphone which is manned by two Elders and if someone feels like God has given them a word to the congregation they approach the Elders at the microphone and tell them what God has given them to share. It is the elder’s job to discern whether or not this word is from God and is suitable for the church at this time. If the elders think the word is appropriate the person with the word can share it with the congregation. If not the person does not share the word but goes back to their seat. I asked Gary about what gets shared and he said mostly stuff like “I feel God is telling me that people are working too much on their jobs and spending not enough time with their families.” There is not much predictive prophecy but they are open to this. He also told me that if the ushers feel like a person is drawing attention to themself in the corporate gathering they will be commended on their enthusiasm but asked if they are drawing more attention to themselves than Jesus. Even though I do not consider myself a charismatic I felt that this approach to gifts of the spirit and charismatic worship was extremely sane and I believe my brother Gary to be very sound theologically and would trust him to preach at Resolved. We also talked about church government and Gary said he totally disagreed with congregational church government which was an interesting conversation in light of CHBC’s view that congregationalism is biblical.

    After a short drive to the airport where Matt and I chatted more about church government and what we learnt from Gary I got on my plane and flew back home…..

    Points of Learning

    Who are our enemies? One of the things I can’t stand about conservative evangelicalism in Sydney is its view that anyone who calls themselves a charismatic is a threat to the gospel. A few years ago at a training event Phillip Jensen and John Woodhouse talked about “the silver bullet” that some people think that the Reformed Charismatic is. The conversation that followed was obviously slanted against the movement. Within their sights was some dudes in Sydney who are being influenced by Driscoll, Piper , Mahaney et al and calling themselves Reformed Charismatics. Another example of thinking that all charismatics are a threat to the gospel happened in 2009 when Ed Loane (who is a beautiful human being by the way) gave the centennial address at the Anglican Church league dinner. After he gave a brilliant history of Sydney Anglicans and evangelicalism he finished with these words:

    Well the truth is, while our challenges might not be ritualism or modernism, evangelical truth is still challenged. Whether it’s the new perspective, the charismatic movement or something else, we must not get complacent and think Sydney evangelicalism is invincible – the challenges remain.[1]

    Is the charismatic movement really a challenge to the gospel like the new perspective is? No way in hell!!! Sure the charismatic movement’s excesses are disastrous to the gospel but if we lump guys like Gary and CJ Mahney into the same group as Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland we are guilty of slander in the highest degree. The reformed charismatic guys hate the excesses of the charismatic movement just as much as any reformed brother does. So we need to realize that these brothers are not our enemies but co workers in the gospel. I think it is also interesting that people bang on about the charismatic movement being wrong but we don’t talk about the fact that in our theological colleges inerrancy is denied, Neo Orthodoxy is praised and that some of our ministers are clearly in the New Perspective camp. All this being said we need a dose of reality when we think of who are enemies are and who our co workers are.

    Generosity – When I went out to lunch with people in the states I never had to pay once. They saw me as their guest and a brother in Christ and I always got shouted. This generosity was very humbling and beautiful and one thing I want to learn from our American brothers.

    If you have been reading these blogs about what I learnt at Capitol Hill I would suggest that you go over to the conference or at least subscribe to the Nine Marks e-journal.


  • Day four at Capitol Hill

    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.


  • Day Three at Capitol Hill Baptist

    Day three was really when the conference proper started. We kicked off with a Q&A session about the Elder meeting with Matt Schmucker. As I said in my previous post the elder meetings that Resolved has and that CHBC has are very similar so there were no burning questions that I had to ask or get answers to in this section. After this Mark Dever and Matt Schmucker took us through a potted history of CHBC. This may sound boring but this might have been the highlight of the weekender for me. To hear a Pastor like Dever talk about where the church was and hear about the battles he fought and what he did and why was amazing. It helped me, as a young pastor, to think about my ministry in the long term not in the quick battle.

    Here are the sixteen lessons that Dever has learnt in his time at CHBC:

    1. Consider future generations in decisions the church makes

    2. Be straight forward with your search committee, even telling them the things they may not like about you. This helps put the candidacy in Gods hands not your own

    3. As a candidate tell the church what they can or cannot expect from your wife

    4. Move slowly. Generally speaking, don’t plan on changing any practices in the beginning. If there’s something you will change immediately, tell them before they hire you.

    5. Every element of the public service teaches and leads the congregation. Therefore, it should be given elder/pastoral oversight.

    6. In your services, beware of entertainment culture; beware of manipulating emotions.

    7. Be deliberate about each gathering of the church. What is its purpose?

    8. Beware of sacred cows. Choose your battles wisely.

    9. Promote congregational singing! Consider the advantages of music that is mere and enhancing

    10. Clean your membership role as quickly as you can

    11. Ask yourself, what am I doing to raise up future pastors?

    12. Consider whether or not members of the church know what’s expected of them as members. Is there a church covenant? Is it used? How do you teach your church what it means to be a member? How are these lessons reinforced?

    13. Don’t lead your church through change before they are ready. Don’t lead your church through change before there is a consensus

    14. Expect to be opposed from unexpected places when leading change.

    15. Once, maybe twice, in the process of transition, you may have to be willing to put your job on the line.

    16. Always hold your job with a loose grip

    At lunch we had assigned seating and on each of tables was a staff member so we could ask any questions we had. After lunch we had a session on church discipline by Jonthan Leeman. The main things I was reminded of were:

    1. You need to think through what membership looks like in your church

    2. You need to have a process of church discipline

    3. Church discipline doesn’t need to be done quickly in all circumstances

    4. You need to teach, teach, teach and teach on church discipline before you do it.

    We also received a free copy of Jonathans book The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love which I will read and post a review of soon. We then had elective sessions, I chose to go to the one on choosing elders. I was reminded that an elder is first and foremost a pastor and he needs to be doing pastoral work before he is asked to be an elder and he needs to be able to handle the scriptures and theology well. We then broke for dinner and after that we went to the membership classes.

    Points of learning:

    Time – the whole day it was stressed to look at ministry as a long term thing. It is a marathon not a sprint. I was thinking about Resolved and it encouraged me to think I will be at Resolved for decades and even though I want things to happen in Acts like proportions what I need to remember is that gospel work should be viewed over months, years and decades not hours, days and weeks.

    Teaching before change – I want things to change now! But if we take the long term we can teach, teach, teach and teach about a change before it happens. Dever said to teach on something so much so that people will ask “Why aren’t we doing that?” and then you know it is time to change.

    Intentionality – Dever is intentional about everything. He has thought deeply about everything to do with the ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist and he has implemented it all. I have been challenged to think deeply about everything we do not just the things I like to think about.

    Surround yourself with the right people – It is not good enough to say we need an elder/youthgroup leader/pastor you need the right one. The best ones are home grown. I saw this as everyone on pastoral staff at CHBC has at least been an intern at CHBC.

  • Day Two at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

    Today started off with me sitting in on a Capitol Hill Baptist intern training session. There were about 30 guys crammed into a room in three different groups. Group One was Mark Dever and the interns who sat around a table in Mark’s office. Group Two were the staff who sat around the outside of the room. Group Three were those of us coming for the weekender, who sat in the 2nd half of Mark’s office. The interns discussed four books:

    1. ‘Christian Ministry’ by Bridges
    2. ‘The Church and the Surprising Offence of the Love of God’ by Leeman
    3. ‘Polity’ by Dever
    4. ‘Trellis and the Vine’ by Payne and Marshall

    The interns had to write papers reviewing each of the sections and then Mark steered the discussion around the table, quoting from different papers and generating discussion.

    The next part of the meeting was fun. Each of the interns were given a book written in the last few years on the an aspect of the church and were asked to take on the persona of the writer, talk about the thesis of the book, defend that thesis and argue against the other ‘authors’. It was fun to see guys taking on theses that they obviously didn’t agree with and arguing them as if they owned them. Then it was time to critique each book, so the interns dropped their respective façades and said what they thought of the book.

    After that was lunch where I got the dirtiest burger and worst fries I have ever had! It made Maccas look clean and nice!

    After having a sleep I registered for the conference and then went for dinner with Ryan Kelly. Ryan is the Pastor at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is currently doing a PhD on John Owen (which shows that he was the brains trust in our conversation!). We chatted about the usual Pastor stuff (what are we preaching through, what are we reading, our families etc.). Ryan is a great guy and, from the one sermon I have heard, he is a great preacher! You can download his sermons here and you can see him in a discussion with Kevin Deyoung and Greg Gilbert on the mission of the church here.

    After dinner, the conference started and we heard a great talk on the church by Matt Schmucker. Matt is the executive director of 9Marks which is the organisation that has put on this conference I am attending. It was a great talk where he reminded us that the Mission of the church is to glorify God first and foremost and ‘mission’ or ‘evangelism’ exists because worship doesn’t! We then went to an Elders meeting which started at 7pm and finished around about 11:30pm. Even though the Elders had 100 people listening in, they were very open and lovingly frank in what they discussed and how they talked about matters of concern. I was encouraged that aour monthly Elders meetings at Resolved we talk about exactly the same things as they did, with two exceptions, and those exceptions are tied to the congregationalism[1] that exists at Capitol Hill Baptist.


    Points of learning:

    It has been interesting to see how Mark has set up his study and his life. His study is filled with books (of course!), there is always music going and there is always at least one other person in the study at any one time. Mark seems to feed off the energy and conversation of others. I have loved being in the study as I work answering emails and writing blogs. This is because I am an extrovert and love people. I want to think more about how I work because I hate sitting in a room by myself, working on a sermon or something else. I get a lot more work done when I am around people. So what I am going to try to do is work out what sort of work environment is best for me and also work out what is the best work rhythm that suits me, given that I’m extroverted. In Dever, I have experienced a man who knows who he is and sets up his workplace so he will be most effective – and effective is something that I think we all want to be.

    Elder Board – I have said to the Elders at Resolved how glad I am that, as a young pastor, I have a got a band of brothers with me. Not only do I think that an  Elder-governed church is the only form of polity that is biblically sound, but practically it is also extremely wise. I saw the benefits of an Elder Board again last night as I saw 14 men talk about caring for a church of around 1,000 people. I saw the care they had for each other and for their church and I saw how Mark Dever was able to mostly sit back and let his Elders talk about church discipline matters, caring for the hurting people in their church along with buying and selling of property. The Elder Board model multiplies ministry and the leadership of the church in a way which I have never seen in a Parish Council (Anglican) model. I saw that clearly tonight and I was encouraged to keep going with the Elder Board at Resolved.

    [1] Congregationalism is a system of church government where the congregation is the highest earthly authority for the church. Therefore the church votes on whom to let into membership, who to discipline, who to vote in as pastor etc.


  • Day One at Capitol Hill Baptist

    Over the next few days I will be sharing with you about my time at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I went over there for a 9 Marks weekender and throughly loved every minute of it! This next blog was written while I was over there. The other blogs were written after I came back.

    I am here. Finally! The plane ride was long and I didn’t sleep much but I am feeling okay. I was picked up at Dulles airport by my great friend Mat Freeman. From there we went to the nearest Chick Fil A (a “Christian” fast food restaurant!) but it was closed and so we had burritos and as you can see, the staff where we ate were extremely friendly.

    I am staying with a bunch of single guys at the Bull Moose which is an old bed and breakfast, now owned by the church. I have my own room which is marginally bigger than a shoebox but is very nice. I only slept three hours but am as ready for the weekend as the NSW people are ready for a new government.

    This morning I started work over in the Capitol Hill offices but Mark Dever (Senior Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist) told me to come and work in his office because it is a nicer space. It seems like Mark’s office is always open and people are welcome to come and work whenever they want, which, to an extrovert like me, sounds like heaven!

    This afternoon I am sitting in on a conversation that Mark is having with some pastors over the phone and then going out to lunch with him. After that I am going sightseeing in the city and then after dinner there is a whole-church Bible study and then hanging out at Bull Moose with some cool kids from Capitol Hill.