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Over the weekend, I was reading at Sharperiron.org and commenting on a thread that went on a rabbit trail about 9Marks. My comment got long-winded and I thought it might be good to discuss it here as I’ve never brought up 9Marks before and my concerns with this group.
9Marks exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God’s glory to the nations through healthy churches. (Source)
Evidently, churches can be identified as a 9Marks church if they follow their practices/guidelines, so if you want to find a church that adheres to the 9Marks guidelines, you can search here for a church in your area.
The following is my comment which first includes an excerpt of what I am responding to:
“Here are the nine marks (changes) Dever advocates churches adopt (change to): expositional preaching; biblical theology; the Gospel; biblical understanding of conversion, biblical understanding of evangelism; biblical understanding of church membership; biblical church discipline; concern for discipleship and growth; biblical church leadership.I cannot find the nefarious influence lurking there – I agree that churches all across the land would be wise to return to these core values.”
I’ve read some of the 9Marks writings and some of these ideas are troublesome to me. I am concerned that while the basic principles may seem to work as a guideline for good and decent shepherds, they also may give license to those pastors who are heavy-handed in authority and ruling over their congregants. We need to be wise in turning to core values in the Bible, not core values of Dever and 9Marks – just sayin’.
I was asked to explain further and here is my response regarding 9Marks:
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Chip, I am happy to explain. I need to break it up into 2 comments because of length.
Here’s an example of something I find troublesome at 9Marks: their guidelines on church membership. What exactly does the Bible say about church membership? Not a whole lot, yet 9Marks has a whole lot about it. Where did all of that come from?
Here is an article explaining some of their thinking on members who leave churches: Pastors, Don’t Let Your People Resign into Thin Air.
I would first like to address an overall tone that I find prevalent at 9Marks. What do you think an average church member will think when they read that title? Look at the word “let” – it implies that a pastor is the one who decides, not the congregant. Once again, pretend you are a congregant when reading the following excerpts and see if you can read an underlying tone that church leaders own church members:
When a church releases a member in good standing,
WHY YOU CAN’T LET PEOPLE RESIGN INTO THIN AIR
When your church made that person a member, you were declaring to the world that this person belongs to the kingdom of Jesus (Mt. 16:18-19). By regarding this person as a member, your church affirmed that he is indeed a “brother” in Christ (1 Cor. 5:11-13).
If someone tries to resign mid-process in order to “escape discipline,” should the church just let them go? Of course not. That would defeat the whole point of church discipline. Instead, the church must retain the right to refuse someone’s resignation and send them out another way—through excommunication.
The upshot of all this is that a church should not accept a member’s resignation who is not doing what Christians do—in this case, regularly assemble with a church.
I thought pastors were to guide their people, being servant leaders, not rule over. That is a topic all on its own. But I thought it was important to observe the overall tone first. This is the prevailing tone at the site, that pastors rule over congregants. I realize I’m probably stepping on some toes by saying this, but if you (in general) are feeling defensive by my words and perhaps because I’m a woman bringing this subject up, I’d like to challenge you on this authoritarian position. If pastors are modeling after Christ, they are servant leaders.
I am aware that a lot of pastors participate at this site. I want to be sure that this message is clear: I am not at all against pastors/shepherds. I am against spiritual abusers or what scripture refers to as wolves. Because of this tone and pretty strict guidelines on membership/discipline, etc, I think 9Marks could be very attractive to spiritual wolves who are control-happy and care more about being in charge rather than guiding sheep.
Most pastors who have studied scripture in Jude, 2 Tim, Matt 7 know very well the dangers of spiritual abusers/false teachers. I recently read that one of the top 10 professions that appeal to narcissists are pastors. We know from scripture the dangers of false teachers and God shows his grief about the harm it causes His sheep and what He will do to spiritual wolves in Ezekiel 34. Scripture also says that wolves creep in unnoticed and devour. They deceive. The behavior of false teachers/wolves in scripture matches up with behavior of narcissism. Even if pastors were in the top 20 professions for narcissists, that still paints a very sad picture for the health of some of our churches and for the people within them. (Source)
JA note: I will post Part 2 tomorrow.