A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the 9 Marks Weekender at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Below are some of my reflections from the conference. I share to encourage and to record my thoughts and reactions from the Weekender.
The entire conference itself was edifying. There were many things that Pillar Bible Church (PBC) already practices that were affirmed (e.g., service planning, adult Sunday school, etc.). There were also many things that I observed that could be implemented in our local church. Still, while those changes may be programmatic, the heart and motivation behind the ministry of CHBC was what gripped my attention.
First, the elders exhibited such humility. Many of these men were not in full-time ministry (I believe ~20 of their 26 elders are lay elders / bi-vocational). Many of them were educated men who worked in the upper-echelon of society (as one would expect in the DC area). Still, their humility in their communication with one another was encouraging. They treated one another with respect and at points had honest disagreements with one another and did so respectfully.
The elders also exhibited a high level of congregational involvement. By this, I mean that the elders were truly leaders of their flock. They knew their members by name, spent time with them, and genuinely cared for their souls. During a Sunday excommunication, an elder was asked to pray for the excommunicated and he broke out into tears. They also actively and intentionally spent time with the people to get to know the state of their spirituality.
The elders also exhibited a great amount of hospitality. Many elders opened their homes up for lunch on Sunday and we were told that this was not a Weekender exception. They will often open up their homes for meals or go out to lunch on Sundays with church members. They brought us in, served us a generous meal, and took time to get to know us on a personal level.
Second, I realized that their eldership is diverse in all different kinds of ways. They are diverse in their education. Not all of the elders have a theological education, but they are all theologically well-grounded. They were also diverse in their age ranging from their 30s-50s.
Third, I was constantly reminded during the Weekender to “play the long game.” As a young pastor, I desire to see change in the church and am tempted to see the change instantaneously. The Weekender showed me that change is often slow and requires perseverance. During the times of slow change pastors need to remain faithful to teaching God’s Word and spending time with the flock. Healthy churches, just like healthy bodies, can take years. It requires patience, wisdom, and most of all love for the people.
Fourth, I was encouraged to look at our church with an encouraging and gracious eye. The elders are extremely charitable towards their members. Even when members are excommunicated they do so with extreme love and pastoral care. They long for restoration for the excommunicated. They also exhibit this in the way they listen to their church members. They are always looking for the best in their people and giving them opportunities to share the good things God is accomplishing in their lives.
Fifth, they had a very meaningful members meeting. It was truly a family gathering led by the elders. They used the time to help shepherd the congregation in matters related to church life. We were told that the primary focus of every members meeting needs to be the addition/removal of members as well as the public care list. They modeled this by giving attention to spiritual matters and not necessarily on business matters (which is what congregational meetings can often feel like). I was also pleased to see Dever end the meeting by giving a few comments on relevant topics to the spirituality of the local body. He field questions on a difficult counseling topic, spoke about some of his recent speaking engagements, and addressed other items that would be of concern for the local church.
Well, these are my personal reflections of the Weekender. Take them for what they are, reflections. There are several other applications I’d like to implement in the church as a result of the conference, but that may be for another day. For now, I think these reflections alone made the conference valuable to me as a local church pastor praying for God to mature and grow the body. Soli Deo Gloria!