Friday, April 15, 2005

Polity Matters (Part 4): Theory or Practice?

Tonight I'm very fortunate to be sitting in the den of a house in NW Washington, D.C.--a house that has a lovely view of the National Cathedral from the upper stories. I'm here with trusted friend KB, who works on Capitol Hill and has been a member at Capitol Hill Baptist Church since September, 2004, and has been attending since May. I thought it would be great to offer a first-hand perspective on the ministry I've been blogging about for the past few days in the form of a one-on-one interview.

Paleo: What was the first thing you noticed was unique about CHBC when you started visiting?
KB: This is a church that people really want to be at. Everyone I talked to seemed really excited and thankful to be there. Immediately there was a spirit of fellowship in that as a first-time visitor, there were a number of people who were asking me who I was, why I was there, what I got out of the message, whether I was challenged, and was I a Christian.

Paleo: Several months later, now that you're a member, what still strikes you as being unique about this church?
KB: In the midst of a very fast-paced, me-oriented city, the sense of unity and brotherly love.

Paleo: You're familiar with 9 Marks and Pastor Dever's books. Is it all good theory, or does he actually practice it consistently in the church life?
KB: Very consistent. As consistently as possible. There is a sense in which the membership knows that we are a model church to some degree. Having a ministry like 9 Marks associated with our church automatically brings focus on what this church is all about. It's not an arrogant self-consciousness, but a realization that we have a strategic location in the sense that we have a large number of people coming and going, who are here for only a year or two, visitors from all over the world, and interns. From that, we as believers model what we teach to the rest of the world.

Paleo: What are the chief contributions of CHBC and Mark Dever to evangelicalism?
KB: Whatever impact the church has is in the Lord's hands. It's hard to see, but at the same time, there are a lot of people from the outside who take notice of what's going on at CHBC.

Paleo: In what areas, then, is Dever having an impact?
KB: In the church reform area, we are demonstrating what a church should look like concerning polity, how believers should fellowship with one another, that polity matters, and how to make decisions deliberately after thorough planning. There is an atmosphere of church discipline that goes beyond voting out members for unrepentant sin. It cultivates a culture of personal accountability among members, taking place over coffee, lunch at a local joint, or passing someone on the sidewalk between the Capitol and the Library of Congress. We definitely have an advantage in that so many people work near each other and have much in common in the kind of work we do. Members take the church covenant seriously. We read it constantly, so we are consistently thinking about the commitment we have made to this local body. The prominence of congregational rule requires that each member take responsibility for what is going on within the church.

Paleo: Why has Dever been successful at reforming CHBC?
KB: Unabashed faithfulness to Scripture. Genuine humility. Faithful leadership. He never gives anyone the impression that he did this. It's all of the Lord. There is such a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude for God's grace among the membership of this church for what He has done through Mark and also for placing us here. There is a commitment to the core of the faith, and the Lord blesses those who are faithful to the truth and seek to live it out.

Paleo: What is the single most important thing that CHBC has that other fundamental churches lack but could implement.
KB: I don't think you can take one piece of the pie out or emphasize one over the other. Some people think everyone at CHBC has memorized Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. The obsession is not with polity. It's a commitment to the gospel and it's implications for our lives every day. The gospel is not simply something that happened in the past. It's something that's profoundly impacting my life right now. CHBC is constantly putting the gospel and our responsibility to understand it and present it to others before the congregation.


david said...

Neat. Matt S. was just out here. I only got to talk with him for about 30 min, but some of my friends spent much longer and he gave us lots to think and talk about.

Ben said...

It would definitely be interesting to know what he gave you guys to think about. Anything you can share with the masses of us in flyover country?