Is the 9Marks International Intensive worth it?
When I heard I would go on the 9Marks International Intensive I was immediately excited. The nine-day program provides an immersive, contextualised, think-tank approach to ecclesiology (the church). The intensive immediately precedes the 9Marks Weekender. I was looking forward to peering under the hood of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and interacting with Mark Dever.
Family, friends, and Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni members matched my excitement, enabling me to take the trip.
I’ve been back in South Africa for a day and have already had enquiries about how things went. This is an account answering some of the questions asked. It also encourages other pastors who get the opportunity in the future to grab it with both hands.
The core 9Marks Intensive activities were watching, learning, thinking, and reading:
9Marks Intensive – Watching
Delegates observed many of Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s weekly activities:
Their core seminars, an adult education hour, meet on Sunday mornings. They have 32 modules covering the Christian life, Bible overview, and many more. Members run the seminars and about 25% of the church attend them.
Their morning and evening services are hard to describe. They’re at once familiar and at the same time a little peculiar. Simple, traditional, and very, very vibrant. I couldn’t hold back tears hearing 1,000 voices sing God’s praise from a re-hymn composed in the 5th Century and adapted by Matt Merker. Or as a new convert gave her testimony before going through the waters of baptism. The preaching is sharp, the gospel proclamation clear. The fellowship and joy of this young congregation (average age is around 25-30) is palpable.
We also sat in on other meetings such as an elders meeting, a members meeting, a service review, and many more.
Capitol Hill Baptist Church is experiencing a tangible move of the Spirit of God. What a joy to behold.
9Marks Intensive – Learning
Many lectures related to compelling community: congregational singing, children’s ministry, and discipline. Others dealt with church polity: elders meetings, leadership development, and congregationalism. Some aimed at the pastor: sermon preparation, church budget, and pastoral internship. There were also lectures on evangelism: church revitalisation, church planting, and international missions.
A particular highlight was the questions and answers after lectures and panel discussions.
9Marks Intensive – Thinking
30 internationals attended the 9Marks Intensive. They came from South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Romania, France, Ireland, India, Dubai, Canada, and Brazil. After sessions, we sat in facilitated groups asking questions and considering practical implementations.
Our leaders (Alberto, Vinny, Harshit, and Tommie) were former interns at Capital Hill Baptist Church.
9Marks Intensive – Reading
As if the watching, learning, and thinking wasn’t enough, we spent a good deal of time reading. This included articles on corporate worship, contextualisation, membership, discipline, and church leadership. We also read chapters from Word-Centered Church (Jamie Dunlop), Membership (Jonathan Leeman), and The Trellis and The Vine (Colin Marshall and Tony Paine). We read the whole of Discipling (Mark Dever), and Discipline (Jonathan Leeman).
I came home with 30 books given by 9Marks in partnership with Crossway. I checked comparative value online and it amounted to over R3,500.00. This boost to my library enables me to give some books away.
I walked around the capital with Stuart Chase from Brakenhurst Baptist Church. On the first day we covered 30km’s around the National Mall. We saw The White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Capital Building, and some Smithsonian’s.
Eating and Sleeping
I can hardly fit into the trousers I took with me to the United States. We ate all the time. From fast-food to Mexican we got to taste a whole lot of what America has to offer.
Sleep, however, was a scarce commodity. Waking up at 5:00 am and hitting the pillow at 12:00 pm was the order of the day. And I suffered from jetlag on top of that. And then there was the snoring in the dormitory we lodged in.
The flights from South Africa to the States are so very, very long. It was almost 4 days of travel which is a costly price to pay. Emirates helped relieve some of the pain through excellent service and decent meals. I missed my wife and kids, pining for her from about day 3.
Was it Worth it?
Yes. 3 reasons why include a model, mechanics, and a man:
Confirmation of a Model
I arrived at Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni 8 years ago with a copy of 9 Marks of a Healthy Church in my backpack. I immediately started putting in practice what I’d read. And God has blessed the ministry in so many ways.
Most of what I saw at Capitol Hill Baptist Church was familiar. The elements we adhere to every week. But they have a 25-year headstart and a 1,000 member congregation. I saw the impact time and faithfulness may have on our congregation.
It was a great blessing to see God-glorifying fruitfulness.
Application of Mechanics
While we apply the same elements the forms have evolved at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. They have leveraged their deep pools of knowledge so well. And so, even though we’re doing fine I’ve seen mechanics that will enable us to push even harder, go even further.
Testimony of a Man
I got to observe Mark Dever. He is an interesting chap; funny, energetic, team oriented, charitable and generous:
Very funny. Like when he read long quotes out of a Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ biography doing all the British accents while acting out the scenes at 1:30am on Monday morning.
Very energetic. Not in a C.J. Mahaney kind of a way. Mark’s time in England and his love for history lends him a sense of poise. But he has deep pockets of energy which allow him to work into the wee hours of the morning and, while red eyed, wake up ready to take on the new day.
Very team oriented. It’s as if there isn’t a task that Mark does without cooperating with others. He pulls other men into everything.
Very charitable. Upon hearing, numerous times, that various Christian leaders had slurred him, he responded, “Oh, that brother does wonderful work.” or, “I had no idea that they were saying that about me… but they’re perfectly entitled to that opinion.”
Very generous. Especially with his time. I saw him paying careful attention to almost every man that approached him. And I saw him giving attention to men others may have overlooked. While he is far more direct in speech than would be considered polite by South African standards he is affable and very difficult to dislike.
God has appointed a man of His own choosing to execute His model and mechanics at Capitol Hill Baptist church. God is good. And most worthy of our praise! And the 9Marks International Intensive is well worth attending.