Mark Dever is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. Currently he is preaching through the book of Revelation, and in one of his recent sermons he made the following provocative statement [transcript provided by paleoevangelical]:
I am suggesting that what you believe about the Millennium—how you interpret these thousand years—is not something that it is necessary for us to agree upon in order for us to have a congregation together. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:21 that we Christians might be one. Of course, all true Christians are one in that we have his Spirit, we share his Spirit, we desire to live out that unity. But that unity is supposed to be evident as a testimony to the world around us.
Therefore, I conclude that we should end our cooperations together with other Christians, whether nearly (in a congregation) or more at length (in working together in missions and church planting and evangelism and building up in the ministry) only with the greatest of care, lest we rend the body of Christ, for whose unity he’s prayed and given himself. Therefore, I conclude that it is a sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united.
Therefore, for us to conclude that we must agree on a certain view of alcohol or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the Millennium, in order to have fellowship with one another is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore unwarranted and, therefore, condemned by Scripture.
So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular Millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation. [Listen to the full audio.]
Those of us in the GARBC, which zealously endorses a dispensational pre-Millennial view, certainly raise our eyebrows when we read such comments. Dever, who personally holds an amillennial viewpoint, held no punches in this sermon. Before we are tempted to have a knee-jerk reaction, there are a few things we should keep in mind.
Therefore, Mark is a brother who is to be respected, cherished, and honored. With that said, I still hold some major disagreements with his comments. While I could perhaps be convinced that he is right when applied to church membership, I would argue that such an approach for church leadership is tantamount to confusion in the pulpit. It is one thing to say to the membership, “We understand that you may have a different ends times view than us, but that won’t bar you from membership.” However, it is an entirely different matter to say, “We are so open about this that you will probably hear different perspectives from the pulpit.”
The job of the pastor and elders is to teach the “whole counsel of God,” which necessarily requires that they take a certain eschatological view. Certainly they can (and should) do this charitably, but the function of their role and office requires gentle leadership on teaching matters. I can see the wisdom in allowing the general membership some flexibility, but only on the condition that they understand and will not undermine the teaching position of that local assembly.
Feel free to comment. Dever has done us a favor by bringing an important conversation to the table.