More than 900 pastors, students and church members attended the eighth annual 9Marks conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) Sept. 30-Oct. 1.
Trip Lee, second from right, shares with 9Marks conference participants at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Lee is teaching pastor at Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, Ga. He was part of a panel of speakers at the event.
Speakers Danny Akin, Mark Vroegop, Trip Lee, Mark Dever, Thabiti Anyabwile and Robby Gallaty addressed the theme of discipleship during six sessions and several panel discussions over the two-day conference.
Opening up the event, SEBTS President Danny Akin spoke from Mark 8 on the bedrock basics of biblical discipleship. “What you think and what you believe about Jesus will determine what you think and what you believe about everything else,” he said.
True discipleship, according to Akin, requires abandonment of self. “The self-centered life must be put to death,” he said. “If there is a foundational essence of biblical discipleship it is saying no to you and yes to him.”
Lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, Ind., Mark Vroegop, addressed the topic of patience in discipleship. “Moments where patience is at a premium are moments when discipleship is stronger,” he said. “Those are the moments when we’re most interested and most ready for what God has to do in our lives.”
Vroegop encouraged pastors to exercise patience with their congregations as they teach and lead them from the pulpit and one-on-one. “Loving your people more than [hating] where they’re at is an important part of discipleship,” he said.
Mark Dever, president of 9Marks and senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C., gave several tips for creating a culture of discipleship in the church, including a focus on the gospel, congregational accountability and encouragement, regular prayer and more.
Dever said that the gospel should permeate everything we do, especially with those we disciple. “Make the gospel clear,” he said. “The better they know what the gospel is the better they will be able to see it in all areas of life.”
Teaching pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, Ga., Trip Lee ended the first day of the conference by speaking on Ephesians 4 and the need for unity in discipleship. “Families have a special unity because they share blood, but we share something much deeper than that,” Lee said. “We have much more in common than we have different, and that matters.”
Lee identified several characteristics of disciples who value unity in the body of Christ. “If our discipleship isn’t characterized by humility and gentleness and patience, we’re going to be growing deformed disciples,” he said.
Day two of the conference opened with senior pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington D.C., Thabiti Anyabwile, who addressed the neglect of older women in the church. “I’ve come to believe that the most neglected aspect of a pastor’s job description is the command for pastors to disciple older women in their congregations,” he said. “It’s a massive omission since women have an equal and necessary part in the Great Commission.”
Speaking from Titus 2, Anyabwile urged pastors to make a plan for discipling older women because of the great impact they can have in the church. “You’ve got this picture here of a significant contingent of our army being employed fully in the basic mission of the church,” he said. “And the older women are not kind of set aside and left to grow old as if not useful, but the older women are invited in and engaged and instructed.”
To wrap up the conference, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., Robby Gallaty said discipleship is the biblical plan for changing the world. “I believe a return to discipleship will enact the reformation of the 21st century,” he said.
Identifying the church’s evangelism problem as primarily a discipleship problem, Gallaty called listeners to build churches through discipleship. “If you seek to make disciples, you will always grow a church,” he said. “If you seek to grow a church, you will rarely make disciples.”
The conference also included several panel discussions where speakers unpacked their topics further and addressed issues common in discipleship relationships.
The EQUIP program at SEBTS, part of the Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching, also hosted a breakfast panel on Oct. 1. Jim Shaddix, professor of preaching and W.A. Criswell chair of preaching, moderated the panel that included Akin, Gallaty and Anyabwile.
9Marks’ mission is to “equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God’s glory to the nations through healthy churches.” The nine marks of a healthy church include preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, conversion, evangelism, membership, discipline, discipleship and leadership.
SEBTS is scheduled to host the next 9Marks at Southeastern conference focusing on the topic of leadership Sept. 29-30, 2017.