In an exclusive Bible Study Magazine interview, Mark Dever, pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church shares about ministry in Washington, D.C., his personal journey to faith, and characteristics of a healthy church.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
So much turnover can be a challenge for creating continuity in ministry, but Dever also sees how the constant change can benefit a church. “There are hundreds of thousands of people who are from D.C. for generations, and they’re still here. They’re usually the people who’ve been in a church and stay there. So it’s not surprising that, when our church started to grow again numerically in the 1990s, it wasn’t because of the stable older population, but the young people who were just moving into the city and looking for a new church. Young people meld pretty well with those who have been here for a while. We understand that part of following Jesus is helping other people follow him. It’s been wonderful to see the Lord building community here through peer teaching.”
The church faces some challenges. “In this area, evangelicalism is not as common as it is in other parts of the country. Also, we are the largest, most conservative church on the Hill, and therefore we appear a little bit alien to some of the current residents. But we’ve been here since 1878, on the same corner. We’re the first church of any denomination in the northeast quarter of D.C.”
Dever says that none of the challenges the church faced in ministry have to do with location. “They are the same challenges every true Christian church faces in sharing the gospel. Fundamentally, our ministry would be the same in Abu Dhabi or in Canada or in Alabama—we all face the same spiritual reality.”
A testimony of progression
Dever’s journey to faith was quite unusual: Raised in rural Kentucky by a nominally Christian family, he says that he grew up as “a self–conscious agnostic. I thought religion was socially and politically useful, but I didn’t believe any of it was true. I read through all kinds of materials, like the Socratic Dialogues of Plato and the Qu’ran, and tried to figure out the meaning of life. I finally got around to the Gospels, and I was struck by the Gospel of Mark and the early chapters of Acts that detail how Christianity got started. I understood Jesus the rabbi. I understood the early church. But getting from Jesus’ crucifixion to the development of the early church—it seemed utterly impossible apart from there being a God. So I decided that I believed in the resurrection of Jesus, and as a very young teenager, I became a Christian.”
Since then, Dever’s respect for Scripture has only deepened. “It’s extraordinary: the prophecies, the fulfillments, the foreshadowing, the way things fit together. This text could not possibly have been fabricated, and the closer you look at it, the more obvious that becomes. It is so worth your time. Just keep reading.”
You can read the full interview in the latest issue of Bible Study Magazine. Get ministry advice from pastors and leaders in every issue!