Sunday, May 29, 2016

We're Moving Back To Oxford!

Have you ever had a time in your life where you made careful plans and thought out every detail and as you move forward with the plan, God turned you around and said “Nope. You’re doing something completely different”?



That seems to be the theme of our life.


We thought we would take the summer to visit friends.


We thought we were going to stay in DC for a while while Anthony looks for a job.

A Hot Day & Pretty Lauren & I at church!

So it turns out, while we are on our way to arrange our housing in DC for July, Anthony gets an email from Oxford which basically revealed the necessity of finishing his last few months of the degree in person. Just like that, all our plans change.

We don’t know precisely where we will live or work or what happens next, but apparently we’re spending the next four months in England.


It’s been an interesting five months in DC, and Anthony will tell you more about it.




I (Anthony) will finish this crazy bootcampish pastoral internship in the next two days. I have read over 47 books and 8,474 pages on ecclesiology (the study of the church).

The Interns as the Mets vs Nationals Game
We are so grateful for our time here at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and we are going to miss all the friends we made since we have been here. This has been a great time of healing. Dr. Mark Dever and all the other pastors at CHBC, thank you for showing me what the role of a pastor really is and for being patient with me :)

All the Miami guys w/the great Dr. Reju during the May Weekender Conference
We love you all & will keep you posted in the future. Please pray for us to find housing in England and for us to get situated. Also please pray for me to find a job by October so that we won't be jobless and homeless. Thank you to all our family and friends who supported us in this move to D.C. and continue to support us in this next season.

Me Sharing w/the Congregation How Much This Internship Has Meant To Us

Love,

Anthony & Lauren Spallone

P.S. - I am also attaching a really cool story about CHBC that was recently written in the First Things Journal called Puritans on the Potomac by Dr. Timothy George.


On a late November evening in 1867, two years after the end of the American Civil War, Celestia Ferris, chief washer-woman at the Bureau of Engraving, organized a prayer meeting not far from the U. S. Capitol. She was joined by a circle of earnest Christians, mostly of the Baptist persuasion, who prayed that a new church would be gathered in their community. At the time, there was no church of any denomination in the northwest quarter of Washington, D. C. In 1878, their prayer was answered when thirty-one members joined to form the Metropolitan Baptist Church, so called from Spurgeon’s famous Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, which at the time was one of the most famous Protestant churches in the world.
During the first half of the twentieth century, the church grew steadily and reached a membership high in the thousands during the 1950s. Then, plagued by erratic leadership, the church began a spiraling decline not unlike many other urban congregations at the time. By the early 1990s, attendance hovered around one hundred people, one of whom was the famous evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry. Henry suggested that the church consider as its next pastor Mark Edward Dever, a somewhat brash but brilliant American student just then completing his Ph.D. at Cambridge University. (Full disclosure: Mark Dever was once my student, and I preached at his pastoral installation in 1994).
To reverse the fortunes of a flagging downtown congregation required skill, pluck, and some sanctified grit. Dever had all of these, but he also put in place a strategy that most church growth gurus would have deplored. For example, he began to preach sermons that lasted upwards of one hour. Next, the church excised from its rolls hundreds of inactive members—some so inactive that they had long been dead! The practice of church discipline was begun. Members were also required to subscribe to a confession of faith and to say “an oath”—this is how a secular journalist described the church covenant—at the monthly communion. Entertainment-based worship was replaced by congregational singing, including many long-forgotten classic hymns from the past. Instead of driving people away, however, over time this approach to church life—to the surprise of many—attracted droves of new believers, many of them millennials and young professionals. Today, the average age of members at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (as Metropolitan is now known) is thirty-one, and the place is bursting at the seams, with standing room only on Sunday mornings.
What explains the success of this counter-cultural congregation? Do we see here what Jonathan Edwards might have called “a surprising work of God,” a mysterious movement of grace that defies analysis? Perhaps. But could it also be that the rising generation has developed a hunger for a more substantial spirituality than that on offer in bland, postmodern construals of religion? Could it be that more and more young adults are finding too thin the “I love Jesus but don’t need the church” mentality? CHBC is marked by doctrinal and ecclesial intentionality. Unlike many evangelicals who stress a personal relationship with Jesus at the expense of churchly commitment, Dever stresses their coinherence. “It is impossible to answer the question what is a Christian? without ending up in a conversation about the church; at least in the Bible it is.”
Dever is a good preacher but his sermons are not characterized by rhetorical or poetic finesse. Instead, he offers a steady diet of biblical exposition—the first of “nine marks” he has outlined for a healthy church. Dever does not often preach topical sermons but rather follows the lectio continua method of preaching through a given book after the model of Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin in the Reformation. Not long ago, as Dever prepared to preach to his congregation on Psalm 143, he said, “You will be bored if you don’t open your Bible and leave it open. All I’m gonna do is talk about what’s in the Bible.”
CHBC has been described as the epicenter of the new Calvinism sweeping across many evangelical churches today, including the Southern Baptist Convention. (CHBC belongs to the SBC.) However, the church’s literature does not speak of the tenents of Calvinism. Its statement of faith is not the more Calvinistic Philadelphia Confession, a “baptized” version of Westminster, but rather the less precise New Hampshire Confession of Faith. Still, there is no doubt that the church does honor the Puritan heritage of the Reformation and embraces the theology set forth by such Baptist heroes of the past as John Bunyan, Roger Williams, Andrew Fuller, Adoniram Judson, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon himself.
Through Dever’s connection with movements such as The Gospel Coalition and Together For The Gospel, and through the many pastoral interns trained and sent out from Capitol Hill, the theological influence of the church has spread far and wide. In his pathbreaking book, Young, Restless, Reformed, Collin Hansen described a movement that includes the Capitol Hill Puritans.
The resurgence of Calvinism indicates that America hasn’t changed so much as some might suppose. American Christianity has splintered in myriad directions since the Puritans settled New England. But the God they worshiped—attested in the Bible, sovereign in all things, and merciful toward sinners through the self-sacrificed Jesus Christ—still captivates believers today.
It has always been a mystery to scholars of religion how a view of salvation so heavily weighted toward divine initiative and election—what Mark Twain has Huckleberry Finn call “preforeordestination”—has so often manifested itself in an activism bent on transforming the world and culture. But in the radical Augustinian tradition—of which Calvinism is only one variant—the glory of God and his predestining grace are clearly motivating, not inhibiting, factors in the revolution of the saints. Those who are looking for a moribund Calvinism turned in on itself, with no vision for the mission of the church in the world, will not find such at CHBC. No, this church is alive with evangelism and mission, with ministries of mercy and compassion, and with church planting schemes throughout North America and around the world. Dever argues for a vision of the catholicity of the church that cuts against four major problems among churches in America today: provincialism, sectarianism, racism, and exclusivism.
But, being a large evangelical Baptist church within easy walking distance of the U. S. Capitol poses special problems. Dever says, “I keep the Gospel central and try to avoid any unduly partisan expressions or language.” Some of his members, he says, are “loud Republicans,” and some are “loud Democrats.” Many of his members work in Congress or in agencies of the federal government. Dever affirms their God-given vocation to serve their country in this way and in fact encourages his entire congregation’s prayerful participation in democratic decision-making. He reminds them that they are citizens of another City, the one with foundations whose builder and maker is God. The church’s Baptist confession of faith declares the ultimate allegiance of all the redeemed. They are followers of “our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Lord of the conscience and the Prince of the kings of the earth.”
The prayer Celestia Ferris and her friends offered for a new church on Capitol Hill nearly 150 years ago is still being answered. As T.S. Eliot wrote in Choruses from “The Rock,” “The Church must be forever building, and always decaying/ and always being restored.”

Timothy George is dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and general editor of the Reformation Commentary on ScriptureHis email address is tfgeorge@samford.edu.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Prayer Needed...

Hello family and friends! 

We are writing again from our nation’s capital in Washington DC. We have been here about four months now and it has been an incredible time of healing and restoration for us. One of the things that my pastor Mark Dever has showed me in my short time here is that we need to have a more broad and longer view of ministry than looking at short term often times exaggerated definitions of what a successful ministry is.

This is what service review looks like on Sunday nights in Mark's study
Over the last two years, there have been four major pastors in the South Florida area who have been disqualified from the ministry who had big ministries and were all fired by their churches. I pray often for Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, Tullian Tchividjian of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Pedro Garcia of Calvary Chapel Kendall, and Frank Hopkins Jr. of Christ Fellowship Miami (my previous church). Whether the reason was adultery or drugs or abuse they were all recognized by their churches as being disqualified from meeting the qualifications of what a pastor should be in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-4. It breaks my heart because I have seen God use these men in mighty ways. But what God is teaching me is that it can happen to any pastor, even me. This is why the Apostle Peter goes on in 1 Peter 5:8 after he states the qualifications of a pastor to say, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

'Discipling' some young men in the church by making them watch 'The Godfather'
I love Miami. It is the place where I have lived most of my life, it is the city where I became a Christian, it is the city where I met my wife, it is the city where I was ordained at the age of 22, it is the city where I got my first ministry opportunity, and it is the city that I hope to one day be back in serving the Lord. But when I think about the need there and how much Satan has a stronghold there it breaks my heart when he takes out one of the pastors in the city. I understand that Satan’s strategy is to take out the pastors of a city because it affects everyone in their churches and it discourages other pastors in that city but it bothers me so much. I pray for the day when this will not be the case in Miami. I pray for healthy churches and healthy pastors and healthy congregations. This is why I love 9Marks mission of – “Building Healthy Churches”.  

My brother-in-law Paul and sister-in-law Leti visiting from Miami
And this is why Lauren and I have been so grateful for our time at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. We have seen that this has been a good place for us spiritually and we are grateful for the Lord to have brought us here. One of the awesome things that has happened in the last week is Lauren received a scholarship from Houston Baptist University for their Master of Arts in Apologetics degree. The great thing about this program is it can be done online which means that we can stay here in DC if the Lord wills and build on what we have already built here so far and continue to heal and grow.

Interns Class for Spring 2016 at CHBC
So please pray for us to figure this out. I have six weeks left in the internship and I’m currently on paper 58 (out of 79). We are on the last stretch. After the internship we are doing to visit a few friends on the East Coast and then come July 1st we will need to find a place to rent. Lauren and I will also need to find jobs as well. We are grateful for all of you and your support for us. We just want to stay in a healthy church and in a place where we are both growing so that one day when God does send us back to do ministry in Miami we will have that foundation and growth to where we can be in the ministry for the long haul. We love you all and have been overwhelmed by your love and support.

In Christ,


Anthony and Lauren

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Washington D.C.




Hello family and friends! We are writing from our nation’s capital in Washington DC. Lauren has safely arrived and we are getting settled into our place. We live near an area called Eastern Market and are about an eight-minute walk from our church. God has blessed us with an amazing place with a great landlady. We also went through our first snowstorm as you can see below and even got to go sledding down the actual Capitol Hill.  

(This is Anthony sledding on Capitol Hill)

As most of you know by now, I have been accepted into the five-month pastoral internship program at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and am interning full-time until May 31st. The internship is under Dr. Mark Dever who wrote a popular book called Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. He received his PH D in Ecclesiastical History from Cambridge University. You can read more about him from wikipedia here. I have a passion for the study of the church (ecclesiology) so learning under Dever is a great opportunity. This internship will include lots of reading and writing on the nature of what the church is, how it should function, and the role of pastors. I will be writing up to 80 papers. If you want to see what I am reading you can take a look from my Goodreads account by clicking here.


As much as we miss you all in Miami, we are grateful that God has brought us to this place. I believe this training and experience will make me a better pastor. Please continue to pray for us as we decide what to do in the summer and fall. Lauren has already been accepted to a couple graduate programs and we are praying for her to get a scholarship.

(Caleb, one of the other interns, helping us shovel snow to get to our car)

If you want to come and visit please let us know! We don’t have a big place but we have a queen size blow up mattress and great location. Please don’t forget our friends Shephathiah (and Natalie Leonard w/baby Malachi) as Sheph leads Christ Fellowship Miami Beach.

We personally want to say thank you to everyone who has supported and prayed for us. We love you all very much and are grateful that you believe in the calling on our lives for the sake of the church and the glory of God.


Love,

Anthony and Lauren

711 North Carolina Ave SE
Washington DC 20003


Line of the week: Me: "Why do you support so many past interns and members?" Mark Dever: "We want God's Kingdom to win Anthony. It's not about Capitol Hill Baptist Church. We could cease to exist tomorrow & that would be okay. It's about what God is doing in the world."

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cinderella needs to be more like Batman



 Did you ever notice that Batman and Cinderella had similar beginnings? Both became orphans at a young age but their lives went in two very different directions. Batman traveled the world, learned martial arts, and returned to his city to fight the crime that killed his parents. Cinderella did nothing and became a slave in her own home until a near stranger acquired her for her pretty face. If Cinderella had a little more “Batman” in her, the story would have gone very different.  
So, I fixed it. (You're welcome Disney) She can keep the ball and pretty dresses and marriage to a prince, just give us MORE.


Here is the story, along with the way I think it should have gone.

Disney Cinderella: My parents are dead! The grief is crippling.
Better Cinderella: My parents are dead! I’ll have to stand on my own two feet now.


Disney Cinderella: I think I'll do nothing and let myself be psychologically abused until I lose all self-respect.
Better Cinderella: Stepmother tries to dominate me. I don't put up with it. This is my house she came into.


Disney Cinderella: I let the abuse turn me into some kind of slave. Now I clean stuff all day.
Better Cinderella: Inheritance law gives Stepmother the house. I move out and earn my own way, possibly as a governess in a manor house, or maybe a dressmaker for the upper class. After all, knowing how to make a dress is much cooler than only knowing how to wear one.

Disney Cinderella: Years pass. Still cleaning. The only friends I feel worthy of having are literal vermin.
Better Cinderella: I get acquainted with all the secrets of the ruling class and start to use them to my advantage. I use my influence to get involved politically behind the scenes. I aim to have a hand in stopping the dangerous conditions that killed my father.

Disney Cinderella: Since I have no real dreams, my greatest ambition is to go to a party I don't think I'm good enough to attend.
Better Cinderella: I decide to attend a ball on secret mission to deliver poison antidotes to lady in waiting who is afraid for her life.

Disney Cinderella: Magic has to intervene because I can't do anything for myself.
Better Cinderella: I wear a dress of my own design with secret pockets for weapons.

Disney Cinderella: I make it to the ball and people think I’m pretty, but would prefer me to smile like a doll and keep my mouth shut. I don’t have anything interesting to say anyway. Rich guy decides to acquire me based solely on my appearance.
Better Cinderella: Arriving at the ball, I run into the prince. I avoid him because he draws too much attention. While making my escape, I am narrowly caught by a guard who has a vendetta against me. I end up dancing with the Prince until the guard is gone. While we dance, I take advantage of the situation to voice my opinions on the kingdom’s policies. The prince surprisingly agrees with me.

Disney Cinderella: Time to leave. I run away because I don’t have the self-worth or dignity to be straightforward with the prince. My dress returns to rags because I don’t even have control over my own clothes. One of my absurdly impractical slippers gets left behind. I’m lucky it didn’t shatter and cripple me for life.
Better Cinderella: I tell him exactly who I am because I’m not intimidated by people with royal blood. If he wants to see me, he knows where to find me. I leave, slipping off into the shadows and climbing down the stone wall to avoid the guards. Luckily, I wore pretty but practical boots because my life involves more than tottering around a dance floor.

Disney Cinderella: He said he loved me, but he couldn’t even remember what I looked like. I did nothing to seek him out. After making his way through every last girl in the kingdom, he hunted me down and carried me off.  I marry him after knowing him for about three days. Since I am emotionally crippled and don't have much to offer, it's clear I'll be his little pet like I was my stepmother’s.
Better Cinderella: He comes to see me. After a long and cautious courtship in which we slowly earn each other’s trust, we marry.

Disney Cinderella: Nothing else interesting happens ever. I sit in the castle and try desperately to hold on to my beauty since it’s the only thing I have.
Better Cinderella: I actually have something to offer my husband besides a pretty face. We ride across our kingdom having adventures and ruling wisely and justly hand in hand for many years. 


Be pretty on the outside and Batman on the inside.