By Jessi Strong

When Mark Dever was invited to pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington, D.C., in 1993, the Cambridge University professor considered himself more an academic than a minister. “I DID WELL IN MY STUDIES. … I WAS PREPARING TO TEACH AT A SEMINARY FOR A 


Dever had planned to come to the U.S. to teach a class that summer, so he extended his stay to visit CHBC. While the invitation to pastor had come as a surprise to Dever, his visit confirmed this calling. “I preached for them and just felt led during my time there that this was what the Lord wanted me to do.” Looking back, he is able to see that discipleship and evangelism had long been a part of his life: “I was already doing ministry in the sense of teaching. I preached at my local church and would also speak on apologetics and evangelism.”

During high school, Jules Martinez, now a pastor and theology professor, sought answers about the spiritual world. Living on the north coast of Puerto Rico, the Martinez family were “cultural Catholics,” and some practiced Santeria, which Martinez describes as “a combination of Caribbean spiritism and Catholicism.” In his search for answers, Martinez  read “evangelical books on demon possession and the occult. It was pretty sensationalist literature, but it drove me to the Bible to find out what it really said about those subjects.”

When the Israelites lost a battle to the Philistines, they knew their enemies weren’t responsible. “Why has the Lord defeated us today?” they asked (1 Sam 4:3). During a second attack, the Israelites brought the ark of the covenant to the battlefield, believing that its presence would protect them. Even the Philistines expected to lose the rematch, lamenting, “Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?” (4:8). Despite this, the Israelites were annihilated and the Philistines captured the ark. What’s going on in this episode?