I have so encouraged to see a resurgence among young independent fundamental baptists calling for a revolution back to truth. It is encouraging to hear the stories from so many who are prayerfully seeking balance in their faith, their families, and their ministries. For too long, legalists have ruled, dictators have oppressed, and ignorance prevailed. [If you’re a rebel, don’t click here.]
I sincerely apologize if that sounds condescending – I know it’s hard to interpret tone on a blog – but I can vouch for the guy at the keyboard… it’s not at all condescending. I am very much a student. I am in process. I’m still growing – hopefully – toward Christ. But I do find issue with some things that many of my IFB friends continue to practice and preach. I have been silent, had quiet conversations with gentlemen in dark corners (okay, that’s a bit overstated and dramatic); but seriously, I feel like it’s time for me to step up and speak up…
I was raised on the old B-A-P-T-I-S-T acrostic. The one that supposedly made us ‘distinctive’ in our faith. But as I’m reading and learning, I’m discovering that most -if not all- of these are not exactly as they seem. So, today I’m kicking off a 4- or 5-part discourse on our dysfunction. I will seek to be open and not authoritative, subjective and not snobbish, truthful but not negative. These first two deal with the F and the I of IFB…
B- Biblical Authority
Can I still be included as a “fundamentalist” – even if I don’t ascribe to all the extra standards? I had a preacher tell me once that the issue of women wearing pants should be included with the fundamentals (as in: biblical inerrancy, deity of Christ, etc). True story! Why can’t we fellowship if we aren’t exactly the same? (If Amos 3:3 applies like you say it does, then our churches should be a lot smaller.) Speaking of that, why do we intentionally exclude people from our church? For example, a friend’s church has a statement like this on their wall: “If you like the KJV, you’ll love this church!” What about someone who doesn’t know about Bible versions, will they love it? What if someone just loves the Lord, will they love your church… or just like it? Why do we do that? It sure doesn’t seem like the Bible is the ‘sole authority’ any more. (Speaking of the KJV, I’ve got Bible version questions, do you?) Seems more like Bible+ or Bible*! It’s as if I’m in the twilight zone and I’m the only one who sees that we are doing what we accused everyone else of.
We are not the only bastions of the truth. There IS more than one right way. Yes, there is right and wrong, black and white, and absolute truth. There are right ways to do things, just like there are wrong ways, but God’s will is not a tight-rope to be walked. Why am I saying this? Because I was told many times that there was only one right way, but many wrong ways. That’s nothing short of a lie. God didn’t just create butterflies, He created over 12,000 varieties. He loves variety. Why do we demand sameness in our pursuit of unity and agreement? Why do we force Borg-like assimilation? ‘Comply or be destroyed.’ Why is there no room for discussion, disagreement, or debate? (More to come on this in the next few weeks… the P & I)
A – Autonomy of the Local Church
Why was I told that Southern Baptists (and other baptists, for that matter) are not autonomous? Unless you think autonomous means isolated, there are many other kinds of churches besides IFB which are self-governing. Baptists are not the only sovereign group. There are independent Christian churches, non-denom, and even autonomous protestants (settle down, that’s not an endorsement). When I was starting a church outside of Louisville, I was told there were no “gospel-preaching churches” in the county. That was a lie! There were several. Just because they aren’t IFB doesn’t mean they don’t have the gospel. I can name you at least 3-4 pastors in that county preaching the gospel and teaching evangelism (and practicing it). I regret not working with these great men many years earlier. The tragedy is that I bought the lie that I couldn’t be ‘equally yoked’ with these men. Lies!
IFB preachers are lonely and their fellowship meetings are growing boring. (Sorry for being Debbie Downer here, but we continue to isolate in the name of Biblical separation.) There are great men who passionately love the Lord who are quickly discounted because they carry an ESV, sing a song written after 1950, or wear shorts in church. The term “ecclesiastical separation” has been egregiously misused and, therefore, been the tool of many a leader to abuse a congregation into cultish tendencies. Calling a man a heretic because he believes in God’s sovereignty and election (which are both Biblical terms) is sin. He is a brother – treat Him like one (but not like you treated your brother growing up, that probably wouldn’t be good!). I’m a firm believer in defending the truth, but destroying kingdom relationships and firing your #oldpaths bullets at brothers MUST cease.
Last year, I attended a conference where a prominent IFB pastor from Southern California was preaching. He was very organized, very classy… until he proceeded to turn his message into a bash ‘Saddleback Sam’ (his words) session. Three different times, he kept going back to it. Why? Is he jealous? Did RW do something to hurt him or his children? This guy isn’t fringe, he’s a leader. He’s respected; his church is booming. So why? When I wrote to him, he didn’t respond back. I just don’t get it.
I’m NOT writing this to stir up stuff. In fact, for the last year, I’ve been almost totally out of the loop – and I LOVING it! The P4G blog has sat quiet as I (and many other contributors) have been very busy for the kingdom, and that’s okay. But two things have stirred this up in my heart: 1). Recent weddings/ funerals which have caused me to cross paths with several good brothers with genuine concerns; 2). Recent conversations with former church members with multiple questions about these very issues.
I am not a leader, so don’t follow me (Ha! Like I really needed to say that anyway!). I’ve found my tribe and it’s not in the IFB… although I’m still very much I, F, and B! So many men are considering deep questions. Questions that their peers don’t want to hear. They are weighing the evidence. and nothing could be better for the movement. They shouldn’t have to choose between old paths and right paths! Could a Truth-Revolution be on its way?
Feel free to leave a comment – a positive one. I’d love to hear how your pastor is different from the ones that I keep hearing about. Surprise me. Please be solution-oriented. If indeed our movement is sinking, should a Christian jump ship or try to bail water? Is it too late or am I just not patient enough? What is the future of ‘fundamentalism?’ What do you think of this new fundamentalism?