I realize I don’t post things over the weekend, but this is just too powerful not to share. I have mentioned on here (more than some would care to count) the things that discourage me about the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IB) movement and why I am not a part of it any more. This was written by a pastor who has had his own exodus out of the IB movement and give reasons as well as cautions. It’s full of humor, humility, and just plain helpful; without any hatred, hostility, or holier than thou attitudes – any post or current fundamentalist will notice and appreciate the alliteration.
I have copy and pasted his article in full, with his permission, as well as included a link to the the church website for those who wish to know more.
May God use this mightily!
And without further adieu…..
Growing Up and Out of the Independent Baptist Movement
By Pastor Shayne Jr.
From Agnostics, Taoist-Buddhists, Metropolitan (gay and lesbian), neo-hippies, church drop-outs, and druggies… to Presbyterian, Reformed, Salvation Army, Pentecostal, and Southern Baptist, the people who have left the denomination of my youth, including myself, now run the gamut of lifestyles, worldviews, and beliefs. I can place names—which use to grace the roll of an Independent Baptist Church—beside every belief system mentioned above; a person who formerly (if not gladly) called themselves a member of, or congregant in a Fundamental, KJV-only, Independent Baptist Church—aka “Independent Baptism”, which I will now abbreviate as IB.
The question is: was there something about the now-declining IB movement which caused such a mass exodus; a turning away from that religious system of our past? As a Pastor who now fits comfortably into the Reformed tradition—after a couple years of teenage rebellion, followed by many adult years spent rethinking and evaluating world religions and the whole Christian “thing”— I can tell you that those who have moved away from IB no longer resemble the movement even faintly. Such personal transformation is only seen where the individuals in question consciously make an effort to redefine themselves. In other words, none of us just fell into another way of life and/or thinking after leaving the IB; we reinvented ourselves so as not to look anything like our former IB selves… some maybe even running too far in the other direction (which describes me in my teenage years).
Personally, I now distance myself from the movement, having found biblical, logical, historical, and spiritual reasons to reject the once-tolerated and/or accepted wacky nuances, un-Christlike dispositions, and false doctrines/dogmas of the movement in which I grew up, including:
- KJV-only Dogma, or worshipof atranslation of God’s Word, which stems from the grossest ignorance (as Doug, Heath and I proved decisively in a recent FB debate) and is truly, by definition, cultic—idolization of something other than God. This is a direct denial of the inspiration of Scripture in the original autographs and causes the Church much embarrassment. It is reminiscent of Middle Ages Catholicism-elitism which imprisoned the Word of God in the clergy’s Latin, and consequentially, insults the Protestant Reformation of which we are all children. IB also felt a sense of duty to defend and protect the letter of this “sacred shrine”, at the cost of actually learning from its content.
- Easy-Believism which says, “Say this little prayer, live like Hell, and go to Heaven!” Contrarily, Jesus said following Him would cost you your life. People want real Faith. Real FAITH requires real SACRIFICE. The kind of sacrifices I remember making when in IB involved things like having to wear blue jeans when swimming, which nearly drowned my brother and me.
- Racism: sorry, but “Do not be unequally yoked” has only to do with Believers not covenanting with non-believers, not interracial marriage. And aren’t those of us who have been enlightened to God’s heart on this matter, tired of being called “Nigger Lovers”? Or maybe that is a badge we should wear! Shouldn’t we be glad God is not as racist as “we”? If He were, Gentiles like us would not have been invited into His New Covenant with Israel. Makes you think. (And yes, we the elect are the “Israel of God”).
- Autocratic Pastorship, which flies in the face of true New Covenant Eldership and is reminiscent, if not a direct bequest of Rome/Constantine. So IB was more popish than apostolic in this regard. Strange: the very same Catholicism that IB blasted was the very same Catholicism which provided much of its ecclesiastical model.
- Evangelistic Pragmatism which stops at nothing to manipulate people into the Kingdom, even if that means that those people get a counterfeit faith. And it is true that many in IB received a counterfeit (“You will know them by their fruits” said Jesus, so judgment is justified within the criterion of Christ). Thank you Charles Finney for this unbiblical phenomenon. IB was as much a product of the Great Awakenings as it is Pentecost… maybe more so.
- Individualism which places the Christian squarely in the Enlightenment and the idealism of the Revolution of 1776 (and thank God for the USA!). But doing so removes Mr. or Mrs. Christian from the revolution of the community, fellowship, and assembly of believers which took place in the 1st Century AD at Pentecost, which is marked by dependence, reliance, unity, and love. This is why few in the Bible Belt submit to Church leadership as they should (and who would want to submit to IB leadership anyways?!). So, the very teaching which made the Christian a rouge individual, is the very teaching that cost IB its “constituency”/membership, or at least gave an ethic to the exodus action. After creating its own monster, IB then carried its torch and pitchfork into the streets… although its posse being diminished, it should be careful… there are now more “monsters” than “righteous mob”.
- Legalism strangely mixed with Antinomianism, which said things like, “cut your hair men, no pants women, but enjoy however much Hell on the screen as you can stand.” That equates to cheap-grace and carnality; aka “Pharisee-ism”. And so the two foremost prisons set for the Christian—sin on the one hand and legalism on the other— were the staple diet of those of us trapped in the IB movement. Balance was out the window; and balance is where Christ is found for the regenerate believer.
- A Disregard for Education, because as IB saw it, a formal education would ruin the “anointing” and the preacher’s ability to claim that his “great” sermons came “straight from God” and not the Seminary. (And now you know why many in the movement have complained about not being spiritually fed.) Either that or IB was afraid it might learn something new or have its traditions challenged in such a way as to cause it to doubt “the faith” and become heretical. (And no, a diploma from Tabernacle Baptist Bible College doesn’t count as an education. Sorry, I know that was harsh, but when a Christian institution is a joke, we should say so and distance ourselves as far away as possible to save our Lord the embarrassment of a college who churns out preachers who think men wearing pink is more egregious than their own hypocrisy and pride.)
- The “Good ‘Ol Days” Mentality, which always lives in the past through sentiment and overmuch reminiscence; which in turn causes the past to be seen as being the best of times and the future as the worst of times, when Dickens spoke of every present truthfully. In Jesus, the future is always brighter than yesterday, but the present is where God is found, not tomorrow when we are “finally out of this retched place called earth in the great waft gathering and church service in a non-material ‘air’”. (Jesus future eternal Kingdom exists in what is called the New Earth, not in a disembodied state in the stratosphere. God is going to restore creation. Amen.)
- A Dismissal of Science: i.e. MICRO-evolution—change within species which is proven (what do you get when you mix a pit bull with a shi… never mind), vs. MACRO-evolution—change from species to species—which I think has no evidence in the fossil record. Also, young-earth theories which are not demanded by a literal reading (ask me what that really means one day) of Genesis, etc. Such disregard for the empirical is not spiritual. God likes matter. He created it. And God loves earth and creation (which is not “the fallen world” by the way). Creation is where God hides Himself… for now. But the mystery of God was long ago downplayed by IB, because God has to be explained to the “T” else IB feels vulnerable to certain apologies from other belief systems like atheism… or the little girl who just wants to know “who created God?” Welding the “complete picture of Who God is” was IB’s greatest boast— a weapon of which IB has now been disarmed. The Bible is our foundation to know our Creator personally and to keep us from errors like pantheism, not some text book which stripes God naked for the world to gawk at.
- Deism and Practical Atheism: IB negated the teaching of God’s person and personal interaction with His creatures (in the Word and Nature and Spirit)—which is contrary to all the Scriptures, especially Paul’s sermon to the Athenians. IB claimed that He does not speak to us personally any longer (Rhema word vs. Logos Word). In doing so, God was jettisoned outside our experience and reality into the heavenly unknown where He becomes a cherished figment of the imagination. That is one reason why IB-er’s flocked to more sound doctrinal systems and/or the “experience-worship” of the Charismatic movement (which is not totally sound, but is better than IB in my opinion). Deep down, all people really want is God (all sin is a detoured, derailed search for the fulfillment found only in God), and IB was almost totally bankrupt it seems… it seems, and that is all that matters to those who are looking desperately for God. In truth, I know that God was present to some degree in the IB churches (He is gracious to us ALL!), but much of the added humanism in IB drowned Him out often times. And yes, I experienced God a few times in those IB churches as did many. But that’s to God’s credit always, not man’s. It gets to the point where you get tired of trying to filter and decide things like, “I will just have God in a more pure way out in nature.”
- Arminianism and Semi-Pelagianism which denies the core doctrine of the Word, which is: God is sovereign and you are not. (News Flash: you didn’t “get yourself saved” brotha!) This plays into the lack of reverence, awe, fear, and love found in the IB movement (at least when I was a part of it). In place of God, “men of renown” became the people’s idol (I can still here the reverent tones of people as they spoke about certain pastors in this area, and can still see in my mind those pastor’s gigantic portraits gracing the hallowed walls of the IB temples of worship). When those idols failed to deliver, people moved on.
- Teetotalism, which is a Bible Belt tradition of men (the Temperance Movement) and can be found only in sparse, small movements throughout recent Christian history (Jesus was a Jew. He drank fermented wine—Gk oinos— but without getting drunk; drunkenness Paul tells us is a sin. For a shock, try reading Jesus’ turning of water into wine in a good translation which will tell you that the wine Jesus made was ferment, etc.; and then go read Deut.14:6 in which God-Yahweh tells Israel to spend a third of their tithe in a certain festival/party on strong drink/liquor. The Bible is BALANCED on the issue—both warning and allowance, as to avoid sin and legalism. “Thou Shalt Abstain from Alcoholic Beverages” is not the 11th commandment! Side note: everything is addictive. IB harps on alcohol like the Jews did pork, but give total concession to caffeine, sugar, all forms of entertainment, materialism, and often, nicotine (but not cigars or pipes!). I thought self-control applied to every area? Funny.
- An Ethic of Gluttony which says “Don’t enjoy a Newcastle Brown Ale you sinner!” but has no consternation with killing oneself with sugar and tans-fatty fried chicken. (OK. Now I’m harping.)
- An Ethic of Avoidance and Hatred toward sinners of certain stripes. By that I mean the very same people Jesus ate supper with every night: prostitutes, homosexuals, drunks, the poor; the outcast, typecast and downcast. The religious people (Pharisees) even called Jesus a “drunk and a glutton” (in the Jewish community that meant “bastard son worthy of stoning”) because of His associations. The IB movement in which I grew up never had to worry about that accusation. We were clean, well-suited Bible-toters who thought it more productive to show off our outfits on Sunday than dirty ourselves with sinners. Homosexuals and their “ilk” were people who we preached about on Sunday in acid tones and avoided on Monday at all costs (since AIDS used to be so catchy, remember? Kind of like leprosy in Jesus day). By the way: I totally believe that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1), like all forms of fornication (which are all egregious and unnatural). But I also believe that I have never met nicer people in my life [peace to Todd @ the Cotton Patch]. Why is it that we former IB-er’s were known for being jackasses and backstabbers, and homosexuals for acting like Jesus in many ways? (And yes, I do believe that many in IB are sweet people, not jackasses like I used to be!)
- Pride, which the leaders thought was invisible, but we knew better from the “elbowing for position” at the camp meetings, didn’t we? And what of the comments about “building their own little kingdoms” when a new edifice was erected on the church campus? And what of the spiritual hollowness exhibited by the guest singers? Why do Gospel singers and caravanning Christian acts have to be the most shallow of believers—and don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about; my grandma was a founding member of a certain, not-to-be-named trio! Appalachian (God bless our mountains and the South which I call HOME!)… Appalachian Christianity is one which often doesn’t break the surface of the skin into the heart.
- Disunity with Other Orthodox Churches which is an outright violation of the Law of Christ, which says: if you do not love your brother whom you have seen , you do not love God whom you have not seen. I really used to think that only IB-er’s would make it to Heaven. If that be true, then if people keep “apostatizing” from IB and the movement keeps declining as it has for the last fifteen-twenty years, I fear the Kingdom will be nearly uninhabited!
- Materialism—especially of the leadership—which Jesus implied was God’s foremost rival in your life (“Mammon” for you old schoolers). Humor me as I brag on the Lord through my church a little. If you visit my church, Beechwood, you will see that on the outside we are too poor to even properly care for our 13 acre property, and our building (praise God we built it without a loan!), is nothing to show off to your friends… or foes for envy and spite sake. But once inside—to God’s glory alone—you will find a people worshiping and searching out God’s face in spirit and truth; a rich community/family of genuinely wealthy people in God’s Spirit. To be fair, I do remember times when being in the IB movement smacked of what I have in full now.
- An almost total disregard for the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus’ sermon was seen by IB as either belonging to the dispensation of Law or the coming Millennium, and therefore was not applicable to our lives in the here and now (thank you Lewis Sperry Chafer). “Turn the other cheek? You’re joking right?” (Did I forget to mention egotism and macho machismo as a dominate fault in IB. Masculinity doesn’t have to prove itself. Study Jesus, you’ll see what a real man looks like. Don’t know about you, but I saw few “Jesus-es” growing up. Grace and Peace to Leonard Lindsey and Grandpa Louis Powell who seem to be lights in the darkness, sentient creatures in a world of Neanderthals.)
- An almost total disregard for Discipleship: aka, true leading and teaching in the way of Jesus Messiah by the leadership, using the Word and a veracious, exemplary lifestyle. The cross is precious to every believer, but at some point you have to take the believer to the resurrection. And here is the primary cause for IB’s decline. People have to be growing in the Spirit and in their relationship with God and in their walk after Christ. The music program and youth program and fellowship all sustain the believer for a while, but there quickly comes that growling in the spiritual stomach that must be filled. Either that or the attraction of the world begins to call to a more tangible experience… or the false philosophies of man for which the undiscipled believer has no defense. People are killed by an uncaring, distant “clergy” who thinks that leading involves pointing to their own ideals instead of demonstrably living out Christ.
- Defeatism or “worm theology” which says, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace who is going to sin everyday even in my sleep so what’s the use of trying to be like Christ when it is impossible.” The Bible though, says that we have been made New Creations in Christ, the former is past, the new has come. If we walk in the SPIRIT we will not fulfill the evil lusts of the flesh. And in another place: we have been made the very righteousness of God. Not being taught this truth, no wonder so many of the believers I grew up with inside the church—including myself!—behaved worse than the unredeemed outside the church. Theology defines anthropology (yes, that’s mine but you can use it). And what of the depressed Christian? There is no more unhappy creature than a believer who lives outside the auspices of God’s Spirit.
- “Hellfire-and-Brimstone Preaching” which premises itself on the Fall of Man, not God’s good Creation (Gen.1) which He is going to restore through Jesus Messiah. Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God, loving sinners, and warning the self-righteous of Hell. Yes, Jesus is a force to be reckoned with as can be seen through His righteous anger in the Temple Event, but truthful preaching—as He also demonstrated—does not require being a hateful browbeater of Jesus’ Bride— God’s Sheep. Jesus told Peter to “feed my lambs”, not stomp them until you know they are subjugated mice who will never question you, who always “Amen” you, and who forever laud you as a “true preacher of God’s Word” —even though many in the “amen pit” likely couldn’t quote and preach on John 3:16 to save their life (I’m being facetious). It seems that many IB pulpits I once knew were platforms for the preacher’s personal vendettas or rants, not true exposition of God’s living Word. (And yes, I did hear some dynamic, spirit-filled messages from IB pulpits. Thank God for men of the book, even if they had educated themselves and ignored the better part of 2,000 years of Christian literature!)
- Emotionalism, which often masked itself as revival. Although emotive services are healthy and good, if you are shouting and crying on Sunday and chewing and screwing on Monday (sorry… couldn’t help it), then you are a person Jesus would have called a “hypocrite”—a mask wearer. I pray that the running of the aisles and the shouts and the tears were genuine, but I fear that much of it was showmanship or emotioalism, not self-controlled (a fruit of the Spirit by the way), mindful worship in Spirit and in Truth. God be the judge. I am just stating the reasons for my departure from the movement as I saw it and experienced it. God forgive me where I have been, or am, a hypocrite myself. It is a human’s natural disposition. We are only safe in the Spirit.
- My-Way-or-The-Highway Attitudes which caused many people to serve in the church for fear of man and not for the joy and love they found in God, or excluded many of God’s anointed men from certain higher service for fear they might “take away the hearts of the people”, assigning them to a pew they were never meant to warm.
- Politicizing the Church in something other than Jesus’ Kingdom. Jesus is not a democrat or a liberal (thank God!). Right. Jesus is not a Republican either (thank God! Although He might be conservative??? lol). Hey, and here is news: Jesus is not an American… at least He didn’t use to be! I know that shocks us, but Jesus was a Jewish man—the incarnate embodiment of Yahweh—who lived in the 1st Century and who brought the Kingdom of God to earth. He was not one of our nation’s founding fathers who signed the Constitution (may God protect it and save this nation). And since Jesus translated believers into His Kingdom and calls for absolute fidelity, He might take issue with us pledging allegiance (which is singular) to something other than Himself. That’s why they called Him “Lord”. But I know I have just “trampled our national heritage” (albeit Deistic) and placed myself squarely in the camp of the Commies. However, one day you will stand before this Jewish Messiah and give an account for your allegiance to Him… or lack thereof. One day there will be only one flag waving in the breezes of earth—the banner of the cross. Besides, our precious nation was not founded as a Theocracy but a Republic. The Kingdom of God is a Theocracy. Welcome citizens, to the City of God! And so explains why IB was more like a dictatorship trying to be a democracy, instead of an organic body under the Headship of Christ.
- Close-mindedness which doesn’t allow for healthy debate in which opposing points are conceded once proven. Neither is questioning of either the fundamentals or the traditions allowed. It was never satisfying to just be told what to believe without being told WHY to believe it. When many in IB couldn’t find the “why”, they also gave up the “what”. This is heart breaking. I have found that biblical Judeo-Christianity is the most reasonable, rational, beautiful and satisfying faith walk and belief system. Oh, if only our former leaders would have shown us this ethereal truth in the face of Jesus the Son of, and Way to, the Father.
- Clannishness, which is inherited from Appalachian people’s Scotch-Irish ancestry (which makes me glad I’m Scandinavian and Welsh… who were just as clannish. Lol). There is nothing wrong with blood being thicker than water (there is something very right about it actually), but in the Church of Jesus Christ, the Spirit Who is the oil of anointing is supposed to be thicker than both water and blood. IB was more Old World Europe than 1st Century Jesus Movement in this regard. In this sort of familial exclusivity, many in IB felt like outsiders in their own assembly of the saints, or at least disjointed from the whole in their own clique among cliques.
- Inability to Apologize: First, let me be forthright about my own shortcomings as a pastor, and that of past administrations of our church, now called “Beechwood” (thank God we finally found a name that matched our personality! Lol. And shouldn’t IB laugh at itself more too? Anyways…). I know that many of you reading this are “victims”, not only of IB, but also of the faults of church leaders like myself or my father. For that, I sincerely apologize. It is something I have brought to the attention of my father, and for which I encourage personal apology where apology is due. Coming out of IB was not easy. It actually became so difficult for my dad, that he felt led to step down and give me a “shot at it”. (I immediately “dragged” Doug Jr. in as my fellow Elder! One of the best decisions of my life, praise to God alone.) God has been good, but I spent the first few years of my pastorate in total frustration, which bled over at times in my preaching, and probably felt to the congregation like a boxing match in which the preacher is using brass knuckles and the people are totally armless. I have made my reparations to my precious flock and feel confident to stand before God now. God has given the victory! But what of IB? Where is the apology for its faults (many which I have just mentioned)? Why does the movement stand staunch against the truth about itself in the face of overwhelming evidence that it has caused more casualties than disciples? And why does it claim to be the “true people of God who are just being persecuted by apostates like me” anytime someone speaks prophetically back into the movement from the outside? Or… if someone calls IB out for past grievances, it just resorts to berating that individual and accusing them of not “being saved”. This is the worst fault of all, and speaks to the very pride which caused God to “resist” them (as James says).
Well, I suppose the answer to the question posed at the beginning of this essay is somewhat clear: it was primarily IB’s fault so many have abandoned the movement (or Christianity itself) and sought a new life, or even a new belief system. Yes, personal accountability before God remains for all of us, but IB needn’t think it will stand without the severest of divine reprimands for the above grievances when we all appear before the Judge. The hypocrisy. The lack of deep, biblical teaching and preaching. The lack of compassion for the sheep and lack of passion for following hard after Christ. All this set IB up for the fall. What is a movement without people anyways? A shell of its former self. IB once ruled the Bible Belt. But just as some of us predicted years ago, the light of the movement has dimmed to a low glow and the once-bombastic voices of the defunked sect now sound more like a squeaking mouse in the corner, or a buzzing gnat in the ear. The curtain has been turned back, and the overwhelming voice of the wizard which once cowed us has been exposed. He is truly a very small man.
Now that my side of the story is clarified—although there may be much more—IB need not feel that it must come here and “defend itself”; especially with vitriol. We have heard it all before. The rhetoric and criticism is a resounding echo in an empty tin can. The voices of IB have had their say over us for years. This is our say, and I pray, God’s say.
A word of healing: to the sweet people who are satisfied being in IB: we encourage your faith, but we also encourage you to seek the Lord’s face outside the movement from time to time—He is a BIG GOD! (Read people from other denominations and walks of life. It’s healthy, not dangerous.)
In growing up and out of the Independent Baptist Movement, I said in my heart to IB: “Let all the above grievances be yours and yours alone. One day Jesus will straighten us all out. Until then, I care not to be bent like you; like the “me” who ignorantly and innocently as a child had his name on your role.” Thank God for growth and change and new days and fresh starts and tomorrow and the coming Kingdom of Jesus Messiah! And yes, thank God for using IB as a blessing in some regards and as an antagonist in others; an antagonist whose challenge has killed some spiritually and caused others to rise as champions of truth (Grace and Peace to Uncle Kip). I pray to be a champion, not just a drop-out.
Thank God that we learned some basic doctrines in IB. Thank God for the fellowship we enjoyed at times. And it needs to be said, that the relationships we gave up when leaving IB were probably the greatest sacrifice—they were the only glue, obviously, which kept so many of us in the IB so long. Sadly, seeking truth, love and freedom costs… and when I think about those I love who are still “holding down the IB fort”, or those outside the movement who won’t talk to me because they think I’m still in IB just because I still follow Jesus, I am troubled somewhat… but then I realize what an awesome life God has given me now and that I am free from the IB box and the other boxes into which I was called to jump from the IB box, and I snap out of any doldrums. (Hope that didn’t sound arrogant… it’s just the way I feel.)
In closing: Why did we leave? We left because we had to. So to the free birds still following the Coming One: speak the ancient truths in a fresh way and walk the ancient paths with more determination and joy, and leave the ugly past behind; and leave the ugly people behind too if so required. This is a part of my own leaving the past behind. It’s good to be all grown up! It’s good to be free!
May God use this to humble the proud and unify those who gave up their place in the Independent Baptist Movement long ago. We might not have much in common, having all gone our separate ways, but if we can agree that God is more important than our differences… who knows.
Truth to all. Love to all.
Pastor M. Shayne Powell Jr. (aka Lil’ Shayne)
[Codicil: since I did not write this to make anyone angry but only to attempt to speak the truth in love and to wake people up if that is what they need; and since there is no case to be made against my charges (at least that we haven’t heard a thousand times), all rebuttals from within IB will be erased as quickly as I find them. Respect my voice as a man of God who may be speaking from the heart of God, not as an IB “apostate” who needs correcting. The thumb under which we lived has been cut off forever. Only truth spoken in love (and humor if you wish J) will be allowed here. This is the last step in my move from the movement in question. I have found recently the thought coming from within IB that there can somehow be reunion without the necessary repentance and forgiveness—reconciliation. That is a farce. I do not belong in any Independent Baptist reunion. I belong in the reunion of saints in Christ our Lord, where fighting will cease and reconciliation is genuine. Thank you for understanding my position. Lastly, be warned, Jesus made it very clear that those who act the part of the Pharisee and call people unworthy of salvation (“fool” in the KJV), are the very ones who may hear, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity. I never knew you (Gk ginosko = intimate relationship)!”]