Are YOU Part of the Fringe Or The Mainstream? (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #25)

tough decisionsI suppose you could talk theoretically all day about the battles between the fringe and the mainstream in the Independent Baptist world, or of any group for that matter. It doesn’t mean anything until you decide if YOU are in the fringe or the mainstream yourself. Likely, you, as everyone else, sees yourself in the mainstream. Some group most unlike you is, to your mind, the fringe. We can’t all be the mainstream, though, can we?

After last week’s article, I was surprised to see how many thought the Independent Baptist world itself was swallowed up in the fringe. Do you suppose it would be fair to evaluate yourself in light of how the majority of God’s people would view you instead of how you view yourself? I fully realize that lining up with a majority in no way makes you right, but what about if we are speaking of those who love the Lord, have Him as a huge part of their lives, and generally show the fruit of the Spirit in their lives? Then we could answer the bigger questions.

Are we following Christ or man? Are we part of the problem or the solution? Are we right after all, or incredibly wrong? Are we advocating the Christian life represented in Scripture , or something that came to being over the years independent of the Bible? Yes, these are the bigger questions. So, in interest of the significance of the bigger questions, here are some questions for those who would accept the label Independent Baptist to ask yourself to determine if YOU are part of the fringe or the mainstream:

1. Do you suppose (a) that only those who think exactly like you to the smallest details could be right with God or true to the Bible, or (b) that though you are settled in what you believe, you realize that others could love the Lord as much as you without agreeing in every detail?

2. Do you believe (a) that the Lord Himself is an Independent Baptist, or (b) that while you feel most comfortable lining up with Independent Baptists in our times, you realize the Lord is bigger than such designations?

3. Do you believe (a) that some controversial standards (dress, movies, etc.) are essential to being a dedicated Christian, or (b) while you have you own position for what you feel honors the Lord in your life, you realize all dedicated Christians will not reach the same conclusion on these matters?

4. Do you believe (a) that only a worship service and music that you are accustomed to could be the real thing, or (b) though you know exactly what kind of worship service and music you are comfortable with, you don’t believe that only could please the Lord?

5. Do you believe (a) that compliance to standards are the best gauge to determine the authenticity of a believer’s spiritual growth, or (b) that love of God, His Word, and love of others are far more accurate?

6. Do you believe (a) that we should separate from believers who do not live by the same standards we do, or (b) that we should only separate where the Bible specifically mentions separation?

7. Do you believe (a) that the “old-time religion” is our current practices that trace from the 20th Century, or (b) that the “old paths” are the timeless, foundational truths believed since Bible times?

8. Do you believe (a) that rip-roaring preaching on issues is the preaching the Lord loves and blesses, or (b) that  a careful, passionate exposition of passages in God’s Word pleases the Lord because it is His Word we need?

9. Do you believe (a) that pastors must be obeyed in all matters, or (b) that the Lord must be obeyed in all matters and pastors are a gift from Him who can only be followed to the extent they follow Him?

10. Do you believe (a) that we must work hard to please the Lord, or (b) that we are “accepted in the beloved” and there is nothing you could do to make the Lord love you more or less, and you serve Him simply out of love?

Really, the point is the fringe says doing exactly what we say is the critical issue while the mainstream would never dare rob you of your soul liberty, which is a Baptist distinctive that some paid for with their very lives. The question is easy. Too many A’s on this list and you may have the answer you don’t want to the question–are YOU part of the fringe or mainstream?


Find all articles in the series here.





35 thoughts on “Are YOU Part of the Fringe Or The Mainstream? (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #25)

  1. Bro. Jimmy,

    I now understand where the confusion in your last article comes from. It is in how you define “mainstream” and “fringe”. You believe the mainstream are those who believe and practice the “liberty, which is a Baptist distinctive that some paid for with their very lives”. I understand why you believe that, it is because the mainstream SHOULD be what it is supposed to be. But my understanding of the definition of “mainstream” and “fringe” is numbers. The mainstream are those who are the multitude, and “control” the rule-making. The fringe are those who are on the sidelines and who really have no power.

    It may differ according to area on who is the “mainstream” and who is the “fringe”. In my experience, as I stated in your previous post, those who believed in and practiced LIBERTY were the mainstream, and those who believed in and practiced LEGALISM were the fringe in my childhood and young adult years. It has flip-flopped in our camp. And I use “our camp” loosely. We have been pushed out. We no longer get invited to attend, let alone speak, at any of their meetings. We have been removed from “friends lists” on social media sites. I have gotten letters telling me that my father would “roll over in his grave” if he knew that I didn’t use a KJV bible. (Note: He was not KJV only, but because he used it, others assumed he was.) I have even lost a relationship with one of my sisters because she and her husband do not want to associate with, nor allow their children to be influenced by, people of “heresy”.

    Now, hopefully, you see why we consider ourselves the fringe. We have been through the valley of ostracizing, and its very lonely. To be completely honest, our best friends whom we have beautiful fellowship with, who love our Lord the way we do, who’s hearts burn to win lost souls as does ours, are not baptist. In our neck of the woods we are hard pressed to find a baptist whose heart is where ours is. We have come to know that the words “independent”, “fundamental” and “baptist” mean something individually, but when they are used together as a moniker, they mean something completely different. We still believe in what they mean individually, but do not want to carry the banner of what the title has come to represent.

    I think I know where your heart is Bro. Jimmy. And I appreciate where you come from. I would love nothing more than to bring our churches back to what those 3 words mean. Right now, forgive me, but I don’t have a lot of hope left in that.

    • I so especially appreciate you sharing here. Having been in it, and having suffered gives real needed insight.
      You may be right about the reality of where the mainstream or fringe. I feel that in some places it is just as I said, and in a few pockets it is so inverted that your perspective is correct. No matter the actual numerical breakdown, I write to encourage change. I pray we turn the tide!
      A truly scientific survey of Independent Baptist belief and practice would be fascinating, and perhaps, a shock to us all!

  2. Sadly, I was taught every one of those “a”s growing up. Every one of them. Being a Navy Brat, I went to many churches and heard most of those at all of those churches. This would have been during the 80s and 90s. To me that was mainstream IFB culture. All the preaching I heard seemed to come from those types of positions.

    Thankfully, my pastor does not preach on those types of things. He truly believes in liberty. In spite of that, I also went to this church from 95-2000. There were a lot of people that believed and taught the “a”s at that time even though the pastor did not. Now for the most part, I think there are few of those types of people around our church.

    My Pastor travels and preaches at other churches, so I guess that makes him at least somewhat mainstream. I still see mainstream as following your “a” points though. From what I have seen and heard most of the big bible colleges tend toward those points. That means the young preachers coming out of those places are not preaching liberty, but a type of bondage layered on top of Christ. There are enough of those guys out running churches now that I think they are the mainstream, and not people that believe like you do.

    • I forgot to say this part.

      I do not consider myself part of the fringe as you define it. I do go to an IFB church because it is an amazing church. Even if it wasn’t so great I would still probably go to an IFB church. I don’t know where else I would go. By belief I am a Baptist, and I believe churches should be independent. I think I would be hard pressed to find another place to go that would fit what I believe.

      So now, I sort of ignore the bad and focus on the good in the preaching and teaching that I hear.

  3. I think that discerning who is the majority and who is the minority is really a tough call in IFB circles. You have churches where EVERYONE is of the Fringe mentality. You have churches where EVERYONE is of the Mainstream mentality. But I also believe that there are numerous churches where the majority of the congregation is of the Mainstream mentality, but they are lead by pastors and deacons and trustees who are of the Fringe mentality. You also have churches that claim all the “b’s” above but they practice the “a’s” within issues of separation. I do find that the majority of IFB churches I’ve experienced are supremely good at “believing” all the right stuff but practicing all the wrong stuff. In theory/doctrine they are the humble sinner saying “have mercy upon me” but in practice they are the Pharisee thanking God they are not like the sinner over there. Since their theory is accurate, they claim Christ’s praise of going home justified, while in reality God sees them as the other. Remember how “just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead”? Well, the IFB Fringe may say all the right stuff when it counts, but their life is realistically dead.
    The other hard thing about the Fringe is it’s impossible to call them out with any hope for change. Once you call them out, you get blacklisted. They simply do not listen. At least, in my experience.
    So the question, perhaps for your next post, is “How is the mainstream supposed to interact with the Fringe?”

  4. OK, in my world, I feel like being “mainstream” as you describe it, pretty much puts me solidly in the “fringe”, as David Cochran alluded to, I pretty much believe what my conservative Christian friends say they believe if you question them deeply enough, but in practice, it doesn’t get preached that way from the pulpits in any kind of a consistent way.

    I don’t expect perfection, and understand every preacher/teacher gets it wrong or misstates things from time to time (I’ve got that t-shirt, figuratively speaking), but is it too much to ask to just open the Bible you say you believe and talk so much about and do your best to preach/teach/read from it instead of always preaching what you think it says without ever referring to the source except to cherry pick phrases that suit your beliefs?

    It is a frustrating thing to be part of a movement and feel like you are a reasonable facsimile of what the movement says it is, and yet feel you are very different from most of the others in that movement.

    The truth is though, this type of weirdness isn’t unique to conservative Christians. I see the same head scratching dichotomy in the diehard liberal community where it is all about love, and freedom of expression, and peace, and so forth. Until it isn’t.

    • It is a lost art in many churches (not just IFB) to just open the Bible and say what it says. It really does get annoying! Nobody even knows how to spell “context” anymore. And that, I believe, is really how the IFB circles got so bad in the first place. People go so stuck on anti-liberalism that they forgot to stick to actual truth. They got so stuck on fighting against the world that they forgot how to actually interpret Scripture. Now anything goes, as long as it sounds and looks conservative! We really need to try to lead people back to actual contextual preaching. It should not be like it was for me, how it was almost revolutionary to hear about “big picture preaching” where you first fine what the author is actually talking about and then interpret the parts according to the big picture. This should not be revolutionary! This should be “bible reading 101.” If you wish to practice, try this sort of thing out with 1 Cor. 10:31. It’s really not just simply about “eating and drinking and everything else to God’s glory.” It will open it wide in regards to how we view personal liberties, lest we swing all the way out to the other side in an effort to not be like the IFB’s.

  5. This question has been weighing on me for sometime. I feel that in the end most of my answers to your questions place me firmly in the minority. As I finish my seminary training it’s been a great burden trying to determine where I will serve. I do not wish to leave the fundamentalist orbit, but I feel the pull of my convictions may force me to.

    • I feel you benpearson172. And God leads us in different ways. Right now, I’m nearly 8 years out of college where i prepared to be a preacher but I’m still “just” working as a layman/deacon in my IFB church. And really, if you love the people and are committed to them, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I truly believe that God would rather have the type of person who is willing love and commit to a group of people that they may not agree with on everything, and NOT have that person in a position of full-time ministry, than have a person in full-time ministry that doesn’t really have an intimate concern for people, ESPECIALLY those who don’t agree with him, but at least they are in the position the trained for.
      But there is also the fact that I don’t really think God cares about movements. I don’t really think there is anything special about sticking to one movement or another. If you love the people, serve them as long as God has you among them. Don’t leave because you find them annoying and frustrating. Dedication, commitment, and endurance are turning into things of myth in America. If you are to leave, do it because you’re following God’s leading. Let’s not hold the same strict extra-biblical principles of separation, just on the different side of things. It’s really not about who’s side you’re on. It’s about being a light in a dark world.

  6. Pastor Reagan, I really appreciate the insight God has given you in writing these articles. You have been able to express what I have observed in 42 years of ministry. I thank God for leading my family to an IFB church in 1967. I was 16 yrs old when I trusted Christ as my savior. There was a disservice done to me after my salvation in that I was not discipled but promptly picked up the mentality of salvation plus………is what it takes to please God. It has taken many years for the Holy Spirit to undo much of the bondage that was put on me. My husband was not from a church that did that to him so it has helped me so much. He pastors an IFB church and we will celebrate 30 years there this summer. When we first came to the church, we were in our 30’s. We were the young ones in the IFB circle and I sensed right away that I was being weighed and watched by the older pastors wives and even to this day I believe I lost out on some great friendships that could’ve been possible had they been warm and welcoming to me. I wanted some mentors and was anxious to learn from them but it never happened because I was not just like them. Most of my ” older women” influence had to come from authors and people who were already in heaven. Sadly, my husband and I have watched some big IFB churches and colleges go down to nothing over the last two decades. We can’t help but believe God has had enough of the nonsense that was being projected from the pulpit. May God forgive us for what we have done in the flesh that had absolutely nothing to do with Him.

  7. Hi Pastor Reagan! I’m Robbin who gets your reviews & know it’s been great. I will always keep reading, thinking & praying with everything. Many times Jeff/I like to talk about some things you bring up. Encouraging! But I knew I could be honest with you. I dislike the world sneaking it on us. After reading this one today Word press put in “their ads for advertisement”. It wasn’t at the side of my screen but at the bottom like part of your material/paper. I knew you wouldn’t approve with the pictures it was showing. I had to write this to make you aware. Its totally the ones controlling the site. I knew I wouldn’t lose a friendship in the Lord with you/Alicia. This is the first time this has even happened. May the Lord keep blessing & love, prayers from S.Africa, Robbin & Jeff (my hubby!)

    Jeff & Robbin Demarest BIMI Missionaries to South Africa Bearing Precious Seed 1980-1984 Kenya 1990-1992 Uganda 1992-2004 South Africa 2005 to present Director Eric Bohman Director Emeritus Dr. Ron Bragg Pastor Bob Morgan Crossroads Baptist Church Carthage, MO Home Church Isa. 26:3 Ps.143:8 Jude 22

  8. Pastor Reagan,

    I have read each of your blogs on this subject and come to this conclusion. You ran out of valid topics about 15 or 20 weeks ago. Having been a supervisor/ coordinator in charge of large numbers of employees in my previous job I would say this blog is likened to what we called a “pot stirrer” as managers and supervisors.

    Let me explain; Having a large number of employees inevitably meant that not ALL the people would be pleased with ALL the safety, managerial, supervisory decisions made ALL the time. Some employees may have been frustrated and wanted the issues addressed, but their spirit of unity and team effort kept them from leaving. However there was always someone (or even two) that would go around to the unsatisfied employees that were frustrated, and STIR them up by playing the “them vs. Us” card, saying things like ” what good does ______ do for you?” “why are you not allowed to do _____?”. These folks always poured fuel onto frustrated employees fires by essentially asking “what’s in it for you?”

    The worst STIRRERS were always those that were in leadership positions (Supervisors, Foreman, Dept. Heads etc). This stirring caused some good employees, that could have done great things in the company, to develop a poor attitude. This eventually lead to lack of caring about doing their best and some who had been counted on and could be depended upon became a hindrance to forward progress and therefore were terminated. Others simply quit, being disillusioned by the stirrer.

    Now how does my illustration compare to this blog?
    Well, I’ll say this, there are people that have legitimate reasons for being unsatisfied and frustrated in our churches (your first few blogs). These people want issues addressed and don’t desire to leave. However there are those whose frustrations this blog fuels and they are stirred up by injustices they may or may not have previously recognized in their church. Though it may not be the intention of this blog, these good people will ask “what’s in it for me?” and at that point begin there exit from their church.

    Employees I had rarely quit or were fired spontaneously; rather they began “exiting” days, weeks, or even months before they separated from the company. So too will good church members begin “exiting” long before there is an empty seat in the choir loft, a vacant spot on the van or bus route, and an unprepared lesson for Sunday school.

    You see I believe you, as an established Pastor in IFB circles, had good intentions with the first few blogs in this “revolution”. However in the above blog I see polar opposite connotation being emphasized on the available answers given for your preloaded question. This format, and others like it, that I’ve read in this series, are exactly what those “stirrers” used in their efforts to get others to revolt.

    This brings to mind some questions.1 What is the purpose of this “revolution”? 2 How many good church members have begun “exiting”? 3 When they leave, will they ever go to another “IFB” church? 4 Are we as Christians supposed to be asking “what’s in it for me”? 5 Why didn’t Jesus lead a revolution of the pharisees when he had the chance, and the multitude desired him to be king? 6 If we take up our cross and follow him, where are we headed? 7 Should leaders be a unifier or a “stirrer”? 8 Who is predominantly a “stirrer” in the Bible? 9 When did he first start to “stir”, and what did he emphasize? 10 What causes stirring most times?

    I can not answer all these questions, but I can answer 4-10. 4 no. 5 It was not about him, it was about his Fathers will. 6 Calvary/death to self. 7a unifier. 8. Satan. 9. When he fell and later got Eve to fall. He emphasized “what’s in it for you/me”. 10 Pride.

    I am not saying “you’re the devil”, that’s ludicrous. I respect you and have followed this blog thus far because you are a smart man that can eloquently speak your mind. I’ve watched some of your youtube videos and have grown spiritually from them. However as I heard an Evangelist once say ” There was a family sitting around pointing out all that was wrong with a certain family member that was not at the party. After several minutes of these comments going around the room the next person in line to say her mind was a quiet and reserved Aunt. She cleared her throat and said this about the absent family member – “he always has the best haircut.” The evangelist had been at this party, and this is what he took away from it. “Anyone can see the negative, but how many of us see the positive”

    I wish you all the best in your new church and ministries. May God bless in all your endeavors. As for me, do I consider myself “fringe” or “mainstream”? I follow Christ and try to die daily to the flesh as Paul wrote. I know that the Christian life is one of continual surrender to God’s will as he conforms me into the image of Christ. I know we are not to compare ourselves amongst ourselves, nor are we to use our liberty as an occasion for the flesh. We are to die daily to the flesh, and surrender our will as Christ did in Gethsemane.

    I may not speak for many, but for me I say I’m done with this revolution blog.

    • Well, I appreciate you sharing your feelings and will leave your comments here for others to see. I do not agree with your line of reasoning at all, but respect your right to believe it and say it. God bless.

      • I’m interested in what part of my reasoning you don’t agree with? My reasoning comes from seeing people close to me (that also follow this blog) using this blog as a repertoire as they “exit”. Also It comes from personal work experience.

        Lastly, do you “call out” those that post anonymous when they whole heartily support this blog, or speak of injustices they experienced? Or was that just a back handed way of calling me a coward to stir me up?

        P.s. we agree on a lot more than you might think, I just believe this blog has run it’s course.

        May God bless you all

      • Your list of questions in your last post was rather long. I would feel more compelled to write a long answer if you signed your name. That is just my preference. I did not call you a coward, but why didn’t you sign your name?
        You are under no obligation to read my blog any longer, nor do you owe me anything. I respect your opinion for you just as I respect mine for me.

        I plan to continue writing. I realize that some may be leaving, but they are not leaving because of what I write but for the reasons I write. That is far different. I am glad American patriots did not after only 26 weeks! Like them, I say keep the revolution going until the battle is won. What all the Independent Baptist world had better realize is that the revolution is afoot no matter what. To shut little me up will make no difference. In any event, I plan to do my bit.
        You and I may have many things in common. I do not count you an enemy anyway. I am just of a different opinion than you on whether to continue or not.

      • PJ, I’m not on my way out. i find your posts very helpful not because they are just perpetual complaints against a system you don’t like. I think your intentions are clear throughout your posts that you wish to equip people to do just that which you set out to do – to try to bring fundamentalism around to be something Biblical. You’re not compelling us to leave, or encourage people who are leaving that they are fine in their leaving. That may be true, but that’s not what you’re trying to accomplish. You want to see traditional fundamentalism turn the corner to become a place where true, undefiled discipleship happens that glorifies God. Right now fundamentalism is like Judea in Malachi – we are bringing our offerings but they are impure and God is wearied by us. He’d rather someone closed the doors and all the efforts would just stop, because God has no delight in them. The people to come back to true, heart-centered worship that flows from sincere love and honor for God. PJ, I think this is your intent for your readers, not to forsake the movement but to revive it. At least that’s what I get from them and I think most of your readers do as well.

  9. As Jimmy’s wife, and the one who knows his heart the best (except for God), I greatly appreciate what you said David. Jimmy is only doing what he feels strongly God wants him to do, and we know firsthand how people can judge and misunderstand…even those you love dearly. Jimmy is such a gracious man and he will leave all comments, even those that are negative and hurtful, because he will not hide only behind the good ones. He trusts that his readers are thinkers and they can think for themselves. He is only writing his heart and he leaves the rest to the individual reader and the work of God in their lives. For him to push or promote anyone to a particular action would make him as guilty as those he writes against. I love his heart for a return to true biblical Christianity and I know that God is using him to be one voice…and that is all.

  10. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

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