I 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.