Misconceptions About The Truth Revolution (IBTR #63)

Being misunderstood is a risk with any passionate writing. Misconceptions will almost always arise when dealing with painful problems. The status quo will always have its champions. To do good on any level will always strike someone as evil. Such is life.

In this Truth Revolution, from the day I penned the first article, I went in with both eyes open. Perhaps you think me ill advised, but I was not naive. I knew. I always knew what losses might follow the gains I sought. I counted the cost, understood the calculated risk, and wrote the series anyway. I used the picture of Revolutionary War soldiers in the original article for a reason. Forgive the illusions of grandeur, but I saw myself writing like the Founding Fathers did. They paid and so could I. (On the other hand, I never saw myself as that big aimagevoice–hopefully just one small voice in a growing number of voices.)

I offer no apology. I have no regrets for what I have written. I am sure it could have been better in ways, but I will stand by it, such as it is.

Still, misconceptions by good people can happen, just as logical criticisms can be offered up. I would like to address a few.

1. You Give Fodder To All Who Attack A Pastor.

While I have written extensively about pastors or leaders abusing people, that in no way denies that people can sin grievously against a pastor. I am a pastor and have had that experience before myself. Every situation must be looked at honestly, carefully, and Scripturally. Still, we must realize that the extra authority of leadership also demands greater cost, even putting up with more. Our accountability must, then, be higher. We can do more damage from a position of authority than those who do not have it and that must be taken into account.

2. You are hurting Independent Baptists.

I remain convinced that those of us who address our problems instead of acting as if they do not exist do Independent Baptists the most good.  My goal is not to destroy but to salvage. Still, my first prerogative is to be true to Scripture and Christ. His Name is more important to me than the name Independent Baptist. As it turns out, there is no shame besmirching His Name while there is in too many of the groups in Christianity including our own.

3. You are encouraging those leaving the Independent Baptist world.

I am aware some are leaving. There have even been a few isolated cases, I am told, where someone hands a printout of one of these articles to a pastor while walking out the door. That was not my original purpose, but even if it is done in a case where the church member is wrong that no more makes this series look bad than someone quoting the Bible out of context makes the Bible look bad! We must remember, too, that people leave. We must let them leave without harassment. It is only cults that do that! Letting them leave in peace is normal and allows them to more easily come back if they ever choose.

4. You are harming the good pastors.

One of the really good guys said, “how are if ever going to get out from under this if we keep discussing it.” It can only hurt us, though, if we are guilty of it–that is the beauty of “independent.” When we pastors are faced with criticism, we have a process to go through. First, we must examine ourselves to see if it is true, and if it is, we should fix it. If it is not, we must let it go realizing that we are partaking in the sufferings of our often-critiqued Savior. The truth is, we should just do right and lies won’t stick except with folks who have issues anyway. Let’s treat our flock with such love that any discussion of abuses could have no effect on our people because they know better about us. Lies can never alter truth anyway.

5. Do you even think you are accomplishing anything worthwhile?

I am not in a position to know the lasting effects of this series. It probably will be completely forgotten in ten years. I get letters from people who say it has helped, but that is, I know, anecdotal evidence at best. Maybe it helps a few; is that worth it?

I will just leave that to the Lord.

Find all articles in the series here.

29 thoughts on “Misconceptions About The Truth Revolution (IBTR #63)

  1. Pingback: Is the Small Percentage Worth My Time? | aliciareagan

  2. Speaking to point 2.

    The I in independent has become a capital in some people’s minds rather then lowercase. Independent baptist should be a descriptor rather than part of the name. We are baptists that are independent. However, it seems to have become the denomination of Independent Baptists over time. At least to some people.

    If we are baptists who are independent, then speaking out against abuses in some churches doesn’t hurt us rather it informs us and aids us in looking to our own lives and churches. If we are Independent Baptists then speaking against abuses does hurt the brand and can have a negative affect on the denomination.

    • I fully agree with you. Though I write “Independent Baptist” as a point of grammar since most understand it that way, I am fully with you on being an “independent Baptist”. Your comment about brand is quite perceptive.

  3. Baptists who are “independent” (Those who will think for themselves), will most often discuss differing views in a calm and rational manner.

    Independent Baptists, who wear their denomination like a chip on their shoulder, will most often blast me and resort to name calling when the scriptures disprove their personal opinions, theories and speculations that are operating outside of “What saith the scriptures.”

    I am fervent for the truth, not my membership in any club, camp or convention.

  4. The term “Independent” is a signifier. It is important, or rather, was important in the beginning, because it identified a Baptist church as being unaffiliated with a convention. It did not merely mean “independent” i.e. free thinker, or free from restraint. It did signify a church that was a part of the movement away from the denominating (love that word) Baptists, i.e. Southern or Northern, etc.

    In my mind, keeping the capital I is important, because it signifies the historical side, whereas going with the small “i” implies something else–and that something else isn’t always a good thing.

    Here’s an interesting anecdote. Here in Poland, where we serve, we were looking for a name for our church. Since our church is unaffiliated, like all Independent Baptists, the Polish word for “independent” was tossed into the ring. It was immediately rejected by the rest of the people because it had the connotation of sounding a bit proudful [sic] or unbending, even to the point of being free from all restraint. Instead, they chose the word “free”, as it has much more positive connotations in Polish. So we are the Christian Church of the Free Baptists in Polish.

    The real point of being Independent is that each local church has only one head–Christ. If Christ is our head, that results in certain things–or ought to. Human nature, however, tends to interfere. People like to make connections, and like to belong to something bigger than themselves. And so, even without formal affiliations, we gather with like-minded people, and then the politics start. It is so difficult to guard against the negative side of these things, and often, the only seeming solution is to go “small-i” independent. But while this has been my solution, I’m not sure it is the best. It can be quite isolating, and operating in a vacuum can also be quite dangerous, as there is nothing to counterbalance our private foibles and errors. Oh, the joys of balance and ministry. 😉

    • Just picking your brain here, K – “The real point of being Independent is that each local church has only one head–Christ.” – do you believe it is possible for this to exist withing a denominational or hierarchical context?

      • Maybe it could if the denomination wasn’t overly controlling, but I certainly feel better in an independent setting. Then there is always the problem of a denomination growing more controlling later.

      • What are necessary biblical qualities of a church operating with Christ as the head? Perhaps if you can define that, you have answered the question. I would suppose, as well, that any independent church could have leadership that usurps Christ’s authority, whether intentionally or responsively. I am more inclined to think there is no political structure that “fixes” anything. Maybe it can for a short time in response to an abusive circumstance, and for some people. It’s all about the people personally exalting Christ, and the Church leadership leading them in doing so. All the rest is detail. Though I’m still interested in your thoughts on “what does Christ’s headship Biblically require of a church?”

      • I see your point, but feel abusive problems in the church are different than denominational abuse. It is one thing to deal with an abusive pastor, but quite another to deal with some overarching group outside of the church itself. Both types of usurping of Christ’s headship should be dealt with, but they are not exactly the same.

      • Would you be willing to describe what you believe to be Biblical necessities of “the headship of Christ” over a church? I’m not trying to “start something.” I just think it would perhaps 1. enlighten us to an actual unbiblical circumstance we might find ourselves in, and 2. Help determine what WOULD be a proper denominational responsibility and what would not. Because honestly, I really don’t think we can realistically condemn the denominational structure in its entirety, Biblically speaking. We can talk about potential weaknesses, but knowing what is allowable could give us a sense of grace in dealing with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are involved in a denomination.

      • David-
        Sorry for the late reply. I just discovered the notification email in my spam, and I don’t know why, but suddenly Google is throwing all of my WP notifications into spam.

        To answer your question, I do think it’s possible, as I think I’ve seen it. When I was growing up, there was a Methodist church near us that was disappointed with what was going on in their denomination, and they stopped supporting it. The denomination threatened them, so they voted themselves out of the denomination, lost their building and everything. But the church still exists, and is a vibrant community last I checked about 10 years ago. It’s not like a “fundamentalist” church like we would think, but the people are solid, quite conservative (or were last I checked), and the church was, IMO, vibrantly alive.

        And then, we come to the whole over-arching concept… Even if a denomination or hierarchy exists, does each local body have this unique relationship with Christ regardless of what the denomination thinks? I think we need to understand what does “church” mean. Of course, the greek word is ecclesia, or “assembly”. Christ, Himself said that where two or three are gathered together, there He is in the midst. When we first came to Poland, we had only a tiny handful of people that mostly comprised our families, plus one or two Poles. Sometimes, there were only two people in a meeting–myself, and one Pole, and other times, three, when my coworker was here. Was that a “church” meeting? Did we have a constitution, etc.? No. But was it an assembling of believers? Was Christ there? Were we fulfilling our task as in Ephesians 4 and Matt 28?

        I’m over-simplifying things a bit, but it is hard to say what needs to be said, especially for me, who tends to meander around in circles slowly working towards my point. I’ll try to summarize. I think that maybe things aren’t so cut and dried as we would like them to be. We like simple. We like rules that explain things. This is why 3 point sermons and 12 step plans are so popular. “If you do these things…. then you’ll be happy and have success.” But real life is messy, and painful, and full of things that don’t fit in the holes or in the boxes. My personal way of dealing with such things is to leave them to God. I believe I am doing what I believe is scriptural in our assembly. I am quite conservative, and I have some high standards for myself and my family, and attempt to imbue them in our people by teaching and example, but not by doing violence to Scripture, and certainly not by comparing ourselves to others. God gave me the care of this one flock. That is more than enough for me. I don’t need to go around judging other churches and other pastors, and certainly sheep that belong to another flock. We have our standard, God’s Word. I prefer to let it do the speaking, and let the Holy Spirit teach and convince as to the truth, and I trust that others will do the same, and if they don’t, I know that they have to answer to the same God I do, and to the same Savior who shed His blood for them and for me. I think He’s a much better judge of character and action than I am, and even when I don’t trust others, I can trust Him to make the right judgments. So, my final estimation on this is that I simply don’t know, but I believe that God has a different perspective than we do, and He is more patient with people who differ from us than we are. I certainly would hate to have Christ judge me with the harshness that I tend to judge others. Scary thought, and one I try not to forget…

        And I’ll continue in another post, that segues with what Pastor Jimmy said…

      • The problem with any denomination, and with any organization, actually, is that there is only one real, foundation that keeps the organization going–tradition. Tradition is like the glue that keeps an organization together, regardless of how small or large. The problem is that the larger the organization is, the more sway that tradition holds over that organization. In an organization like a business, or government, or social club or any secular or non-church body, this can merely serve to, in the end, hinder growth or handicap it, so it cannot adapt to necessary change. This is why businesses go under. In the end, it was its inflexibility that sunk it.

        It’s kind of funny, but the great battleships of the past illustrate this. They will never exist today. Why? They were too huge to be maneuverable, and despite their awesome power, they weren’t flexible enough to adapt to air power, and they became vulnerable. Today’s aircraft carriers, despite being even larger, are much more flexible, with their own air support. And who knows if or when aircraft carriers will become obsolete?

        Throughout history, while it was the large churches that seemed to be at the center of attention, and the great preachers gathered all the crowds, where was the bulk of the real ministry being done? In the tiny churches operating in the back waters and back streets of the world.

        I believe that God intended the assembly to be an organic entity (hence the comparisons to the body). I believe that an assembly that doesn’t get too large, and too self-important is the best environment for God’s final commandment to love one another can be best fulfilled. This is not to say that every small church is going to be a success–there are many churches that are small because they are comprised of people who are prideful, selfish and wholly carnal, who have run everybody else off. But I don’t think a really large church can really best portray God’s message. I know people who attend huge churches (measured in five digits!) who disagree, but then some of these huge churches have fallen hard recently.

        A huge church has huge overhead, has a huge infrastructure that must be supported, and I don’t mean merely financially. It must be propped up and sustained, and at some point, the whole goal becomes simply to sustain what exists, because if you don’t/can’t, the entire structure comes crumbling down. the amount of energy that this consumes is prodigious!!! If that church starts to lose members, its death comes quickly, or they must do something, _anything_ to prevent that from happening! This is where things like purity of doctrine, love for the brother and sister, and “impractical” things like that start to slide. Sure, when things are going great, it all looks rosy, but once the bricks start to crumble, it goes fast. Much smaller churches, on the other hand, need not be faced with such pressures–though, in America, it seems that even the smallest churches have been caught up in the “corporate” mindset.

        I think that the less formal we keep our churches, and the less we invest in the “infrastructure”, and the less we attempt to recreate the corporate world in our organic assemblies, the better off we will be. And that’s my monster-sized-walnut nutshell answer. 😉

      • K – I agree with most everything you said. I personally agree that organic, personal ministry is the best way to fulfill the great commission. Among other things you’ve said that i agree with.
        I do, however, see the good that comes from having a type of bigger leadership – if it’s done well with Spirit-lead men. I think the problem with these larger assemblies that have fallen typically comes down to a lost or side-tracked vision. But there are advantages. I think one of the great ills of the independent mindset is that we lose track of true unity and fellowship among the saints across different assemblies. I do not necessarily say we should build mega-churches, but rather form associations across several assemblies, and they should all operate closely together to push and sustain each other in the Commission. I could go on and on about how true missions work is inefficient in the independent way and can be done exponentially better through associations of like-minded and intimately involved assemblies. I could go on and on about how community outreach is inefficient in the independent mindset. Not to mention education, training, and discipling can be done better if we get out of our independent mindset. The independent movement had its place and purpose in the past, but now suffers from just as much, if not more tradition than even the Catholics. Independence does not dispell tradition. It did for the first few years, because, well it was new! Tradition doesn’t exist when you’re fresh and new! People always lend themselves toward tradition, in part I think because they want to be part of something that works and gives clear direction, and that’s not a bad thing. The point is not to get rid of tradition, but to guide it in a Biblical manner. Jesus operated under tradition under the Jewish system. The entire Jewish religion was built off of tradition by God’s design – but with purpose. The problem is not tradition. The problem is tradition that has become vain means of cheap, easy grace. Which is something that all denominations or non-denominations struggle with, even the small independent assemblies. Perhaps even especially them. Personally, I prefer an independent coalition format. Where each church runs themselves under the direction and guidance of Christ, led by charitable, equipped, Spirit lead men. But then, several local assemblies are unified in purpose, vision, direction, and work. And when there is unity among several assemblies, to make them productive together, there has to be leadership. Leadership that unites the assemblies in vision and direction. For example: Let’s say there are 10 independent churches that are unified in this coalition. let’s say there is a family in one of those churches that is called to the mission field (or should I say, that have been called to a work because of a need). Instead of going on deputation, those 10 churches provide 100% support from day 1 (Instead of 100 churches giving 1-3% a piece to 50 different missionaries like normal). No questions asked, no years wasted. No strain on the children or couple before even getting on the field. Instead of shoving off to seminary states away for years, those churches train that family for the work (should have a problem set up already to train people for ministry work, but anyway), because they can, because they have several different people with a multitude of different gifts able to equip that family and ordain them for ministry, instead of one single small church that has just a handful of gifts, and are overall unable to provide well-rounded training for ministry. This is just one example of the many positive aspects of a type of coalition, and as we know from history, coalitions easily turn into denominations. And I don’t see that as a problem as long as the purpose continues.

      • Sorry I was on vacation and had little time for writing you back. You do have a valid point on the need for unity among congregations and how missions could be expanded if we worked together. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

      • David-
        I used to sort of think somewhat like you, regarding leadership, etc. But let’s think about it. You make the whole thing work or fail on a few good men in leadership. Political liberals have convinced themselves for years that the reason their policies have not been run-away successes is because they weren’t in charge–that the right men weren’t in charge. But what they fail to see is that the flaw is in the system.

        You look at the inefficiency of missions, etc. all as a bad thing. I cannot agree with that. Efficiency, streamlining. Cooperation, etc. I do not see these things as positives, but as negatives.

        I will be honest, it took me over four years to raise our support 20 years ago. There were times while on deputation I could have wished to have had what you suggest, but I have seen how people have tried this, and having spent lots of time in many churches over the years… I would still choose to do what I did. While it is not efficient, we have to realize that God isn’t in the business of being efficient. Look at Moses–he had to wait 80 years. Paul spend over a decade waiting to do what God actually called him to do. Christ spent three years with 12 men, who ran when the tough times came. The Bible is full of inefficiencies and wasted effort. We may forget, but God doesn’t have a problem with money or resources. It all belongs to him. God isn’t in a hurry. He knows the end from the beginning. In fact, God frequently uses the inefficiencies and difficulties in our lives to teach us–patience first of all, but to wait on Him, to depend on Him, to pray, to be humble. If my getting to the field in six months replaced the life lessons I learned, I’m not sure I would still be here today. Ministry is hard. Ministry in isolation, far from all those friends and support people is well-nigh impossible. Only God…

        I hate to say it, and maybe I’m just rogue or something, but I just do not find any comfort in large organizations or even associations. People keep thinking that the only reason people haven’t succeeded in the past was because the right people weren’t in charge. And everybody always seems to think that they will be the right leader. If our work depends on having the right leadership, then our work is already a failure. That is how I see it. I think it’s more organic than that. And those are my observations over the years.

      • K, I hear you. But think about it. The system you’re living under right now what once determined by a group of people to be the “right way.” It is not what the Bible spelled out. It’s what man spelled out and put into action, based off of their convictions and what they thought would be productive. You’re just picking one man-made system over the other. I’m not trying to pick a fight or even to say there is only one right way. But as stewards and ministers of reconciliation, we have to make wise choices ourselves according to what we think would be best for Kingdom work. Paul didn’t go on deputation. He was called, and he went, trusting God to provide along the way, and receiving that provision from really just a handful of churches, and his own hard work. If you want to quote scripture, you cannot just isolate the portions that support your point. I know that God is able to make the best use of a short time. And really, our lives are just a splotch of paint on the enormous canvas that makes up His ultimate purpose, so our ideas don’t even really make much of a difference in the grand scheme anyway, but we are still that blotch. And we need to make the best use of our blotch according to the passion God gives us to do His work. And “planning on being inefficient” is not anything that I can consider a wise choice by any God-fearing man. We, in our lives, need to plan to be productive. That’s our stewardship. To be productive with what God gives us, not to just fall into an inefficient man-made system because it happens to be the one available at the moment. I totally understand the frustration of “mankind” and his tendency to fail, but he’s failed in the independent realm too! The independent realm has been probably one of the least productive movements for the Kingdom in the history of Christianity. You hear stories about people being saved in the 5’s and 10’s, but there are bigger things happening out there that you don’t hear about because the Independents just assume that they are liberal counterfeits because they aren’t fundamental baptists doing the work. We need to open our eyes to the need for change in our own circles. I’m not saying the solution is in programs, but programs do tend to be the outcome of productive work. Productive meaning, they are actually bringing people to Jesus and seeing their lives transformed through the Ministry of the Spirit using His Word. I’m not saying the solution is in a hierarchy. But I AM saying that perhaps hierarchies are not of the Devil like we’ve always been told. All I know is what I can see, and what I can see is the independent model is making a lot of isolated religious people who really aren’t doing much for the Kingdom. They have a form of godliness, but their hearts are far from Him. How can that be the one right God-approved model? The problem is always people. Whether the problem is in leadership or in the pews. There is no difference at the end of the day. Every model has its shortcomings, and every generation will have people who screw everything up from time to time. That doesn’t mean the independents are wrong. That doesn’t mean a hierarchy is wrong. What is wrong is people, and their sin. So the higher pursuit is that which drives towards God, His will for us, and His Commission for us. If a hierarchy gets us there, so be it. If independence gets us there, so be it. As long as we’re not compromising truth, love, and holiness, get going, and stop dividing over it. Do what you believe needs to be done for the love, fear, and honor of God. Be the steward God has called you to be and go be the best stinking steward you can be!

  5. I have so appreciated this series. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy to take the flack and criticism from the fellow brethren. But if I can share that I have personally been living out wat u have touched on. Spiritual abuse by leaders to their staff is alive and well in our independent Baptist churches. Playing mind games with them by not being truthful but manipulative to keep a hand of control on their life and families is alive and well. I’ve lived it, am living it. It’s hurtful.confusing.and makes me want to quit it all and never step foot back into a church again. But I can’t do that, because then my husband would lose his ministry and what about my children? But these are the thoughts that have come through my mind since realizing what exactly all this confusion is. It’s spiritual abuse, plain and simple. I hope Pastors who read this series have enough common sense and humility to examine themselves, because most bullies don’t know they’re the bully. Before they get offended or complain that you are hurting the faith I hope they will first look at how they run things.
    A hurting vessel

  6. Please continue your work to bring “our people” BACK to the historic positions and ethical behavior that once “marked” us as different from the merely religious. John 8:32 – “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” – is STILL as true today as when Jesus said it. Hiding wicked and unethical – not to mention un-Biblical – behavior is Satan’s way… NOT Jesus’ way.
    And for “hurting vessel”… I left a church after 25 years BECAUSE they drifted into that kind of behavior. Appeal to your husband’s MORAL compass; God’s hand is not shortened, and there really ARE other churches and other ministries. Staying in a BAD church is killing him, too, whether he is aware of it or NOT!
    I can honestly say NO church is BETTER than a BAD church. And it takes TIME – as much as is needed – to recover from spiritual abuse.

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

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