Where Will Independent Baptists Be In 10 Years and 25 Years? (IBTR #66)

future

It is a scary exercise to contemplate the future. There is so much we do not know, so many variables we cannot accurately evaluate. Still, trends around us might suggest a general direction that might allow us in the broadest terms to make some good guesses. “A” does often lead to “B” in a world where God’s principle of sowing and reaping will never pass away.

What does this have to do with anything in a series about issues we face in the Independent Baptist world? In comes into play when we ask…where will we be in 10 years?…where will we be in 25 years? To answer these questions and make sensible predictions will involve considering two areas: 1) the natural progression of issues in this series, and 2) trends in our country that affect every Christian group.

Natural Progression Of Truth Revolution Issues

1. The Pants Issue will fade away. It will retreat greatly in 10 years and fade almost completely in 25 years. It has been divisive, split a few families and churches along the way, but it simply will not last. Hundreds drop it yearly and others are trying to get up their nerve. The logic behind this prediction comes from those constantly shrinking numbers, from the inability to frame either a biblical argument for its necessity or an intelligent explanation for how pants and immodesty (a clear Biblical idea) are synonymous, and track records of other such standards as strongly upheld in other generations. For example, 30 years ago TV was as forbidden in as many Independent Baptist homes as pants are today. Where is the TV issue today? Almost every one of those homes have a TV today.

2. The Music Issue will change but it will not go away. I do not believe what is argued today will be the same in either 10 or 25 years. The logic there is that there has always been a music debate and likely always will be. Music, in some respects, is a matter of taste. There will always be a temptation to confuse that with its being not worldly. It will always be hard to pin down. The Fanny Crosbys of the world can be radical in one generation to some groups and too conservative in another. I can’t see what would change it.

3. Alliances among several Independent Baptists groups will shift. History dictates this prediction. Every 10 or 25 years the most vocal groups cycle a few times. Yesterdays close friend is preached against at today’s conference. This lamentable fact likely is a natural result of a hyper separatist outlook all too common in some circles. Couple that with the sin tendencies we all fight and it is inevitable.

4. Standards may change, but legalism will thrive. Legalism has always thrived and will till Jesus comes. The temptation to self-righteousness and a need to earn God’s favor will never end until Satan is chained. Religion arises from the dark core of who we are as sinners. Even those who love holiness and hate legalism are haunted at some deep level by these Gospel-hating, grace-denying thoughts. The best we can do is get it right on a personal level.

5. Our greatest challenges will arise from without. For some time our challenges have come from within (hence this blog series). I can’t pin down if it will be real soon, 10 years, or 25 years, but we won’t need articles like this series for long. That leads to…

Trends in our country that affect every Christian group

I may sound overly pessimistic here (I sincerely hope someone can show me this article in 25 years and tell me I was an idiot!), but recent news and changes that are being made in our country do not bode well for Christianity, at least as we have known it and handled it. A persecuted church may thrive in ways we have been seen before, but it will surely change what we are used to.

1. Bus Ministry will die. I am in no way criticising what has been a blessing in many ways. My only negative would be those who only use it as an attendance and baptism numbers game, but it has brought many under the sound of the Gospel. Beyond the growing antagonism toward the outreach in some communities, and the ever-expanding possibilities of lawsuits and accusations, the openness of our government to criminalize Christian work doesn’t bode well for bus ministry.

2. Church-run Christian schools will fall by the wayside. They are already closing in alarming numbers as the financial side is now close to impossible. The likelihood of a national approval of homosexual marriage and the corresponding ability of the IRS to revoke tax-exempt status for an anti-homosexual marriage stand will surely be the greatest challenge for us. When we lose that exemption, a 30% tax rate may kick in. Schools will evaporate in a moment in that environment. Our Bible Colleges will be strained as well.

3. Decreased giving will strain all churches and ministries. We have long faced Christian apathy and disobedience, but the loss of a deduction for charitable donation will erode giving even more. Couple that with paying taxes on what we do get and that will be financial crisis. I am in no way saying the Lord cannot provide, but that how we do things will change to what is done in other parts of the world today. With this potentiality, even taking on long-term debt or large building projects are tenuous at best.

4. Other changes will follow. It is hard to predict what other dominos that may fall. It may require the churches going underground. Our invitation-to-church approach will likely give way to one-on-one work only

Perhaps this is enough legitimate prediction. My faith in God has not wavered. I still believe He can take care or me and you. Still, I know changes to all I have known will be a challenge for me. Maybe it would be time to pray and prepare our hearts for the handwriting on the wall. And for sure it is time to live for what is really important. If it won’t be important in an underground-church environment, it likely isn’t too important now.

(You know I don’t really like this article myself, but I am compelled to write it. God bless you all!)

Find all articles in the series here.

12 thoughts on “Where Will Independent Baptists Be In 10 Years and 25 Years? (IBTR #66)

  1. Bro Reagan,

    I’ve enjoyed your articles in this series, and these last two #65 and #66 have been very denominational. I know that IFB pastors and people don’t like to think of themselves as a denomination (which in a traditional sense they are not), but IFB is a denomination in thought and training.

    This article especially is a word of caution for a denomination in decline primarily because it is a denomination that has as its leadership men who don’t preach the Word of God (#2 in this series) and congregants who have itching ears for the baptist cliches but no stomach for sound doctrine (another future article, perhaps).

    This article, though, I find intriguing and simultaneously sad. Sad because the second section, trends in our country that affect every Christian group, will be very hard for most American Christians to handle. This, however, is mainly because the church in America is “rich, and increased with goods, and [has] need of nothing” and it does not know that it is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). I have been hesitant to comment on many of your articles, but this one I’m going to comment. Please forgive the length. I feel lead to go through the second section and “call it like I see it.” I will provide, as briefly as possible, my thoughts with accompanying verses.

    1. Bus Ministry – I agree with you that it will die, and I think there are two additional reasons as to why is is dying and rapidly declining. Reason #1 – The bus ministry has been a source of pride between churches and within churches (bus against bus) since the days of Jack Hyles. It will only take a cursory look at Scripture to see how the Lord feels about pride and its end. Reason #2 – In many churches, the ‘bus folks’ and especially the ‘bus kids’ are kept separated from the main congregation. Somewhere in the puddle of all that pride, we’ve forgotten about James 2 when it comes to the bus ministry. Third point I just thought of: Bus ministries are a ministry of pragmatism. While many IFB pastors brag about not being pragmatic, the bus ministry is a ministry where anything goes so long as the bus is being filled.

    2. Closing of Church Run Schools – I think this is past due. It has been a source of financial strain of member families. It is also a “ministry” that is hard to justify Biblically. When you review Scripture, the father and mother are to be the primary teachers of their children. Furthermore, the church isn’t to charge for that which it received free (Acts 20; Matthew 10). I firmly believe that a thorough cleansing of the church would even include the closing of Bible colleges. Men are to be discipled free of charge by their pastor and church elders. If after being discipled and growing these men are lead into the ministry, they are to be proven before going into the ministry. This proving ground is found in the local church and it can be that the the church calls the man to be a Deacon (of course he would have to be full of faith and the Holy Ghost first – Acts 6). This system, as given in Scripture, is much better than the “get rid of our kids” system in place now. We get rid of our kids pre-school and pre-k. We get rid of our kids in a k-12 school, then we get rid of them in a 4 year college, and finally, we get rid of them by sending them into the ministry as novices lifted up in pride. At the last, we get rid of them because approximately 80% of them only last in ministry about four years and never go into the ministry again. It is time for families to regain the ground that God has given them and train their children (Deuteronomy 6 is impossible if the children are with other adults all day long).

    PS > It is not mandatory for churches to register as 501c3 organizations to be tax exempt; however, all those that due must also abide by the IRS mandates. So, when we run to the world and inject ourselves in their system, it should be no marvel when they began changing laws to control us.

    3. Decreased giving – This will continue to get worse because of the financial implications you mentioned, but also because most pastors handle the Word of God deceitfully when teaching giving. The IFB method of giving is as follows: You pay God 10% (a tithe). Then, you bring God an offering because you love Him (any amount above 10% – God loves a cheerful giver). You can also give alms (private giving to care for the needs of people – this is also after you have paid the tithe and given alms). Lastly, you make a year long faith promise commitment which, again, is an amount of money that God will provide you by faith and it is an amount in addition to your tithes and offerings. It sounds like a good system, and whoever invented it was a very logical thinker. There is only one problem with it – it is NOT Biblical. Until pastors get back to teaching people grace principles of giving, the giving will continue to slide, but once people dive into God’s true giving program for the church, their giving will thrive. An additional note: Whenever God talks about debt, He talks about it in a bad light. Hear the words of our Saviour: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:4). Also Solomon said, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). So, if Christ says you can’t serve God and money and Solomon says that the borrower is the lenders servant, can you take a bank loan and say that God provided? The only logical answer in the face of Scripture is no! So, if God didn’t provide, should you build that new shiny building while plunging the church into debt and possible financial ruin? I would, again, say no.

    “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).

    PS > I know that only one of those verses above speaks directly of debt, but all Scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16). These verses are utilized in that light.

    4. Other changes – I think the church will indeed go underground because I believe in my life time that the western church (America and Europe) will begin to face persecution like we have never seen. I also believe, because it is already happening, that the church in the house will continue to pick up steam. Another change that will be the ruin of many churches (and some of your readers will be upset by this) is that the Authorized Version of Scripture will be utilized less and less. You can’t find a Bible verse that says, “God loves the KJV.” When, however, you study the history of the texts and match those historical truths with what the Word of God says about preservation (Psalm 12:6-7), as an native English speaker, the best (if not only) choice for Scripture would be the Authorized Version. It was taken from the preserved autographs (Byzantine Text) and the translators also utilized the printed compilations of the autographs (Received Text) with the former translations diligently compare and revised to create a Bible that is as beautiful as it is unique – the Word of God perfectly translated from the providentially preserved sources. In fact, the language of the King James Bible used to be know as Biblical English, and Biblical English should be the language of God’s people.

    I have so many other thoughts that I would like to share, but I must at this time hold my peace. I have, no doubt (though not intentionally), already offended some of your regular readers (James 3:2). Plus, the Bible makes it clear that “in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin” (Proverbs 10:9). So with that verse and these two following, I must refrain.

    “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards” (Proverbs 29:11).

    “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:28).

    • Both the article by Bro. Reagan and the comment by Bro. Holmstedt are “spot on” and very insightful. My 36 years in “IFB world” have seen every item they addressed moving in that direction.
      The world of “professional ministry” is nearly over; the world of home churches and Bible instruction is almost upon us, and it is a mandate for pastors – those who love God and God’s people, anyhow – to begin preparing the people for what is essentially going to be an “underground” church. This is “how it is in much of the world, and now it is “our” turn.
      The days of “lands and gold” are swiftly coming to an end; the “hirelings” will depart for greener pastures and the TRUE ministers will continue.
      “By their fruits shall ye know them”…

  2. Where will they be? Hopefully gone lol. Actually, I would just like to see IFB get to the point where it has to “reform”. Most of the modern day IFB movement is harmful and needs a dramatic change. It will not happen though. They will continue in their tradition of the Pharisees, “eating their own”, and Pastor worship until there are none left.

  3. Our current church stopped doing “door-to-door” visitation. In the “city”, folks just don’t trust any one coming up to their door any more (and it isn’t safe to just send a group of teens out and let them walk up and down the streets, passing out tracts). AND also a general “visitation program” has ceased at this church as well. People are so busy any more (nursing home ministry, on the other hand, seems to be THRIVING) that no one is home at nights … or if they are, they don’t want to be disturbed unannounced.
    ANYWAY, several families left the church just because of that issue – no more formal visitation program.
    The pastor’s point is the above mentioned – and the fact that we are to be witnessing EVERY Day, EVERY WHERE, inviting people to church. Not just at one designated time in the week so we can check it off the list.
    As an introvert, I always dreaded door-to-door visitation, but I grew up doing it because it was “what God wanted”. So, I’m not really sure what I think. Just thought I’d throw that little tid-bit in with the list of things that are changing (at least in my world).

  4. In my experience, IFB growth in the 70’s and early 80’s was helped by a flow of people leaving liberal protestant churches. That flow helped mask the fact that door to door soul winning was never that effective in adding real members. The bus ministry also provided an illusion of growth and helped disguise the limited effectiveness of door knocking (not to say that such ministries were a waste of time as some lives were changed). These liberal denominations have been drained and can contribute fewer and fewer members to the IFB. IFB growth is dependent to a large degree on immigrants who arrive with a greater openness to the IFB model. Rural America doesn’t see many immigrants and in the cities, IFB churches have to compete with mega churches and powerful charismatic churches. IFB churches will have to become less white in the future.

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

  6. Pingback: Is This Really The Time For A Witch Hunt? (IBTR #71) | The Reagan Review

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