The 5 Key Issues Facing The Independent Baptist World Today (IBTR #75)

key issues

So what are the main issues facing Independent Baptists today? Sometimes people ask me when they see the number of articles in this Truth Revolution series if I think there are really that many problems. They invariably add that if there are that many problems then I should leave. Were that the case, I would be forced to agree with them.

It is not that there are 75 problems, but a handful of distinct ones. Even these distinct ones are not across the board, but only in pockets across the country. Many are changing. The plethora of articles here are because no one post by me could satisfactorily address the individual issues. Even the Bible addresses various issues several times from various angles!

Here are the 5 key issues that have hurt the Independent Baptist world in some cases, as well as greatly damaging the lives of some believers:

  1. A Failure To Adequately Preach The Bible

When our preaching goes backward, the whole apple cart rocks and soon turns over. Yelling, storytelling, and moralism replaced proclaiming simply what God has said. How the Bible ever came to be boring in some of our minds, and in need of help in making it interesting and relevant, is beyond me. The Word of God throbs with life, drama, passion, and excitement. The only problem the Bible ever has are its preachers making it unnecessarily dull.

Expository preaching has disappeared from some of our churches. We have preachers who, I fear, don’t even know how to put one together. Too many forget that a sermon must find itself springing from what the text has actually said in order to be a Bible sermon. Some say we have switched to topical preaching, but I really must disagree with that too. A topical message should take its source from various Scriptures across the Bible (many can handle the many Scriptures part) of passages all taken in context (that is where they fail to even qualify as a biblical topical sermon).

Our other problems stem from this one because as the Bible becomes more obscure and unpreached we find ourselves more easily susceptible to error.

  1. Pastoral Abuse

When the Bible falls back from its rightful place as an infallible authority in our lives, it is tempting for a pastor to step into the vacuum that is created because we yearn for a true word of authority to bring peace into our troubled lives. It is tempting for the pastor to take on that role, and unfortunately, it is tempting for people to let him.  This error corrupts the beautiful thing called the local church that the Lord has given us. This robs the role of the Bible being our guide, as well as the Holy Spirit Who takes it on Himself to guide us on what the Scriptures say.

When pastoral abuse finds acceptance, then abuse grows throughout the church.

  1. Legalism in a Pharisaic Style

As we move farther from God’s Word, the accepted abuse requires a need for control. An ever expanding set of rules becomes the goal. It is claimed to be about honoring Christ, but it is about control. Some Independent Baptists try to dodge this issue by claiming that legalism is only about requiring non-biblical things for salvation. Still, it is a spirit of legalism that adds non-biblical things for pleasing God, or even earning His love. There is a little Pharisee in all our hearts and this can easily spread like an out-of-control wildfire. People are confused because in their hearts they know they should live in a Christ-honoring way. Of course we should! But that must be defined by what the Bible has actually said (See why #1 is the core of our problems). Where the Bible is silent, the Holy Spirit reserves the right to speak individually to each believer. He has never abdicated that right and given it to pastors.

  1. Overly Aggressive Separation

When legalism takes hold, many start reducing the Christian life to a set of standards proscribed by leaders. From there pressure is brought to bear to separate from those who fail to toe the line. While separation is taught in the Bible in fundamental areas particularly involving Christ and His plan of salvation, this runs to minute points of difference. This is how the Independent Baptist world has, in some cases, splintered into dozens of little groups who compete and little like each other.

  1. Lost Perspective and Weird Issues

Finally, we lose the sanity to differentiate the critically important from the not-so important. We end up in embarrassing debates and kooky issues. Some of it is so bizarre that people are arrested and it makes the evening news. Issues that are important like the inspiration of Scripture, and ones worth looking into like textual issues (I use the KJV), disintegrates into extreme and strange KJV points that are presented as life and death. There are many such disintegrations of issues out there.

These are the five key issues facing the Independent Baptist world today. I pray these things can change in many more local churches and individual lives (The places where change counts). I realize that this little off-the-radar blog can’t make that much difference, but I still believe many little voices can make for a loud conversation.

The truth is if these five issues were thoroughly dealt with we could see phenomenal change akin to revival. Actually, radically fixing point #1 would probably fix the whole mess. We need the Word of God back in its proper place.

Find all articles in the series here.

16 thoughts on “The 5 Key Issues Facing The Independent Baptist World Today (IBTR #75)

  1. Interestingly enough, your five points follow quite closely Mark 7:1-13, and specifically, 7-9.

    And as I ponder that, that sort of scares me…

    But, like you said, while there are many characteristics of the “movement” as a whole, there are many individual churches that do not follow any party lines, and are there, serving the Lord as best they know. There’s no perfect church, nor perfect people, and I know many individual independent Baptist churches that are serving the Lord, being faithful, and not following the errors of some more visible groups and churches. Maybe it’s because the bad apples stand out so strongly that they seem to outnumber or represent a status that isn’t the norm in reality.

    • I so agree with you. You have found the perfect Scripture to match what I was trying to say. I agree that this does not apply to all, but only some (though some are convinced I mean all). They are many great churches that get embarrassed by these bad apples that stand out so much.

  2. I love the your last statement (really your whole article.

    The truth is if these five issues were thoroughly dealt with we could see phenomenal change akin to revival. Actually, radically fixing point #1 would probably fix the whole mess. We need the Word of God back in its proper place.

    I visited a SBC recently and found it refreshing. My only concern was they did not use the KJV, instead they used the NKJV. I did notice that the changes made in the passage read did not change the meaning even a little bit, but I digress. The pastor gave a printed outline and used a powerpoint. We could take notes of the sermon. In most IFB circles a printed outline given to the congregation would be a big no, no. We would say, look that preacher is not open to the moving of God. Why, if God changed his message this morning he would not even listen to the spirit.

    It is ashamed when congregations would rather here 40 minutes of a mans opinion instead of a well thought out, prayed over, expository message.

  3. Bro Reagan,

    I agree with you on this issue. Many pastors do fail terribly to adequately preach the Bible. While that is deplorable and they will receive greater condemnation (James 3:1), the sad reality is that many church members fail to adequately read the Bible. Even less study the Scripture for themselves, and almost no one memorizes Scripture. So, these bad pastors are actually what the people want. Remember that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Timothy 4:3-4).

    If a Pastor isn’t preaching the Bible, he is both handling God’s Word deceitfully and teaching fables. Any such pastor that remains in the pulpit with people “following” him is preaching to people who have turned away their ears from the truth. If any Christian is not diligent to tune his ears to truth in the secret place, he will be turned away from truth in public.

    I also fully believe that many pastors and churches have become Pharisaical; however, I think we need to define it Biblically as hypocrisy and not legalism. Legalism is as you describe it “requiring non-biblical things for salvation.” You also happened to describe hypocrisy, when you said that many people are adding “non-biblical things for pleasing God.” Christ said of the Pharisees, “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:4). Then, in the same conversation, He repeatedly calls them hypocrites. This spirit of hypocrisy has very much reared it’s head. You gave the solution, and it is the reality, that neglected Bibles that are not read in home or properly preached in the pulpit is at the core of this and every other issue. I once heard a man say, “Dirty lives grow from dusty Bibles.” We have a lot of pastors and church members with dirty lives.

    In this legalism section you also said, “Where the Bible is silent, the Holy Spirit reserves the right to speak individually to each believer. He has never abdicated that right and given it to pastors.” I have to be honest with you, this type of thinking really bothers me, but it is so prevalent today. The Bible is treated as some pagan, situational book. God only has one truth, and the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit doesn’t “speak individually to each believer”, for He only guides into a singular truth. He only speaks that which Christ gives Him to say. The reality for every believer, weather they want to believe it or not, is that the Bible is not silent on any issue.

    Hear the words of Scripture: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. … For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (II Peter 1:3-4, 8-9).

    This portion of Scripture alone makes it clear that God’s Word is not silent on any issue for it begins with the truth that God has provided for us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. How can we have all things? It is through the knowledge of Him. When we understand God’s character, we can know how we ought to behave and act in every circumstance of life. Furthermore, God has given us great and precious promises in His Word that allow us to be partakers of His divine nature. Of course, the prerequisite for all of this is that the person must be born again. Here is the reality: If you are facing a “grey area” in life, you need to draw closer to God through His Word and prayer, for it is the knowledge of His divine nature and our partaking of it that illuminates the grey area. Remember that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). Likewise, there is no area where God is silent, for, again, if we don’t know how to proceed, we draw closer to God through His Word and prayer, and wait for a greater understanding of His nature before we move forward. This is the only way to escape the corruption that is in the world. It is also better than the alternative of living as if we are blind without any vision of the future, and even, in process of time, forgetting that we were purged from our sins.

    On your section of overly aggressive separation, I believe that it is really carnality. I heard a missionary bragging about two “good” churches in his hometown. He was saying how they agreed on every major doctrine. One church, however, allowed their women to wear culottes while the other church taught that women could only wear skirts and dresses. It was this issue alone that drove them to hate on another and separate from one another. Needless to say that when I informed that missionary that those churches were both carnal, that didn’t go over very well. It is always this downward trajectory in Scripture from hypocrisy to carnality to a lost perspectives and weird issues.

    I agree with your conclusion that “radically fixing point #1 would probably fix the whole mess.” Sadly, many of the Independent Fundamental Baptist pastors and missionaries that I have met will never change. This is mainly because even though they are terribly out of step with the Word of God, they believe that they are “the only ones standing for truth.” With that thinking and their deeply embedded belief that they alone are “the man of God”, many of these people cannot be taught by man or by the Holy Spirit.

    In Christ,
    I Samuel 12:24

    • Legalism is one of those things that tends to cause disagreements. It is kind of sad that this is most true in the most legalistic environments–I guess because nobody wants to be labeled a legalist.

      The problem is that legalism isn’t connected directly with salvation. (i.e. “earning” salvation). It is a means of attaining righteousness–by one’s own efforts. It is not linked to eternal life or things we typically relate today with salvation. It is simply about making one’s own self righteous. Looked at in this light, legalism is a _huge_ problem in fundamentalist circles, and it is a direct descendant of the pharisaical ideas that existed in Jesus’ time. As I stated in my first post, Mark 7 is a perfect explanation of what happens. And this article is an excellent illustration of that progression.

      It is worth pointing out, that both legalism and hypocrisy are intrinsically linked, and both are linked to an outward show of righteousness–a preoccupation with appearances–how others perceive us, and yes, even how God perceives us. I had a Reformed fellow tell me–or ask incredulously if Christ could have died for Hitler. By his question, it was obvious that he had ranked people by external deeds, and not by internal, spiritual death.

      Legalism is just as much a problem for true believers as it is for the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Any addition of our own righteousness, whether they be standards, Bible version used, right crowd, etc. by which we judge ours and others’ righteousness or worthiness, is a form of legalism, and yes, it is hypocrisy as well, because when we do this, we also hold others to a higher standard than we do ourselves. It’s kind of sad, thinking about how ugly it can be. I’m grateful that I’ve mostly seen this from a distance, and not up close and personal.

  4. Pastor Reagan,
    Have you ever done a blog on the falsehood of “Touch not God’s anointed”? That would be an interesting topic.

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

  6. hi pastor Reagan,

    I’ve been reading your articles, im almost 30 and i got saved when i was 14, throughout my whole christian life ive been an independent baptist and every church ive attended, seems like they are judgemental, example, im a quiet person but yet they would look at me as if i had mental issues, the last church that i was a part of, which is in bethany, ok. they even spread rumors about me having mental issues, which i don’t. so now im kinda out of church and disgusted with christianity now days, ive been going to an sbc with my girlfriend on sunday mornings. i guess what im trying to say is im done with the crap. just pray for me brother.

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