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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.