A Lesson In Light Of The Duggars (IBTR #69)

You have surely heard the firestorm of news that involved the Duggar family over the last week. I will not add in this article to the piling on that has been done to them, but want to consider an issue that their story suggests that fits this series.

As for the Duggars, my heart goes out to them. I was not a fan of their show personally, but that is only because I can’t endure reality TV. There is just something about sitting on a couch in my living room watching a family on TV sitting on a couch in their living room that just does not appeal to me. But it was nothing personal, my children loved it, and I had no problem with that.

I have spent a good deal of time talking about this story with my wife, and again, I feel sorry for them. It appears that situations involving minors are a sealed subject by law for everyone else in America, so I don’t get that. A lot of people have said the girls involved are the issue, but in the sloppy way this was told to the extent of revealing victims, the girls have been victimized all over again, so I don’t get that either. There is probably a lot we don’t know, but I wish every story of sin looked so beautifully redeemed 12 years later, so I don’t get that either.

I wish I could believe this really wasn’t about the family taking a stand on homosexuality, but I am struggling not to—there are a lot of rattling skeletons in closets out there, but why the great steps to expose them here? The only point from the other side I see is that in light of this situation it likely would have been a good idea to not do a reality TV show. But it is easy to pontificate after the whole story and its consequences are out, rather than in the caldron of such a family crisis where the way forward might not look so clear. In any event, I am glad the show is off the air so this family can focus on each other and recovery without so much spotlight.

So, how does this story suggest a discussion in this Truth Revolution series that involves the Independent Baptist world? It has to do with all-too-prevalent and erroneous ideas about raising children that too often find a home in our circles. I am in no way an expert in child-rearing. My children are not yet raised. But I can discuss one thing my wife and I have learned on this journey.

We have been told that we can raise our children by a certain formula and it will guarantee results. Some latched on to the Duggars (which is not the fault of the Duggars) as proof it can be done. I really don’t even know if they ever said such a thing, but some did it (and the rest of this article is not about them at all).

The plan for many came to include much sheltering, courtship as the only path to marriage, side hugs, and the first kiss being at the wedding, or some similar variations on the theme. Of course, we all know that there is some level of sheltering in raising children. There must be clear boundaries too. But does that Independent Baptist process guarantee results? Or has the process once again overtaken the goal?

Is the process just an oppressive set of guidelines to be rigidly followed? Or should each set of parents take the matter to the Lord? And do you really believe that was the first kiss at the wedding anyway for many who proclaim it?

And are there any guarantees anyway? My children have free will and a sin nature and that may cause problems. Even worse, me and their mother have a free will and a sin nature as well and often fail to execute parenting even at the level we actually want to, and that will cause problems. I am not always the Daddy I want to be, I do not always live by every principle I believe in, and quite frankly, sometimes I blow it.

If I am not careful, I will only focus on the process, which is oriented to their behavior. That overlooks the other dynamic—my behavior. My children and I are probably pretty equal in behavior that is off. Side hugs alone will not fix that.

My wife and I have grown on our journey to love the idea of realness with our children. Don’t take me wrong, we still have discipline and boundaries, but our own crossing of boundaries is worthy of family discussion too. We put up safeguards, but we can survive if they kiss their prospective spouse before the wedding day. We pray we can teach them what they do need to wait on before marriage. That is, however, a matter of prayer and wait and see. Other parents have been disappointed before and we are not so special, nor have such a great process, that we know we are above things not going as we planned.

That brings us to the biggest truths about raising children. It needs humility and prayer more than a process. If it goes well, it will be the grace of God. Our best bet is to be real, but distinctly Christian, to admit our mistakes as readily as we correct theirs, and to throw them and us on the mercy of the Lord.

We must not teach our children that the process is the way either or we will only throw on them the error of our generation. Thinking that we could focus solely on externals and some how please the Lord has done a number on many of us. Let’s not do that to them, or if they fail, they will have nothing left to do but walk away as damaged goods. That will make them miss the wonder of the grace of God, and what could possibly be worse than that?

There is a reason the Proverbs say, “My son, give me thine heart”. It is the heart, it will always be the heart, and no process can capture a heart. It will take more than that–far more.

Find all articles in the series here.

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A Truth We Baptists Should Never Forget (IBTR #68)

Sometimes in a series like this we discuss denominational pride, or in our case, believing that Independent Baptists are the only ones who are serving the Lord in an effective way. In recent articles we mentioned the extreme Baptist Brider position and its more common counterpart, the belief that we must separate from any who are not Independent Baptists. As you would imagine, once you start down that road the next step becomes separating from Independent Baptist who are not Independent Baptist enough.

I am on record as an Independent Baptist who finds that wrong, an example of misguided thinking and unbridled pride. Instead of exposing that as pride in this article, however, I would like to offer a fact that should be faced in any discussion on this subject. Maybe I should put it as a question.

How do you explain the mighty things God has done in other Christian groups? Further, how do you explain the incredible faith, love of Christ, and wonderful service of individuals in other Christian groups?

How do you explain Hudson Taylor, or George Mueller, or Jonathan Edwards, or George Whitefield, or John Wesley? These Christians were men of faith, but not Baptists. Human? Yes, but they are some of the choicest servants of Christ ever and only a twisting of the facts could state otherwise.

I began thinking of these questions as I was reading and reviewing The Korean Pentecost this week. It is the story of Presbyterians, some men I had never heard of, who took the Gospel to Korea. In 1865 Robert Taylor took passage on a boat up into Korea to take Bibles and be one of the first missionaries there. After being able to give out Bibles at a few stops, rumors took fire that this boat crew came to rob the Koreans. Long story short, when the boat grounded and was set on fire by the Koreans, the crew took its only chance and charged the shore with weapons. They all died. It wasn’t until missionaries returned years later that it was discovered what happened. They were told the story and how all the crew were killed. They recounted, though, that one man came ashore without weapons but arms filled with Bibles where he handed out all he could before he died.

The other extraordinary thing about that story was that the missionaries discovered many pockets of believers where that man handed out the Bibles. Who could deny that God’s hand was incredibly upon that man who gave his life for his Savior? As that Presbyterian work continued through the years, an incredible revival came, which was followed by persecution where many other bold believers gave their lives for Christ.

So back to our question. If God’s hand is only upon we Independent Baptists, how can this and the many stories like it be explained? God has blessed the work of Baptists. He has blessed the work of others. The Lord has sent revival to Baptists. He has sent revival to others. Baptists have given their lives for Christ. So have others. We have an incredible heritage, but so do others.

We can, of course, disagree on a few points in our efforts to be true to Scripture as best we understand it. In the case of those Presbyterians, we would differ from them on Baptism, church polity, and a few other things, but that in no way proves our superiority over them. Again, that tracing of God’s hand in both groups makes that an opinion that cannot be logically held.

So we must humble ourselves and drop a belief that cannot possibly be true. This is a truth we Baptists should never forget.

Find all articles in the series here.

J.-Hudson-Taylor

Are You A Narcissist? (IBTR #67)

May I answer the question for you? Yes, you are and so am I. The real discussion is not whether we have narcissistic tendencies, but are we battling them. This is, of course, a human problem and not a denominational one. Though this series is aimed at those who are, or have been, part of the Independent Baptist world, this subject extends far beyond it. Those in it struggle here not because they are Independent Baptists, but because they are flesh and blood and join in the human condition. In that it is a challenge for us all, it affects every group of people including those in Christian circles. So that calls for a word here.

Narcissism as a term for our malady traces back to Narcissus in Greek Mythology. Its essence as a concept, though, goes back to Eden. Narcissus was a young handsome chap who caught a reflection of himself in a pond. He was so captivated by his own reflection that he fell in love with himself. This love affair grew until the captivated Narcissus fell in the pond and drowned. Whatever you think of Greek mythology, can you think of a better, or more accurate, story for being impressed and infatuated with yourself?

This excessively growing love that is narcissism has been described as “an unbounded admiration of self.” As bad as it has always been, it is clearly a growing issue of the Last Days: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,” (II Timothy 3:2).

Being in a church setting, or a Christian home, or in a room all by yourself, is no guarantee to avoid narcissism. A preacher could look over his sermon notes and think…wow, this is awesome. A singer could come to believe that applause actually proved something. A pastor might start believing and openly proclaiming how great his ministry is…the best in town, or maybe the state. A volunteer might come to believe the church’s future is fully on his back.

Our teaching or preaching may become overloaded with stories where we are the hero. Beyond the little stories of things we have observed, our stories become ever more the tale of one rescuing the world, of one clearly standing above others. Just before we fall into the pond staring at our own reflection, our story grows more relevant as we speak than His story. 

It will show up in our daily lives as well. We might blog and think ours has more potential to change the world than others. (Ouch). Our Facebook or Twitter statuses grow beyond keeping up with each other to a need to status because those readers need to hear from us. It’s not the posting that is an issue, but the thought processes as we hit “send”.

The answer is in God’s Word. The reflection that you see in the mirror of its pages gives a more vivid and accurate image of us than do those ripples across the pond. If you look at it long enough you won’t fall in love with yourself, but with Christ Who is worthy of the deep love we narcissists usually give ourselves.

Perhaps, narcissism isn’t so surprising after all. I was reading the other day that we are made in the image of God and that God is worthy of praise. Somewhere inside of we who are in His image is a need for that praise. There is, however, two problems: 1) We are not the Almighty even if in His image, and 2) We are corrupted by sin and incredibly unworthy. We are marred and we view our lives as touched-up photos.

We must strive to keep the accurate, biblical view of ourselves ever before our eyes or we will never do any worthwhile ministry. We must stay in love with Christ, and fulfilled by Him, so that we need not believe such hopelessly ridiculous things about ourselves. The world could get along without us without missing one beat. On the other hand, it cannot do without Him.

So, I pray–Lord, help me keep the narcissist within at bay.

Find all articles in the series here.

narcissist

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.

Our Brand Of Idolatry (IBTR #65)

Any Christian should have an idea of what idolatry is. Idolatry is rendering to any other thing what is due only to God. Usually the actions run deep enough that the word “worship” comes to mind. Using the words of the Ten Commandments, it includes “bowing down” and “serving”. In the broader sense, I saw it defined as “immoderate attachment or devotion to something.” I believe idolatry is a battle for us all, and clearly for every group or denomination, and Independent Baptists struggle with their own flavor. Here are our prime ones, our brand of idolatry:

1. An Idol Of Independent Baptist Itself

Beyond folks who are Independent Baptists because they just feel it most closely aligns with the Scriptures, there are those who feel it holds an inherent superiority in and of itself. First, there are those who hold to what is known as a “Baptist Brider” position that believes that Baptists are the Bride of Christ and any other saved person is, at best, a friend of the Bride. We will sit at the table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb while others stand at the side and watch. While Baptists have a longstanding and amazing legacy, this is without any Scriptural warrant and is ludicrous. The so-called “succession” can be no better be provided all the way back to Christ as a list than other groups who claim the same thing.

While I hope the “Brider” stuff is not too widespread, there are others who have come to believe that we have grown to be something so special that now only we have the truth. The rift between us and everyone else is now so large that they are the enemy. To be in some other group is a sign of either spiritual immaturity, or worse, backsliding. Many now make prominent their separation from everything not Independent Baptist and feel this so pleases the Lord. We size people up quickly not so much on what they believe about Christ, but whether are they Independent Baptists. That is to say, the question “Are you an Independent Baptist?” tells us more about a person than the question “What do you think of Christ?” See what got switched around? Is that not idolatry?

2. An Idol Of Standards

It appears to me that standards started out as simply deciding how one ought to live before the Lord. Everyone has to seek the Lord and answer those questions on many levels, but in some circles in the Independent Baptist world it has grown into a standardized list. No longer a thoughtful look at various issues to honor Christ, it is a package deal. Some subgroups have a slightly different package, but the package must be accepted as a whole. Any major transgression of any point is to break the whole package and bring the wrath of the whole group. The package is held up as what makes us right. Some over time confuse the adherence of the package of standards as the thing that makes God love them. Some vehemently deny that conclusion, but can’t explain why so many they have trained are so confused. In this situation, we look at ourselves and ask “Am I keeping my standards?” instead of “How is my personal relationship with Christ?” Is that not idolatry?

3. An Idol Of Associations

Another thing you see at times is some being obsessed with certain leaders in the Independent Baptist world. Make what you will of the leaders in those situations, I am more troubled by some who come so close to worship. Those leaders can do no wrong. Scandals must be hushed up. Slander of those against your leader is offered up without proof. This is not the same as friendship, or even appreciation. It is something much more.

Then there are the associations gathered around these persons (I do not mean if you happen to have gone to a school or church of one of these leaders and love and appreciate them that you are guilty of this, or that any particular leader is guilty!) There is a problem, however, if you yield a blind allegiance to such groups no matter what. If you are not willing to say that your favorite group, which is made up of fallible people, could be wrong, you have given an exalted status that should only be given to the Infallible Christ. If, on some matter, you say someone or some group is right when Christ says they are wrong, what have you done? This is not about turning into a critic, but having everyone stay firmly in the human category they are in. You even see younger guys working every angle to get higher up the totem pole of the group. Isn’t this one the most hideous transposings of worship? And is that not idolatry?

Find all articles in the series here.

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Old Fashioned Church? (IBTR #64)

A battle rages on today that will last until Jesus comes–the battle between traditional church and something newer or contemporary. I fall in a more conservative line than many, yet do not get as worked up about some of the newer stuff as some do. In the Independent Baptist world the battle is even more intense than in other circles. There is not, to my mind, some simple answer that is beyond dispute. In either case the argument will go better if there is no one in the room from the other side.

Still, there is an unusual phenomenon in these days. Some advertise themselves as being one of the few that still do “old fashioned church”. Again, if someone says they are traditional or conservative, those terms at least make sense. We have some idea what that means and it seems at least fair advertising.

While there is not one uniform model of the churches that call themselves old-fashioned, some of them carry a few similar traits. We should, too, specify that calling ourselves old fashioned when we feel the whole world is running ahead of us is a fair and common usage of the word. To use it, though, as many do now should have a more accurate time element to it–it should be at least a little ancient.

In my unscientific observation, I have noticed many of these churches will have conservative music, though it may have some get-up-and-go to it. Others may prefer a great deal of shouting. Others a very specific order of service. I have nothing negative to say about any of it. Phrases like “have it your way” come to mind; or as they said where I grew up, “More power to you.”

The funny thing is how did those specific things become the standard bearer of being old fashioned? Right or wrong, how far back can you really trace them? If you carried one of these old fashioned services back just 100 years, how do you think it would have been perceived? Or how about going on back to the frontier in colonial days? Do you think you would have been thought some sort of modern usurper of the godly way of doing church? I think you likely would have. I think we have no evidence that our “old fashioned ways” look anything like what a service led by the Apostle Paul would have.

A lively, yet very conservative, piano piece would not have been accepted in the not-so-recent past. I have read of the scandal the first organ playing brought to church services in the Middle Ages. 

It is a fair discussion to try to figure out what is appropriate for our churches, or more importantly, what would please Christ. Whether we all arrive at the same answer, we should all seek the Lord till we think we are where He would want us to be. On the other hand, I don’t see how we are going to make much progress on the discussion between ourselves until we learn to choose our words more carefully. I am not sure “old fashioned” as often used is very accurate.

Find all articles in the series here.

  

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.

I’m Out! (IBTR #62)

imageI’m out! Well, I am and will later in this article explain where I am out. Those words reverberate loudly often, in the reverse, in the Independent Baptist world as well. That is worthy of discussion too.

Perhaps you have watched a show that fascinates my family called “Shark Tank”. It is not my favorite program, and usually I will read while they watch, but in my home you can’t help watching it some. If you haven’t seen it, it is a show where entrepreneurs needing money to propel their business forward come before five filthy rich business magnates and pitch their business to see if one or more of the five will give the money for a stake of the company. Those five have succeeded for a reason and can spot a bad business plan or product as quickly as a dog can a bone. There is even one shark in the center called Mr. Wonderful (never has the bar for wonderful been set so low) who often reenergizes the term “painfully honest”.

In accordance with the typical vicarious reality-TV experience of our generation, the camera will pan from the face of the entrepreneur to the shark. The tension is seeing if the shark will make a deal or say those dreaded words: “I’m out!” Though it seems personal, the viewer must not forget that those sharks surely have a right to invest where they choose. They seem in most cases to be fairly cordial afterwards to those they just dropped the bomb of “I’m out” on. Still, you can see the fear in the eyes of the entrepreneurs that the “I’m out” may come.

In the Independent Baptist world, and I imagine in a few other corners of Christianity, we have almost that same scenario, except worse. The words “I’m out” are altered to “You’re out.”  It is not I am going to pack up my toys (or money) and go home, but I am going to pack up your toys (or fellowship) and send you home. The former is unpleasant, but the latter is devastating.

We have had much communication with those on both sides of the “You’re out”. There are those who have heard it and are trying to recover from what has been an emotional crisis involving family or friends. If that doesn’t strike you as a big deal, it only proves you have not been through it. Someone I dearly love has had the “you’re out” hurled at them this very year.

Then there are those with that look of terror in their eyes who fear the words may come at any time. They wrestle with sticking to what they believe or selling their souls to avoid the “You’re out”.

O I almost forgot—you may be wondering what events precipitated the pronouncement of “You’re out”. Believe it or not, this complete or near-complete breaking of fellowship were over things like (in order of occurrence): dress standards, complete obedience to a certain clique’s position, unquestioned support of a questionable leader, and music standards. I will refrain from sarcasm here and just suggest you join many others of us in rolling your eyes.

I want to give a word to those who have heard the painful “You’re Out” since I know several readers of this blog fall in that category. Imagine being in a plane and the other riders decided you were not enough in agreement with them and opened the door and threw you out barely giving you time to strap on a parachute. There is the sheer terror of falling (at least that is how I visualize it as the last guy who will ever volunteer to jump out of a plane), the hurt of being treated so by those you expected more of, and the fear of the unknown and how exactly you handle the landing since you have never done this before. A little overwhelming, wouldn’t you agree?

But then imagine that as you drift down in your parachute in a torrent of emotion that you see the plane you were thrown out of slam into the side of a mountain. That would, of course, only make for even more strong emotions, but would not one of those new emotions be gratitude that you were no longer on the plane? Hurting one, what I am trying to say is that the plane you were thrown out of is going to crash.

Please don’t think I am saying: they hurt you and they will pay. That is God’s business and our thoughts must not go there. What I am saying is that a life where we must earn God’s love, where our soul liberty is brutalized, where the priesthood of the believer we possess is sabotaged, and the Lordship of Christ we must give to Jesus is high jacked– that life cannot succeed. That is not the Life that Jesus gave us. It is not really life at all. Be thankful you are no longer on the plane. Hurting or not, you are far better off.

O, before I go, I said I would explain where “I’m out”. I do not direct those words to any Independent Baptist people or institutions. Probably I can just wait for them to say “You’re out” to me and it will all sort itself out. Those who never say “You’re out” to me will find that I will remain friendly to the end. The Truth Revolution is not personal over characters in IFB for me, but personal about Christ Who I love. I love being a Baptist with its blood-stained heritage, but not what some Baptists have defrauded of that heritage.

So, I’m out to being sucked into bondage. I’m out over someone dictating to my conscience. I’m out to being forced to conform to feeble men’s demands. I’m out over forced or made up Bible (mis-) interpretations. I’m out to someone robbing me of the joy Christ so freely gives. I’m out to men’s opinion overtaking the Word of God. I’m out to voices that would drown out the Word of God. I’m out to having freedom and liberty in Christ taken from me. I have a wonderful Savior and I am free and I love it—so I’m out.

Find all articles in the series here.

So Who Is Your Lord And Master? (IBTR #61)

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Who really calls the shots in your life? Who is the one you truly answer to? I must address an ugly problem. You see it inside churches. You see it inside circles of pastors. This one has crept into some corner of every part of Christianity, I want to share what I have seen among some in the Independent Baptist world. What am I speaking of? Having someone as Lord and Master of your life who is not named Jesus Christ!

Let’s start with pastors and others in ministry. Most of them would vociferously proclaim that Christ is their Lord and Master, but there is creepy evidence that it is not so. What would be the clearest proof? If some well known person, a known leader, can call you up, tell you something, and it will necessarily bring some change in your course of action, that person is slipping into the role of your master. (I am not especially picking on these leaders because if you are crazy enough to always do what another says you are putting an insurmountable temptation before them–who could resist?)

So there be no misunderstanding, let’s readily admit that it can be a good thing to listen to others. Respect for someone may fairly require a more vigorous due diligence in weighing the issue, but that is all. The question becomes can we, at the end of the day, say “no” and therefore not violate our consciences before Him Who is truly the Master? Often it does not work out this way.

While this is clearly a breach in our Christianity, that is not to say it is easily overcome. The pressure is real, perhaps even relentless. There is the larger group you are part of. If that leader writes you off, you may be done–at least in the circle you are most likely to be accepted in. That is terrifying. If you can muster the courage to withstand that loss, then there are your friends, or maybe even your family, that you could be in very real danger of losing. This is more than many can bear to face. Sad to say, this may not be your imagination running away from you, but a real foreboding of coming events.

Still, for all that agony, we have no right to give away to others Christ’s deserved Lordship. How do we rationalize it? It seems to me that we count the cost but with faltering arithmetic. There is a cost both ways, but we fail in seeing which is truly greater. My suspicion, too, is that we know the Lord will love us if we fail Him, but we figure these others might not. May God grant us a little fortitude

Now let’s turn our attention to the rank and file. Actually it is the same problem with only the slightest variation on a theme. The actors switched. Above it was pastors before well-known leaders and the corresponding peer group, and now it church members before pastors. Everything else is pretty much the same. Pressure. Fear. And finally, failure.

The only apparent difference is that the church member stands in closer proximity to the pastor and might not have the same luxury of sneakiness as the case where the leaders and peer group are miles away.

You would think that pastors would remember how that pressure feels to them and be more gentle with their flocks. Usually, the reverse is true. They must, I suppose, decide that if I am going to be closely watched and have the bit ever held tightly in my mouth, then you people will too. They must, sadly, come to believe that is how the game is played.

But that is not how the game is played. In fact, we are not playing a game. The plan of salvation our Savior wrought is anything but a game. He was ever so serious when He said we were bought with a price. The real pain we feel in pressure and loss of prestige, friends, or even family, is little compared to the pain He gladly suffered for us. We need no further arguments for what we ought to do. We know. It is, only, time to answer the question sincerely: So who is your Lord and Master?

Find all articles in the series here.

 

It’s Not Who’s Right, But What’s Right (IBTR #60)

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It’s not who’s right, but what’s right.” That was the statement I heard someone make that keeps ringing in my ears. How often have we seen the reverse–it’s not what’s right, but who’s right –lived out in front of us? It is a temptation to every group in Christianity, and Independent Baptists certainly have their struggles with it too.

 

When we live under the canopy of who’s right we are reduced to Christian politics. I can think of no two words more ill suited for each other than “Christian” and “politics”. It no longer is what Christ actually said that drives us, but which group is best at following what He said. That may appear a subtle distinction to you, but it is vast.

 

When I follow Christ by following which group or clique best follows him, I am no longer listening directly to Him. Now that is an incredible mistake to make. It is adding a middle man where none is needed. It is denying that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man. It is exalting those to priests in your life who are not worthy of the role.  

 

Over time it makes us forgetful too. We forget we answer to Him. We forget to seek Him. We feel right with Him when we are right with them. We forget that if they are wrong, we will be too by default. Sadly, then we are in a place to not even realize it. 

 

That same gentleman also said, “It’s fraternity instead of orthodoxy.” We must realize that those two things are not the same. Orthodoxy is holding to Scriptures because God said it while fraternity is holding to something because either my buddies or my heroes said it. See the difference?

 

Orthodoxy is me following an infallible Book. Perhaps I will misinterpret it, but I do so from a pure source. Fraternity is me following fallible men who range from sincere to duplicitous. Again, see the difference?

 

This is not to say that some group may not be right–only that is not the point. That is not to say that I may not associate with a group that I feel most closely aligns with God’s Word–only that is not the deciding factor in what I do or believe. No, fraternity, for all its good features, must bow to orthodoxy. And we will answer at the end of the way not for who’s right, but most assuredly, for what’s right. May God help us to never forget it. 

Find all articles in the series here.