Part of being a fundamentalist really is having your fundamentalist school, camp, board, and/or fellowship. A fundamentalist church sends you to its school, which gives you a fundamentalist degree with its fundamentalist connections to help you get fundamentalist support and/or a fundamentalist ministry. Fundamentalism feeds off of itself even in its accreditation. The churches confirm the institutions, which validate the churches that accept the students. None of this may be very good at all, but the network itself self-authenticates, keeping its own cycle of approval within the world of fundamentalism.
Remaining in the fundamentalist pack or orbit or circles has required a certain level of doctrinal and practical quality control. I understand the benefits of that insofar those standards are biblical. However, you can find yourself on the outside of fundamentalism if you do not adjust to the fundamentalist parameters. It's not so much that anything will really happen to you per se, just that you might find yourself into various levels of exclusion from fundamentalist opportunities, that are not so much a loss of biblical opportunities, as they are a loss of the sense that one is fitting into fundamentalism. No one will stand before God to be judged for what kind of fundamentalist he was or whether he even was one.
Someone in fundamentalism does not carry a fundamentalist card, but he does carry a standing or value that work something like a credit rating in the financial world. Your score is based on certain credentials that are common for continuing as a fundamentalist. Your net fundamentalist worth may not relate to your obedience to Scripture, even as certain disobedience of the Bible may not bother your status in fundamentalism at all; it might even improve it.
It might be hard for some today to believe, but as I got started in California, I had never been taught about discipleship. I knew about soulwinning and programs, but I did not know about making disciples. It's possible that someone may have brought discipleship up, but never encouraged it, even though I had a double major in pastoral studies and biblical languages. The only exegetical point I could defend was "preach the gospel to every creature." I thought that the great commission was something like "go and win people to Christ" and then train people to win other people to Christ. I knew that I needed some kind of soulwinning program. And I say soulwinning, because I thought that evangelism was something evangelists did. The terms soulwinning and evangelism were two different terms with different nuances of meaning, in my mind.
What I did hear about was the "follow-up" program. "Follow-up" was about seeing the new convert get baptized and join the church, start tithing, get into a ministry, and join the soulwinning program. Reaching those kind of goals as quickly as possible was in tune with that era of church growth philosophy. Follow-up was usually a short booklet and you did it in a new converts class. The pastor or a pastor led the follow-up and this was how the church integrated new converts.
I knew something was wrong with the system of fundamentalism as it stood. And as I began preaching in the Gospels of John and then Matthew, I saw that part of it was the lack in discipleship. Some equated discipleship with opposition to soulwinning---while we were busy discipling people, the soulwinning wasn't happening that would keep the lost from going to Hell. Some of fundamentalism was even opposed to it, giving the impression that discipleship was new-evangelical. I thought that might be why I rarely heard the word. If someone were to support it in a sermon, fundamentalists would mark that man as a new-evangelical. In my first few years of pastoring, I became convinced that the great commission of the Lord Jesus Christ was to make disciples.
Matthew 28:19-20 has only one verb in it, an imperative, the word "teach" in v. 19, which means "to make disciples." To obey the great commission of Jesus, one would need to make a disciple. One cannot make disciples of unsaved people, so discipleship always starts with preaching the gospel, but the great commission isn't finished until you have someone who is ready to reproduce himself in another person.
I began looking around to see if anyone else was thinking the same way as I was. I found the Navigators and read a bunch of their materials. I read what evangelicals said about discipleship because I hadn't found anything written by fundamentalists. Even though I was encouraged by much of what they said, I still saw that evangelicals were lacking in certain biblical doctrines and practices. None of the follow up programs in fundamentalism looked capable of making a disciple in a true New Testament sense, so in 1991, I wrote my own material. I became convinced that ministry technically was making disciples, so I was failing as a pastor if I was not perfecting our church members for this (cf. Eph 4:11-12).
In order to make a disciple, I saw in the Bible the necessity of involvement, so we didn't use objective type questions where someone could regurgitate answers, but ones that required thought. As well, what someone did should come out of who he is, that is, right practice should proceed from right doctrine. Jesus set up a gauntlet for professing believers to test their devotion to Him, expecting sacrifice or true worship.
Worship was another term of which I heard very little when I was in college and graduate school. I became convinced, again through expository studying, that God was seeking for true worshipers. The Gospels transformed our entire ministry philosophy with the emphasis on discipleship and worship.
A First Pastoral Conflict with Fundamentalism
Fundamentalism enmeshed itself in our church in several ways. We sent students to Christian college. This was the only pattern I knew and assumed that this should be the norm for high school graduates from our church. We began to send students to Maranatha Baptist Bible College, my alma mater. We recruited teachers from Christian colleges to teach in our school. On those trips, I preached in college chapel. Ensembles from certain colleges came and made presentations. We scheduled evangelists I had heard while in college. We sent our young people to fundamentalist camps---Lucerne and Ironwood. I attended FBF meetings, conferences, and retreats. Our school became a part of the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS). We started supporting missionaries from Baptist World Mission (BWM).
Evangelizing, making disciples, and studying for four different teaching or sermon times every week, among other duties, took up the bulk of my time. I would almost always be preaching at least two book series in the New Testament and one in the Old. I've now preached through every book of the New Testament, except for Luke (I'm in chapter 11 right now), and many in the Old (Genesis, Deuteronomy, Joshua-1 Kings 19, Nehemiah, Job, 120 or so of the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and all the Minor Prophets). The study, more than any one thing, exposed fundamentalism to me.
Every book of the Bible I preached through changed both me and our church. At one point I was in 1 Corinthians 14 and got to verses 29-35. I was convicted by God's Spirit through those verses and then other parallel passages (cf. 1 Timothy 2:9-15) about ways that our practice clashed with God's Word. Women needed to remain silent where in the church there was a forum for challenge---preaching times and business meetings. I did a long series of sermons from all the applicable passages for our church to come together on this decision. Only men should speak during preaching or make the business or financial decisions of the church.
One family, where the wife often spoke up in business meetings while her husband remained silent, did not like what it heard. The family didn't say anything to me at that time, but one of the parents did complain to the son, who brought this matter to attention of one of his doctrine classes at school. Word traveled about this from the professor to the administration of the school, and I got a call from the president. He challenged me to "choose my battles" and to be careful not to make decisions that could hinder church growth. I wanted us to line up with and obey Scripture, whatever the consequences. Soon thereafter, I got a several page, single-space, typewritten letter from the dean of academic affairs, opposing the position I was preaching to our church. Among other things, he said that our position was a form of chauvenism, which would in fact "muzzle" our women.
Our church changed to follow the Bible and our ladies have never suffered from that. They are as fulfilled and joyous and involved as any group I've seen. The men of our church were strengthened by what the Bible expected of their leadership. Men had to lead. Today many conservative churches operate just like ours with their church government, except also excluding all of the men except for a small entirely male group of elders who decide everything for the church. What I saw as this related to fundamentalism was another example of the nature and work of fundamentalism enacted upon the superior institution, the church.
More to Come.