The emphasis of unaffiliated Baptist churches relates to history. These churches, like true churches all the way back to the first church in Jerusalem, have believed in the autonomy of each church with Jesus as the Head of each. Each church was sufficient. Each independent, Bible believing and practicing church saw the error infiltrating the church through extra-scriptural associations, boards, colleges, and camps, all augmentations to the biblical and historical practice. To ensure no leaven was leavening their lump (1 Cor 5), they pared back to just each church in fellowship with other churches of the same faith and practice alone. The doctrine of the church took prominence in light of this history.
Other doctrines besides church related doctrines are important. The church is God's institution for preserving all of the truth, not just church doctrine. For instance, the gospel is important. Unaffiliated Baptist churches should not affiliate with churches indifferent to a false gospel. The gospel should get more attention than whether someone is closed communion. Baptist churches are built on true conversions, not on whether they practice closed or close communion. By saying that, I don't mean at all to disrespect the truth about the Lord's Table.
Baptist churches, including unaffiliated ones, have been greatly affected by two related false doctrines, which have spread a false gospel and a faulty doctrine of sanctification: Keswick theology and revivalism. Thomas Ross has written much about the former, and it's worth reading everything (it's free). At some point, if you want to understand revivalism, read Ian Murray's Revival and Revivalism. You can learn at Thomas Ross's site about revivalism (here again), but also in what I've written (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) much on it. Another good book to understand is Jonathan Edward's criticism of the first Great Awakening, Treatise on the Religious Affections (free all over online). I left revivalism when I left fundamentalism, but I've come back to it again in a sense with unaffiliated Baptist churches. It's intolerable to me. I left it. I'm not going back. Unaffiliateds do not have to affiliate but with any church of the same belief and practice, but I want to affiliate, and these posts are about affiliation, not unaffiliation.
Keswick theology is second-blessing theology, the two blessings being salvation, when someone accepts Jesus as Savior, and then later, when he gets serious and makes Jesus to be Lord of his life. Almost always the latter comes through a crisis situation, perhaps a "revival," which is where revivalism dovetails. Because there are so many "carnal Christians," they need revival, and churches are constantly looking and preaching and praying for this experience. This is not biblical or historical Christianity. Even though both are related to perversions seen in scripture, especially in 1 and 2 Corinthians, they began in the nineteenth century in Great Britain and then America.
Not necessarily in any order, the following is an enumeration of how I see Keswick theology and revivalism among unaffiliated Baptist churches. Churches have been affected to varying degrees, but I can't say to what degree any one unaffiliated Baptist church has been affected. I hear it, read it, and see it.
- Evangelism Methodology
- Content and Style of Preaching
- Admission of God Still Speaking or Showing a Message
- Music or Worship Philosophy and Practice
- Church Growth Innovation
- Pattern of Prayer
- Pastoral or Missionary Call
- Tolerance of Keswick and Revivalism
- Tolerance of Churches Not Preaching a True Gospel
- Keswick Presentation or Language of Sanctification
There are others. I'm not saying that the above list is more rampant than in evangelicalism and fundamentalism and among independent Baptists. It's there though, and I want unaffiliated Baptist churches to think about it. I'm not going to take the time right now to talk about all the ways I believe I see the above ten. I'm just leaving the list for now.
I'm hearing and reading some very good thinking and doctrine among unaffiliated Baptist churches. That could become the norm and grow, or the churches could regress. Part of our cooperation with other churches, our love, is the willingness to listen to one another, to open ourselves up for correction. I am willing to do that. I don't think it's nosy to care about one another. We have to be able to bring up subjects.
We shouldn't wait until things get bad and then just cut each other off. We need to be willing to listen. Part of getting together and cooperating should be sanctification. If we're going to support one another, we've got to be willing to discuss doctrine and practice for the glory of God. We should not find a few areas we agree and ignore where we don't. That is not "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."