Saturday, June 04, 2011

When I Left Fundamentalism Part Ten

Over a year ago now, I did a series at Jackhammer on evangelicalism and fundamentalism (pt. 1, p. 2, pt. 3). You should check it out. In the third part, I wrote this:

For pastors, scripture has isolated the Lord as the one to please. Yet, you won’t likely feel that approval of the Lord. You have to accept it by faith. But sometimes that isn’t easy. So what has developed to replace the confirmation of the Lord has been a very complex system of endorsement and sanction that would rival any organization on earth. It has become its own giant entity with tentacles reaching all over the place—fellowships, boards, conferences, conventions, schools, colleges, publishers, and seminaries. I believe that this is what has, more than anything else, propped up evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

We have the church. That’s Christ’s institution. And it is sufficient. But that doesn’t satisfy the hunger that many have for approval. Fundamentalism has developed its own orbs of sanction. Evangelicalism has its too. Both of them are similar in their organizational systems. They both revolve around associations and conferences, boards and meetings. Now you’ve got the internet as a tool to spread even more notoriety. How many hits does your blog get? What kind of online presence do you have?

New Testament Christianity does not divide into two parts, so-called binary thinking, that is, either and only evangelicalism or fundamentalism. The third way is actually the first way, the church. The church is not some new discovery. It's the only Biblical way.

Men have become dependent on certain "resources" of evangelicalism and fundamentalism to reach their goals, in colleges, mission boards, camps, publishers, seminaries, and conferences. Leaving fundamentalism meant departing from these. In a way, shucking fundamentalism is eliminating the usage of and dependence on these so-called resources.

More About College

In part eight, we started talking about one of these, the Christian or Bible college or university. I understand the concerns here. We want a good education for our kids, but we don't want them ruined by the society of state college. Evil companions corrupt good behavior (1 Cor 15:33).

Our philosophy has been 'work to get the most and best opportunities possible, and when we find out what those are the senior year, we make the best decision possible for the Lord.' In fundamentalism at least, that decision has been "only Christian college," and that has kept fundamentalist young people strapped into the Christian colleges. One of the major thoughts for making this decision has been: what is worse for your kids, the bad doctrine and practice of the Christian college or the unbelieving world of secular college.

The young people will know that the secular college is secular college. They will know going in what it is they are getting in to. They will not be taught the Bible. But they will not be going to secular college to learn their doctrine. That's not where you learn doctrine. You learn that in the church. At the end of the first pastoral epistle, Paul concludes, "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to doctrine which is according to godliness . . . . from such withdraw thyself" (1 Timothy 6:3-5). That is a command.

We have decided that the subtle bad influence of Christian college can be worse for our children than the obvious bad influence of secular college. I didn't say "will be," because this isn't cookie-cutter. Some young people can't handle learning their trade or their tent-making at a state college. The key, I believe, is to view the state or secular college as a place of ministry, just like we do our community or workplace.

And there is the question of what college is about? What is it for? What are our goals? What college teaches the doctrine and practice that your church teaches? What degree of error are we to tolerate? How does that fit into the doctrine of separation from the false teacher or the disobedient brother?

We have not landed yet on a specific solution for the college issue. What we do know is that the primary influence of young people should be their parents and their church. Is the state college a greater threat to that or the Christian college? Right now, I say the latter.

Mission Boards

I'm not going to hit the problems of mission boards. I've already discussed that in previous installments. I want to talk about the alternative. The mission boards are the actual replacement for the alternative, which is the church, alone. A church can do the mission---that's how God designed it.

The primary concern for the choice of missionaries is reproduction. Our missionaries are reproducing our church. Therefore, we should fellowship with the sending church. What kind of church is sending the missionaries we support? The sending church should believe and practice just like we do.

Our church finds out what the sending church and its missionary believe and practice. We are fellowshipping with the sending church in the cooperation of supporting its missionary. That is our chief prerequisite for missions support.

The first grid that we expose a missionary solicitation for support is, do you have a mission board? That question is at least a deal breaker. We do not support missionaries that have a board. That really limits who we will support. We do like to support good missionaries sent by churches just like ours. We have found that there are enough of them.

The churches who send missionaries, and I mean the churches alone, get that done. That has not been a problem for those churches. A good example of one of these churches is Lehigh Valley Baptist Church in Emmaus, PA. We support three of their missionaries: Jerry Wilhite, George Hammett, and Doug Hammett. These are great missionaries who we love supporting, sending the support check every month to the sending church. The money goes directly from the sending church to the missionary.

We have already had a fellowshipping church, Mid-Coast Baptist Church, fellowship with our church in our evangelism of the Sacramento, California area. That church sent our church a thousand dollars to cooperate with us. We never even requested this. They just sent it to us. I understand their enthusiasm. We are in fellowship. We put it in the bank for the future use of a potential, future church. It will be used, Lord-willing, by that church at some future date. We will keep that church updated about what is taking place.

Our church has no ties to fundamentalism or evangelicalism through the mission board. We can practice missions in a consistent, Biblical way by supporting only missionaries who are sent by a church alone. We fellowship with the sending church. We obey the Bible. We please God. And it works too. The mission board is unnecessary. Every church can do it this way. It is part of what it means to leave fundamentalism.

More to Come


Anonymous said...

Hello Pastor Bloggerburg,

This thought may be somewhat tangential to what you've written, but I'd like to share it if I may.

It strikes me that God's plan for Christian fellowship, missions, etc. (local church only, missionaries sent out through churches, children and adults taught in and through the local church) is wonderful, God-provided form of liberty.

Evangelicals and "young Fundamentalists" are all the time going on about "Christian liberty." Yet, what can be more liberating than being free to serve the Lord, and not to have the psychologically nagging feeling of having to please some denomination, or some fellowship, or some mission board? Who is freer - the person who has to keep everyone else in the fellowship happy so that they'll continue to get invited to preach or be thought of positively by the "big names" in the fellowship, or the person who has only the Lord to please as they follow the Bible, wherever it leads?

Or, on a blunter level, is a denominationalist really free when he has to make the denominational leadership happy as a condition for being able to keep his church building? (It happens, people)

"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)

You are the servant of whomever you are trying to please, satisfy, and make happy.

d4v34x said...

Bro. B., Do you plan, in an upcoming installment, to discuss military chaplain endorsement? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on that.

Joe Cassada said...

A few questions regarding missions boards:

1. I always looked at them as a sort of an administrative ministry to help missionaries with things like paper-work, legal stuff, etc.

2. I assumed mission boards provided services that churches could not, e.g., expertise in obtaining visas, networking with existing missionary resources, culturally-specific training, cultural acclimation, etc.

3. What about mission boards that are a ministry of a church, e.g.FBMI of First Baptist in Hammond, IN. Barring your theological/methodological disagreements with Hammond, would you consider their mission board a biblical model, i.e., run as a local church ministry for missionaries they send from their church?

4. What would you advise a church to do who wants to send out their own missionaries but doesn't know the first thing about administrative details involved? Is this something a missionary should do themselves?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I don't know enough about what they do at Hammond to say that I agree with the model. I have seen local church boards and as long as they are sending out only their own members, I've been fine with that. When they open it up to missionaries that are not members of their church and are different than their church in faith and practice, then that is a problem. And I have seen that.

If a church won't do what it takes to send out one of its own missionaries, then I suggest that church transfer the member to a church of like faith and practice that will do so. I would do that if were weren't willing to do the "administrative details."


Jonathan Speer said...

I don't know if you have seen this, but I thought you would appreciate it:

Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree with what he wrote. Thanks for the link. He's writing things I've been writing here. I never was more of a fundamentalist than a Baptist, and that was how it was at my alma mater; however, we still considered ourselves fundamentalist. It took me a little while to understand I wasn't one, although I will often defend fundamentalists even as I will defend certain evangelicals who are being attacked.