Monday, May 11, 2015

An Honest Basic Assessment of Independent Baptists, pt. 5

Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4

The most important question someone has to answer in an assessment of himself, his family, or his church is whether the belief or practice is scriptural.  I've been offering my assessment of independent Baptists on those terms, not because I want folks to leave independent Baptist churches and join others.  I think other churches or denominations are by far worse off than independent Baptists.  I'm writing this because I would like independent Baptists to be better.  In one sense, they're what we've got left of New Testament churches.  I don't expect them to all go by the wayside, but independent Baptist churches need to self-evaluate and consider what they're doing.

As obvious as what I'm writing is, I wish there was more public support.  It could help -- not because I want it -- but because it would be good for others to step up.  That I haven't heard the support doesn't negate what I'm saying.  I'm confident it's right, but a lack of support reveals part of the problem with independent Baptists.   They should be able to admit the obvious, but they won't or don't, and all the potential reasons are part of what's wrong.

Some might not admit the obvious because it somehow means tacit approval to everything that I believe.  It isn't, because commenting on a blog post is not fellowship.  Withholding comments is not biblical separation.  Love rejoiceth in the truth.  I've understood for awhile that I can rejoice in the truth that someone says, even though I disagree with other statements he makes.  People should be encouraged in the truth, even when they might be wrong about something else.  Jesus said, "For he that is not against us is on our part" (Mark 9:40).  In Philippians 1:18, Paul writes, "What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." The same goes for me.  You might think I'm wrong somewhere else, but you don't think that the gospel isn't a problem among independent Baptists?  Maybe things are worse even than I thought, if that's the case.

My first honest basic assessment of independent Baptists is they are perverting the gospel.  That's the biggest problem as far as I'm concerned, and would also go a long ways toward solving the other problems, because of the consequences of a lack of conversion.   As the next biggest issue, I rate number two as....


I recognize that when I say "success syndrome" that some will think of R. Kent Hughes's book Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, certainly not an independent Baptist, but making a good point with the book.  Everyone is seduced by success.  That doesn't mean everyone succumbs to the same degree, but it is a struggle for everyone.   How does this manifest itself among independent Baptists?

Disposition Toward Coalition

Early Christianity constituted separate churches drawn together by common belief and practice.  Each church functioned in independence with self-governance, contrary hierarchicalism, but Roman persecution tempted confederation in lieu of the threat of extinction.  Today we would not see survival within the parameters of success, but that necessity became the mother of ecumenicalism or safety through numbers.  The idea was churches having a better chance of survival against the Roman empire with a federation of churches.

True doctrine and practice are often the casualties of forming or maintaining a coalition.  Particular beliefs and practices are diminished for the sake of staying together.   Attention is given to what consolidates rather than what distinguishes.  Churches don't need coalition for success, even protection, but convince themselves out of faithlessness, fear, or pride.  They're better with the bigger unscriptural entity than the church, and the coalition usurps power dispensed only to the church.

The New Testament teaches fellowship between churches, but we don't see the institutional structures there now characteristic of most independent Baptists.  The biblical grid through which churches associate is the teaching of scripture, not the association for the sake of association.  Each church can fulfill every New Testament instruction, and, so sufficient, can function on its own, independent of all other churches.  Early in church history, the true church separated itself from the coalition that ended in Roman Catholicism.

A church should judge itself based upon scriptural criteria rather than the acceptance of the coalition. These short term necessities become long term monstrocities, exerting influence over all the churches very often in a political way.  A gigantic institutional structure can exert a lot of influence over an individual church and its leaders, bringing its weight of censure and castigation, to force its adherents back into the good favor of the group.

Independents lose their independency through voluntary association.  I'm not talking about fellowship with another church, but the deference to the group larger than the church, that hasn't been given the instruction or the promises of the church.  I'm calling this a success syndrome, because it is pragmatic at root, imagining advantages beyond God's plan.  It is akin to Israel's regular alliances with pagan nations, intermarriages with heathen princesses, and other endeavors superior to divine design.

The coalition comes in a few different forms for independent Baptists:  colleges, boards, camps, publishers, fellowships, conferences, and networks.  I'm not talking about people who aren't independent.  I'm talking about the coalitions of independents, which seems like an oxymoron.

Rather than looking to conserve independency, independents search for coalition, further ties and attachments.  We see new mergers and alignments on a fairly regular basis, forming around a new leader or cause.  With each, the idea is that 'we're better together than we are separate.'  'We can do better missions, publish more and better books, see more saved, and be more encouraged with a large group.'  'If we don't do this, we will be worse off, etc. etc.'  Each individual church begins to forfeit its distinctions, lost within the group.  Those distinctions often represent separate biblical teachings that obey and honor God.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, understood the human seduction of these arrangements, and other iterations like twitter have followed.  How many are your friends and followers?  You must be right, because you're so big.  Like with social networking, intolerance is not acceptable.  Thumbs up and "like" are the rules of the day.

I remember when Jerry Falwell, an independent Baptist, put together the Moral Majority back in the 1980s.  I also recall his promise of Liberty being a kind of Notre Dame of the Baptists.  Many independent Baptists feel like such small fries and are burdened by an inferiority complex, looking to these coalitions to give them confidence, instead of trusting the Lord.

The Top Men

I use the language, "top men," (here's another one) because it's what I read in the same genre among conservative evangelicals over evangelicalism.  They're now talking about the "top men," what they talk about the celebrities or rock stars in evangelicalism.  I don't think I've read the term anywhere else, even in pop culture, so the terminology has taken on a life of its own.   Most independent Baptists bow to some degree to the top men, and this has caused a lot of trouble.

Even without coalition, very often independents coalesce in the spirit of coalition around college and mission board presidents and big church pastors.  In the small pond that are the independent Baptists, the big fish are presidents and pastors of large churches.  This is again about a certain definition of success.

The Apostle Paul looked back over his life in 2 Timothy and said, “all they which are in Asia be turned away from me,” and then in the fourth chapter, “at my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me.”  Being a top man meant having everyone turn away from Paul.  Success in scripture is not judged by prominence, like what Paul was chiding at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 1, when the fleshly Corinthians were saying, "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos."  This wasn't good.

In the recent past of both general branches of independent Baptists, I assess that the infatuation of big names has taken itself on as a chief characteristic of these churches.  The most admired men are presidents of parachurch organizations and pastors of the biggest churches.  This is so true that I have no trouble saying that everyone knows this among independent Baptists.  Everyone knows that presidents and pastors of big churches are the most important and prominent independent Baptists.  It isn't authors, because there are so few of those.  Presidents and pastors of large churches.

Is being a president or having a big church the best way to tell what kind of success you've been?  At the same time that independent Baptists would answer "no" to that question, they would still also say that they are treated like they're the biggest success.  And if independent Baptists know that, what is it that men will strive for?  Being a president and having a big church.

Is there any kind of biblical guarantee that someone will have a big church?  There isn't.  I say that, but I think over 50% of independent Baptists believe anyone can have a big church if he applies the right formula and dedicates himself to it.  And if not fulfilling the formula, it's having the necessary power to arrive at that criterion of success.  Men with the big numbers have spiritual power over and above others.  Many men believe this.  They even think the New Testament guarantees it.

Both segments of independent Baptists, that I mentioned in the first few posts of this series, give the top spots to the top men.  If you can't see a church become big, then you can go for the corollary track of trying to work your way up to the top spot of a big church.  You inherit the big church and become a top man vicariously.

The Consequences of Coalitions and Top Men

I don't know of a large church that hasn't aborted some biblical belief or practice in order to get big.  I know that alone could set off a huge discussion, asking me what I'm talking about and which churches.  It is my honest basic assessment.  I wouldn't have always said it, but it is how I see it now. I do think that it is true, that if one applies a certain formula, he can have a big church, but the formula requires some compromise of biblical truth.  The same forfeiture of biblical teaching or obedience continues then to keep the people attained with the faulty means.  And then building a coalition requires toleration of wrong doctrine and practice.

It is true too that some small churches are small because they are disobedient.  You won't see people saved (find the elect?) if you don't evangelize.  Churches that won't evangelize could stay small. Evangelism isn't the key to getting big, necessarily, but churches might be small because they won't evangelize.  I think this paragraph needs to be said in light of what I'm saying about large churches.

When truth is prominent, the casualties are coalition and top men.  When coalition and top men are prominent, the casualty is truth.  My honest basic assessment is that most independent Baptists now prefer coalitions and top men to truth.  Both of these are due to a success syndrome.  Forsaking coalitions and top men requires humility.  Let us humble ourselves.


Mike said...

Dear Brother,
I value greatly your insight in this series. I was saved in a Youth for Christ rally 48 years ago. Went off to a large fundamental university and have watched a few churches rise and fall in my lifetime. What you are saying is right on target.

Over the past few years, I have come to recognize that a church is often at its best in its youth. A church plant often contains greater joy, more dependence on God's blessing and a sincere bond among its people. Sad that as a church grows it can easily get sidetracked by internal politics, issue infestation and preoccupation with things that steal it away from its first love. Bigness is indeed a great liability.

Keep the challenge coming.

Jim Peet said...

Thanks Kent ... we continue to link to this on the original thread on Sharper Iron

Lance said...

You are absolutely correct. History bears to testimony to what you say.

Every association of independent Baptist churches to which I have been involved begins to broaden their positions or morph into something else in order to maintain the number of churches in their association. You have mentioned a number of these Baptist groups in your previous articles.

I wrote two articles about this in Feb 2013 and March of 2014. The links are below:

Michael S. Alford said...

"commenting on a blog post is not fellowship. Withholding comments is not biblical separation." That's probably the most clever thing I have read all day. I'm with you, sir. I want 'our crowd' to do better.

Greg Linscott said...


Let me ask you this: what do you see as the difference between the mutual influence and cooperative endeavors of an association/coalition and what you seem to attempt at micro-levels, with things like your conferences, past group blog endeavors, or even the pressure you apply to some degree by calling out those withholding blog comments? I don't have a problem with you doing any of those things, but I'm trying to figure out how those things are more "independent" as you seem to be using the term as opposed to those who unashamedly pursue associations and coalitions. At some level, even writing this blog as long as you have presumes that you desire to have connections and influence beyond your local congregation.

In another direction, I still find it amusing that you are passionate about this issue on one level to devote a blog series to it, but you church remains listed in the GARBC database (screenshot: I know there is a reasonable explanation, but I still find it amusing... :)

Farmer Brown said...

The danger of "GMOGs" (Great Men Of God) and coalitions cannot be overstated. Do not forget though, about the dangers of intellectualism. This is the new carnality.

Now that we all know it is carnal to brag about decisions, salvations, and Sunday school sizes, the new standard is our intellect. When the speaker is introduced, instead of saying he brought 51 people or had 900 decisions, it is his intellect that is touted.

"I respect this man's intellect."
"This man is a deep thinker about the things of God."
"This is one of the most brilliant Bible teachers I have ever heard."
"This man has a DDiv from XXXXXXXXXX."

None of that tells me anything of value about his ability to understand and teach the word of God any more than his Sunday school size. A man with an IQ of 80 who is serving the Lord faithfully and has faithful children has as much to offer as the same man with an IQ of 160. It is the Holy Spirit who gives the understanding, and He does not care about your intellect.

The reverence towards intellect is as dangerous as the GMOGs or coalitions in that it puts the emphasis on men instead of God.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Mike, Lance, and Michael,

Really nothing to add. I agree and thanks.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I really don't say this kind of thing unless it comes up, and I don't bring it up. I think the last 2 or 3 times out of maybe 4 total times ever, it has been you. And I answered you each time, so I guess I would wonder why you are bringing it up, except to reveal an inconsistency here? I've never been to a GARBC meeting, no one in our church thinks we are GARBC, it's not in our constitution (which we voted upon), and I've never had anything to do with the GARBC as far as physical, actual participation. Nothing. Does that mean I am in fellowship because we keep appearing in their materials? I know why I am appearing in it. Our present property was a GARBC church building, which folded (no people), and we took the property with our group that had started in a school building 4 miles away (this in Feb 1989). I have made no commitment to the GARBC. No one in our church has. We support no GARBC missionaries. We send no money to the GARBC, to GARBC schools, nothing. I've never been to a GARBC conference. At the same time, when you brought it up in the past, I admitted that I needed to write that letter and do something about the listing, and maybe I admitted too, that I thought it was lazy for me not to do it. I admit that again. Those kind of details are my worst problem. I think writing that letter would be easier than continuing to answer the question, so you might be like a personal trainer on this.

To answer the question, I believe that fellowshiping with an individual church is fine. I believe and practice just like that church, so I (we) fellowship with that church. That is scriptural. The coalitions, no. I think I said in this series that fellowship with other churches, good. We should not unnecessarily separate or not fellowship.

Do you see a difference between a coalition and one church fellowshiping with another church? I did explain the difference above.

Thanks for coming here, Greg. I would think that you and I could lay out a doctrinal statement and agree on over 90% of it. I think that last 10% or so is important, but I don't discount the 90%. I'm happy about it.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown,

Thanks for that addition. It is a concern, but I don't rate it as a major problem for independent Baptists. It is such a small problem that I see it as almost no problem. It exists, but it isn't a unique independent Baptist problem. If there were an independent Baptist problem, it's that they are proud about their lack of intellect, over 50% of them. They think that being unlearned and ignorant men is a quality to be desired. There is a segment that is more into education and degrees.

Unless you are talking about honorary doctorates. Someone who would never get the education to get a PhD still has the Dr. before his name, because a school with a degree in youth pastoring and studies how to organize games, has bestowed him with it. Most independent Baptists I know have never learned the original languages, just haven't labored in that. I've heard very wacky preaching through the years.

At the same time, I don't judge success by intellect. I don't. But neither do I judge it by a lack of intellect. Some lack intellect because they don't value it, and some of it is sheer laziness on their part.

Thanks for the comment.

Greg Linscott said...


FWIW, there is no such thing as "GARBC missionaries." The closest there ever was was when there were GARBC approved agencies, such as Baptist Mid-Missions, but even that has not been the case for more than a decade now.

I don't honestly see the difference between what you are doing and other people's attempts at building coalitions or associations. You yourself are doing that in a manner of speaking by the 11 congregations you list in the sidebar of your blog. You identify your congregations as being like minded, but you also assume that to be the case because you have personal relationships to the specific pastors. You don't know the extent to which there might be personal variance among each congregation's membership with the pastor's positions, established doctrine of the church, and so on. You still risk connection with something problematic on some level, to say nothing of what possibly happens when the congregation changes pastors.

I would make this observation: it does seem like on a practical level, you are targeting how individual pastors interact and network with each other, more than actual congregations, whether you actually say that or not. The reality is on some level even your congregation benefits from combined efforts of others, even it is only something like producing the _Trinity Hymnal: Baptist Edition._ What you seem to be arriving at, when it boils down to it, is that in order for pastors to combine their efforts, they need to essentially have personal familiarity with each other, and near unanimous positions with one another that can be personally verified on a regular basis. Am I wrong in drawing that conclusion?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Greg,

I was thinking of mission boards like Mid-Mission.

The difference is this. The coalition is minimizing doctrine for the coalition, but fellowship with an individual church is entirely based upon doctrine and practice, at least with me, and what it should be scripturally. I'm not saying that coalition doesn't consider doctrine (see my conclusion and Lance's comment, which agrees).

I list those churches out right, because I believe we're in fellowship, really in the same sense as someone fellowships in our church. It isn't sinless perfection, but it is based upon doctrine and practice. When I looked at that list right now, I still think we're in fellowship with all those churches. I'm not saying those are the only churches with which we are in fellowship. I know they aren't, but each of those appears based upon what I know about what they believe. I'll probably add a few now that it has my attention again. It isn't a coalition though. None of those churches have joined in a coalition with us. I've just listed ten other churches I believe we're in fellowship with. Again, I know there are others. Maybe I should add them, especially one other one that sends a missionary we support. 8 of the 9, I've been to, and the 9th I'm going to next month. 7 of them I've been to at least twice. So that is another consideration for me in listing them. I've been with them firsthand.

What I'm talking about, I suspect, is foreign to you, because coalitions are what you've known, your life. Think about it scripturally.

Look what happens with coalitions, Greg. Baptist Friends, Schaap and John Vaughn. Gospel Proclaimed, Bauder and Sexton. FBFI -- Van Gelderen and Harding. I think it's worse than what I'm describing, but those are easy. I don't know what is happening in your coalitions, the one in Minnesota, although I think I see where it might be headed by bringing in Phil Johnson. That is diminishing doctrine too, in a different way than Schaap and Sexton. Phil Johnson has pretty broad doctrinal and practical fellowship -- are you OK with it? Remember Lansdale's national leadership conference in 2011, I think, with Bauder, Doran, and Dever. Is amillennialism really no concern? Among other differences?

Regarding commenting on the series, do you disagree that the gospel is a major issue among independent Baptists? Is it a concern?

Greg Linscott said...

"What I'm talking about, I suspect, is foreign to you, because coalitions are what you've known, your life."

Not really. My childhood, I really floated around. My father attended BBC Springfield for a couple years before rejoining the Navy, so we looked for BBF churches when we moved, but didn't always find them. I pastored an unaffiliated church in Maine before coming here to MN. Since coming here, I have been active in the Minnesota Baptist Association, and have actually led our church to fellowship with the GARBC-- in part because I have seen the detriments of going it alone, but in the main because the people I am ministering to are somewhat transient, and previous connections would have them defaulting to the ABC-USA if I didn't make some effort to connect them beyond our states borders. I recognize that the GARBC has churches who would have levels of disagreement with us, but none would differ as significantly as what is tolerated in the remnants of the Northern Baptist Convention.

As far as your last question, yes, I do think the gospel is at stake among independent Baptists. I also think that is why a good association structure can be beneficial. Yes, there is some measure of risk at being corrupted by others. At the same time, you bring up amillenialism. I DO think that is a big deal, and that is why I believed the GARBC, who has recently re-affirmed and strengthened its commitment to pre-trib dispensationalism, was a good it for us.

I realize that we aren't going to agree with every church in our association on every thing, and that is going to impact how actively we cooperate with some. At the same time, it does provide the opportunity to challenge and influence those with whom we have some disagreements.

You bring up our 90% agreement. You know, I suspect that at least for me, if we were geographically closer, we could enjoy some level of fellowship- maybe something like a quarterly prayer group and time for discussion- maybe even occasionally on things we disagreed about. I have taken the time to do that with some of my GARBC brethren.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Greg.

The Preacher said...

"True doctrine and practice are often the casualties of forming or maintaining a coalition."

That does not have to be true. It is only true by those who have the "Diotrephes" or "Nicolaitan" mindset of not desiring to keep the body of Christ as one, having one bible, one faith, etc.

It can be done, but the independent church mindset stands in the way. You can teach it from the bible, but the bible does not teach it. We are ONE body and members in particular of that body, even though we assemble in various places.

All countries to a degree resemble the order (Romans 13) and structure that should be maintained if it is to survive effectively.

The body of Christ could be as such, if it is organized biblically.

Bobby said...

Concerning the term "unaffiliated" I think it would help if you explained how you use that term. Your use and Greg's may not be the same. For instance if a church supports missionaries who are with a "board" I think the "unaffiliated" would not consider them unaffiliated. Thoughts?

Greg Linscott said...

'For instance if a church supports missionaries who are with a "board" I think the "unaffiliated" would not consider them unaffiliated.'

That's what we've come down to, now, Bobby? "Have you now or at any time in the past ever had any kind of institutional connection beyond your local church?"

I understand how Kent (and others like you or Lance commenting in support) is championing his ideal... but all of you have had some kind of connection in your past with institutions and organizations. Your church's planting was financially supported by churches "affiliated" at some level or another. Kent's church took over the remains of an affiliated church. Kent was educated at a para-church institution. Lance served as a salaried representative of an association of churches.

Even if you are of the opinion that such things are not prescribed in Scripture, there's an awful lot of other current church practices that we don't see explicit justification for-- things like church buildings, the use of musical instruments, frequency of church meetings...

You all seem to want it to be as simple as the problem being inherently in the structure... as if "independence" has never led to any problems. But it's not that simple. Churches don't get much more independent than Westboro Baptist, for example. Yes, that's extreme-- but it is illustrative that someone completely "unaffiliated" is at least just as vulnerable to gross error as a congregation that has some kind of presence in a loose network of churches.

Kent Brandenburg said...


To write about what Bobby is talking about....

The mission board, according to a scriptural explanation of fellowship, is fellowship. The board is a coalition. You are placed in fellowship with churches disobedient to scripture. I have written whole blog posts already on this in the past, explaining it. We support a sending church, which believes just like us. We send the money directly to the church. The money given is fellowship. See 2 Cor, 2 Jn, etc. on this in a definition of fellowship. Fellowship is based on truth, and not only does it disobey passages on fellowship and separation, but it leavens our lump. Look at Old Testament Israel as an example of disobeying this. It started out small and grew into total apostasy.

Kent Brandenburg said...


To your comment...

I don't believe getting together for discussion or coffee is fellowship. Our book breaks this down. Fellowship is cooperation in ministry. If you don't have a biblical, technical view of fellowship, you will have trouble, because there will be contradictions. The true view leaves no contradictions, despite the search for them from you and others through the years.

I was a child. My family moved when I was in 7th grade to Watertown, WI for my dad to go to college. What I learned there contradicted the actual practice. I aligned my practice with what I read in the Bible, which is also something I was taught. Just because someone "benefitted" from affirmative action, doesn't mean he has to support it later, or if he doesn't support it, he's a hypocrite. People should be changing---that is sanctification.

If I had been taught like I teach our men, I would have saved a decade messing around with stuff.

We aren't going alone. One, Jesus communes with us. His Spirit does. And I fellowship with churches of like faith and practice. It is very satisfying, far more so than when I was in the system. And we can maintain purity, which pleases the Lord.

I've found that generally men won't get together with others with which they don't fellowship. It can't be sustained if the ground rules are that anything is open to talk about. Most people don't want to be challenged. They gravitate to where it is groupthink. No one brings up controversial subjects. I've never seen it that way. Everyone has to be willing to change for it to work. And if people won't, they'll stop meeting. I can give you numerous examples of this, including my time at FBF. Most often you can't ask the most obvious questions, like I do here.

Farmer Brown said...

Greg said, "all of you have had some kind of connection in your past with institutions and organizations."

I was baptized into the Catholic church. Using your reasoning, I cannot condemn good works salvation or transubstantiation, because I have that in my past. Past associations or errors do not prohibit future correction.

I doubt Kent maintains his Maranatha connection. I do not participate in Catholic events. If Kent associated with MBBC or I associated with Catholics we would be painted by their error.

Both MBBC and the Catholic have some good points. For example, the Catholic church, of all false religious institutions, has been willing to toe the line on abortion and vile affections. However, I am not going to participate in the local Catholic anti-abortion rally. IS the cause evil? Not hardly, but the association taints me with their bad doctrine.

The GARBC may have some good points, but their long term continual tilt into bad doctrine and compromise is well established. By participating you are endorsing their bad doctrine, just like I would be if I got up on stage to pray at the Catholic anti-abortion rally. This is just one problem with association.

Greg Linscott said...

But even at the closest levels of fellowship (like your local church), Kent, you cannot guarantee that kind of unanimity. There are mechanisms that can help to one degree or another, but people can and do deviate over time. Even you relate how you have developed and changed in belief and practice over time.

The more you limit your interaction, the more you limit your ability to help others benefit from things that you have learned, changes you have made. I understand your concerns about fellowship as you lay it out. But even there, not all fellowship require the same level of unanimity. Not all endeavors require the same level of agreement. Planting a church together might require a great degree of affinity. But let's say your church became aware of an effort to produce something like an revision of the Trinity Hymnal: Baptist Edition or a musical edition of a psalter you felt might have some value after examining the pre-published manuscripts. Would the same level of agreement be necessary? Would it even be possible that in finding limited cooperation in one area (your musical convictions) might allow someone to be challenged to consider a change in another area because of your influence (say, eschatology or position on Bible translation)?

I know what you are saying about no one bringing up controversial topics at group events. But doesn't that require a degree of wisdom to understand the timing and appropriateness of when to engage? Doesn't patience and allowing time for people to develop and change (just like you needed once upon a time) have to enter into the equation?

Greg Linscott said...

"The GARBC may have some good points, but their long term continual tilt into bad doctrine and compromise is well established. By participating you are endorsing their bad doctrine, just like I would be if I got up on stage to pray at the Catholic anti-abortion rally."

And just how can you hold one person or congregation collectively responsible for the whole? The unity is expressed in the Articles of Faith. If those are held to and contain "Bad Doctrine," that is one thing (like you could argue with your Roman Catholicism transubstantiation example). The Association does not have a collective position on hymn singing, though, or specific expressions of the Calvinism/Arminian conversation. I am not responsible for a church who has different beliefs on music than ours, or they for us-- and those differences can and do affect our levels of cooperation. For that matter, I am aware of differences in expression on that issue in the personal practice of my own congregation.

Not every issue and difference should be addressed in the same manner. Transubstantiation is a different level of error than whether or not I should sing predominately Fanny Crosby vs. the Psalter, to be clear about it.

Bobby Mitchell said...

Greg, I was just promoting clarity and stating a fact. No need to throw down the McCarthy card. I've benefitted from lots of stuff I don't continue with. same as you.

Greg Linscott said...

I'm not trying to throw down a McCarthy, Bobby. I did read how Kent was using the "unaffiliated" term. At the same time, you can't completely re-define it, because it has an established meaning and usage. It's like trying to claim "who is the real Baptist" or whether Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians or _________ are "more American." The desire to distinguish is understandable, but you cannot hijack a term to be more exclusive than its general usage.

Bobby Mitchell said...

I tried posting this from my phone earlier. If this is a duplicate please delete the other two.

Greg, I understand what you are saying. I wasn't aware of the term "unaffiliated" being used among Baptists until the last 10-15 years.

I've grown up among IB's my whole life (41 years) and read quite a bit of Baptist history. The term "unaffiliated Baptist" has been relatively new to me (again, I've been around it only 10-15 years). In my limited experience I've only seen it applied to those who are no para-church, no boards, etc.

I apologize if their has been a broader use among independent Baptists I wasn't aware of. No harm was intended.

Maybe in my small circle of fellowship it has a meaning unique to guys like me (in that context)?

I'm still learning. Thanks.

Farmer Brown said...

Greg wrote, "And just how can you hold one person or congregation collectively responsible for the whole?"

That is irrelevant to the point. The point is fellowship. You are in fellowship with every member church, in every sense of the word. The GARBC application and materials clearly specify this. It is the reason for the GARBC to exist.

That means you are in fellowship with radical new-evangelicals. Men like the former council of eighteen chairman Bill Rudd, who was unreservedly involved in promise keepers. He was a co-laborer with Catholics and Christ denying Mormons, and you are in fellowship with him. You are identified with him by being part.

You are in fellowship with many churches who deny a literal fire in hell. The council of eighteen 20 years ago refused to refer to "literal fire" for fear of offending the many GARBC churches that did not believe in literal fire. You are in fellowship with those churches.

You are in fellowship with the rock and roll churches, the churches that deny the presence of the word of God, the ecumenical churches, the churches playing pattycake with Catholics and others.

What are you going to do when the council of eighteen chairmen gets up to speak at the conference you are required to attend (1 out of 3 years)? Here is a man who is on stage with Lutherans, Episcopalians, Catholics, and Mormons co-laboring with them. Now he is going to teach you.

What about the other one who is taking his youth group to a "Casting Crowns" concert later this month? What will you do when he preaches? How about the man sitting in the pew next to you who denies a literal hell? What do you say to him? You are going to stand next to him and sing hymns to God with him, and bow your head in prayer with him. This is fellowship.

"Oh, I will not be affected by them." There is a reason the verse that concludes "Evil communications corrupts good manners" starts with the words "Be not deceived". It is because people will think they will not be affected and will be deceived.

Greg Linscott said...

"What are you going to do when the council of eighteen chairmen gets up to speak at the conference you are required to attend (1 out of 3 years)?"

What in the world are you talking about? Do you remember the reference earlier I made to Kent's church being listed in the GARBC? Now, regardless of whether they should be or not, they are listed. I'm pretty sure that no one from Bethel Baptist has represented their congregation at any meeting for quite some time-- what, at least a decade? Yet they remain listed.

As far as the rest, I understand where we are in relationship to the others. Here in Minnesota, there is basically no difference in the variety of churches in the MBA and those in the MARBC. There may be slightly more variety in Iowa, but the group is still much different than what you have in places like Michigan and Ohio. I am not aware of churches who are denying literal fire in Hell (and yes, I am aware of the prof at Cornerstone/Grand Rapids in the 1990s-- I actually lived in GR when that was happening).

I am familiar with GARBC excesses- my wife attended Cedarville in the early 1990s, and we were members at a GARBC church in Grand Rapids, MI (Wealthy Park). At the same time, I know what opportunities there are to influence (I have written for the _Baptist Bulletin_ several times, for example, and have never been edited to diminish doctrinal points or anything of the sort), and I know what steps they have taken in the last decade (like the steps they took to walk away from Cedarville).

I understand the variety on things like music. I'm not necessarily pleased with it all, but I do know there are plenty of Regular Baptists whose sensibilities are more similar to my congregation's than not. That is a variety I can tolerate at that level of fellowship, because frankly speaking, it is something I know there is a variety of application within my own church's membership. I see it as an issue where we can have room to disagree yet still have influence to converse and persuade on, as we together defend things like a clear cessationist position, dispensational hermeneutics, and young-earth creationism, all of which are more negotiable in wider Baptist Fundamentalism than they should be.

I understand you think I am deceived. Then again, you would probably already distance yourself from me because of other areas where we would not be in agreement. I see it as being very consistent with the Fundamentalist tradition, where there has always been an understanding of separation from those who deny the gospel, but room for varying levels of fellowship on issues held in common.

It comes down to this: I know where we are as an autonomous church, and I am confident that our position is established where we are not inclined to waver with those who we have some disagreements on. I am also confident that our position on some crucial things is actually amplified because of what we get from adding our voice to the collective one, especially here in the Midwest where there has been a move among some Baptist Fundamentalists to diminish things like dispensational hermeneutics to the broader parameters of the SBC or Bethlehem Baptist/John Piper.

d4v34x said...

Bro B. to Greg: "you might be like a personal trainer on this."

I literally laughed out loud. :)

Farmer Brown said...

Article V section 3 lays out the one in three standard. You are also exhorted to attend many times in their literature.

You did not answer my question.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

What are you going to do when the council of eighteen member gets up to speak at the conference, and you know he is a compromiser? What if that council member from a church practicing compromise and apostasy is in town and wants to attend your church? Will you allow him to come be part of the worship at your church? A couple weeks ago, he may have been "worshiping" with a Catholic priest. Is he welcome?

What about the other one who is taking his youth group to a "Casting Crowns" concert later this month? What will you do when he preaches? What will you do when he comes up to you and puts his arm around you at the conference? What if he wants to pray together before you depart? What if he wants to sing hymns to the Lord with you? What if he wants to come to town for a few weeks to help you with evangelism?

How will you obey 2 Thessalonians 3:6? Is that command less important than the dispensational hermeneutics and young earth creationism? Says who?

You are commended in the Lord's name to depart. You cannot get much stronger than that. Will you ignore that for the sake of a "collective voice"?

Terry Basham, II said...

Mark Dever at the last T4G meeting made some of the same arguments that Greg is making. But what do you expect at a conference that is totally given to the tearing down (not focusing on) ecclesiatical distinctives...

I've heard the term unaffiliated baptist since I was about 13 years old = that's 24 years. I was in Arizona when I heard it at a church that was unaffilliated.

Greg Linscott said...

Article V, Section 3 allows for the cessation of fellowship not just on the basis of attending meetings, but whether or not a church has sent in annual reports "or in no other way has evidenced continued interest in the Association..." You are overstating to say it *requires* attendance-- at best, it provides a mechanism for potential for churches to be dropped from the rolls, and Kent's congregation is an example of just how rigidly that standard is currently enforced.

As far as the current council of 18, I know at least 8 of the current members personally (some of whom I attended college with), and have spoken to several others. While we might have differences, I am very confident there is not the ecumenical engagement of which you speak present among current leadership, something I made sure I understood before leading our church into active fellowship in the Association. Past excesses do not necessarily reflect current position and practice. You will find, for example, that the congregation of the specific individual you reference (Bill Rudd, Calvary Church, Muskegon, MI) is no longer listed in fellowship with the Association.

With that being said, you asked about attending our services. We don't typically police visitors, so if someone is in town and drops in to attend a service, he or she is certainly welcome to join us and listen to the preaching, sing hymns with us, and so on.

As far as the church that sends a group to a concert... well, let me ask you: if you found out one of your members attended such an event, or listened to such a group regularly on their Spotify playlist... is that grounds for immediate discipline and excommunication? I will say that it isn't for First Baptist of Marshall. I understand that the most immediate (but not only) application of 2 Thessalonians 3:6 has to do with the conduct of those within your congregation. Music habits may be something that needs our attention, but it isn't handled the same way that more explicit and readily identifiable sins and habits of life.

As far as music goes in another church, then--I would look at something like a Casting Crowns concert attendance, yes. But I would also look at things like how do they handle the Word of God (do they preach expositionally?). I also would understand that 2 Thessalonians 3:15 is part of that context, and that a mutual presence in an association gives me a venue to more readily identify "brothers" to admonish, and informs us that not all withdrawal of fellowship is the same. A brother who has a significant difference on an issue like this is not the same as relating to someone who denies the essence of the gospel--the text specifically says "do not count him as an enemy." You may not agree with my application, but I see this as something that needs to be heeded just as much as the command to withdraw; because again, separation is not "all or nothing."

The Preacher said...

"How will you obey 2 Thessalonians 3:6? Is that command less important than the dispensational hermeneutics and young earth creationism? Says who?"

Since you brought it up to another brother concerning obeying all scripture, can anyone of you please explain how you obey 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 in the context of 2 Corinthians 8:4-21?

Who are these brethren ("whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches"-v18)
chosen of the churches (v19) to go and be administrators of collecting funds for the poor saints that are from another nation?