Monday, February 18, 2019

Its Errant Defense: “Chapter and Verse!”

Neo-independent Baptists 7

Note: This is the seventh post in an eight part collaborative series addressing the neo-independent Baptist movement. Today's post is by me, Tom Brennan. I am 45, a 1995 graduate of Hyles-Anderson College. I pastor the Maplewood Bible Baptist Church in Chicago.


As Baptists, the foremost distinctive of our denomination is that the Bible is the sole rule of faith and practice. Unlike charismatics, we do not find our own experience authoritative let alone extra-biblical revelation either, and unlike the Roman Catholics we do not elevate tradition to an equivalent place with the Word of God.

The result of this doctrine, and rightly so, is that if we teach a particular thing is right or wrong our people demand to see it in the pages of Scripture. Baptists are made of Berean stuff. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17.11) In real life, this tends to be heard as some version of this: “If you want me to believe you about that I am going to need chapter and verse.”

It is the point of this post to assert that even though this is a wonderful thing it can also become a tremendous problem. Why? Because an unbalanced application of it becomes an almost fatal weakness to the sanctification of God’s people, personal and corporate. In practice, this justifies any and every behavior that is not explicitly forbidden in the Word of God. In other words, if God does not clearly spell out that I should not do a thing it is thus allowed. Voila! I have built myself a loophole large enough to drive an entire Mack truck through – after all, there is nothing in the Word of God about driving Mack trucks, is there?

I am being slightly ridiculous, but my point stands. For example, I have been part of more discussions than I care to remember about whether some particular thing is worldly or not. At some point, someone inevitably reaches for this justification and whirling it around their head like Thor’s hammer demands that all and sundry retreat from the field. But such a position – that unless you can show me a chapter and verse where something is labeled as wrong then I am free to do it – reveals a blatant misunderstanding of how God intended the Bible to function.

Allow me to unpack this for you by way of defining two important words, convictions and principles.


In a spiritual context, a conviction is something I am convinced about. How did I arrive at that definition? By combining the dictionary and the Word of God.

Merriam-Webster defines conviction as a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced. The etymology of conviction is Latin, having its roots in terms that mean to overcome decisively, or to conquer. In context, what am I conquering to arrive at my convictions? My own objections, my doubts. Those are overcome and I arrive at the place of being absolutely convinced about something.

We can see here a similarity with the legal term, being convicted. In that usage a jury convicts someone of guilt. Why? Because they become completely convinced that this person actually did the crime with which they were charged. A conviction in that sense is a legal, formal statement of being convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. Such a person who has been convicted becomes a convict. They have been labeled by a jury of their peers convinced of their guilt.

Let us turn now to the Word of God. The King James Version uses the word conviction not at all but does use a similar word – convicted, though on only one occasion. It is not a legal reference of criminal guilt but a personal, spiritual reference, that of an individual becoming convinced of his own guilt. That man, or men rather, felt convicted by their conscience as Jesus was writing on the ground. Their inner justification for their actions no longer held water. They became convinced of their own error.

John 8:2–9
2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped
Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery
by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
c 1565
down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Though this is indeed the only use of convicted in the King James Version the root word in the original language is used another seventeen times in the New Testament. Defined in the original, it means to reprove or expose, to be sternly admonished, likely using argument to convince or refute. It is variously translated as rebuke, rebuked, tell fault, reprove, reproved, convince, convinced, and convinceth.

In fact, in the very same chapter of the Bible you will find one of these. Jesus, in an argument with a crowd of murderously angry men, boldly states, Which of you convinceth me of sin? (John 8.46) No matter what was said no one would ever be able to convince Jesus Himself or anyone else who knew Him well that He was a sinner. This was true informally and formally, for a few months later at His trial a genuine conviction was impossible to obtain. Even the man who sentenced Him to death, Pilate, did so in the presence of grave doubts. He was not in the least convinced that Jesus deserved death. Jesus was not so much convicted as He was assassinated, and the verdict of history bears that out.

A conviction, then, is something about which I have become convinced, often because I got convicted about something.

Where should I get my convictions from? Negatively speaking, I should not get them from popular opinion, from what my friends or peers think, from what experts say, from my own reason, or from my own experiences. Why not? Because all of these are fallible. Yes, they often contain some truth, some fact, but they never always contain entirely truth or fact. These sources for convictions are never completely correct let alone always completely correct. Thus, we see the only proper source for our convictions – the things in life we are to be convinced about – is the Word of God.

For example, one of my life convictions is that adultery is wrong. This is not based on what society says or my own bitter experience. It is based simply on the Scriptures. Moses tells us in the Ten Commandments, Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Exodus 20.14) Ergo, adultery is wrong, as is its closely related second cousin, pornography. Why? Because Jesus explains in the Sermon on the Mount that the Mosaic law was not just forbidding the physical act but the heart of lust that drives the physical act. (Matthew 5.27-28) On these issues there is no doubt in my mind. I am convinced, and that conviction is based on the Word of God.


Much of the time God reveals His will in Scripture by plain pronouncement. The Ten Commandments cited above are an evidence of that, as is the illustration of adultery and pornography. That is a clear statement, and my application of it to pornography based on Jesus’ explanation of it in Matthew 5 is likewise clear. There are hundreds of such statements in God’s Word, simple declarations that are not complicated to understand, that draw a line and insist we stay inside of it or outside of it. Using such statements as our guide it is not difficult to formulate our convictions. They may be difficult to live but they are not hard to prove or establish.

The Christian life, however, is full of decisions that are not so clear-cut. And if my interpretation of Scripture demands I only hold to those that are clearly and plainly staked out my life will inevitably grow to resemble the worst of the world around me.

What is my support for asserting this?

Let me begin with an example. Is drug abuse wrong? Can I rightly be convinced of that, can I make that one of my life’s convictions? Well, there is no clear statement to that effect in the Word of God, no “thou shalt not take cocaine.” There is a clear Bible statement commanding me to obey the laws of the land, though. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God. (I Peter 2.13-15) Inarguably, it is right for me to obey the law when the law forbids drug abuse. But as our society grows more and more secularistic and paganistic the laws forbidding drug abuse are crumbling. As I write this, in eleven of the fifty American states recreational use of marijuana is legal, and medicinal use is legal in another twenty-three. In the last election my own state voted for recreational use in an advisory capacity, and the man elected governor included that in his official platform. Currently, in Chicago it is illegal for me to smoke marijuana but I am sure it will soon be entirely legal. What will prevent me from doing so then?

The Word of God will. If there is no clear Bible statement forbidding marijuana use how can I say that? Because God reveals His will with more than just clear statements; He reveals His will with biblical principle too.

What is a principle? Merriam-Webster defines it as a comprehensive law, doctrine, or assumption. It comes from Latin terms such as princeps, meaning chief or first, and principia, meaning beginning, origin, commencement, or first part.

Turning to science for an example, we can see this in the principle of buoyancy. Why does iron sink while wood floats? Because of the principle of buoyancy. And there an almost infinite number of applications – various densities of wood, various temperatures of water, how the iron is shaped, if it is propelled, etc. Whether you are building a navy, planning to swim the English channel, or operating a buoy making factory you need to understand and apply the principles of buoyancy. The specific situation varies but the principles apply to all of them.

Understanding this leads me to my definition of a principle. In the context of spiritual things, a principle is a general expression of God’s will often with a wide application. It is not specific as in thou shalt not commit adultery. It is general. At the same time, it is just as much God’s will as thou shalt not commit adultery but it is left wide on purpose in order to allow it to be applied to many different things.

Let us turn back now to my conviction that smoking marijuana is wrong. Is there a clear Bible statement to that effect? No. But there are several principles I can think of relatively easily that apply, and lead me to my conviction. For one, my body is the temple of God. (I Corinthians 6.19-20) He resides in me and I am to glorify Him in what allow and disallow in relation to my body. Additionally, I am responsible to manage the resources God gives me for His use, not my own. One of those resources is my physical health. Good stewardship implies if not demands that I take care of my body as carefully as possible so that I may continue to serve Him. (I Peter 4.10) Not only that, but God tells me that I am not supposed to let something else other than the Holy Spirit control me even if it is legal. (I Corinthians 6.12) These and other principles lead me to my conviction, whether it becomes legal or not.

Paul uses this very approach often. He cites a principle – a general expression of God’s will – and then he uses it as the justification or foundation for a wide variety of applications. For instance, there is a section of Ephesians that runs through two chapters that does exactly this. It begins with a general admonition. That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4.22-24) That is certainly an expression of God’s will but it is just as certainly not a narrow, specific one; it is a wide, general one. From that statement, that principle, Paul over the next nearly twenty-five verses extrapolates out some very specific things. He forbids lying, anger, stealing, corrupt communication, and fellowshipping with those who still do such things. He exhorts us to tell the truth, to work hard, to use our speech to edify others, to forgive, to walk in love, to sing, and to give thanks. These applications are consistent with other aspects of God’s will revealed in Scripture, and are just as valid of a foundation for our convictions as a clear Bible statement is.

If you are still with me over two thousand words into this post you surely must be thinking to yourself, “Ok, fine, but what does all of this have to do with the neo-independent Baptist movement?”

The answer is, “Everything.”

How so?

The neo-independent Baptist movement takes for an article of faith, apparently, the idea that if God does not specifically say He is for or against something in a worship service then the rest of us dare not say so either. This is a blog series aimed at philosophy rather than methods, but here methods become clearly illustrative of my point. "I am not allowed to say that God is against a certain style of worship service because there is no chapter and verse I can point to when I say that. All styles of worship services are acceptable, the only real guiding point is what is culturally acceptable in your local context. God is not specific as to methodology. These are preferential issues not worthy of dividing over like a conviction would be. We cannot draw lines because the Bible does not draw lines. God may lead you to a more conservative position and me to an entirely different position but that is ok; we are both entirely acceptable in God’s eyes. There is nothing in Scripture to assert that God is more pleased with my church’s worship than the worship of a church down the street. God draws no negative lines here, and to say He does is foolish. You cannot show me any chapter and verse that says He does. Methodology is not theological; it is preferential."

A movement that accepts such shoddy justifications is not scriptural no matter how much it hollers, “Chapter and verse, brother, chapter and verse!” It has purposely refused the anchor of biblical principle (s). While it is beyond the scope of this post or, indeed, of this series to address many of the principles in question the fact is the concept of biblical principle has been rejected in forming corporate convictions. To make matters worse, such refusal is progressive. The consequences, at first minor, over time become more severe. The result is the destruction of sanctification, of being set apart, as the world is incorporated more and more into the church. Eventually, all that marks us as doctrinally and practically distinct evaporates, and we become like the rest of contemporary American Christianity.

…and it is happening right before our eyes.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Where It is Mistaken: Fitting In

Neo-independent Baptists 6

Note: Today’s post is by Wesley Palla, 36, a missionary church planter in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is a 2008 graduate of Hyles-Anderson College.

Ok, first of all, I will not bash anyone. You will find no names mentioned here because I
want to discuss a philosophical/scriptural approach to ministry; it has nothing to do with which men apply said approach. Secondly, I present this article to you for one reason and one reason only: for you to think. Some who read this may find some useful, Biblical principles to help them formulate their practical approach to serving God. Others have already made up their minds, some of which have quietly determined they have moved on to a newer, better philosophy. Still others have not just determined to change their position, but have decided to be as antagonistic and contentious as possible on the way out the door. Regardless of your position, I thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it proves helpful to some. And for those who have changed their position, and have a different philosophy, I want you to know that I am not bothered by that at all. You are not my enemy. Thank you for serving the Lord. Some of you are good friends of mine, and great supporters of our ministry. I hope you will find this article to be biblically supported and Christlike in nature. And yes, you are free to critique it. Here goes.

In II Kings 17, there is an interesting story involving displaced people, an Israelite priest, and a desire to appease the God of the northern kingdom of Israel. These foreigners couldn’t figure out how to worship/serve/honor the God of the Israelites, and so they asked the Assyrian government to send an Israelite priest back to teach them how to fear the Lord (II Kings 17:28) so that they wouldn’t be destroyed. The interesting thing is, the priest taught them, and then they tried to mix it with their own ideology. They tried to fit fearing the true God into their cultural constructs. And according to II Kings 17:32-33, they failed. So basically we have a group of people here saying, “We wanna know how to do it right. Show us how to do it right.” They get someone to show them the way, and they say, “Ok, yeah. We got it. We can handle that.” And when they start doing it the way they think is good, God says, “That’s not it at all. Not even close.” II Kings 17:34 says that they did NOT fear Him, nor did they obey His statutes, ordinances, commands, etc.

That same issue cropped up from time to time throughout the time of the divided kingdom. There were some good kings, men with a heart for God, who did not please God when it came to one aspect of the spiritual life of the nation - the high places. High places were designated places of ritual worship. We usually think of them when it comes to false gods like Baal, Chemosh, Molech, and others. But the high places were also used by Israelites to worship Jehovah. Once the temple was built we do not see the Lord looking favorably on them worshipping Him in the high places. Blending the pagan with the holy is never God’s wish. Looking at the broad context, it is possible to have a sincere desire and yet be sincerely wrong. It is possible to have a good motive but use an unacceptable method. There are some ways to worship or try to draw close to God that will not accomplish that stated goal. The Bible shares numerous examples of people that wanted to draw nigh to God, and God said, “Not like that you don’t.” What is it that we miss in those situations? What are we forgetting?

God is Holy

As a Holy God, He expects (and deserves) that we come to Him in a way that is pleasing to Him. He sets the bar, not us. Over and over again, the Bible reminds us of how holy God is (Lev 11:44; Lev 19:2; I Pet 1:15-16 to name a few). In fact, in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, God gives special attention not just to His own holiness but to the holiness He desired from His people, and ESPECIALLY from His priests - the spiritual leaders, in other words. In the giving of the law God was trying to sanctify (set apart) or differentiate His people from the surrounding cultures. The practices of those cultures were abominable in the sight of God, and God did not want His people picking up any of their practices. Let me reiterate, the proper understanding of the narrative in the books of the law is not that God considered those practices abominable if the Israelites did them, but He did not care that the other cultures did them. No, those practices were abominable by their very nature, and God wanted His people to have no part in those pagan practices. So God demanded that this people that would be called by His name live in holiness.

Eph 4:22-24 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
2 Cor 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

God is Particular

I think that in our modern western culture that is so obsessed with not affirming anything
The Sacrifice of Cain and Abel
by Mariotto Albertinelli, c 1500
offensive we sometimes have a hard time accepting that God is very particular in what he desires. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that the Bible tries to micromanage every detail of your life or your ministry. It doesn’t, but at the same time we must realize God isn’t just a holy, righteous God in some abstract way. He is also, in many areas, very particular about what He wants from us. Especially as spiritual leaders. Why would a loving, patient, merciful God look at those poor Israelites that were just trying to worship Him the best they knew how, and say, “I’m not accepting that.”? They were just worshipping Him within their cultural framework. They had the main points down right? Only one God, and we are offering to Him. He talked about the incense offering in the law, right? So what if it’s on a hill, or in a grove? But the truth is you can be a follower of God, you can be a religious leader/ mentor, you can be sincere, you can try to fit your worship and service to God within your cultural framework, and you can still have God displeased with what you offer, along with how and where you offer it. Am I saying that God is ready to rain down fiery judgment on your ministry because you don’t do it exactly like me? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I am saying that we need to understand our corporate worship, our ministry outreach, every aspect of our spiritual lives needs to be determined with the underlying comprehension that our God is particular about what He desires of His children.

Lev 22:21-22 And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. 22 Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the Lord, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the Lord.
(See also Titus 2:12-15; I Pet 2:9)

God is Distinctive

Why do we conform to society and what it defines as normal or relevant instead of just boldly and simply proclaiming the eternal truth of God’s Word knowing that it will make us stand apart from our culture? We don’t have a Biblical pattern of social or cultural relativity being a priority. So why do we make it one? Look at just a few examples from Scripture.

Noah - He did not relate well to His community at all. It was a very odd thing he was doing and an even more strange thing that he said was going to happen. And in the end, he found no takers for his message.

Moses - Left the posh Egyptian upbringing he enjoyed to join as one with God’s chosen people. But when he got too heavenly minded even God’s people, the Israelites, didn’t like him. “Hey, Aaron, make us some gods that we can actually relate to, ‘cuz your brother is gettin’ all weird on us, and who knows what’s going on up on the mountain there.”

Elijah - Yeah, definitely relational. Sensitive, gentle, focused on building a sense of community, right? The vast majority of Israelite society considered him their bane. But what did God think of him and his “ministry style?”

Elisha - See above.

Micaiah - His king (Ahab) hated him. But when someone asked for a prophet that everyone could have confidence would speak only the truth, the king who didn’t like him trusted that this prophet would continue to be what he had always been - brutally honest. (1 Kings 22:7-8)

Daniel and the three amigos - The opportunities that they were blessed with to have great influence over society were directly related to the stand that they took. And let’s be honest, you wouldn’t even call those “second-tier issues” as defined by my neo-independent Baptist brethren (your diet? really?). They would have to be third or fourth tier, right? Yet the non-essential issue (so labeled by some of my 21st century brethren) that they determined to take a stand on had a direct correlation to the future position of influence that God blessed them with. Their stand and conviction were inconvenient and uncomfortable at times (Hi, lions! Hi, furnace!), but it was that very decision to be right with God at the cost of being acceptable and relevant to those around them that put them in the position to reach their heathen captors. All the thousands of other Jewish captives that gave in to the social pressures forfeited that chance because truth and righteousness took a back seat to social and spiritual relativity.

You can continue tracing that line through the New Testament as well. Look at Jesus’ closest followers, the guys he invested in, taught, commissioned, and empowered. They were brash, confident, passionate, confrontational, unapologetic, relentless, and determined. By their own admission in the book of Acts, they couldn’t care less what society thought about them (religious or secular) or the political correctness of their message. They only wanted to obey and please God. And here’s a key thought - they believed that the message itself was relevant, and powerful enough to change the viewpoint of the listeners. In other words, they trusted the Holy Spirit to conform the hearers to the message, not the message to the hearers.

There were far more spiritual leaders preaching feel-good messages during Jeremiah’s ministry than there were preaching God’s truth. Did the people like ‘em? Yes. Did they respond well to that message? Yep. Did everyone get upset and roll their proverbial eyes at Jeremiah? Sure did. But the God of the universe was the one who put that message in Jeremiah’s mouth, and Ezekiel’s, and others. The culturally acceptable preachers? God despised their lying words, and pronounced judgment upon them.

I do not believe that being relational is bad. I simply believe that relating to people is not the same as reaching them, and I do not believe the latter to be utterly dependent on the former. Further, I see sufficient evidence in Scripture to back that up. We can talk about a radical gospel, radical love, radical grace, or whatever else, and effecting radical change in our movement to come more in line with the Bible, but I have serious doubts about this shift being a radical much less a healthy move. Let’s be honest, independent, fundamental Baptists aren’t the trend setters of Western Christianity. We all know that. But when a group of us decide to pack up and become much more similar in principle and practice to the majority of evangelical churches in America that’s not radical. That’s just conformity, conformity to a convenient Christianity.

My friend, again I say, you are not my enemy. I’m not mad at you, and I definitely realize that you don’t answer to me. But just think a little bit about where you are headed in your ministry. Does how we minister, does how we evangelize, does how we represent our Heavenly Father line up well with how holy and particular He is? Do we live in distinct difference from the lost world around us, or do we fit right in? Are we content to worship God (and lead others to worship) on our terms, in our modern day high places? Are we guilty of claiming that we fear God while God looks on and says that we neither fear Him nor obey Him?

Monday, February 4, 2019

What It Lacks: The Power of God

Neo-independent Baptist 5

Note: Today’s post is by Emanuel Rodriguez, 45, a 1999 graduate of Beaufort Bible

Institute. A veteran missionary in the Hispanic world, currently he is the director of the Paraguay Bible College.
Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

I am not against new ideas, new technology, and modern amenities in churches. I do not think that all songs written after 1899 come from the bellies of hell. I do believe that there are some “standards”, perhaps many, that have no biblical basis and are therefore man-made and unnecessary. There are some things that I most likely agree with within the neo-independent Baptist movement. I’m all for improvement, so long as said “improvement” doesn’t violate biblical principles.

This neo-independent Baptist movement is supposed to be an effort to revitalize the church. I appreciate that because God knows how much I also despise the dead, passionless, unenthusiastic formalism in churches today. There’s nothing spiritual about being boring and stagnant. Since Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” and the true church is that of the living God, I too must loathe deadness.

However, God’s admonition to the dying church of Sardis in Revelation 3:2 was to strengthen the things that remain, not ditch those things and replace them with newer and trendier stuff. For this reason, I must disagree with the direction that the neo-independent Baptist crowd is going in their efforts to revitalize churches. I believe that their emphasis is in the wrong places.

The problem is that they are searching so hard for new ideas in their efforts to revitalize churches when what we really need is to return to what made the church powerful to begin with. While they spend thousands and thousands of dollars on Idea Days “to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21), the answers for revival and revitalization are right there staring them in the face within the pages of Holy Writ.

God’s ideas have already been given. They are forever settled in heaven. They have also been preserved for us in writing. They have been available for centuries. Plus, His “ideas” are free! …or at least, whatever it cost you to purchase a Bible. You can get one for 99 cents at the local Dollar General. We don’t need to travel or spend money to discover His ideas in some special conference in a new “woke” and more hip Baptist church somewhere. We already have the answers.

The Lord’s ideas are timeless, tried and true! They are proven. They are eternal, which make Gods precepts always relevant. They work. They worked for the disciples in Acts as they turned the world upside down. They worked for the primitive churches who soldiered on throughout the Dark Ages and multiplied themselves at rapid rates despite fierce persecutions. They worked for the Protestant Reformers who had their eyes opened and dared to challenge and defy the hellish juggernaut that is the Catholic church. They worked for the saints of the first and second Great Awakenings as true revival and biblical Christianity swept the eastern seaboard of the United States.


Habakkuk 3:6 “…his ways are everlasting.”

God’s ideas will work TODAY and all the way up to the rapture of the church. I know this not only because the Bible said so, but because I’ve seen it myself. As a missionary who has had the privilege to minister throughout Latin America since 1999, I’ve seen true revival. I’ve seen churches revitalized by God. I have had the undeserved honor of experiencing it.

I know what it is like to take on struggling and dying churches. I’ve done it multiple times.

I took one church on the mission field that had just a handful of people who were just barely hanging on. The church had all but Ichabod written on it. We took the church and its handful of tired, discouraged people. We worked extremely hard to resurrect this church from the dead. We knocked on every door of every community in this town. Yet, no results. So what did we do? We went back to door number one, and repeated the same process. Afterwards, still no fruit.

What did we do? We did it again, and again, and again, and so on, and so forth. We decided to not give up until God did something because we believed He could.

We constantly got on our faces before God and begged Him to do miracles. A miracle was the only way this church was ever going to get off the ground. There were many times I walked through the woods and down to the brook by my house, with a machete in one hand, and a Bible in the other. There, I would pour out my heart to God and beg him to breathe new life into this dying church. Many times I’d go to the church building during the day and walk up and down the aisles, begging God out loud to send revival.

We kept preaching God’s word. We preached it in homes of folks that would let us hold services in their living room. We preached in the plazas in front of the Catholic church. We preached on the basketball courts. We preached in the ghettos. We preached in front of bars and supermarkets. We preached, and preached, and preached.

Eventually, we had our first convert. A little old lady. She couldn’t do much physically but she turned out to become a mighty prayer warrior. Now it wasn’t just us praying. It was us plus a little old lady. We kept toiling on, with blood, sweat, and tears, believing that the same God that sent great revivals in the past could do the same today.

What happened? One by one souls started getting saved. Then God saved this one guy. That’s when revival broke loose.

This guy was the town drunk. Not any old town drunk. I’m talking about THE town drunk, the worst one. He was also a crack, cocaine, and heroin addict. He did it all. He came close to dying from drug overdose over 20 times. He was the guy that everyone saw on the street corner, sometimes drunk, other times laying in vomit, other times with a needle in his veins, other times begging for money.

During his fourth stint in prison, the prison doctor advised him that he was incurably sick and was going to die in that prison cell. There was no hope for him, so said the doctor. The town drunk begged God for mercy and made a promise that if He would let him live, he would give the rest of his life to the Lord.

He started reading the Bible in his cell. Through reading the Bible, the town drunk found out that salvation was by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon this discovery, He cried out to the Lord to save him. God began working a miracle of divine transformation in his life.

(I must pause. I cannot refrain from being overwhelmed with emotion as I take this trip down memory lane. Tears are rolling down my face as I write this.)

Later he was released from prison. To make a long story short, God led him to our church. I’ll never forget the precious moment of sitting in his living room as he shared with me this story that I am sharing with you now. With tears rolling down his face, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Preacher, I need to keep my promise to God. He kept His end of the deal. Now I must keep mine. Can you teach you me to serve the Lord?” (I must pause again to wipe away the cascade of tears that prohibit me from seeing my computer screen clearly as I write this. These are blessed memories.)

I took that man under my wing and trained him. Today he is the pastor of the church.

This church has found life. Now folks are going to a church that at one time they scoffed at. A church that at one time could barely keep the doors open is thriving as the former town drunk thunders the word of God every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. This miracle has caught the attention of the whole town. Even the town mayor, who is a lost Catholic, said publicly on Facebook that no one could deny that this was a supernatural work of God.

What’s the point? The point is that it is not new ideas, better technology, different lighting, modern trends, or a catchier beat from a cheap rendition of the latest song by Casting Crowns that we need. We need more of God! We need more of His power.

I’ve seen revival. This is just one story. I have more. I just don’t have the time nor space in this article to tell them all. I’ve seen revitalization accomplished without anything new, modern, hip, or trendy. On the mission field, I see it done over and over again with the timeless tools of the unadulterated word of God, fervent prayer, diligent evangelism, Holy Ghost conviction, constant repentance, old-fashioned worship, and red hot, Spirit-filled, Christ-exalting, Scripture saturated, passionate, bold, and uncompromising PREACHING.


Exodus 32:8 “They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”

I disagree with the notion that these new, more modern and trendier things will help to revitalize the church. Now, the neo-independent

Baptist guys may deny that they are depending upon these things to breathe new life into the church, but from the outside looking in, this is exactly the message their movement displays because of the emphasis that they place in these things. I think they fail to recognize how they come across to folks and the message that they are subliminally, though perhaps unintentionally, presenting to their audience.

While they claim to be on a mission to return to what originally made the IFB church so powerful back in the day, they fail to recognize what activated such power. They have an emphasis in utilizing modern day tools and technology, social media, a trendier wardrobe, contemporary music, a more upbeat atmosphere, and a departure from almost anything that resembles “the old paths” in order to reach today’s generation.

The problem is that none of this new stuff produces the power of God. These things only appeal to the flesh. An over-emphasis in things that only appeal to the flesh will result with a congregation full of fleshly, carnal, and superficial Christians who will now mistake worldliness for godliness. This stuff may produce quantity. What you won’t have is quality, the kind that God produces.

Whether they realize it or not, they are trying to revitalize the church with worldly, modern means rather than with the power of the Holy Spirit. Where does real Holy Ghost power come from? It certainly doesn’t come from dimmer lights (or brighter ones), TV screens, more upbeat music, less convictions (standards), etc.


Luke 1:15 “…he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.”

Matthew 3:4 “And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.”

I see things through the lens of a missionary serving in a third world country. I’m dealing with people who may never sit in a carpeted, air-conditioned building for church. Dimmed lights? Colored LED’s? These folks are happy to have light at all! We’ve had church with no lights!

Modern amenities? We’re used to having church where it’s sometimes over 100’ F in the building. Many times when I get done preaching in the summer time my clothes are entirely soaked in sweat. On the other hand, we’ve had church when it was so freezing cold folks brought blankets to church to keep themselves warm.

On the mission field, I’ve preached in churches with dirt floors, tin roofs, walls made of wooden pallets, and benches that were nothing but tree stumps with a couple of 2 by 4s going across. The two churches we are planting now started out under mango trees in the front yard of families who by U.S. standards would be considered well below the poverty line.

On the mission field, we many times will not have all these modern amenities that the neo-independent Baptists are so concerned about. But I tell you what we do have. We’ve experienced the power of God! We’ve seen lives changed. We’ve seen marriages and homes repaired. We’ve seen sinners broken under the convicting power of God. We’ve seen Christians brought to repentance and thus restored in their relationships with the Lord. We’ve seen saints develop a more intense hunger for God and His word.


1 Corinthians 2:1-4 “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”

1 Thessalonians 1:5 “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost…”

The problem with this movement is that it is putting the emphasis in the wrong things. While I am not against good ideas, it’s not new ideas that we are in dire need of. God gave us a wonderful Book that already explains to us how to have revival. If there is something new that we need, it’s a “new look in the old Book”!

In the book of Acts, you don’t find the disciples of Christ holding conferences to gather new ideas on how to reach the world with the modern trends of their time being considered. What you find is them simply preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Go ahead and have your special conferences. There’s nothing wrong with getting together and having a good time. But you are mistaken if you think that trendier ideas are what will revitalize the church. You want to return to what made the IFB movement powerful before? How about we return to what made the primitive church and the first disciples turn the world upside down?

Acts 4:31-33 “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”

Preachers used to pray for hours a day. Today preachers struggle to pray for 20 minutes a day, yet they wonder why they have a hard time revitalizing their churches. Instead of finding newer ideas, perhaps we need to fix our prayer lives. The disciples fervently prayed and were filled with the Holy Ghost. That’s what we need more than modern trends. Let’s get filled with Holy Ghost power again!

You know what happened every time a man was Spirit-filled in the Bible? I dare you to
Preaching of St. Paul
Sebastiano Ricci, c 1700
check it out. I double dog dare you! If you’ll research it, you’ll find that every time a man was filled with the Spirit, the result was ALWAYS the same. They preached! 
You want to revitalize the church? Revitalize yourself. Preach! Get filled with God again and preach the Gospel! Preach Jesus! Preach the Bible! That’s where the emphasis needs to be. Preaching! That’s where the power is.

1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”


Understand that there is a balance to all this. There is nothing wrong with using modern means of technology or even social media to advance the ministry. There is nothing diabolical about LED lighting. Nothing in the Bible says that the whole armor of God includes a suit and tie (though I am a suit and a tie in the pulpit guy). I’m not even personally against using a large TV screen in the sanctuary to announce the upcoming pot-luck dinner and other events and activities as opposed to posting a sheet of paper on a bulletin board in the vestibule. Frankly, I don’t care how you promote the pot-luck dinner.

In regards to the revitalization of churches, however, we need less of the world and more of God. The more we emphasize God’s methods, the more He will fill us with His Spirit, just like He did to His disciples when they placed the emphasis where God told them to place it back in Mark 16:15. Instead of trying to figure new things out, if we’d just return to the clear old instructions of God’s word, we’d find the methods already laid out in Scripture to be the best way, yielding the best results possible, the kind that is God-sent instead of man-produced.

2 Corinthians 4:5-7 “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”

Monday, January 28, 2019

What It Offers That We Do Not Need: Cultural Relevance

Neo-independent Baptists 4

Note: Today's post is Part Four in a series addressing the neo-independent Baptist movement. Parts One through Three can be found posted on this blog over the last three weeks. Today's post is by Chris Birkholz, 34, a 2005 graduate of Pensacola Christian College. He runs an orphanage and plants churches in Honduras.


I love the kind tone taken in this series and I believe it is a discussion that needs to be heard. Proverbs 18:13 tells us, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”

I am friends with many that would follow the philosophy of Josh Teis and I have some great supporting churches that are similar in philosophy. I think one of the blessings of a public format is that we as fellow servants of Christ can help each other and can provide a level of accountability. We are on the same team and serving the same God and will share the same heaven! May God use this to strengthen us and help us as we ALL serve HIM!

What It Offers That We Do Not Need: 

It Offers Cultural Relevance

We cheapen the power of the Gospel when we place more emphasis on our catchy salesmanship, slick marketing, hipster coolness, and cultural relevance than we do on simply preaching and proclaiming the Word of God. The dichotomy of the Gospel is that it surrounds but also ignores the culture in which it resides. The Gospel stands alone. It does not need to be adapted, marketed, or sold. It simply needs to be preached. It simply needs to be lived.

I feel for my generation. There is a pressure to be modern, a push to be more sensitive to the culture, and, yes, an insistence on lower standards. We are often fed the idea that if we would just be a little more cool, a little more hipster, and a little more progressive in our thinking that would open wide the door for influence. This is a big temptation. My generation of millennials are hungry to have an impact for Christ and are often ready to jump into new ideas quickly.

I would suggest that the power to influence has little to do with cultural relativity and instead has everything to do with clearly presenting the Word of God. I think many would be surprised to see how many churches are not looking to change their “church” culture and are still having a tremendous impact on their communities.

One of the privileges I have had in my life is deputation. I loved it. It is an incredible thing for many reasons. One of the benefits for me was that I was able to observe well over 100 different independent Baptist churches. We are blessed to have supporting churches that have all sorts of different “cultures.” Sometimes we think that if we do not adapt to be more “culturally relative” we will not grow. Allow me to give an illustration.

I remember one night we were going to drop into a church to which we had been invited. I knew very little about it except that it was Baptist. There was no web page, no Facebook page, and very little signage to find the building. I was starting to get grumpy. In my mind I was thinking, “If this church cared about people they would do a better job at getting their name out there.” I was forming in my mind what I would see when we finally did arrive. In my mind it would be a poorly maintained building full of older people hanging on to their antiquated ways. I just knew that it would be unimpressive.

After driving through country roads and asking for directions twice, which I abhor, we pulled up to the church’s brand new building. We walked in as they were already singing. The auditorium was full with more than 200 people. They had the youth choir singing. The pastor preached, God moved, and people responded. There was no doubt in my mind that God was in this place.

Why had I been so wrong in my presumptions about this church? I directly related this
church’s ability to reach people to their ability to play the cultural game. This church had ignored those rules. God showed me that while this church did not have much cultural relativity and did not seem to be trying to “sell” their brand, they had something more powerful. They had the Bible, the preaching of the Gospel, and the testimony of transformed lives. People going out to proclaim Christ and inviting others to experience the power of the Gospel for themselves was what caused that church to grow. They had the Word of God and it was all they needed.

Over the two years we were on deputation and since arriving here on the mission field, I have learned that it is not the flashy marketing but rather the Gospel that works. Here is a fact that I have learned and that is observed by those who choose to see it: God blesses the Gospel going out not because of its flavor, style or culture. The Gospel does not need your culture. Stop preaching cultural relativity and preach the Gospel. If you are so small to think that God only works in churches with your “culture” you have a small view of God.
We do not have to copy a style to see God’s power. We need to learn to have a closer walk with God more than we will ever need to walk more closely with culture. I am frustrated every time I see a church mimic every trend that comes en vogue. The power will never be in your program, but rather in the preaching of the cross.

I like sales. I can sell ideas and concepts with the best of them. I love to convince people to think a certain way or to buy into a certain concept. Unfortunately, some have cheapened the Gospel and relied more on sales techniques and presentation styles than with the power of the Gospel itself. Some have traded the power of the Gospel for the “art of the deal” and have bought into the idea that if we market the Gospel with great programs and new ideas it will somehow become more powerful. The power does not lie in a tricky presentation. It lies in the thing being presented.

Every time we try to emulate the culture to reach the culture we are forgetting the power of the Gospel. The Gospel ALONE is what is necessary to reach the world. When we overemphasize the culture we de-emphasize the Gospel and the power it possesses.

Allow me to share two Biblical thoughts.

First, the Word of God timeless. Psalm 119:90 reminds us that, God’s “faithfulness is unto all generations:” and 1 Peter 1:25 reminds us that, “the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

God’s Word has been what has made the difference in every generation and in every culture. In every period of history, every culture, and every place the timeless word of God has been able to pierce the darkness. Some have said the truth is never out of style. If someone diligently proclaiming the written Word has witnessed the transformation of the Holy Ghost in every previous generation, then friend, let me assure you that this timeless book will work in our generation without us trying to make it hipster and cool.

Secondly, the Word of God is powerful.

Hebrews 4:12 reminds us “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

When I think of the power of the Bible I think about the power of the sun. It shines every day here in Honduras as well as in Las Vegas and Alaska. Everywhere. It looks the same. It has not changed in thousands of years. The sun brings life in every city, every country, and every small town. It does not need to be advertised and it does not need to be modernized. Everywhere it goes it brings life. This is the power of the sun in every place and to every generation.

Likewise the preaching of the cross, the Gospel, the Words of a Holy God bring light to a dark world. They set the captive free. They heal, help, and hold the hurting. Just stand in the sunlight. The sun does not adapt; it pierces.

The Word of God is more powerful than any cultural adaptation or marketing campaign.

I minister here in Honduras. Most national pastors have no access to computers, internet, printing services or anything modern. You know what they do have? The Bible. A godly man and his Bible have more power and ability than every tech guy in all of the states combined. Why? It is not because of the different culture. It is because of the power of the Gospel. When the Gospel is preached clearly and passionately it changes lives. Cultural relevance is not the hero; the Word of God is. The Word of God IS powerful. It blows cultural relevance out of the water.

In an effort to be effective some have placed such a huge emphasis on being culturally relative. The Word of God never becomes powerful because of its marketing style. The Word of God itself is where the power lies.

I don’t need to get into a debate about where we draw the lines on standards, separation and the like. This is not a debate on methodology. It is instead about philosophy. I am not out to get everyone to be just like me or like anyone else. When our emphasis is on the necessity of being like the people we are trying to reach we are minimizing the timeless and powerful Word of God. Remember that God blesses His Word.

Psalms 138:2 “For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”

If you have gotten this far, thank you! My only goal is to remind us all that God is not bound by any rules of cultural relevance. There does not need to be any pressure to “get with the times,” or “modernize” worship. The Gospel and the power of God are not broken and in need of repair. God blesses the faithful labor of Godly men. Cultural relativity doesn’t unlock some secret door to God’s blessing; sometimes it just makes us into worldly Christians.

Monday, January 21, 2019

What It Is Not: New

Neo-independent Baptists 3

Note: This is the third in a series of blog posts addressing the neo-independent Baptist movement. Today's post is by Robert Rutta. He is 56, and holds degrees from Hyles-Anderson College (1986) and Landmark Baptist College (2000, 2003). He is currently a church planting missionary in New Zealand.


Within the last few years the neo-independent Baptist movement has come on the scene and has gathered a following. They promote themselves as a new breed of independent Baptists that see the problems of our movement and now have the answers. They genuinely feel that the only way that we can reach the modern generation is to make some fundamental changes. Their call is for us all to be willing to accept a wide range of differences in style, methodology and doctrine and focus less on issues of personal and ecclesiastical separation.

There is one problem with the basic premise of the neo-independent Baptists - there is nothing NEW about what they are doing. Many of the things that are called unique attributes of the neo-independent Baptists are things that we can agree with because they have always been the position of Independent Baptists. For example, we have always had a desire to reach into our communities and make a difference in the lives of people. We have always been innovative in looking for ways to reach people. We have always sought to preach the Word of God faithfully.

My entire life has been spent in independent Baptist churches and I see our churches as exciting places where people are brought into contact with a loving family atmosphere and can have their lives changed by the preaching of God’s Word. I’ve preached in hundreds of churches in several different countries. I know that there are problems in some churches, but truthfully, I like what I see in most of our churches.

As Tom Brennan mentioned last week, Pastor Josh Teis is not our enemy and this blog is not intended as a personal attack against him. Even so, I do have concerns about the path that he is leading others to follow. He has a great amount of influence on many pastors. With influence comes responsibility for the results of that influence. Many of the methods that the neo-independent Baptists call for are new, but the underlying philosophy behind their methodology has been tried again and again, and it has always led to disaster.

I guess the first question that we should ask is…

What exactly is an Old Independent Baptist?

If we are drawing a dividing line between the old and the new, we need to know where the line is drawn.

Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s and continuing over the next several decades a number of Baptist pastors led their churches to leave the Northern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Convention and other groups. Their reasons for leaving these groups were varied but it basically came down to the fact that they saw sin that was being excused, along with liberalism and modernism that was being promoted in their schools. The Bible’s command is to come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing. (II Cor 6:17) They accepted God’s command and withdrew from the conventions. The Independent Baptist movement began as an act of separation from things that they knew to be wrong. Through the years independent Baptist churches have been recognized by our fervency in soul winning. We were drawn together by our love for God and His Word and a desire to be separate from sin. This separatism is more than just being separate from sinful actions, but also includes ecclesiastical separation as we keep from those who teach wrong doctrine. We were formed in an act of separating from sin and wrong doctrine and we are defined by being separatists. A love for truth and a hatred for the things of the world that would dishonor our Lord are the things that have drawn us together.

Although we have a historically separatist position, independent Baptists have always been a pretty broad group, allowing for a variety of styles and preferences. We are independent, after all. We have no headquarters and have no denominational structure, so there will be differences between us. I accept that we are often too divided, as we may prefer to spend more time with those that are more similar to us in our preferences. As a missionary I know that I can have good fellowship with a wide range of churches that are under this umbrella of independent Baptist. I don’t have to agree with someone completely as to their methodology to have good fellowship with them or to respect them. The key is that we are united in a love for the truth and a separation from error. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. (III John 3)

The NEW View of Separation

Pastor Teis breaks our doctrines down to first-tier doctrines, second-tier doctrines and then finally preferential issues. He calls for separation in what he calls the first-tier doctrines, such as the Virgin Birth and the Blood Atonement. He correctly says that if someone is a modernist and denies the basic fundamentals that we should separate from them. But, what do we do when a church has a woman pastor or speaks in tongues or baptizes infants or any of a multitude of things that the Bible speaks very clearly against? These doctrines don’t fit into Teis’ category of first-tier doctrines so according to his teaching we should be accepting of these. The Bible’s mandate is different. The message of God’s Word from beginning to end is to obey God and separate from doctrines or practices that dishonor Him. We are to mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Rom 16:17) Teis accurately says that the thing that should distinguish us as God’s people is that we have love one to another. (John 13:35) What he fails to understand is that I can truly love the person that I disagree with. Loving them does not mean that I have to fellowship with them or have them preach in my pulpit. My love for God and His truth should cause me to separate from error.

The call of the neo-independent Baptist is a call to weaken our separatist position, but IS THIS NEW?

Sadly, this is a position that has been tried a number of times before. Every time that this has been tried it has always resulted in failure.

Jerry Falwell

In 1956, Jerry Falwell graduated from Baptist Bible College in Springfield and founded the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA. Over the next few decades he was recognized in independent Baptist circles as holding a position of personal and ecclesiastical separation. But, in the late 1970s he began a journey of change, and he formed the Moral Majority. This was a group of people from every denomination and religion that joined together to lobby politicians in order to promote moral values. This put him on the platform with Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mormons, Charismatics and virtually every other group. The argument can be made that these were political meetings so there was nothing wrong with joining together with unbelievers from a variety of religions. The problem is that by following this path he went down the road of more and more spiritual compromise.

Over the course of the 1980s he had meetings where he shared the platform with fellow speakers such as modernist Robert Schuller, Catholic priests, Jim Bakker of the PTL Club, Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, and a host of others of all denominations. In 1987 when Jim Bakker resigned in shame, Falwell took his place as leader of the PTL Club and the Heritage USA Theme Park. These were Assemblies of God ministries. By Pastor Teis’ reckoning the AOG still holds to the basic fundamentals, making them a first-tier group, so it was acceptable to fellowship with them. The AOG is full of wrong teachings that we should mark, teach against, and avoid. It is not surprising that during this time of doctrinal confusion he began to speak of Catholic priests as his brothers.

As we look at the pathway of Jerry Falwell from that time of decision in the late 1970s we see a downward spiral that in many ways mirrored the path of Billy Graham. In a 1997 interview with the modernist Robert Schuller, Graham said that people of all religions around the world were saved by their sincerity. He said they didn’t need to know Jesus or the Bible. Graham also took a position that there was no fire in hell. This was a man that Falwell called one of the greatest Christians that he knew. Falwell, like Graham, failed to recognize that separation from those who teach false doctrine is a Bible command. When that command is ignored or devalued the result is always the same. The more that Falwell weakened his position on ecclesiastical separation the more that he declined in concern for doctrinal purity.

What has happened in the intervening years? In 1996 Falwell led the Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University to enter into the Southern Baptist Convention. As he led them further and further away from the foundational position of independent Baptists of ecclesiastical separation they had to ultimately go to the group where they fit in the best.

Highland Park Baptist Church

When Lee Roberson retired, Highland Park Baptist Church decided to go in a completely different direction than they had followed under the leadership of Brother Roberson. I remember visiting Highland Park in the 1980s after they had chosen a Calvinist to be their new pastor. At that time they were getting rid of their church buses and numbers were dwindling. Their massive 10,000 seat auditorium had large roped-off areas to bring people together so the room didn’t look empty. Over the next few years Tennessee Temple and Highland Park Baptist went toward CCM and more modern practices. Their path of change finally resulted in them returning to the fold of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2008. In 2013 the church changed its name, removed the name Baptist, and became the
Church of the Highlands.

The church went on an ever-broadening search for something new and exciting. They wanted to leave the old positions of separation and the result was exactly what everyone should have expected.

Baptist Bible Fellowship

The BBFI is a fellowship of pastors that was started in 1950 because they were concerned that the Southern Baptists and other denominations were too liberal in their leaning. This was once the fellowship of J. Frank Norris, Bill Dowell, Noel Smith, Beauchamp Vick and John Rawlings. Over the years their strong fundamentalist stand has weakened as they followed that which was new. They overlooked the compromise of Jerry Falwell while he stayed in good standing in their group and spoke at their meetings. By the late 1980s the music in their national meetings was growing contemporary and this was seen in more and more of their churches and missionaries. Their national conferences now look like what you would see in any nondenominational emerging church. There are still many good conservative pastors in the movement but for the most part they remain silent. In February of 2017 the President of the BBFI led his congregation at the High Street Baptist Church of Springfield, MO, to join the SBC. Pastor Lyons made this decision after he saw other “BBFI pastors lead their congregations to align dually with both the BBFI and with Southern Baptists.” Undoubtedly there will now be others that will follow his lead.

Neo-independent Baptists Are Not New

The unique journey that the neo-independent Baptist movement has embarked on isn’t really that unique. It is a well-travelled road. There are numerous examples that we could choose which all followed the same path - and reached the same result.

When we remove ecclesiastical separation and join together with people who are disobedient to clear doctrines of Scripture then we ourselves will be changed. Personal separation will be affected as we try to fit into the culture of the world around us. Then, as we invite men to preach in our churches who believe other doctrines our members see it as a mark of approval. Eventually our churches will change to be like those men and ministries that we have brought before them.

I am determined to love everyone who has truly trusted Christ as their Savior, but that love will not allow me to compromise on the truth that is in God’s Word. We are to come out from among them and be separate. Our Lord deserves nothing less.