Monday, January 14, 2019

What They Are Not: The Enemy

Neo-independent Baptists 2

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


1468320529In any serious theological disagreement – and make no mistake, this is one – several things must be kept ever in mind, foremost among these the necessity of relying upon Scripture as our authority. Then, too, it is also helpful to do your best to keep your emotions in check, to think and argue from the intellect to the emotions to the will in that order. In addition to these two, I would add that it is necessary to be able to accurately separate friend from foe. Treating a man or a group as the enemy when in fact they are not and vice versa has historically brought great damage to the cause of Christ. I do not want to make that mistake with this blog series, ergo, my post today.

Jude tells us to earnestly contend for the faith. As I understand the last two words of that phrase, “the faith” implies the sum and substance of the body of doctrines taught in the Word of God which we are supposed to believe. Primarily, these are understood in our day as the fundamentals of the faith (notice those last two words) – the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, and the doctrines the Bible teaches about Jesus. Included in the latter would be such things as the eternal preexistence and divinity of Christ, the incarnation, the virgin birth, the sinless life, actual miracles, the atoning death, a literal resurrection, the Second Coming, and salvation by grace through faith. It is these which are critically vital to humanity’s eternal welfare. To quote from my book, Schizophrenic, “Beyond that, as an independent Baptist, I hold to other doctrines that I think the Bible clearly teaches and that are also important. But at the bare minimum, the man who holds [these doctrines] is my brother in Christ. We shall share Heaven someday. He is not my enemy though I may differ with him on a veritable plethora of other things. He is an orthodox Christian, not in a denominational sense, but in a doctrinal sense.”

Josh Teis
To put it plainly, Josh Teis and the movement he represents and leads is not my enemy. If Jesus tarry His coming we will both die someday, and stand in front of God looking to hear, Well done, thou good and faithful servant. While the tale of our lives is not yet told it is reasonable to expect that both of us will hear that. My brother pastor across town who is morphing his traditional independent Baptist church into something he thinks is new and better will walk the same golden streets as me, will eat the same twelve fruits from the tree of life as me, and will kneel in humble adoration with me as we together cast our crowns at His feet. He, they, you even, depending who is reading this, are not my enemy; you are my brother. The devil and his false prophets are my enemy.

Not only are such men not the enemy I further freely admit that there is much to like about them. On a personal level, they are neither remote nor arrogant. They are friendly, approachable, and often humble. They are just as willing to listen as they are to speak. Like many younger men in the independent Baptist orbit, they have seen the damage wreaked upon families by men of previous generations who were more married to God’s bride than their own bride, more conscious of God’s children than their own children. Josh Teis himself leads in this, and I love him for it. Where I find him I find his wife, giving, ministering, loving, and laboring together, and to all appearances they both have prioritized loving and leading their children. On the ministry side, I find a commitment to an accurate knowledge of history and theology. Additionally, I sense in them a heart that beats in tandem with the great heart of God. I see a passion for souls, an overriding urge that drives them to reach as many people with the Gospel as they possibly can while there is yet time. Would to God these things would be contagious indeed.

confused-faceI can hear some of you now, muttering to yourselves as you scroll through this blog post on your phone. “Tom, you have made a good case. The men you are criticizing are not your enemy, indeed, you even admire them in many respects. Then why in the world are you launching blog salvos at them then? Why are you stirring up all of this fuss? We are brethren, and you are bringing division where there ought to be unity.”

Peter and Paul were brothers too. They shared the same heritage, the same doctrine, the same faith. They were co-laborers, serving God with great ability, sincerity, and devotion. Yet Scripture records, But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. Brothers? Yes. Enemies? Not even. Yet Paul deemed it necessary not just to remonstrate with Peter but to do so forcefully – withstood him to the face – and publicly – I said unto Peter before them all. Why? Because other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away. See, the problem does not lie just in the disagreements I may or may not have with what another brother in Christ does in his church. It is in the influence that is spreading out from those men, seeping into church after church, creeping up the walls like a rising flood tide that will eventually carry all before it.

The movement Josh Teis is forming around himself and other likeminded men holds the potential to carry away a tremendous number of solid men and strong churches, weakening them in a wide variety of ways just as the storm clouds on the American horizon grow bigger. As Pete Folger argued last week, “I feel compelled to warn those who are being influenced by these men and many others that there are serious dangers involved with the neo-independent Baptist movement. In the short time I’ve followed those who are part of this growing group I have witnessed radical change. From things as innocent as a more casual “look” for those leading from the platform to more serious concerns like fully embracing contemporary Christian music and abandoning positions on Bible versions, and the ecumenical movement, these changes have been rapid, concerning and lead me to believe that greater change is on the horizon.” It is not about just where the neo-independent Baptist movement is at; it is about where it is going, the speed at which it is heading there, and the numbers of God’s people it is taking with it. This is why this is not some little disagreement that can be expressed in private between two men in an exchange of letters or phone calls. It is vital to our future, and to the future of what I genuinely believe is the last, best hope for New Testament Christianity in America, the independent Baptist movement.

Saints Peter and Paul by
Guido Reni, c 1625
It is a conversation that is not only worth having, it is one that must be had. The consequences of a departure from our traditional approach to church and ministry must be examined and weighed. To fail in this is to fail in our responsibility to each other, to the truth, to future generations, and to the very God at Whose feet we will bow on that great day. So let us have the conversation in grace and charity, respecting and appreciating one another, but by all means, let us have it.

Like many of you, I attended a small Christian school that did not have much in the way of a sports program. We did, however, have a basketball team, one I was passionate about. For five years I started for that team, the bulk of that time as point guard. We were terrible when we started. The very first game our team ever played we lost 62-15 and it was not even as close as the score indicates. For years we struggled, mired at the bottom of the standings, like the Cubs, perennially the doormat of the National League. But as we matured in age and athletic ability, and we continued to play together something happened. We got good, or at least as good as a small Christian school with limited resources could get. And as we improved we discovered all the motivation necessary to work even harder at it, to get up at dawn to head to the courts at the park in the summer, to shoot foul shots until it was too dark to see, to dribble and pass and box out and run past the point of exhaustion.

My junior year of high school we made a run at the championship. We did not have the tallest or the strongest or the deepest team in the league, but we had experience, will, and a great desire to win. We did not capture that championship, but we gave it everything we had. We left it all on the court. We came <fingers pinched together> this close.

As the point guard of that almost championship team it was my responsibility to be a leader on the floor. I had to anticipate the mistakes of the other team and exploit them. By the same token, I had to envision our own flaws and do all I could to adjust for them. And the earlier I could spot those the better off we would be. I needed to see more than just my man or just this minute of the game. I had to see its flow, where it came from, and where it was going next. In Old Testament parlance, I was responsible to be one of the men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. (I Chronicles 12.32) Often that involved paying attention to things days and weeks before the actual game, not only studying our opponents, but studying my own team. Where were we weak? Had our passing gotten sloppy? Were we reaching in on defense? Shooting too many threes? Parking in the lane for more than three seconds? Putting it all on our star player? In other words, I was to practice discernment.

When I saw something I said something. I did not yell, well, not much. <grin> Or at least I did not start by yelling. I started by bringing it up, and asking them to think about what playing sloppy like that against a good team would produce in the score at the end of the game. I was not attacking my team mates. I was pointing out errant actions that would result in damage for our team when we did face the enemy.

I use the word “beloved” a lot in my writing. I do it purposely, because Bible writers used it and because it keeps my heart right toward my readers. In using it here I am not trying to manipulate you; I am seeking to edify you. Beloved, I simply want to see our team do well, in the eyes 3d small people - teamof God and in the lives of a desperately needy humanity. There is no long-term good to be gained by heading down the now well-worn path of the contemporary movement, no good and much grief.

Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?


  1. Something I have reoccurring in my mind as I read this is the word "traditional" repeatedly. Although, I understand the spirit behind that word, Christ did warn the disciples of the traditions of the Pharisees. The Pharisees, no doubt saw Christ as many today see some as "new agers," or "modern/liberal." When I hear of such pressing regarding traditions, before I jump on board, I remember the warning of Christ and then try to see things from both perspectives. Too many use the scriptures as their means to keep people ensnared to "their" own interpretation of scripture. For instance, I have literally heard it said that long hair on a man is a sin, which is no where in the Bible. Paul wrote to the Corinthians how it was a shame, but it is not a sin. Ironically, in the portion he wrote that, if we are to go by the scriptures verbatim, then why aren't heads being covered? Just saying. The continual gripe of contemporary music being used can get a little frustrating. Christian "rock," as it's called, isnt contemporary Christian, nor is rap. If we were to do a real study o some songs in some of the hymnals that are used, wed find they dont have too good of roots either. For instance, if one uses the "A Little Talk with Jesus," one should study the history behind the phrase "a prayer wheel turning." There are more then one contemporary Christian songs that lift the name of Christ in a very spiritual worship style. I personally enjoy the piano and hymns as well as the bluegrass gospel. I am not so ignorant, however to think that the bluegrass music style is innocent or any holier than the contemporary. Some like southern gospel, however I think you're bordering on country gospel there. Music has power, I totally agree, but understand that ANY music is not amoral. Any instrument can be used for evil AND good, even drums. (BTW they are in the bible). I think alot boils down to preferences, which has historically been the where lines are drawn, not scripture or doctrine.

    1. I'm not quite sure how to answer this as you are rather all over the map. I'd have to write a book, probably. So I guess I will just say thank you for your perspective, and I mean that sincerely.

    2. [2 Thessalonians 2:15]
      15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

  2. Thank you, brother. I appreciate men like you who are still willing to stick their necks out!

  3. I appreciate your address being "speech be (ing) alway with grace, seasoned with salt". The basketball analogy is a good one. The concerning issues has to do with prudence; both a wider and longer down the road perception. I admire your boldness in wisely bringing them to attention presently.

    To that a say to this compromising crowd:

    [Jeremiah 6:16-18]
    16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
    17 Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.
    18 Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.

    Hosea 14:9
    Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.

    1. I want to jump on your bandwagon. I am 27 year old pastor. I see the a slippery slope that could happen with some new ideas. At the same time I see the danger of being stagnant and just traditional. I get excited when I see scripture to find the right balance of fallowing my upbringing and seeing if the new ideas can be corrected by scripture.

      But then you use scripture out of context and straw man arguments. You are proving the opposition more honest to scripture. It is like trump I like what he is saying but then he lies (not that you are lying) and misconstrues the facts and makes the democrat look like the honest ones.

      If you think the neo-IFB are compromising scripture use scripture in context or you look like legalistic pharisees keeping the "old paths".

  4. Looking for some great KJV marital materials as well as some KJV youth materials. Do you have any or suggestions?

    1. Are you looking for things like Sunday School lessons?

    2. We have put together some materials:
      The Sunday School lessons are also available as a DVD complete with powerpoints for about 200 lessons for about the cost of the disk. We adapt them for all classes.

  5. I appreciate this second post, Bro. Brennan. It shows the humble spirit which I already suspected you had. I still do not see the advantage of 6 more weeks of grievances about music, dress, and Bible versions, but you did a great job here of leveling out the ground. Thank you, sir. By the way, what is the concern towards ecumenicism, as Bro. Folger mentioned? Will that be addressed in a later post?

    1. I do not want to speak for him, but I was comfortable using the quote b/c of the general approach of the neo-independent Baptist movement toward separatism. It has been criticized and re-written. Further, moves in the direction have been made by Teis re having rabbis on his platform, etc. The choice of Thom Ranier, while certainly not liberal, is just as certainly not independent Baptist.

      Ecumenical does not necessarily have to mean an embrace of classic theological liberalism. As I explained above, I do not believe the neo-independent Baptist movement is anywhere near there. But ecumenical can also be used in the sense of breaking down barriers that previously existed between more conservative groups such as the IFB has traditionally been, and the more harder-edged contemporary groups that the neo-independent Baptists clearly read from and follow after.

      Again, I'm not sure Pete Folger would answer that the same way, but that's my take.

      Does that make sense? Not saying you have to agree with it, naturally.

    2. That definition is helpful. It would be great if Christians could figure out a common set of definitions for our terms, because in my study, ecumenicism describes the normalization of other non-evangelical religions, such as Roman Catholicism or Islam. Granted, there might simply be ignorance on my part about this issue. Perhaps even just a defining of the terms in play would help clarify some of the hotspots in these posts. Words like "ecumenical" are buzzwords that rile people up if not clearly communicated, IMO. Thank you for your response.

  6. I respect you Mr. Brennan, for your ability to be kind and loving to a far greater extent than some fundamentalists, the sort that led to my departure. I retain a sense of fond nostalgia for fundamentalism since I was brought up in it, and to some extent I root for the IFB because I've seen the best of it as well as the worst. That's saying something because I left with a bitter spirit and it took years to gain some healing and forgiveness.

    With that said, I think I'll fall mostly on the side of the "neo-fundamentalists." I'm not one, I am a part of a southern baptist church which long ago took the route they're just now discovering. But from what I have seen and heard they represent the sentiments that led me to leave the IFB movement. I presume you have articles to come which will cover your disagreements with them in more detail, so I'll save any comments of detail. What I do want to say is that I think there is a fallacious assumption at work in fundamentalism, that old=good and new=bad. I don't think everyone consciously thinks that, but its implied in attitudes and actions. Some people go so far as to openly state it. I see verses about the old paths and traditions being quoted out of context. Contextually, those passages cannot be applied because the "old paths" the israelites needed to return to was simply worshiping God, and the "new paths" they were following were idols and hedonism. Unless you think the neo-fundamentalists are abandoning God entirely to worship other gods and have orgies, those passages have no application.

    What I suspect is that all the issues you plan to cover Mr. Brennan, will relate to matters of practice, on which there is precious little scripture to go by. I think God meant that on purpose, it was not his intent to dictate every detail of how men should worship him. Even in the Bible we have examples of this, one man worshipped by preaching his life away in the face of persecution, and another by killing hundreds of israel's enemies with the jawbone of an ass. I'm not advocating for christians to go out and get the bones of a dead donkey and smite hezbollah, I'm trying to illustrate how many different ways God's people lived for him and expressed their worship for him. Basically, while the traditional way may be perfectly acceptable, some newer ways might be equally acceptable. I'm sure David's mighty men, if they time traveled to the new testament church post day of pentacost, wouldn't have known what to do with all those hippie pacifist apostles and no enemies of God to slay at spearpoint.

    1. I guess what I am trying to say is that traditional fundamentalists are feeling their way of life threatened, they're afraid of the changes, fearful that the change is for the worse, whether they openly admit that or not. As someone who has been serving in a church that took that road long before I came there, change does not have to be for the worse. My church sees folks saved, baptised, and most importantly added to the regular attendance and discipled, on a normal basis. It participates in dozens of ministries accross town, and cooperates with other local churches of various denominations in those endevours. Its a church with a massive gospel outreach in town and yet a favorable impression with the lost and other churches alike. Thats not because of the more modern music, or the more modern standards, but because the church (that being the people) is on fire for Christ and expressing that love without any burdens. Whenever I read arguments against modernization of the church I just think of our last baptismal service, the dozens of transformed lives I've seen, the new church we planted accross town that has already grown by 300%, and for that matter the much needed healing that this church provided to me. God's blessing is plainly evident, so why do fundamentalists feel the need to object to things about our practice that to me seem irellevant? I tend to believe that the reason is a lack of exposure to churches like mine. If you never never spend some time in other circles, its easy to believe pre-formed ideas about modern churches and christians.

      To conclude, I don't have a problem with churches remaining traditional, there are plenty of people who want or need that type of church. But I think that the desire to have everyone stay that way is rooted in fear, and I wish that people espousing that view would take an honest look at the counterpoints to their arguments.

    2. Thank you for your thoughtful response. While I wish you had stayed in that IFB church you used to be in I am heartily glad to hear you are still serving God.

      I agree that new does not automatically equal bad and vv. You will notice I have not used the verses relating to old paths or traditions. I think there are better passages to make the arguments I am making and intend to make.

      I would say that I do not think worship is as widespread in its acceptable practice as you seem to indicate. I've written some about that on this blog already which you can find by clicking on the word "worship" in the word cloud on the right.

      I am glad as well for the numbers you cite that are being saved and baptized and discipled. I do not, however, think those numbers are any indication of the scriptural rightness of a position. I attended the largest Baptist church in America for six years, and I had to painfully learn that the numbers of people they saw saved/baptized were not an indication of the rightness of their position or practice. The Word of God alone is the acceptable measuring stick.

    3. It is not a question of old vs. new. There are plenty of things that are new that are indoor plumbing, computers, etc. I have found that in defending the old paths there was good reason for them being old, tried and true, paths.

      I think that you have a point about the worship of God vs. idolatry/hedonism. It is creeping hedonism in the new paths that led me to become totally independent of a fellowship group that I felt was catering to a hedonistic attitude (leaving the name of the group out deliberately). It doesn't have to be full blown idolatry before we have cause to separate in some ways. There is "fellowship" and then there is "fellowship". If by fellowship you mean sitting down over coffee and sharing burdens and blessings, then there are a lot of people I fellowship with whom I have great disagreement. If by fellowship you mean entering into an agreement to work together, then no, I can't work with just anyone. If I were them, I wouldn't want me around because I would be insisting on not having this speaker or that method.

      I have been bothered by the fruit of churches that emphasize catering to emotion. I think that the issue of causality is at play. It would be presumptuous to assume that numbers is a sign of God's blessing (like the Mormons, the JW's, etd.) Is it because of the new styles that people are getting saved? Is it because of the Christian culture that still exists in an area that makes people more willing to listen? Is it because of marketing? Is it because God is willing to use even Balaam's ass?

      There are plenty of conversion stories I can't account for...which makes it a good thing that God doesn't give me keys for the 'pearly gates'. I have led women to the Lord that one man would bring to me he was having affairs with. It's possible they were saved because they ended their affairs with him. This is not a new evangelistic program I would encourage in the church!

      One thing many of my brethren and I have said is, "Thank God for being a Baptist." I am responsible for what I do in my church. When my brother is wrong, he is accountable to God and his congregation. When I am wrong, the same applies. However, in encouraging each other to godliness, it might be leaning towards Phariseeism to be requiring a rule before waking up to smell the coffee burning in the pot. One would have problems finding justification for condemning gambling, for example. Adrian Rogers preached a wonderful sermon about the sin of gambling using Biblical principles.

    4. Mr. Brennan, I could not have stayed in the churches I came from, even assuming I didn't have different opinions about some things, the hurt is too deep there. You are aware of the worst fundamentalism can do, I've read your book and you were fair as to some of the weaknesses in the IFB movement. My wife and I experienced some of the worst of it, and consequently the IFB as a whole is spoiled for us.

      I do recognize that you haven't quoted those old testament verses, but others frequently do and I wanted to cover that because I think your blog gets a broad readership.

      I brought up the success at my church not to say that numbers=right. I tried to paint a picture that what is going on here goes beyond mere numbers of people saved and baptized, but its kind of intangible. I don't want my description to be dismissed by the assumption that the salvations are questionable and the discipleship shallow and basically the numbers are just on a page. We all know what it looks like when God gets ahold of a life and transforms it, thats what I am talking about. People don't just get saved and become a number on a card here, they become a part of the fellowship and start growing and reaching out to others themselves. Its everything I was ever taught in IFB church and Bible college that a new testament church ought to be.
      Why that matters is that I want to know why if all those things are going on, is this church or others like it a potentially bad influence? Your point in this article was that in spite of the fact that the neo fundamentalists are your brothers, you must express disagreement because of the influence their ideas and directions will have on the rest of fundamentalism. That implies that the influence will have negative impact. I would like some more clarification maybe what that negative influence is. Do you fear that the Gospel will not be preached? That christians won't be discipled? Or is the concern more in reference to standards and practices? If the former, I'm making my arguments why the new ways are not a negative influence, If the latter, then that requires discussing those topics individually, which I assume your future posts will do.

      I do like your definition of worship, "our response when we see God." I think that how that is expressed however, covers a lot more than just that moment. For instance, the wise men bowed and worshipped the baby Jesus. But I would argue that their worship really began when they set out a year or so earlier on an exhorbitantly expensive and time consuming journey just to come see him. Perhaps another word would fit better, I don't know.

      I am inclined to agree that catering purely to emotion or pleasure in church is not healthy, and that is a direction some modern churches have taken. There are some extremely shallow "churches" out there. However, there are many more modern churches that do not do that. I think those in IFB circles tend to see only the most extreme examples of modern churches on their radar, which is not an accurate snapshot of what is actually going on. Relatively few churches pull off the rock concert or rave style service, because it doesn't actually have that strong a draw and it requires a lot of resources. You would not feel terribly out of place in my church or many others like it.

      To be honest, I think that to get to the bottom of this I'll have to wait for the rest of your series of blog posts to see what you have to say.

  7. Hey Tom, thanks for the article. I have one specific question after reading the first two articles in your series. What is the specific biblical error you are pointing out with Josh Teis or his church? I sincerely would like to know the 'point' of these articles. Could you summarize the point in a simple way? Thanks for clarifying! God bless.

    1. I haven't, yet. I have only attempted to establish the necessity and appropriateness of doing so.

      The point is to ask people to think carefully about what influences they choose to allow into their lives and into their church.