Monday, January 7, 2019

Why It Matters



Neo-independent Baptists 1

Note: Today's post is the first in a new series. For some time now a movement has been growing among independent Baptists that would push us in the contemporary direction. Loosely grouped around Josh Teis, a pastor in Nevada, it draws an increasing amount of favorable of attention, especially among younger pastors. This movement, which I have labeled neo-independent Baptist, embraces a philosophy and direction that gives me pause. Nor am I alone in this. Across the country hundreds of pastors have expressed a similar concern. Representative of this concern, six other men are joining me in writing this series. Our aim is to address the underlying errant philosophies and approaches of the neo-independent Baptists. We hope to start a conversation that may yet protect numbers of pastors and churches in the years to come. We welcome your participation in that conversation.

Today's blog post is by Pete Folger, 39, a 2001 graduate of Crown College, and currently the co-pastor of the Cleveland Baptist Church in Brooklyn, Ohio.


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Cleveland Baptist Church
Growing up I was privileged to attend an independent, fundamental Baptist church. Until my junior year of high school my pastor was Dr. Roy Thompson. Many younger men might not be familiar with that name, but the older generation would remember Dr. Thompson well. He founded the Cleveland Baptist Church in 1958 and on the first Sunday of its existence he, along with ten others, met in the living room of a home not far from where the church currently ministers today. Within a decade of the church being planted it had experienced tremendous growth and to some was considered a leading church among independent Baptists. As a child, all I knew was that of the independent Baptist world.

When I consciously calculate God’s blessings upon my life near the top of that list is my upbringing in an independent, fundamental Baptist church. I’ve read of many who look down upon, and some even who despise their independent Baptist heritage. Allow me to pause here and say that some of these have legitimate reasons for feeling the way they do, and I hurt for those who experienced abuse, manipulation or some other horrible experience within the confines of an independent Baptist church. I can say unequivocally that my experience featured none of those things. While the Cleveland Baptist Church wasn’t perfect during these formative years of my life, several things made a profound impact on me then, and still shape who I am today.

I was blessed to attend a church where people loved God and each other. This is significant because Christ was asked in Matthew 22:36 “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” His reply? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

I was blessed to attend a church where souls were saved and baptized regularly. Christ commissioned His church to “Go…into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” My church used many different tools to accomplish this task. I witnessed souls being saved in nursing homes, bus routes, door-to-door evangelism, mission trips, youth camps, vacation Bible school programs, and almost every week in the regular meetings of the church.

I was blessed to attend a church where the pastor taught me to take a strong stand for the truth. Roy Thompson led in battles across this great land for religious freedom, Christian schools, morality and many more. He took seriously the admonition of Jude in the third verse of his short epistle “…it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

I enjoyed growing up in a church where the members sacrificed for one another and for the needs of the church. Because of my dad’s position on staff we didn’t always have the nicest or newest things money could buy. I can think of several instances where people learned of a need we had and did what they could to provide for us. I well remember, that in 1990, our church broke ground on a multi-million dollar education building. Over the next three years I watched many of our men give, not only financially, but also through the investment of their time as well. Many of our men would work all day before spending several hours each evening at our church campus in order to do what they could to speed along the construction of this new facility.


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A recent Sunday evening service
at Cleveland Baptist Church
I was blessed to attend a church where there was an appropriate balance between work and pleasure. While much hard work went into making our church what it was then, and is today, there were many opportunities for us to pause and to enjoy the lives God had blessed us with. Solomon writes in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…A time to weep, and a time to laugh…” In our church community there was a fair amount of laughing and good-natured fun. I have great memories of church services where laughter abounded. I think you would find that the Cleveland Baptist Church was a place filled with joy. That should be no surprise that any church filled with God’s saints be a place of joy for it is one of the fruits that the Holy Spirit develops within the lives of believers (Galatians 5:22).

For these reasons and many more I look back on my heritage as an independent Baptist with great appreciation.

In the last few years, there has been a movement to discard or explain away our past and start fresh and new. Not long ago, an influential pastor, Josh Teis (Southern Hills Baptist Church in Las Vegas, Nevada) an acquaintance of mine, wrote a blog post entitled “The New Independent Baptists.” More recently a group of “millennial” Independent Baptists led by Nate Calvert wrote a blog entitled “An Open Letter from Millennials.” In both of these writings there were points that resonated with me. However, I could not help but detect a strong tone of wanderlust and dissatisfaction with the heritage of these men, and I found that hard to shake.

Why bring any of this up? I can assure you that I am not a fighter or a guy who likes to stick my nose into things that aren’t my business. I make it a habit not to discuss theological or doctrinal issues on Facebook or any other social media venues. I sincerely love Josh and Nate and the other men who are seeking for something different than what they have seen or experienced. Because there is a younger generation that has more fully embraced writing, blogging and using social media as an effective means of communication they have attracted a large audience that is growing as I write. 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.


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A recent concert at Southern Hills
Baptist Church in Las Vegas
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. This concerns me and leads me to believe that greater change is on the horizon. This crowd is extremely “context” driven. Granted, context is important, but the Word of God creates new context in the lives of people that renders old context obsolete.

So today I write to those of you who have watched all of this change and like me are wondering where it all ends, if we can all simply just get along and what your response should be to those who label themselves new or neo-independent Baptists. I suppose maybe we should ask this question, why even have this conversation? I would like to propose to you four reasons why we must have this conversation, why this truly matters.

1. Because it’s important
These changes we have discussed will potentially transform who we are and what we will become. The church I described at the beginning of this blog post doesn’t need to be fundamentally transformed. It needs to keep doing what it has always done and to be strengthened but it doesn’t need a seismic shift in a new direction.

2. Because you’re paying attention
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An advertisement for the Idea Day Network
Perhaps the movement toward a new independent Baptist mindset is catching on so rapidly because these men are doing a great job articulating who they are and why they think change is so necessary. Might there be a preacher or church who could benefit from hearing from those who don’t see the need to radically shift and transform who we are and what we are doing? One of the weaknesses of those within the independent Baptist movement has been a hesitance to write. I applaud both Josh and Nate and others for their willingness to write down their thoughts and feelings. This blog series is an attempt to continue the conversation that has been started, allowing you to hear from a side of the independent Baptist world that is not dissatisfied with who we are and is quite concerned about where this new movement could potentially lead folks who decide to follow them.

3. Because I have four children who need the church to be more committed to biblical principle than worldly context
Their names are Madison, Mallory, Mia and Toby. Your children may have different names than mine but they’re not all that different. They are growing up in a radically changing world. Every year new technology bursts on the scene. New ideas are discussed all around them from new currency to new genders. They need a church that doesn’t change, a Bible that they can depend on, and a Pastor who will preach the truth clearly to them regardless of what “context” they may be living in.

4. Because this has happened before
Every denomination and every age has experienced drifts and shifts. The Southern Baptist Convention has dealt with an internal struggle between left and right for decades. There are conservative and liberal Methodist churches. We really aren’t all that different nor is any of this really all that new. In fact it would be quite na├»ve to assume we are the only ones who have dealt with this kind of pull from within. A recent example (within the last 100 years) of a shift to a more progressive approach within the work of God occurred during the lifetime of Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones who for thirty years served as pastor of the Westminster Chapel in England. While Dr. Jones was not an independent Baptist, nevertheless it was said about ministry during his lifetime, “There was also the development of a feeling soon to sweep all before it, that a main hindrance to the church effectively reaching the world was her out-of-date appearance in the contemporary culture. Her Bible version and her forms of worship had remained little changed for centuries. The climate of thought – not uninfluenced by the secular world – was swinging against all things ‘traditional’ and ‘old-fashioned’.”


I am not old-fashioned merely for the sake of being old-fashioned, but neither am I for change simply for the sake of new-vs-oldchange or something new. What I have enjoyed throughout my life has blessed me and countless others and I’m not in any hurry to discard it for something new. So let’s have a conversation. I encourage you to approach it with an open mind. The men I’ve mentioned and countless others who are promoting a new way of doing things aren’t the enemy and never will be. I pray for them and hope, if they happen upon this particular blog post or series that they will understand the spirit with which it is written. I trust we will also give them something to ponder and think about too. I hope those of you who have or are contemplating some new way will also slow down, truly seek the Lord and ask yourself if what we have and what we have done really needs to be transformed or if we all should just seek a deeper intimacy with God and His power.






















28 comments:

  1. I appreciate you writing about this, but I am afraid you are being too easy on these guys. Just how far to the left does someone have to go before you will say they are the enemy? I have noticed those who seem to take one step to the right in the IFB are quickly labeled enemies, but you can run a mile to the left and everyone tries to reach out and be kind and want to find common ground. You mentioned in your article that you fear greater change may be on the horizon, but I think it is clear that the change is already completely unacceptable. Don't be fooled by their smooth, sweet, effeminate mannerisms. These guys are full blown wolves. It's time to start talking about these people the way the Bible does.
    Jud 1:3  Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 
    Jud 1:4  For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 

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    1. Just how far to the left does someone have to go before you will say they are the enemy?

      ...the same distance as one has to go to the right. A man who preaches salvation by grace through faith in Christ is not the enemy, on the left or the right. He is an erring brother, and if he is an influential brother he thus becomes dangerous.

      Speaking more plainly, and directly to your implication, if I thought Steven Anderson was more of a threat than Josh Teis than how come I am doing a blog series about the latter but not the former?

      Neither of them are the enemy, but both of them are dangerous. One is more dangerous to my church specifically and the other is more dangerous to the wider independent Baptist movement. But they are still both my brethren in Christ as far as I can tell.

      And so are you.

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    2. Thanks for your answer. Whether or not we see eye to eye on this completely I am glad to see you address the issues that many would rather seem to ignore. That's what I liked about your book "Schizophrenic". You were willing to address the many issues that everyone seems to be ignoring.

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    3. When we call Christian Brothers our enemy we have a MAJOR problem for we wrestle not against flesh and blood... Do you think these guys aren't saved? You may disagree with their philosophy and actions, but to call them an enemy is just one of the reasons why people are leaving the IFB movement. I appreciate the author's tone in the article even though I'm most certainly closer to Josh Teis's position.

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    4. I thought the above comment would have my name attached to it - I did not mean to write anonymously. - Bob Morrissey

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  2. [Romans 16: 17-20]
    Now, By the grace of GOD I have been saved 7 years, and for the last 3 years I have been growingly embracing the old IFB ways. i came from the left and i am moving in the RIGHT direction. I do not see how those who have come from the RIGHT move towards the left unless they are serving their own bellies and not the LORD JESUS CHRIST though they be saved. As far as I am concerned I am going to keep moving forward in the RIGHT direction in terms of doctrinal convictions and practices. In so doing, I am sure I can avoid those going the liberal, loose, look and live like the world way since they will be behind me. if any try to take me with em' Ill stand and contend and have em move aside so they can move along. I got to keep RIGHT on allowing the HOLY GHOST of GOD from High Heaven conforming me to CHRIST instead of being conformed to the world and its image bearer, the god of this world; Satan
    [2 Corinthians 11: 13-15]

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  3. I believe Josh Teis's church probably has all the marks you mentioned above concerning Cleveland as being the marks of a good church. What one wears to preach or the music one uses (or even the Bible version used) does not destroy these good things. I am afraid some are focusing on the outward things rather than the important things. Additionally, you give no argument against the things you dislike, except that they are new, while attempting to convince us that isn't the reason. I know he would be glad to calmly discuss these things with you if you ask him. You seem somewhat calm, reasonable, and concerned with being biblical. I suggest you listen to all of his podcasts, sermons, watch his videos, & read his articles to get a more balanced view. He isn't perfect, but he doesn't deserve his name dragged through the mud in this way, no matter how much you protest you love him.

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    1. Thanks for your perspective. I have talked with Josh, at some length. I have read every blog post he has ever made. I have watched numerous hours of his videos. I think I have a reasonable idea of his positions and the reasons for those positions.

      In relation to this post giving no arguments against him I might first point out that this isn't about him. It is about a way of thinking that he represents and pushes, but it isn't about him. And this post is simply the first in the series. The aim of this post is to explain why the discussion is worth having. We have not yet begun to argue our point.

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    2. Yet you have made your point & its basic argumentation clear. It is heartbreaking that you have chosen to spend your time attacking a movement built on the grace of God, freedom in Christ, and a desire to see others come to Christ, when your talents could be used more productively elsewhere. I will look for your future blog posts.

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  4. Travis W. C. HornerJanuary 7, 2019 at 4:32 PM

    For my second, third, and forth generation Christians on the fence...

    "When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find any faith on the Earth?"

    I did not grow up attending any kind of church at all. On the contrary in my home, religion was the enemy. I received Christ at the age of 18. Things didn't change for me right away. I was not in a local church, but serving in different areas of the military. I remember as a young Christian struggling with my identity. I didn't know where I fit or where I belonged. I had no attachment to any kind of church. As a matter of fact, I didn't yet understand the purpose of a church.

    I said all of that to say this. All I had was the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. I had a desire to find real Christians I could call my friends. I had a desire to find a place I could learn about my new God. I could recognize truth. I could recognize real Christian preaching and I could recognize real Christian music all by the Spirit and Witness in me and by that witness I was lead to an Independent, Local Soul-winning Baptist Church. Today, eighteen years later I am afraid that if I were still out there searching, I would never find the true Church.

    This departure from the faith and the pattern of the Book of Acts regarding the Church is horrible. Because what you second generation Christians have forgotten, is people like me. Its all about you now. The church is all about you and your wants, fulfilling your desires and being more open to experimenting with things you never had. Let me tell you second generation Christians. The World will promise you everything, but take everything from you...You can change the church, but your loosing it all. Your flame is flickering and soon to go out and your ability to fulfill the greatest calling of all will be lost. "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find any faith on the Earth?"

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  5. This set of articles is very promising. I read the article by Nate Calvert. I think he is framing the problem in the same way as others in the past as an issue of methodology. Underlying these "modern" concerns (there is nothing new under the sun) is the problem of mindset: emotion vs. reason, subjectivity vs. objectivity, experience vs. intellect, idealism vs. realism. This is why two people can be using the same words but not be talking about the same thing.

    Fundamentalism, by emphasizing the preaching of the Word, naturally fell into an objective, realistic, and rational mindset. The natural human condition is subjective, experiential, and emotional. The lure of the world is to appeal to one's experience and make the method fit.

    Facts should come before feelings. Feelings are fine, if they follow the facts. When feelings come before facts then facts become irrelevant. Nate's article accidentally addresses the need for factual content. By letting the emotional and experiential be the driving principle he slips into moral relevancy. He identifies how they are bothered, want love, authenticity, passion, etc. In such a setting, all things become negotiable.

    Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death, especially the chapter on Teaching as an Amusing Activity, is still a great read.

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    1. If you don't write, you need to.

      If you do, I need to read it. You think.

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    2. Nevermind. You do. Now I remember... We just talked to each other a couple of weeks ago.

      =)

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  6. I'm looking forward to reading and articulating what I have felt and seen for some time now. I've been a Fundamental Independent Baptist preacher for 30 years. This is my greatest concern.
    On a semi-related subject, I never had the opportunity to hear Dr. Roy Thompson. I would l be interested in hearing him or reading anything he wrote. Please let me know if this might be available.

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    1. I asked Pete Folger your question. He said that Bro. Thompson can be found on Youtube. The church does not have any messages or works of his directly available.

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  7. What's interesting to me is how alot of IFB consider faithfulness an ideal that is directed to the IFB. For instance, if you're not in agreement with them, then you're the "enemy." How absolutely ludicrous and actually unChristlike. I get preferences, but just because the preferences don't agree, doesn't mean someone is wrong. I have no clue who the writer is writing about, nor.do I really care. What I do know is that many IFB feel they are the spiritual police of all. The name calling of the sinners Christ died for is sickening. I've heard very few IFB that are not guilty of doing so. If women aren't in dresses, men in suits, then they're out of the will of God. Women are put of line with short hair are so if they have long hair. Yet, most IFB preachers are overweight having little discipline at the buffet. I believe the KJB is the word of God and I believe salvation is by grace through faith, but that would not.be enought for many of the IFB brethren. God bless.

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    1. What's interesting is the number of conclusions you have jumped to in this comment. 'Tis a veritable plethora of leaps.

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    2. Topher, I hope you were able to read the 2nd part in this series. It directly answers some of your specific questions or statements.

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  8. Excellent! Keep up the good work.

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  9. I'll be following along with great anticipation.

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    1. I would like to see a slew of articles written about the Andersonites like Josh teis and the dangers he contributes.

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  10. [quote]"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. This concerns me and leads me to believe that greater change is on the horizon." [end quote]

    If this is the totality of your concern about "radical change," it seems you have set up the tradition (the one you spent many paragraphs describing) as your plum line. Unless you have particular and credible Scriptural arguments against specific behavior/methods/practices/beliefs, you are wasting everyone's time by bemoaning "change" from something that's not even a viable standard in the first place.

    Example - casual platform attire. How "rapid" was this "change" that made it concerning? Should they have ditched the biz-suit more slowly? First lose the tie for 6 months of services, then the jacket also for the next 6 months, etc.? Biblically speaking, how foolish to discuss it at all ... let alone make it a cause of "concern."

    Until you bring Scripture to the discussion, the discussion is only about fads and trends and traditions and preferences. Scripture, not adoration for a tradition coupled with concern for those who don't embrace the idiosyncrasies of the tradition. This never-ending conversation that always seems to begin, continue, and end with your tradition while Scripture and Christ are periphery = why many of us left in the first place.

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    1. Do you commonly listen to the introduction of a message and then assume you know all the Scripture that is/isn't going to be in the rest of the message?

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    2. Our church reads the Scripture first but I know what you're saying ... I'll wait with bated breath ...

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  11. A few thoughts:

    1. You mentioned in one of your comments that these articles were not about Josh Teis. I don't know Josh personally and have never listened to his preaching or read his books/blogs, but after reading your article I was pretty convinced that your concern was about Josh Teis as a leader of a movement in which you disagree. I would suggest that you focus on the movement and rethink your decision to include specific leaders in your articles. To be quite honest, I am a conservative pastor but your article causes me to sympathize with Josh rather than disdain him.

    2. While ministry philosophy is important and will affect the maturity, culture, overall direction of our church; we cannot place philosophy and doctrine on the same level of importance. God's Word defines a false teacher as one who teaches false doctrine, not one who worships differently. I am a KJV only guy and could see how you might claim that approving different versions is a doctrinal issue, but if that is your main concern then write a series of articles defending the KJV rather than attacking a style of worship or overall ministry philosophy.

    3. I realize that this is the first of a series of blog posts, but you have set the foundation/direction for your future posts. So, if we are judging your future posts before they are written, you can understand that we assume your first post is an example of things to come.

    4. I am not attacking your conservative views as I myself am also conservative. But, you must remember that a brother in Christ is one who is saved, not just one who agrees with our philosophy of ministry. Do you believe Josh Teis is a brother in Christ? If so, attacking him personally is the same as attacking a child of God. If you do not believe he is saved, and plan on using him as an example/illustration in your future articles, be sure to give theological proof of why you hold this view.

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    1. Thank you, Russ. You've thought through your response, and I appreciate that.

      My response to your response will be to simply wait, and let the blog speak for itself.

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  13. Jeremiah 6: 16 * I’ll just stick to the “old paths”! Times have changed, styles have changed, methods have changed.....God hasn’t.

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