Are Fundamental Baptists as a Viable Movement Dying?


  • There are some who say that the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) as a viable movement has died or at least is in the process of dying. Some will refer to it as “gray headed.” Some are singing the praises of this apparent death, as they’ve departed with an attitude and heart of rebellion*. These pastors have become part of a new evangelical group, emergent church, embraced the reformed movement, or turned to a charismatic emphasis (or a combination of the aforementioned). These pastors now have their new founded tattoos, face piercings, beer brewing small groups, rock n’ roll worship, and pictures of themselves proudly on Facebook going to church conferences that are entertainment driven with hip and trendy speakers (apparently they post these to boast that they are no longer a fundamentalist). There are a few reasons commonly given why they have changed direction: the leaders they looked up to are hypocrites as they’ve had a marital affair or some other scandal, there is a lot of pride and self-righteousness, and that the IFB movement is too focused on man-made standards and inner-fightings over trivial issues.
Note: Not everyone that changed course has left due to a heart of rebellion. Some of them have genuinely had terrible experiences, with heartless, dictatorial pastors, who were involved in awful scandals. These people sincerely went to look for a more truthful, humble, and compassionate Christianity, perhaps not realizing that their bad experience does not speak for all IFB churches. Just as one having a bad experience in a Presbyterian church, does not mean all Presbyterian churches fit the mold of that person's bad experience.
  • Have some of these problems been legitimate in IFB circles? Absolutely! Has there been some fragmentation? Sure, sometimes necessarily so and other times it should and could of been avoided. Has there been scandals with a few prominent IFB pastors? Unfortunately, yes. Has there been pride? Yes there has been at times a lack of charity and fighting over trivial issues. Does that make biblical positions that IFB churches hold to invalid? Of course not.

  • As mentioned earlier, sometimes people turn from their fundamentalist roots because they’ve been hurt in the ministry by a mentor, and they’ve seen a similar inconsistency in another Independent Baptist leader. They understandably, but incorrectly feel as if that speaks for the entire IFB movement. They also speak as if these problems are isolated to IFB churches. In reality, these issues will pop up wherever there are sinners regardless of affiliation or identification (obviously none of us are without sin). I've seen people that have jumped ship because of some problems, thinking the grass is greener on the other side. They eventually find out that their newfound movement have the same moral failings, struggle with pride, and same types of inner-fightings about trivial preferences and issues. You find these same problems in the Reformed movement, in Charismatic circles, in modern contemporary churches, outright theological liberal churches, etc. I’ve known those who have changed course in their ministry partly due to leaders they’ve looked up to fail, to then yoke up with Reformed and Charismatic groups. Then they see one of their newfound heroes/leaders they gravitated towards, to then be exposed for a decade long hidden affair. I’ve also seen the doctrinal compromise of some of their new mentors (or new co-laborers) in having meetings with those that are Anti-Trinitarian in their theology and espouse a health, wealth, prosperity gospel. Also adoption of worldliness and unholiness is common. It has also been habitual for them to mock biblical fundamentalists, while ignoring to confront doctrinal compromise and false gospels preached by other groups.

  • Every generation needs to examine themselves, and the strengths and weaknesses of the prior generation. We don't need to jump ship to other movements because of some mistakes in the IFB circles. We ought to confront problems head-on as they come, and not pretend they don’t exist. 1 Timothy 5:19–20 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. A pastor that commits adultery should no longer be in the pastorate. When people may question why we hold to certain standards, we ought not to simply rant about our convictions, but explain the biblical principles why we may hold to them. We ought to destroy pride by staying humble before the Lord and serving others. There may be those that we don’t personally yoke up with ecclesiastically, yet it doesn’t mean they’re our enemy (Mark 9:38–40).

  • Are Independent Fundamental Baptists dying as a viable movement in reaching the lost, growing, planting churches, and discipling people in the word of God? I don’t believe so! It is evident to me that they are in the midst of revival. Obviously some have left their IFB heritage, but a few loud voices does not speak for the majority of those who are still abiding faithful to serving the Lord on the old paths. Biblical fundamentalism, though based pun the "old paths" of God's word, it is not a “gray hair” movement as some would have us to believe. I see revival with older men still at the helm and younger pastors arising (not shrinking). I counted the IFB pastors that I knew of in Washington State, and almost half of them are in their 20’s or 30’s. Church planting has even revived. Last year I was also at a large IFB conference and the pastor asked for those pastors aged 50 and above to stand up. There were several of them. At another time he asked for pastors who were aged 35 and younger to stand up, and there was noticeably a lot more pastors that stood up! I don’t see us dying, I see us in a state of revival and new growth. 

  • I've seen IFB churches do what was right even when it was difficult and confront their pastors who have sinned morally, removing them from their positions. I've also seen great charity amongst Independent Baptists who genuinely love serving people instead of fighting over trivial preferences. I see christians that are not abandoning their convictions simply to be trendy to a lost culture or “carnal christianity.” I see plenty of young pastors who still hold to the King James Bible and have not bought into the errors of modern textual criticism, who still have convictions, who still don't use rock n' roll and hip-hop in their services, yet not afraid to sing new songs either, and are not afraid to use technology for the glory of God. They’re still not going to get a tattoo, and are still teaching the Bible in their small groups instead of how to brew alcoholic beverages. They are young pastors who still are not going to yoke up with compromisers and ecumenical movements, yet have a humility about them and also appreciate it when the gospel is preached by other groups. I see IFB pastors who's fellowship truly is based upon the word of God, rather than by what school they went to. I see a renewed emphasis on reaching lost sinners and not simply waiting for transfers from other IFB churches who already "look right, dress right, act right, etc." I see revival in the movement! They're reaching out to the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ and seeing them transformed by the power and grace of God. 

  • Perhaps the reason some think the IFB is dying out is simply because of a healthy repentance and a renewal of walking in the Spirit amongst Baptists who retain the good, and simply toss out some of the bad attributes that may have been present in the movement. That is always a good thing. Here at Napavine Baptist Church, by God's grace, we are in a state of growth. People are trusting in Christ as their Saviour, lives are being transformed, people are getting back in church, and many are getting involved in ministry serving the Lord and one another. To God be the Glory! Matthew 16:18upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Comments

  1. Pastor Saling, you have written a well-balanced article regarding the IFB. Many disgruntled people have written negatively in other blogs about the IFB to justify their own departure or to vent their feelings. As you noted, we do have failings and issues to address. However, this has been the history of the Christian church. Only when we stand before our Lord and Savior will it be a pure and perfect church.

    Although there is much more that I could say, please allow me to offer an idea for your consideration and comment. Many see the IFB movement faltering because of the decline in some large and high profile ministries. In the course of church history, ministries have risen and fallen but the cause of Christ and His church moves forward. When one ministry falls, another is raised up. Also, I believe the strength of the IFB movement is not in the large ministries but the work of Christ is done by the small to medium sized gospel-preaching churches scattered across America. What do you think?

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  2. I believe the work of Christ is done by small, medium, and large scale ministries. I believe it is a healthy desire to grow in whatever state a church may currently be at. That we should be faithful in preaching the gospel and discipling believers, and let God build his church as it pleases him. I'm not for hindering growth to stay smaller on purpose. And I believe larger ministries can be helpful models to smaller churches to the degree that they are not lifted on a pedestal higher than they ought to be nor trying to be an exact copycat. There are somethings that work great in large ministries, but look silly and are counterproductive in smaller ministries. The danger of a larger ministry is simply they have an influence on a greater population. More people are looking to them either as an example or to criticize. If it's a ministry we look up to, then it hurts us when we see them fall, or go in a significantly different progressively liberal direction, or we fall in the trap of following their error simply because they were a mentor to us. As the massive cedar tree falls, the smaller fir trees fall. And with more influence, we receive the greater damnation. So may we strive to grow yet be content with how the Lord uses our influence. And may we not idolize any mentor/personality. Whether we be small, medium, or large, use our ministries to be faithful to the Lord. When others fail, may we pray for them and press on.

    Zechariah 11:2 Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: Howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.

    James 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

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  3. I think the problem with the previous generation of the IFB movement has been a lack of mentoring and discipleship, and the upcoming generation are starting to deal with it.

    I feel like an entire generation of IFB only focused on evangelizing the lost (Because the rapture was going to happen in the 70's), and did very little beyond getting them to an alter, and now we are at a stage where we realize we need to disciple people, but the entire job is on the pastor. So we have 50 years worth of converts to disciple today. And the reality is that discipleship is a job every christian should take part in or get to the place where they take part in it.

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