A month or so ago, I blogged about how to be an Independent Baptist and still get along with each other. Today, I want to share some of the reasons why I wrote the blog.
A few opening comments are likely necessary. First, I am in no way minimizing issues that others deem important nor I am saying anyone is wrong for taking varied positions and even for feeling strongly about them or defending them. I have music standards, dress standards, entertainment standards, and even hair standards (for both genders!). I would be more to the right on a whole host of matters than most of my readers would be! Second, in my ministry we have partnered with Independent Baptists of all persuasions. Unless you have a “fellowship” that does not permit its missionaries to raise support outside of the “fellowship,” your missionaries likely have done the same thing. In fact, my article was received quite warmly by many missionaries and I completely understand why. I even expected it from them. Finally, in writing this article I am not trying to change directions nor am I trying to lead others to change directions. I am still going the same way I have always gone and operating in the same way I have always operated. I have no problem discussing issues and even encouraging others to consider taking positions they don’t take. That was just not the point of this article necessarily. So, with that in mind, why did I write such a blog post? There are really two broad reasons. One is personal. The other is Scriptural.
Let me share the personal reasons first. I have, during my years of evangelism, lost friends and received some harsh correspondence and have had some tough conversations and lost meetings for a multiplicity of reasons: because I preach in different camps (movements and fellowships), because I preach in different camps (Christian camps – that is), because my then 1 year old was too loud at the table during lunch, because I have a goatee, because one of my staff evangelists used illusions, because one of them played the guitar, because our music was too liberal, because our music was too conservative, because our team held microphones when we sang, because I do not preach against pants on women, because I do preach against pants on women, because one of my staff members was accused of having bleached hair, because I am too KJV, because I am not KJV enough, because I did not preach repentance as part of the gospel and therefore am “easy-believism,” and because I did preach repentance as part of the gospel and therefore preach works. I even lost one meeting because I joked about eating at McDonalds and another because I told a story about my son praying for boots and a lady subsequently went to Walmart and bought each of my children an inexpensive pair. I have also gained friends for some of the same reasons. Go figure that huh? I only wish that I were making these up! 🙂 The two “pants” matters happened in the same week and because of ONE message. One brother thought I was a “spiritual wimp” and “not man enough to preach against pants” (those are his words actually conveyed to me by his teenage son). The other had a church member who thought I DID preach against “pants” in that sermon and who was offended that I had done so. Sometimes you just can’t win!
Obviously our movement has a huge variety of positions on all sorts of things. It makes sense to me to simply try to love my brothers and as much as possible, “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). “By this shall all men know ye are my disciples,” Jesus said, “if ye have love one to another.” I am for people who don’t agree with me and who wouldn’t have me preach for them. It is very common for me to preach in a variety of places and for pastors and churches who hold a variety of positions. We can discuss our disagreements, can even continue to disagree over them, and still love each other and support each other and work together for the cause of revival and evangelism. That is my first reason for writing the blog.
I also wrote the blog post because of Scriptural reasons. Here are a few of them from the book of Ephesians:
Ephesians 1:4 before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ so that “we should be holy and without blame before him in LOVE”
Ephesians 1:15-16 “ Wherefore, I also, after that I heard of your faith in Christ, and LOVE to ALL the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.” From the rest of the chapters, we know that he said this even though he had to talk with them about honesty (4:25 and 28); anger (4:26-27); speech that was tearing down instead of edifying and ministering grace (4:29); bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking (4:31); fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, fooling talking and jesting (5:3-4); music (5:19); unthankfulness (5:20); and a host of family issues (5:22-6:4).
Ephesians 4:2-3 “. . .forbearing one another in LOVE, endeavoring to keep the UNITY of the Spirit in the bond of PEACE.”
Ephesians 4:15 “speaking the TRUTH in LOVE”
Ephesians 6:23 “PEACE be to the BRETHREN, and LOVE with faith”
Ephesians 6:24 “GRACE be with ALL them that LOVE our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity”
And a few others:
Romans 12:10 “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love: in honor preferring one another;”
Romans 12:18 “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
Romans 14:1 “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.”
Romans 14:17-20a “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God.”
I know that it is hard for many in our movement to permit differences. If a brother or sister does things differently than we do, we have been taught to think of them as liberal on the one hand or legalistic on the other. My heart is to permit my Independent Baptist brothers and sisters the right to practice our Baptist Distinctives. We still believe in Biblical Authority, the autonomy of the local church, and the individual priesthood of the believer. Can it not be possible to acknowledge our differences (and even disagree) and yet still love and support and pray for and encourage one another? Can we not have differences without attacking and judging one another? Galatians 5:14-15: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” James 4:11 still says that we should “speak not evil one of another brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law.”
Would you at least pray about my article? I am not calling for anyone to lower their standards. In fact, I believe most could likely raise them in many areas. I am simply asking for brothers who are in the same movement to love one another, pray for one another, serve one another, and treat each other kindly as gentlemen should treat one another. And when it comes to our differences, we can still stand, and yet do it graciously and lovingly and kindly. And may all of us rejoice when the Gospel is preached and souls are saved.
Thanks for reading!