Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why I am an Independent Fundamental Baptist

*The purpose of this post is simply to inform. My intent is NOT to offend in any way. Some of the people closest to me genuinely do not understand why I believe what I believe and this post is an attempt to clarify those beliefs, at least a little bit. If you disagree with me, we can still be friends. It does not offend me if you do not believe the exact same way as I do, and I most certainly do not think I am better than anyone else if they do not see eye-to-eye with me. Our Christian walk is a journey, and we are ultimately accountable to the Lord, not to an individual.

My family and I attend an independent fundamental Baptist church. But what exactly IS an independent fundamental Baptist church? The thoughts I have written here are taken from a study our church did awhile back called Christian Mentoring A to Z. (The study covered all kinds of areas such as assurance of salvation, obedience to God, baptism, reaching the world, victorious Christian living, and many other areas.) We used Scripture passages to learn about what God says in the Bible about different issues. One section was on the history of the Baptist church, and the fundamental principles (Baptist discinctives) that our church teaches, and most of the thoughts in this post come from that section.

Before I begin, I want to stress the fact that I do not believe I am saved because I attend a Baptist church. I do not even believe that God loves me more because I attend a Baptist church. I have no extra merit with God because I attend a Baptist church. I am saved by God's grace, because I have placed my full dependence and faith on Jesus Christ, and He alone has saved me. Not Jesus plus good works. Not Jesus plus church membership. My faith is in Jesus Christ's shed blood for my sins, and I am trusting Him for eternal life in heaven because He paid the full penalty for my sins. I cannot save myself in any way. The only merit I have with God is that when He looks at me, He sees Jesus' blood covering my sins, and so He accepts me as one of His own, on the basis of His Son's finished work on the cross.

A Baptist church is Baptist if it holds to and carries out the basic teachings of the New Testament.

B - Bible is our only rule of faith and practice
A - Autonomy of the local church
P - Priesthood of the believer
T - Two ordinances of the church (baptism and the Lord's Supper)
I - Individual soul responsibility
S - Separation (personal, ecclesiastical, and political)
T - Two officers of the church (pastor and deacons)

Distinctive #1 - The Bible is our only rule of faith and practice
A mutual and common adherence to the whole Bible and its authority is the cohesive force among Baptists. Other churches often follow a leader or founder, and have to adhere to confessions or articles put forth by their founder. The soul of man bows to the authority of the Bible, making reason, the church, and personal experience all subordinate to it. The Bible is the written revelation of God and is complete.

Distinctive #2 - Autonomy of each local church
Each local church is sovereign and cannot be controlled by any board, hierarchical system, or other church. Autonomy means: independent, self-governing, self-supporting, an self - propagating. A Scriptural independent New Testament church is an organized band of baptized believers practicing the New Testament ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper and actively engaged in carrying out the Great Commission. The foundation for independence is based on New Testament principles - 1.) the competence of the individual to know God's will, and 2.) the responsibility of the church to carry out God's will is based on the foundation that its members know God's will. The final governing authority in the autonomous Baptist church is the church itself directed by its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Distinctive #3 - Priesthood of all believers
Every born-again believer may pray directly to God through Jesus Christ, the High Priest, without a human intercessor. Jesus is the ONLY mediator between man and God the Father (I Timothy 2:5). Jesus is not only the believer's Savior and Lord, but also his High Priest. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Distinctive #4 - Two ordinances of the local church
There are two ordinances o fhte local church - baptism and the Lord's supper. An ordinance is "An outward rite appointed by Christ to be administered in the church as a visible sign of the saving truth of the Christian faith." The Baptist church does NOT teach that baptism or the Lord's supper have ANY saving power. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality - the individual who has already placed his faith and trust in Christ alone shows that he is identifying himself with the Lord by being baptized. He is showing that he has died with Christ, been buried with Christ, and has been raised to walk a new life. Saving faith ALWAYS PRECEDES baptism. Baptists believe that baptism by immersion is the only correct way to be baptized. Why? The word "baptize" means immerse. Only immersion correctly pictures that which baptism symbolizes -death, burial, and resurrection. Sprinkling and pouring cannot symbolize this.

*Let me deviate from the study to put in a thought of my own. I have had someone tell me that they heard that if you join a Baptist church, you will have to be re-baptized in that church. For instance, if you were baptized in a Bible church after you were saved, you will have to be re-baptized when you join a Baptist church. Our church does not teach that, and I have never heard that taught from other independent fundamental Baptist churches that I have gone to before. After I trusted Christ for salvation, I was baptized by immersion in the Bible church that my family attended when I was a little girl. When I joined the Baptist church I go to now, I did not have to be re-baptized, because I had already been Scripturally baptized after I was saved.

Back to the study. The second ordinance is the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is a memorial table, picturing the body and blood of Christ and serving ONLY as a reminder of His sacrifice. The ordinances were instituted by Christ on the eve of His death (Matthew 26:26-30). The purpose is given in I Corinthians 11:25-26 - for a memorial. We reject the doctrine of infant baptism, since individuals must decide for themselves. We also do not practice infant church membership, since members must be saved, scripturally baptized, and request church membership. These two ordinances are not sacraments. They neither give salvation, help salvation, nore keep salvation. We observe the ordinances due to commandment (Matthew 28:19-20; I Corinthians 11:24).

Distinctive #5 - Individual soul liberty
Each individual has the right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. He can worship God as he believes the Bible teaches. People have individual wills, and God directly instructs individuals. God deals with people as individuals and judges people as individuals. Each person has individual soul liberty to choose his own church, determine his own spiritual fate, and decide what the Bible teaches (or deny the Bible altogether). We must never force our beliefs on others. Share the gospel and biblical truths, yes, but not coerce.

Distinctive #6 - Separation
Separation is to be in three realms - political, ecclesiastical, and personal. Political separation - God established civil government, and He instructs the Christian in their duty to government - pray for it, submit to it, support it, and honor it. Ecclesiastical separation - as a church, we must separate from apostasy - II Corinthians 6:14-17, Romans 16:16-17; II John 10-11; II Thessalonians 3:6,14. Personal separation - a Christian is to be personally separated FROM the world (Romans 12:1-2) UNTO Christ (I Thessalonians 1:9). In order to take the question out of questionable activities, there are three things to consider. First LOOK UP (Colossians 3:2) - does it violate a direct command from God, and will God be glorified through my participation? Second, LOOK IN (I Corinthians 6:19-20) - what effect will it have on me, on my mind, on my body? How would I feel if Christ returned while I was invovled in this activity? Third, LOOK OUT (I Corinthians 8:12) - what effect will it have on the unsaved, or on the saved (it is a sin to cause a brother to stumble). The Christian has the privilege of living a holy life for Christ. This is also our duty. It is far from boring; and it is not restrictive. It is a joy to please our great God and Savior.

Distinctive #7 - Two officers of the local church
The offices of pastors and deacons are the only Bible-recognized offices in the local church. The congregation chooses both. The Bible clearly teaches the qualifications and responsibilities of both the pastor and the deacons.

An independent fundamental Baptist church is the church that I choose to attend because it is the kind of church that I believe best follows the guidelines of the New Testament church. I'm not saying my church is a perfect, flawless church. No church is, because it is made up of imperfect people. I do believe God has led my husband and I and our children to the church that we attend. Our pastor teaches and preaches Biblical truth. It is not that we blindly swallow everything he says, hook, line and sinker without even thinking or searching the Scriptures. No, we do listen carefully and turn to the passages he is preaching from and we confirm whether the things he is saying do indeed line up with the Bible. Our pastor does not just preach "feel good" sermons; on the contrary, he preaches straight from the Word of God and does not skip over topics just because they might offend. Does he intentionally try to offend people? Absolutely not, but he does not just skip over things that might be offensive.

We use the King James Version of the Bible because we believe that is the most accurate translation available. We sing congregationl songs from hymnals, the great hymns of the faith. We do not have a band that plays rocky "Christian" music, nor do we sing any "Christian Contemporary" music. We believe that most "CCM" music sounds worldly - because of the beat and "watered-down" lyrics- and that it often seeks to glorify the performer through intricate vocal techniques, rather than the Lord. However, don't think that if you were to walk into our church during the singing that it would sound like a monastery. We use instruments, and our music director picks out arrangements that have meaningful words and beautiful music. We hope to soon have a full orchestra as we add more musical people to our church. I wear a dress or skirt to church, as do many of our ladies. However, some of our women do wear pants to church. While I have a personal conviction to not wear pants myself, I do not look down on those that do not share the same conviction. God does not love me more because I came in a skirt. Wearing a skirt, in and of itself, is not an indication that I am right with God.  For all of these things I have mentioned in this paragraph, our church does not teach that God loves us more because we do these things. Our church does NOT teach that any of these things give salvation. Our church does not look down on those who do not believe as we do. I have always heard our pastor give Bible verses to back up what he is preaching. IF something is his opinion, he is careful to distinguish between his opinion, and a clear directive in Scripture.

I am not saying that no other church teaches the Truth. I have been members in three different Bible churches (non-denominational) and all three taught truth from God's Word. I have even visited a few Community churches and Southern Baptist churches, and found them to also teach truth from the Bible. Now SOME of those same churches had some issues on which I strongly disagreed with. However, it is my personal belief that an independent fundamental Baptist church is the type of church that best follows the guidelines of a New Testament church. This post is simply meant to give information, and not condemn or point fingers in any way.

photo from free pixels


Karis said...

I appreciate so much your gracious spirit!

Laurie said...

Thank you, Karis. I like to try to explain my beliefs without making others who may not believe the same feel like I'm judgmental or critical towards them. I was hoping that came across in my post. :)

Anonymous said...

Do Independent baptists believe in using birth control? Or do you let God decide how many children he should bless you with?

Laurie said...

Anonymous, thank you for your question. Here is my personal beleif. First, my husband and I believe we should be surrendered to the Lord in all areas of our life, including children. We have asked Him to direct us and give us wisdom about when to have children and how many is right for our family. We planned the timing of our first two children, but obviously we believe that it is the Lord who chooses to send us children. We are currently expecting our third, and it was a surprise pregnancy. We wanted more children, but would not have chosen this timing. However, we recognize that God allowed this for a purpose, and we are THRILLED!
So, about birth control specifically. I have SO many doubts about using hormonal birth control. I have not done extensive research, but the little bit I have done has convinced me that I could never in good conscience use hormonal birth control ever again. My fear is that while it is supposed to suppress ovulation, most hormonal birth controls also have a fail-safe, and that is to change the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation. I realize this is not supposed to actually happen, but I have heard a statistic that it COULD happen something like once every 8 years in a woman's cycle. I used the pill during the first year we got married because I did not know all this. I NEVER felt good on the pill. When I found out the above information, I stopped them immediately until I could do more research. We then found another form of birth control that does not prevent ovulation or implantation, and in no way would kill an embryo.
Now, I'm sure there are many independent fundamental Baptists who are 100% against birth control. I respect those who feel this way, because I understand where they are coming from. However, in the Baptist churches I have been in, abstaining from all forms of birth control has not been preached. Certainly Baptists would be against any type of pill that kills an embryo, such as the "morning after pill," since we believe that life starts at conception.
I hope this answers your question, and I apologize that it's taken me so long to get back to you on this. I just now saw this comment today. If you have follow up questions, I will try to answer them as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reply to my question on birth control and family planning.
I currently have 6 children.Ages 12,6,4,3,1.5,9months and would love more little blessings. Me and husband are kind of divided on what the Bible teaches.I feel you should trust God with everything even the size of your family. My husband is not sure.We both definatley agree with you regarding the birth control pill and have made the decision not to use it - But what about even condoms?Are we really trusting God when we decide to prevent a pregnancy because its not convienant for us?

Laurie said...

Congratulations on your six children! What a blessing! You definitely have my respect, because it takes so much work and dilligence and patience to raise even one child, let alone six! You raise a very interesting point, and one that I have struggled with myself. I know there would be people who believe it is okay, and people who believe it is not okay to use condoms. The conclusion I have come to is this: my husband and I should be asking the Lord to show us if we are not trusting the Lord with our fertility. If we are holding out and not trusting Him, then I would venture to say that I think we would be doing wrong to be using birth control if we KNEW God wanted us to have a child and we were telling Him no, or not right now. There have been times when my health was not good (thyroid problems that became very severe), and it would have seemed very foolish and perhaps dangerous to try to conceive while my health was so bad. I personally think it is okay to try to prevent pregnancy in those cases. However, we always keep in our mind that if God so chooses, He can "override" our birth control at any time. And if that happens, then we will happily accept any pregnancy that comes along, knowing that His plan is what is best for us.
Like I said, you make a very good point, and one that I continue to think on and search for Biblical principles to see if I am wrong in my thinking. I know there is that one OT passage about Judah's son who married his dead brother's wife but refused to try to have a child with her. Some people use that passage in reference to not using birth control. But I believe the passage is actually showing how the man did not want to obey God's law of trying to raise up seed in his brother's name. It seems like the emphasis is put on God punishing the man for not obeying the law about raising up seed, not about birth control specifically. But that is just my opinion. I'd like to hear more about this passage from a pastor who has studied it extensively.
Again, bottom line, to me, seems to be - ask the Lord to show you His will for your family. Are you in obedience and surrender to Him, or do you know in your heart you are holding out, trying to make things fit your way? (And by "you," I mean general you, not you specifically! :) Thank you again for your comment! I love to hear other people's perspective!

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurie
Thank you for all your advice-well said!
I also would love to hear other peoples beliefs and opinions on this topic.
Also,wanted to share some exciting news.
My husband and I found out last week that we are expecting our 7th child!
We are both so excited and feel truly blessed.
I am currently 5weeks pregnant!
We are praying for a healthy child and pregnancy.
Anyways,just wanted to share my excitement
Thanks again

Laurie said...

Yay!! CONGRATS on your 7th baby! SO exciting for you! I hope you have a happy and healthy pregnancy! I, too, would love to hear others' opinions on this topic we were discussing. Maybe others will chime in from time to time. :)

Anonymous said...

I noticed that you said that you wear skirts and dresses and then said that this alone was not an indication of being right with God. You also said you don't look down on those who don't wear skirts and dresses.

Can a lady wear pants and be right with God, in your appraisal?

Laurie said...

Anonymous, to answer your question, yes, I DO believe a woman can wear pants and be right with God. I stated that I have a PERSONAL conviction to not wear pants - that means I have made a decision that I do not believe it is right for ME. No woman has to answer to me, only to the Lord, and I cannot dogmatically say, on authority of Scripture, that a woman is sinning if she wears a pair of pants. I myself grew up wearing pants and shorts, and I did not feel the need to have this personal conviction in my life. I do not believe I was purposefully disobeying the Lord during this time. I do think that the best choice for a Christian girl or lady is to wear modest, appropriate skirts and dresses, but that is my opinion. I have Scripture passages that I use to explain how I came to this OPINION, but it is still just my OPINION, and not something I can say is an actual commandment from God. Thank you so much for your question, and I hope I answered it to your satisfaction. If I have not, let me know, and I will attempt to explain further!

Mark Sebert said...

A dying breed, I use to be an IFB member, but I got tired of the focusing on the minor issues. But I do commend you on the spirit of your post, much of what IFB is and has become is distasteful do to others giving it a bad name. For me I no longer as exclusive and feel that orthodoxy is far broader than many realize. I believe that God's grace is so broad and that God will ultimately reconcile everything back to himself. I do not believe in Hell and that God is love.

Ashley Autry said...

Hell is mentioned all throughout the Bible. I most certainly believe it is real.