My Open Letter to my Old-Fashioned Friends in the Faith
Full Disclosure: I currently, regularly attend a KJV-only, Independent Baptist Church. This article is not about that church specifically, but about my ENTIRE experience as a Christian from 1989 until now, which includes Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. I have attended and been a part of leadership in Independent Baptist, Southern Baptist, Assembly of God, and Non-Denominational Churches. I love ALL OF THEM. I hate NONE OF THEM. I still fellowship with them all. My purpose for this letter is good-will, unity, and the furtherance of THE GOSPEL.
First, I’d like to start by saying that you have not lost your forty and below members because we hate you. We aren’t angry, we aren’t mad, we’ve simply had to move in the direction we feel God has led us.
Do you know how many churches are moving on in the Spirit’s power, that are not Independent Baptist Churches but pastored by KIDS of Independent Baptist pastors? THEY DIDN’T LEAVE THE FAITH, they just went to places where they could LIVE OUT THEIR FAITH in the LIBERTY OF CHRIST. And Christ is using them, while the old-fashioned churches are dying, because they have THE GOSPEL as pre-eminent. These men still love their Daddies – they still speak to their Daddies, and in many cases, their Daddies still support them in the Gospel work (even while being criticized by their “old-fashioned” brethren)! And that is WONDERFUL!
We aren’t enemies. But separation was necessary.
Secondly, know that we have many fond memories of our past. Some of my spiritual heroes are from old-fashioned churches. Still are, always will be. I might not agree with them 100% but their relationship with Christ, not their cultural preferences or personal separation, helped me and blessed me! And THE GOSPEL. THE GOSPEL changed me!
Thirdly, we aren’t leaving in droves because of rock music, Bible versions, clothing lengths, or any other superficial reason that has been come up with but simply leaving places too rigid to allow us to pursue our own relationship with Christ. With the judgement, presuppositions, prejudices, and preferences portrayed as God’s point of view – there is no room for a Christianity that includes being totally real and honest with our brethren. And without that, what is the church? Shoot, the disciples were being stoned for preaching THE GOSPEL – we “stone” each other for clothing lengths and for what is on our i-pods.
We want to be able to focus on a spiritual world with our brethren versus comparing ourselves in temporal things! We want to see God pour out His Spirit again – and we don’t see it happening amongst those more concerned about things of this earth than they are with the presence of God.
Look, as someone saved in an Independent Baptist Church (that I still hold dear), who went to Independent Baptist colleges, and learned every point of view there was for why Baptists are the ones with correct doctrine – let me tell you, when you dig into the Bible, some of the places where my Baptist brethren have camped out, aren’t as sure as they had me to believe. But, we are SURE of THE GOSPEL! Let THAT be pre-eminent!
Tongues? If you can’t admit that’s a grey area, have you really studied Scripture? Yes, I know, “when that which is perfect is come…” – so then why hasn’t knowledge ceased?
I don’t drink, and I preach it is advisable not to even touch the stuff. But if you believe that Jesus turned the water into grape juice, you are willing to believe on shaky ground just because it fits in your box of beliefs. DON’T DRINK but, also, don’t “stone” people or make them feel like second-class Christians because they do! You may think the issue is black and white, but others don’t see it just like you do! But…THE GOSPEL, we ARE SURE OF!
My point is: You may think you are right in your viewpoint, but let me tell you, as someone well-trained in the Independent Baptist world, some of our differences back then, we weren’t standing on as sure of a foundation as we might have been led to believe and as we were taught to be so biased and hard-core about. NOW? I’m hard-core about TWO THINGS: THE GOSPEL and wanting to see GOD POUR OUT HIS SPIRIT ON THIS GENERATION!
Bible versions? Never has something been claimed to have been studied so hard with an inability to really study it. Listen, your four years of Greek at an English-speaking Bible college don’t make you enough of a scholar (not even remotely) to discern Greek translation into English. And your knowledge of the manuscripts and where they come from? Bully for you.
Did you know the KJB was only commissioned by King James as a response to the Geneva Bible – because King James didn’t think the notes in the Geneva Bible gave government (him) enough of a “hat tip”? Have you seen the differences in an AV1611 and a KJV 1789? Not the same. Did you know there are, to this day, multiple versions of the KJV? Cambridge has more than one version, as does Oxford. In my Independent Baptist college, there was a guy burning Oxford KJVs because he was sure the Cambridge ones were accurate. Little did he know that Cambridge has multiple versions of themselves. Didn’t stop him from creating division. Maybe it could stop us?
So, I’m not arguing KJV or not. Frankly, I study from a KJV – much easier to run my Strong’s #s. But I also enjoy reading other versions and they speak to me! But, bottom line, I know great Christians that read and study both. And I have yet to go to a non-KJV church that has a skewed viewpoint of the blood, just because a few verses don’t have it. I have met quite a few KJV-only folks who lost the meaning of some verses due to the fact that some words have different uses in 1789 than in 2019. But again, not my point. My point is: why are we sacrificing the truth of THE GOSPEL and OUR UNITY to something that has far less relevance? Why is this made a measure of fellowship? Throughout my years as an Independent Baptist, I heard the reasoning “well, if you don’t have one standard of English translation, there will be arguments over doctrine…” As someone who has fellowshipped and been a part of Independent Baptist churches (KJV only) and Southern Baptist, Non-Denominational, and Assembly of God churches (not KJV only) – let me tell you that the opposite is probably more accurate. So many more arguments in KJV-only churches – that is why people are leaving.
All of this just gets in the way of THE GOSPEL, UNITY, and GOD POURING OUT HIS SPIRIT because we’re too busy fussing over stupidity – and not allowing the Holy Spirit to do HIS THING.
Billy Graham said: “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” AMEN.
I’ve heard reasoning like this: “They like Praise and Worship because they are just trying to be like the world.” Wrong answer. I’m sure in some corporate boardroom at a major record label, they are worried about selling records and “reaching the youth” but for the majority of us, it is the music that speaks to us. Everyone is different – but classical and opera put me to sleep. They don’t portray awesomeness and majesty to ME, PERSONALLY. I welcome hymns in church though because they bless many. I don’t feel very worshipful. Makes me think God’s asleep and not very majestic. But energetic music with thumping…that represents a mighty God to me. But again, it’s personal. WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. WE DON’T ALL FIT A MOLD. And God isn’t interested in shaping us into PREFERENCES but to be like His Son. And His Son isn’t defined by a time period. “BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS, I AM” said HE! He is ALPHA and OMEGA!
Did you know hymns were contemporary music when they came out? Opera and Classical. In fact, many hymns were music placed to music that had already MADE MONEY in the SECULAR market in pieces that were sultry, wrong, and not about Christ. Does that sound familiar? The same reason old-fashioned churches decry rock and roll is the same premise for hymns. When people get saved, they write songs in the music of their day. Weird, eh? 😉 There is nothing on earth like the sounds we’ll hear in Heaven!
Side Note: Why does music have to be old before the Church is ok with it? Why are we always following culture from behind instead of leading from the front? We should WANT the Church’s music to be continually growing. But that’s another story.
Listen, I won’t bore you further. I could go down a laundry list of “old-fashioned” inconsistencies. But, the bottom line is, if you, as old-fashioned churches, did not make preferences and cultural viewpoints a premise of “full fellowship” and did not make people feel like “lesser Christians” for these silly issues, your churches would not be dying. If we could be real at your churches, while growing in grace, and being able to share our relationship with Christ, with our brethren, we could stay. But since that is not possible, we must go elsewhere. If you can’t love people in their differences, you aren’t family. We are willing to admit that – so we can’t stay. We want to see the Holy Spirit move – you’ve confined what you view as a move of God to your preferences and culture. We can’t stay there.
I will finish with one last fallacy. The fallacy of “those other churches aren’t straight on doctrine”. Not true. As I’ve told you, I’ve been to other churches. They all preach THE GOSPEL, they all believe in the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, etc. The Foundations of the Faith. The Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ…
…in fact, non-denominational churches have been pretty accurately called “Baptist Churches without the name” because their doctrine is the same. They just take away the crazy of tying THE GOSPEL to a specific period of time in our history that they perceive as better, when, fact is, man has always been vile. We were beautifully created by God and sin blemished that perfect image of God’s Creation. But, He came to redeem us with THE GOSPEL. In the “good old days” that we say the Church was “more holy”, there was segregation and slavery. Better for who? And where was the Church in all of that? Enjoying the good old days?
THE GOSPEL is the only hope for mankind – why do we muddy it with our secondary, and unnecessary division?
The Bible does say “seek the old paths” – and He was telling Israel to go back to following God. He wasn’t saying old is better but that in their past they served Him. So go back to serving Him. The Bible also says “He makes all things new.” Using age to validate spiritual belief and your relationship with God is far from wise.
Know this, my old-fashioned friends, your churches are not dying because people are leaving over Bible translations, music, or 99% of the things you think they are leaving over – they are leaving because they can not have a true relationship with God – without offending your opinions and preferences, that you have elevated to “God-like status.”
I would say that 75% of the friends I knew in college, in old-fashioned churches, have left those churches, where they were treated as rebels, and moved to other churches where they are THRIVING and being Jesus to a world that needs Him so badly.
If a church is shallow, and it can’t handle people being different, why does it exist?
Do you keep friends that you must live in fear that “if they ever find out I like to listen to MegaDeth every once in a while, they won’t let me around their kids…”
I won’t even get into how women are scrutinized for what they wear. And it all has a cost: THE GOSPEL pays the price.
“Cover that tattoo!” Wait, have you removed all the mixed fabrics from your closet? Or, have you determined that chapter is for physical nation Israel, EXCEPT for the line about tattoos (which are not the same as tattoos today, I might add). Use wisdom in getting a tattoo – but saying it is a sin? Not proper. REAL RELATIONSHIPS pay the price – there’s nothing HOLY or UNHOLY about the tattoo.
In short, we’ve left your churches because we can not grow in Christ at your church because our relationships are scrutinized by your worldly perceptions and viewpoint of our relationship with Christ.
We can’t pursue Christ with reckless abandon for fear we will offend the brethren and make trouble. We don’t desire to disturb your unity. But we won’t continue to worry more about what you think just so that we don’t make waves – we will go where we can care solely about WHAT GOD THINKS. And where He is not placed in boxes He didn’t make.
And where THE GOSPEL thrives. Where churches are filled with all types of people, with all kind of styles, personalities, and bound by one common thread: A desire to live out a GENUINE, REAL, SPIRIT-FILLED life, along with their CHURCH FAMILY, in pursuit of a world that needs CHRIST, seeing HIS GOODNESS, LOVE, and MERCY. Where the Spirit can move without people quenching Him with “God can’t use that!”
God made us. He knows us. He made us for a specific purpose that might not fit in your little box. And when it doesn’t you are losing your people. Smash the box. We love you. We don’t want to leave. But we have to.
And as such, your churches are dying, and will continue to die unless you eschew the secondary stuff for the sake of the Baptist distinctives you say that you hold dear: Individual Soul Liberty and the Priesthood of the Believer.
You don’t have to change. Just know that when your old-fashioned churches die (not all Independent Baptist Churches are locked into “old-fashioned” – let the distinction between old-fashioned and Independent Baptist be clear), it wasn’t because those who left didn’t love God, or that we quit Him, or because of some silly issue, it was because we could not live out our own relationship with Christ for fear of offending those who were supposed to be our family in Christ. God had something different for us. I earnestly and sincerely hope that the “old-fashioned” churches do not die – but at the rate children are leaving and moving to or starting other churches, I don’t see a future past this generation. But, that is OK, because Christ’s Church will not die…it will be alive and well in other places.
Elijah thought he was the only one serving God – and Jehovah set him straight.
Peace and God bless, my brethren. To God be the Glory! I desire nothing but love, peace, joy, long-suffering, gentleness, temperance, meekness, goodness, and faith for all that profess Christ!