Article: What Is This Thing Called “The IFB?”

Clive, Colin (Frankenstein)_02

Acts 28:22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

Suppose that a man traveled the country and visited 1000 independent Baptist churches, and carefully picked out and bottled up each one’s idiosyncrasies, human flaws, weaknesses, pet preferences, or hobby horses. He was careful to take only the negatives, ignoring the positives. Then, returning to his mad scientist laboratory, he took all of those negatives, fashioned them together into a Frankenstein monstrosity, gave it life, and turned it loose. Then, suppose he told the world that this hulking, misshapen, caricature of 1000 churches represented all of the independent Baptist churches in America. And he called this creature, “The IFB.”

Every time someone mentions “the IFB,” I wonder, “What is ‘THE IFB?'” We are independent Baptists. By DEFINITION, there is NO “the” in the term. “The IFB” implies that we are part of an organization or denomination; yet if this were so, we would not be INDEPENDENT. When one speaks of “the SBC,” we know what they mean – the Southern Baptist Convention. The Convention has a headquarters, a President, an Executive Committee, an official membership, and a statement of core beliefs called “The Baptist Faith and Message.” To refer to THE SBC is appropriate. Even to criticize THE SBC is appropriate because, even though all of their churches may not be in agreement, yet they are part of a literal organization.

Not so with independent Baptists. We have no headquarters, no President, no Executive Committee, no official membership, and no universal statement of faith. We are just individual churches with individual pastors.

This is a shallow time, and people love to throw around words without meaning and criticize without clarity. “The IFB” is criticized constantly, and yet it does not even EXIST. It is a straw-man. If someone criticizes a particular church, at least we can look and see if it deserves the criticism. The same goes for a college, a conference, a fellowship, an individual preacher, or a newspaper. But to criticize “the IFB” is to broad-brush thousands of churches unjustly. ABC did this in a 20/20 episode that left many of us shaking our heads. Though we were “lumped in,” we definitely did not feel “represented.”

Years ago, a man decided to write a book explaining “fundamental Baptists.” He spent a year attending a church in Massachusetts, like a National Geographic journalist living among headhunters in the jungle, studying their behavior. Then he wrote his book about ALL fundamental Baptists in America. Yet how many of us down here in Texas – or in your State – feel like a single church in Massachusetts could accurately represent us?

Independent Baptists are incredibly diverse. We don’t all get along and never have. Some follow some leaders that others never follow. Some attend conferences others never attend. Some support schools others would not support. There are conferences I would not attend if I could. There are colleges I would not recommend. There are preachers I would not want to listen to. There are churches I would not attend as a member.

We have no national leader. We have no single national conference, though many hostBaptistFlag conferences.  We have no national group. Just here in North Texas, we have an alphabet soup consisting of the IBFI, the WBF, the BBF, the GIBF, RRF, and several smaller regional groups. Some attend all of those groups, and some, like me, don’t attend any of them.

My point is this: a lot of young men are talking about “the IFB,” and what they are referring to is the Frankenstein’s monster mentioned in the beginning of this article. They are picking out the flaws, idiosyncrasies, and human failures (such as petty preferences or petty behavior), and IGNORING the positives – such as their soul-winning efforts, their bus ministries, their active youth departments, their King James Bible position, their right doctrines, their courageous convictions, their young people surrendering to the ministry, and their missions emphasis.

Strawman

In the end, they criticize this straw man myth called “The IFB,” as though their stereotypes of what SOME men do in SOME places represents what ALL independent Baptists do EVERYWHERE. It is unfair and immature to brand all independent Baptists – or even most independent Baptists – as anything, because your own experience is sure to be limited to your own sphere of experience, added to the stereotypes you hear from others.

One young man wrote, “In twenty years, you will have new leaders in your denomination.” No, actually, I won’t – because I don’t have a denomination. In twenty years, I’ll do what I do right now – fellowship with men of like faith and practice, and support ministries and colleges that do the same.

If I could no longer stay in one church, I would find another – but my doctrinal convictions would decide where I attended, not the “excitement factor” or the “customer service.” How could I yoke up with those who do not even know which book on the shelf is the Word of God? How could I yoke up with those who mock those who believe that the King James Bible is God’s Word preserved in the English language? How could I yoke up with those who teach heresy, or that refuse to preach doctrines that are not comfortable today – like holiness to the Lord and separation from the world? In the end, I would rather overlook the personality flaws of men who are doctrinally sound than to overlook the doctrinal flaws of men with great personalities.

And while it is inaccurate to constantly talk about the problems of “the IFB,” I am pleased to be identified with the “sect that is every where spoken against” – independent, fundamental Baptists. Primarily those who form the Lighthouse Baptist Church of Wylie, Texas.

Thank you for reading.

About James Rasbeary

I am the pastor of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Wylie, Texas. Check out my blog at www.broraz.com.
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24 Responses to Article: What Is This Thing Called “The IFB?”

  1. BJUgrad says:

    Though Independent Fundamental Baptists (the IFB…) do not have a single leader, per se, they are most definitely a denomination. Merriam-Webster defines a religious denomination as “a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices.” I’m pretty sure all IFB churches will claim baptism by emersion, separation from the world in music, dress, and spirituality, King James Version preference, limiting children’s exposure to non-believers, and prohibiting women to preach. That sounds pretty united to me. Sure, hymnal choice and acceptable skirt length may vary among churches but the “fundamentals” are consistent with true Independent Fundamental Baptists.

    And just to point out: you are using Acts 28:22 to prove your overarching point but you failed to notice some key words. Specifically, the verse uses the word “sect” which is ” a religious denomination” as is, again, defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Using that Scripture to defend your “non-sect” is not an effective argument. You can’t complain about your sect being persecuted if you aren’t a sect, right?

    • Your Websters definition requires an “organization” of which there is none for independent Baptists. An organization is not a set of similar beliefs but an organized group or structure.
      The beliefs you mentioned are obvious as the name Baptist alone implies similarity in doctrine. However, to think that all churches have the same preferences or do everything the same way is exactly the point of my post. We don’t.

      • BJUgrad says:

        I never said that all IFB churches do everything the same. I acknowledged differences in non-important issues but the fundamentals remain the same. As for not being an organization, IFB churches interact extensively. Though not a registered organization, the mere fact that the churches take the title “Independent Fundamental Baptist” claims strong association to other IFB churches. Otherwise, why identify with IFB at all?

        The beliefs I mentioned are not “obvious” in association with being Baptist. Regular Baptists, Southern Baptists, Reformed Baptists, and Independent Baptists differ in doctrinal and spiritual beliefs. I’m sure you wouldn’t recommend a member of your congregation to attend the Southern Baptist Convention.

        The “point” of your post appears to be your argument against IFB being an organization. To quote you,”“The IFB” implies that we are part of an organization or denomination; yet if this were so, we would not be INDEPENDENT.” Your argument continues on from that point. We understand that each individual church will have differences. Some will have Sunday School before morning worship; some will have services prior to Sunday school. Some will take offering before the sermon while others have a public tithing box. Some will partake of the Lord’s Supper once a month while others partake once a year. Being part of an denomination does not imply cloned churches but it does imply being of the same mindset in core beliefs and practices and having strong associations with other “independent” bodies.

      • I call myself independent to differentiate from convention churches. I call myself fundamental to differentiate from liberals and modernists. Not because it is the title of a denomination.
        I really don’t think you got the point of my post but I appreciate the feedback. Take care.

  2. Spot on, Bro. Rasbeary. Faced these straw man attacks many times. This imaginary ominous IFB monster is typically based solely in the bad experience an individual has had with one particular church or college.
    The individual takes their anger and bitterness as a charge to tear down any church or man who would identify as an independent fundamental Baptist.
    It is akin to burning down a whole city because one resident treated you badly.

  3. Justin Woodward says:

    Well said sir. I am in the millenial age group, and never cease to be amazed how wise we are about long term ministry success. (Insert smirk here.)

  4. BJUgrad says:

    James, if you don’t want to be associated with a denomination, want to differentiate from conventional,modernist, and liberal churches, why not just call yourself “Lighthouse Church”?

    I’m without sarcasm in this question. Why choose to associate with the Baptist name at all?

    • I know you aren’t being sarcastic and I appreciate that. I am unashamedly Baptist in doctrine. And I am proud of our Baptist history. That doesnt mean I am happy to be associated with everyone or everything called Baptist. My point is that independent churches ought to be judged on their own merit and not on a group of stereotypes.

  5. dcox2013 says:

    Dr. Rasbeary,

    Your common sense and biblical approach is greatly appreciated. The heat we are taking is akin to the a Democrats telling the Republicans how to perpetuate themselves. Those of like faith and practice get it. Those who are divergent in their views do not. God bless!

  6. Great article, as always. You are appreciated, Bro. Razbeary!

  7. Purely out of curiosity, and without any intent to start an argument, how would you characterize the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International (http://fbfi.org) if not as a Baptist “organization?”

  8. John Chastain says:

    Pastor, it was a well written informative and true dissertation. I have been associated with 5 Baptist Churches (one would like to forget) and not many overall similarities except the basic doctrine.

  9. David Harris says:

    I think it’s a mistake to think people stereotype “IFB’s” because of a convention mindset. There are many people that understand you are not a part of an official convention, but that doesn’t stop them from stereotyping you. When you use the label “fundamental,” you may be referring to a stance on theology opposed to liberalism. But to others, “fundamentalism” might mean Jack Schaap, extra-biblical standards, obnoxious preaching, etc. That doesn’t mean you support any of those things, of course, but we must be sensitive to the perception of others. Labeling yourself as a “fundamentalist” will invite stereotyping: there’s no way around that. You simply have to decide if it’s worth it. Thanks.

    • I understand what you are saying and appreciate the good tone you said it with. I suppose it would depend on how people define extra biblical standards or obnoxious preaching. I did not say that independent Baptists did not have issues among the churches, etc, only that people are wrong to constantly lump all together, stereotype, and constantly bash them with that stereotype. Thanks for reading and for the feedback.

      • David Harris says:

        Agreed. I admit that what people view as “extra-biblical” or “obnoxious” will vary from person to person. Often people want to categorize, or “lump together” everything, and churches are no exception. My point was not that they should do this. I agree with you, they should not! However, I realize that they will do this, and stereotyping will continue to be a problem. I think the best thing we can do is choose our labels carefully, and be ready to clearly explain what we mean by those labels to those who do not understand. Thanks for responding.

  10. Adam says:

    The independent Baptist is steadily losing because you are guilty of turning your guns on each other. You are not my enemy, and I am not yours even though I’m not KJVO anymore. If you are making much of Christ and people are being saved I’m for you

    • Thanks for the comment Adam. My guns aren’t turned on anyone. It was simply addressing an issue that I hear all the time.
      I think you missed the point on the post because there is no Independent Baptist that is losing. My church is growing. We recently helped to start a new independent Baptist church. My friends’ churches are growing and seeing people saved. My Twitter feed on Sunday is filled with reports of great services and people being saved and baptized.
      Some you know may not be, and that’s fine. The fact that the largest church in America is Joel Osteen’s should teach us about what grows in this day and time.
      One point of my post is that you shouldn’t judge all independent Baptists based on your own experience or what you see in our own neighborhood. It’s a big country.
      I’m sorry you left the KJVO position as I cannot imagine any good reason for doing so.
      Of course we are not enemies and I wouldn’t be yours even if you were mine.

  11. John the Former Baptist says:

    You are correct to say that lumping all independent baptists together is unfair. But when I was a pastor in the SBC, I said the same thing about SBC churches. They are not all alike, and each one is completely “independent” in the sense that neither the SBC nor the state conventions or local associations can ever tell an SBC church what to do or tell the pastor how to think or what to preach. At least that is the way it is supposed to work. In practice, maybe not so much…..

    But I was always appalled to see independent baptist churches using the terms “independent” and “bible” and such in their names. I used to proudly say that my SBC church was more independent and more biblical (or at least as much so), and I couldn’t understand why a church would want to proclaim itself as such while standing back and throwing stones at the SBC, a marvelous organization that provides nothing but generous assistance and encouragement to its affiliated churches and never does anything to harm or hold them back.

    My viewpoint is different now because IMHO the SBC has become a stumbling block to its affiliated churches in recent decades because of the increasingly hard-line stance of the leadership, the right-wing politics with which it has become associated, the silly revision of the Baptist Faith and Message document, serving only to alienate some SBC churches that happened to disagree with certain hard-line concepts.

    And that is why I (and many others who may have formerly identified as fundamentalists) have parted ways with IFB-type churches and adherents, as well as with the SBC. Even though you have no “organization” or “structure,” you base your fellowship upon doctrinal “correctness” as you see it.

    Dear brother, have you not considered that people who DISAGREE with you might actually be able to teach you something? If you only fellowship with and listen to people whom you call “doctrinally correct” and with whom you agree on just about everything, it’s not surprising that you feel very comfortable in your beliefs.

    The path to learning often begins with the honest admission that perhaps we are and have been wrong about some things. Conservative traditional Christianity insisted for centuries that the earth was flat and used the Bible to back that up. We also insisted that black people were destined to be slaves and used the Bible to back that up. We still insist that women are inferior and subjugated to men and use the Bible to back that up. We still insist that God makes only two genders of humans and refuse to acknowledge his gay and otherwise gender-different creatures, using the Bible to back us up. We’ve been wrong before and we may still be wrong about some things.

    I suspect that when we all get to heaven (and “all” will include a great many folks who are not Baptists and billions who don’t adhere to fundamental doctrine) Jesus will set us straight. I am pretty sure that he will be much less interested in what we believed and how we did church than in how we treated people. (Matthew 25:31-46)

    • Dear John the former Baptist,
      It’s obvious you have taken my post as an opportunity to vent your feelings towards independent Baptists because very little of what you said, and none of your condescending accusations, had anything to do with what I wrote.

      • John the Former Baptist says:

        I do tend to vent once I get started! Sorry if it came across as condescending, that was not my intention. My beef is not with independent Baptists or the SBC or any other group, but with the Mind That Is Already Made Up.

        I beseech you to investigate some things with which you disagree, even radically, because God may have something to reveal to you. I fear that many of us (myself included) who stand, we insist, on Biblical grounds and make pronouncements in the name of God are going to be very ashamed when we face Him whom we love.

        I myself had to be broken by the realization that certain long-held and firmly-believed notions about human nature — which I was certain came from the Bible — had to be discarded in the name of love. If you don’t know what I’m talking about there is no way I can tell you. But I am sure you have friends who could tell you. We all (all of us in the preaching business) spend way too much time listening to ourselves and not listening to others, not even our wives and our children, whom God gives us as teachers sometimes.

      • No problem. Thanks for reading and for the feedback. God bless.

  12. Pingback: How YOU Can Change Fundamentalism! | Independentbaptist.com

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