After watching the Elizabeth Vargas report on 20/20 on Friday, April 8, 2011, I feel compelled to comment from a few different angles.
First, abuse of any kind is wicked and ungodly, and is particularly disgusting when it is cloaked in the guise of religiosity. My heart goes out to anyone who has been the victim of a crime at home, church, school, or any other place. I pray that in time you will be healed and justice will be served.
Tragically, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse has darkened the doors of virtually every denomination and religious group at various times in American history, as well as every other arena of society (politicians, teachers, businesses, families, etc.). Every time another incident of abuse is uncovered, it is cause for great sorrow.
Having said that, it should come as no surprise that the mainstream media would take a fringe group of extremists and paint thousands of churches and individuals with a single brush. The media regularly uses the same tactics in the political realm in attempt to quiet opposing voices (i.e. the Tea Party, political conservatives, etc.).
I do not know all of the facts from the particular stories that were referenced in the 20/20 episode, and cannot begin to validate or repudiate the claims. However, out of fairness to Dr. Chuck Phelps (Tina Anderson’s former pastor), I would encourage you to read his statements posted at www.DrChuckPhelps.com. I do know that members of the media rarely accurately present the whole story. Often the presentation is from a biased perspective used to further a liberal agenda.
I could say more on that, but my real purpose is to clarify a few things:
The label IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptist) was used repeatedly in the episode. That label does not represent a particular denomination, association, or club of churches. In other words there is not an IFB denomination. Those three terms simply describe what certain churches believe and how they operate. Let’s take them one at a time:
Independent: An independent church is not a member of an association, denomination, or organization that provides authority or hierarchy outside of the local assembly. It is self-governing, just like a local political or social club that is formed with its own charter and by-laws, and with the oversight and direction by its own membership and congregationally elected board. By nature of that fact, “independent” churches can differ from one to the next like night and day. The beliefs and leadership of each independent church determine the atmosphere and practice. To say that all “independent” churches are like the ones portrayed in the 20/20 episode (regardless of the accuracy of the portrayal) and paint them with one broad brush is intellectually dishonest since the very nature of independence means that each one is free to operate “independently.”
Fundamental: A Biblical church is one that believes in the fundamental doctrines of the Bible. Are there churches that add to the “fundamentals” other biases, rules, and, legalistic standards? Are there some churches that even go so far as to knowingly allow sin to run rampant and unchecked within the assembly? Of course! But, those would be perversions of and additions to Scripture and would not in any way reflect the fundamentals of the Bible. Any real Christian would want to go to a church that believes in the fundamentals of the Bible. In fact, it is when a church departs from the fundamentals of the Bible and begins teaching and preaching man’s opinion instead of God’s Word that problems surface.
Baptist: What is a Baptist Church? There are many different “stripes” of Baptists in America in the 21st Century. Again, they can be very different in practice from one to the next. However, when a church takes the name Baptist, it has historically meant that it believes the following “Baptist Distinctives:”
Autonomy of the Local Church
Priesthood of the Believers
Two Ordinances of the Church
Individual Soul Liberty
Saved and Baptized Church Membership
Two Offices of the Church
Separation of Church and State
Without going into great detail about each one of those, let me summarize by saying this: True Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches are simply those churches that believe and preach the Bible. In short, they love God, they love others, and they are committed to sharing that love with their local communities.
They are the kind of churches that speak the truth of the Bible in love and proclaim the gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is that message? If you get nothing else from what I have said thus far, be sure to get this:
1) All men are sinners and have broken God’s law. (Romans 3:23)
2) Because of sin, all people are condemned to death in hell as the punishment for sin. (Romans 6:23)
3) Jesus Christ, the only perfectly guiltless one to ever live, stood in as a substitute and took the punishment for every sinner including you and me. (Romans 5:8 and 1 Peter 3:18)
4) There is nothing that you or I can do to earn or deserve what Christ has done for us. (Titus 3:5-6 and Ephesians 2:8-9)
5) All you and I have to do to benefit from the work that Jesus Christ has done for us is to believe that this account is true, accept it for ourselves by calling out to Jesus to save us from our sins, and commit our lives to live for Him from now on. (John 3:16, Romans 10:13, Acts 16:31).
6) God promises that anyone who does this will receive eternal life in heaven because Jesus Christ paid the price for us to go there. (John 5:24)
To conclude, what is the label that flies on the flag of your life? I believe that the label of IFB has been misrepresented and abused, but that is not what is most important in this discussion. The label that is of utmost importance is this: Are you a true believer in Jesus Christ? That is what will make all the difference in eternity!
Comment with Facebook, or scroll down to post only on this blog page: