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Where are the Young Turks Taking the BBF and Southwide?

Just some rambling observations I have made in recent years of independent Baptist groups. Hope they have been helpful or at least made you think. For those who want to cancel meetings or let me know that “I will never have you preach for me,” call 1 800 DUMP DON.  (Just kidding!)

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A Young Turk is a pastor, usually under age 50, who is talented, aggressive, ambitious, and often ruthless. He is often uninformed of his Christian heritage or has rejected it, and is trying to deal with his guilt.

New Fundamentalism is the system of thought followed by Young Turks who profess to adhere to the doctrines of old fundamentalism without the militancy, emphasis on man’s sinful nature, or emphasis on personal behavior.  The adherents’ underlying principle in church growth seems to be “the end justifies the means.” (Don Boys)

Now, it is to my advantage to keep silent. My honest, constructive criticism will probably cause me problems.

I do not choose to be a critic but a counselor, not a blight but a blessing; however, it is time to make an honest assessment of what is happening in independent Baptist churches across America. Now, it is to my advantage to keep silent. My honest, constructive criticism will probably cause me problems. I am an evangelist and owe a great deal to pastors of all independent Baptist groups, especially the BBF and Southwide, the two groups where more than 80% of our meetings are preached.

Of course, this is not a blanket criticism of those groups. Since they are independent, the fellowshipping churches run the spectrum from left to right. I don’t even question the motives of the pastors, since no one can know the motives of another. I assume the Young Turks are sincere (although not wise) and I trust they will credit me for decent, helpful, concerned motives in my assessment on these pages.  Of course, they will, no doubt, declare that I lack wisdom, and have come to baseless conclusions, but so be it. That will be decided by those who read these pages.

First, I need to establish my bona fides: About 40% of our meetings and conferences are in BBF churches with the rest in Southwide and other groups. Furthermore, I have preached at numerous state fellowships and three national BBFI meetings. I was secretary of the Indiana BBF while a young pastor in the early 60s. I owe a great deal to those pastors who have used me and supported me all my adult life.

Three of my four children were educated at BBC (Springfield) and two of the four at Tennessee Temple. Also one of the three girls received further education at Landmark Baptist College in Haines City, Florida, usually identified with various independent Baptist groups. Also, one of my sons-in-law and daughter are graduates of Heritage Baptist University, identified with various independent Baptist groups. Two grandsons have been graduated from (and worked for) Master’s College, usually associated with Bible Churches. One of those grandsons is now a student at Dallas Seminary to finish his master’s degree. Many of my following comments can be correctly applied also to the Bible Church movement.

Furthermore, Dr. Bill Monroe, is my cousin by marriage, and is President of BBFI, pastor of Florence Baptist Temple, Florence, SC and one of America’s finest preachers. I have preached for him and considered him a good friend most of my adult life.

Two daughters are active members of two BBF churches; the other, along with her husband, works for a church identified with the Heartland Baptist College; and my son is pastor of a large church that would be identified with the Bible Church movement. 

Ellen and I are members of Highland Park Baptist in Chattanooga, usually identified with Southwide Baptist Fellowship. Dr. David Bouler is pastor of the church and one of the leaders in a movement to bring some unity to independent Baptist groups.

I think that’s enough. Surely, my comments will not be construed as “unfriendly,” “unkind,” or “unfair.” Many pastors will consider them not worthwhile or important, but at least I’m trying to make a contribution to groups that have been a help and blessing to me for 40 years. 

I will remind all involved pastors that one of the first things that religious groups have done down through the ages is to hunker down when any criticism is made. That’s what American Baptists and Southern Baptists did more than 40 years ago when critics began pointing out corrupt seminaries with unsaved professors, unbelievers on the mission fields, journals that were controlled by theological liberals, etc.

I must admit for the first time that I am concerned with Southern Baptist preachers being used in the BBF and Southwide meetings. Of course, many SBC pastors are fantastic preachers and kind and gracious men. There is no doubt they have something to say, something that I could learn from them. And some of my oldest friends are pastors of SBC churches. I have enormous respect and appreciation for men like Vines, Rogers, and others. So what is my problem? I am wondering where we are headed. Are we being softened up for a mass amalgamation of Baptists? I doubt that is the motive of the leaders, at least not consciously.

When I was 17 years old, I left a good American Baptist Church in Huntington, WV and lost every friend I had.  The church was an excellent church but still a part of the corrupt ABC and the NCC. Leaving was one of the most difficult decisions I ever made. However, older men left the ABC and SBC losing not only their friends but their church buildings, parsonages, and retirement plans! Fundamental Presbyterians did the same thing. Many were entangled in legal battles for years that took a toll on their health. My price was nothing compared to theirs.

Did we fight those battles in vain? Were we trouble-makers? Were we hasty? Should we have “stayed in and fought” the enemies within? I don’t think so. While only God knows our motives, the evidence was ample and the Bible command was clear: “Come out from among them.” We did and paid the price, and I think good, even great, SBC preachers who are as fundamental as I am in theology need to bite the bullet and do the same thing! However, as I have gotten older, I realize that I don’t know everything, especially the mind of a sovereign God! Maybe those of us who came out of the denominations in the past did exactly what we should have done, and maybe SBC pastors are doing what they should do by fighting a good fight and will win a total victory in their group. I don’t know, and I am thankful that I am responsible only for my own decisions, not the decisions of others.

Of course, we are not living in the 50s and 60s, and the circumstances are different. The SBC has made fantastic progress in “cleaning up their house.” And they are to be commended for their stand. But are all known heretics gone from their colleges and seminaries? Are all professors required to sign an annual (no escape clause) doctrinal statement? Are all unbelieving missionaries back in the U.S. selling insurance? What about the cooperative program? Is it a scriptural plan? Are all the state papers edited by solid fundamentalists? If not, why not?  I would like those questions answered before I firm up what I believe about honoring SBC preachers by having them preach  at independent Baptist fellowships.

Some preachers will leave the SBC if the battle for the convention is lost. Like me, each one will have to decide when the line is crossed and there is no hope.

Then there is the problem many of us have with being a member of a denomination, even a denomination scrubbed clean of all corruption and heresy. No one will argue that the early churches were totally independent of all others until the Roman Catholic Church began to slowly take form. The local pastor in Rome, serving a famous and large church, gradually took more and more power over the “lesser” churches until there was an influence that bordered on authority. Finally, the authority came and it came to stay. Should independent churches put themselves in that position even if there is no such influence today?

At a recent BBF meeting a SBC pastor received a standing ovation when he was introduced. I sat in my seat without feeling ashamed, embarrassed, queasy, or “on the spot.” I refuse to feel guilty when I am not guilty! He was a very good preacher, and could be commended for his knowledge, ability, and commitment, but there are hundreds of independent Baptist pastors (of small churches!) who could have done as good a job. It seems we are expected to give more and more preachers a standing ovation. Not me, after all, if you stand for mediocrity, what do you do when greatness enters the room? 

One thing leaders of BBFI, Southwide, World Baptist Fellowship, etc., must understand is that most of us will not continue to support those groups if we are overwhelmed with non-independent Baptists preachers at every national meeting. It is one thing to have an informed, committed, talented, spirit-filled SBC preacher now and then preach to us, and it is something else to change the face of independent Baptist groups. Until I know more and see the face of a united Baptist organization, I will withhold further criticism about SBC preachers at national independent Baptist meetings.

One appalling thing that is causing irreparable harm to the cause of Christ is the invasion of loud, offensive music in Baptist churches. I find this shocking, something I would have argued could never happen to Bible-preaching churches. Now, I have no problem with Christ-honoring choruses nor do I quibble with large screens. The problem is that often the lyrics are so neutered that they have no message. You could sing some of those choruses to Buddha or Mohammad as well as Christ! I also think it is shocking that the great hymns of the faith have been relegated to the dustbin by many Young Turks (and a few Old Turks).

I also do not have any problem with drums and cymbals. At Highland Park Baptist Church we have a full orchestra at every service, but when you leave our service, Christ has been magnified, not man. One big problem with the music in Young Turk churches is the volume. What are pastors trying to do besides bursting every street light within a hundred yards of the church? Every sound system has a knob or lever that can be turned down to a reasonable level. Blasting music forced my wife out of a BBFI meeting.  Please don’t quote II Chron. 30:21 where it says  “the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the LORD.” Sure they were loud. They had huge crowds but no amplification!

What ever happened to songs of substance? Songs that made one weep with gratitude and joy? This morning Ellen and I were eating a late breakfast since we arrived home from Florida very late last night. During our meal, WDYN was playing good music and I found myself fighting tears during one of the songs that dealt with Christ’s death for my sins.  Much of the modern music makes me cringe, not cry! The silly songs in many churches may entertain but don’t bless—at least not me. 

It seems that pastors are playing to the lowest common denominator as they permit (even encourage) very loud and sometimes nonsensical music performed by worldlings who seem to have ambitions for the secular stage. The very casual dress, earrings, attitude, gyrations, all seem to be aping the world, not reflecting Christ. At one BBFI meeting, a group of young women, wearing slacks and tight blouses, led the worship each day. I thought it was pathetic; however, the host pastor was pleased, and I defend his right to produce a pathetic service.

Moses came down from the mount in Ex. 32 with the Ten Commandments, and discovered that Aaron, his assistant pastor (music director?) had produced a golden calf and naked Jews were worshipping it as they danced and sang. Moses said that it was “the noise of them that sing do I hear.” You will note that Aaron proclaimed that the golden calf brought them out of Egypt so they offered sacrifices to it. He had the gall to say that it was a feast to the Lord. Of course, they had to have a little religion in it to justify the dancing, nakedness, and the noise of singing. Moses in anger threw down the Ten Commandments, and many commandments have been broken since because of the “noise of them that sing.”

There is a great deal of “noise” in our fundamental and evangelical churches, and just because it is called Christian music does not make it so. Because of the golden calf incident, God sent plague among the people. I believe that much modern music is a plague and major repercussions will follow. I don’t think God will permit His name to be continually besmirched and ridiculed with outrageous noise. 

Don’t host-pastors hear the grumbling of preachers (all over age 50) who are offended by the loud, unfamiliar, worldly music? (Paul tells us to give “no offence in anything” in II Cor. 6:3.) Can’t they see us standing in the congregation, not singing, often with arms folded, eager to get out and head for some relief? Of course, they can. They know what they are doing. They are telling us: “You don’t matter anymore. You built a great fellowship, but you are no longer in control.” The Young Turks have taken over without firing a shot!

One of their West-coast gurus tells them not to try to meet the needs of all people through music but choose your niche and build on it. In other words don’t go for variety in music. Forget the old-timers (who built the church or fellowship) and go for the young crowd. People are different with various musical tastes. Why not try to meet various needs (within reason)?  I would not want to only hear songs such as “Down from His Glory” in every service. Why not have a Southern Gospel song followed by a duet or trio, followed by a solo with a violin accompanist? Sure, pull down the screen and have two or three choruses, but choruses that say something.  Some choruses are exceptional and honor Christ, but most of them are third rate in lyric and melody.

We are told that it is impossible to reach people, especially young people, without retooling our churches to the twenty-first century.  Are they suggesting that the first century gospel will not work in any generation? We are told that the message hasn’t changed, only the delivery system. Not the message but the method, but that is not correct. Many of those churches who have bought into this lie, have adjusted their message. People are programmed to leave feeling warm, comfortable, and fuzzy. Don’t sing about the “wretch” or “worm” or “sinful soul.” The emphasis is not on Christ and Bible truth but on “feelings” and “reaching out,” and building “self esteem.” This seems to be a New Fundamentalism, but I plan to stay with Old Fundamentalism.

In recent weeks, Ellen and I have been in large churches filled with excited people, many of them young, where the music would be considered “old fashioned.” Evidently, you can still get a great crowd with traditional music (done well) and Bible preaching that is not limited to a 20-minute sermonette. 

What motivates the Young Turks to turn Baptist meetings into poor imitations of Robert Schuller’s Glass House in California? It is pure speculation, but let me try. Could it be that the Young Turks are rebelling against their parents, their pastors, and their professors? If so, why are they rebelling? Were the parents, pastors, etc., too firm and unloving in dealing with them? What would cause such deep resentment? Or could it be that the Young Turks simply believe that parents, the preacher, the professors were wrong and now that the younger generation is in control, things are being set right? I don’t know. But I do know that the Young Turks are leading fundamentalism (too strong a word, so maybe evangelicalism) down the primrose path to conformity to this world. There is no reason to quote many verses proving that this is wrong and destructive

Now I will anger everyone by suggesting that we are feeding the egos of singers (and preachers) with applause. Singers are to minister not perform. I seldom applaud unless I applaud character. I will applaud a couple who has a 50th wedding anniversary or a preacher who celebrates his 25th year serving in his church. Maybe even a ball team that has just won the championship. Again, the excessive applause is a part of the whole package: Aping the world. There is a verse in Psalms 47 that tells us to clap our hands but it is in relation to extolling God as the great King over the earth. Most of the churches we are in applaud, and I don’t feel uneasy when they do so; and pastors should not feel a need to get me to “put my hands together.”

At some fellowship meetings, preachers wave handkerchiefs in the air (clean ones I hope—that have been brought for waving purposes). That’s all right with me, but don’t try to convince me that such men are any more committed or sincere than those of us who don’t. If your hanky-waving doesn’t bother me, why should me not waving mine, bother you? 

Others will raise their hands (usually during music), and most of the time they will be female hands. Not sure what that means, but I have never felt a need or been impressed to raise my hands. I think “amen” or “that’s right” is more profitable; however, I don’t mind people raising hands. So it is unreasonable for the hand raisers to be offended if I choose not to do so. And many are not offended.

I have been to a few preachers’ meetings where a few men will run around the building, inside or out. What is the purpose? Don’t know. Haven’t figured it out in 40 years.  I do know that following the service where a man had a running fit, the fit is what everyone talks about. I would like to ask those men (and it’s always been men in my experience) what the preacher said to cause the run. I would be amazed if the men could even tell me what the preacher said. Now, have your fits, and call attention to yourself by getting up and running all around the room and even jump a few pews, but don’t try to convince me that you are any more godly, committed, or sincere than anyone else.

If the Apostles returned to visit some of our independent Baptist churches they would be appalled at the shallowness, worldliness, lack of commitment, attire (or lack thereof), preaching (see previous parentheses), and the music! I honestly believe they would run screaming from many of our services as if their hair were on fire!

Just some rambling observations I have made in recent years of independent Baptist groups. Hope they have been helpful or at least made you think. For those who want to cancel meetings or let me know that “I will never have you preach for me,” call 1 800 DUMP DON.  (Just kidding!)

Tags: , southern baptists, young turks