Now why would any pastor who adheres to Baptist principles want to remove “Baptist” from a church name? There are various motives for those who are fearful of the “B” word: By removing Baptist from the church name, the unsuspecting will be pulled in! But is that honorable? Is it ethical? Is subterfuge a Scriptural principle?
My definition of a Young Turk is a pastor, usually under age 50, who is talented, aggressive, ambitious, and sometimes ruthless. He is often uninformed of his heritage or has rejected it, and is trying to deal with his guilt. And the way I see it, 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.”
I want to see church growth but not at any price, especially at the expense of Biblical principles.
In recent years, many pastors have gargled from the placid waters of Willow Creek out there in Illinois while others gingerly sipped. Still others have drunk long and deep from those intoxicating waters. Pastors stagger away from those meetings with glazed eyes determined to build a replica of Willow Creek in their own town. I see no problem with learning what you can from anyone, but man’s tendency is to carry anything to extremes. I want to see church growth but not at any price, especially at the expense of Biblical principles.
A large part of my ministry is helping, not hindering; healing, not hurting. I have never caused any problems in a local church and warned my children about doing that. However, some pastors take any criticism as a condemnation, but I have been charged to “Preach the Word…reprove, rebuke, exhort….” I will do so today.
I say to my critics what Job said: Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred (Job 6:24). Some pastors have responded by demanding to be removed from my list. Good, but what about helping me when I am wrong.
While I have no authority to tell a pastor how to run his local church, I do have authority to point out if he is going in the wrong direction—especially if he is heading over a cliff! Many pastors are going in the wrong direction when they seek to deceive people as to the church’s Baptist position (if, in fact they still hold to that position), thinking they will fill the pews with non-Baptists. Pastors should be more concerned with filling the pulpit, not the pews.
In recent years there seems to be a rush to remove “Baptist” from church names. I suppose that is wise if, in fact, a church is not a Baptist church! In fact, it is desirable that they do so. Baptist churches have been in existence since the time of Christ although known by different names. It is also true that some of those “Baptist” groups held to some tenets that modern Baptists would disavow. But then some of the New Testament churches held unfortunate, unfounded, and unbiblical doctrines and practices!
True Baptists have been known for some basic principles: liberty of conscience, baptism of professing Christians by immersion, separation of church and state (but not God and state), priesthood of believers, independence of the local church, Biblical authority for faith and practice, two ordinances: baptism and Lord’s Supper. While some people would take issue with some of these, they are generally recognized as Baptist distinctives. Hundreds of thousands of Baptists died rather than surrender those Biblical principles to state church bigots.
Bold, brave Baptists down through the centuries stood against religious and political tyranny and helped bring freedom to oppressed people. They were the first to demand liberty for all and the very last to oppress anyone. They paid a price to provide the freedom we now enjoy and take for granted. As for me, I am proud of that heritage.
A small Baptist Church near Monticello provided Thomas Jefferson his model for American government and Baptists in Virginia, especially Pastor John Leland, held James Madison’s feet to the fire to produce the Bill of Rights. Every non-Baptist lover of liberty should tip his hat when he passes a Baptist Church!
Now why would any pastor who adheres to Baptist principles want to remove “Baptist” from a church name? There are various motives for those who are fearful of the “B” word: By removing Baptist from the church name, the unsuspecting will be pulled in! But is that honorable? Is it ethical? Is subterfuge a Scriptural principle? Didn’t Jesus say in Matt. 5:37 “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay”? Why be deceptive? Is deception a good church foundation?
Another reason to disavow the “B” word is so the church can parade to all how tolerant and non-divisive they are. What is going on is that many of the Fundamentalists are embarrassed of being Fundamentalists! Some are ashamed of being graduates of fundamentalist colleges and seminaries while others are ashamed of their family heritage.
Another reason for removing the “B” word is to appear trendy. This follows with trendy music, dress, and worship style. I wonder if it is possible to be driven by trend and God at the same time. When the “hot” trend becomes cold and the excitement fades like the snows of March, the megachurches will hold their meetings in their choir loft as did one of the first megachurches, the Cadle Tabernacle of Indianapolis which dropped from 10,000 to less than 100 and no longer exists.
So why are pastors making sign producers rich with so many name changes? To bring to church those people who hate Baptists and those who “aren’t interested in doctrine”? Also some pastors are a little embarrassed by those Baptists who take a strong Bible stand on various issues such as abortion, homosexuality, porn, etc. After all, why drive people away with such issues before they hear the Gospel message? The motive seems to be growth of the church at the expense of the stunting of the soul. Ego may be part of the motivation along with the desire for status among their peers. Many Young Turks have visions of Willow Creek, Saddleback, and Crystal Cathedral dancing through their heads.
All astute pastors know that neutering the church name will draw Baptist haters and the unsuspecting; however, removing “Baptist” will also drive many older, faithful members from the church. Could that be one of the “benefits” that some Young Turks are looking for? Many pastors want a more urbane, sophisticated, hip, with-it membership, so they choose to “weed out” the older members who helped build and finance the church during the difficult, growing years. With the decision to remove Baptist from their church name, they also often change the music from great, grand, and glorious hymns to silly choruses that glorify men not God. And of course, the music must be loud enough to break streetlights a block away.
Additionally, many churches have chosen to copy Black churches in the choice of music and style. Usually, the white churches only make fools of themselves in trying to imitate Blacks. Why would they desire to do that, anyway? Are those pastors ashamed of their culture? Is the Black culture more effective or spiritual? If so, how? If a Black pastor taught his people to be “more white” he would be accused of being an Uncle Tom; however, when a white preacher tells his choir and worship team to “be more black” that is supposed to be commendable! When we try to imitate people we usually choose to imitate the surface not the depth. Our desire should not be to copy others (although it is only wise to learn from them) but to be who we are, not poor imitations of others.
Look, Pastor, take what you can from anyone to improve your personality, preaching, promotion, etc., but why go to extremes? Yes, I can learn something from anyone even Modernists. Dr. Noel Smith used to tell of his conversation with the noted Harry Emerson Fosdick. Fosdick was an unabashed liberal, but he was a genuine gentlemen. That impressed Dr. Smith. Could it be because Smith like myself had seen hundreds of Baptists who were anything but gracious gentlemen? Too many Fundamentalists seem to think that a word of kindness is an indication of weakness! They seem to think that if they aren’t screaming at the top of their voice, they are pussyfooting. Take what you can from any source, but don’t reproduce their worse mistakes, methods, and message.
With the above said, I also want it known that I would rather be identified with a Baptist church without Baptist in its name than to be a member of a “Baptist” Church that is Baptist in name only. After my salvation in an American Baptist Church, I joined an independent Bible church, so the name is not essential to me but the doctrine and practices are. However, I like labels. I don’t purchase soup in a can without a label the way we did when we were in college because I want to know what I am getting. (Yes, it is possible to go into a “Baptist” Church and discover that it is not a Baptist Church, but usually “Baptist” tells me more than “The Church of What’s Happening Now.”)
Recently I talked to two laymen whose good church dropped the name Baptist. They are disturbed as they should be. The question is: How disturbed should they be? I told them they should do nothing in haste. They must ask themselves: If I leave here, where do I go? Will a different church be an improvement? How will a different church affect my family? Look at the big picture. Is this just one of many changes that will follow? Will the pastor change his position on the Bible? Is this only the first step toward my definition of New Fundamentalism?
One Bible-preaching pastor told his people that they should stop, I repeat, stop bringing their Bibles to church since that made some people feel uncomfortable! That goes in spades for the KJV! Such pastors want visitors to feel warm and fuzzy and don’t want their members to be an offence to anyone; however, they have forgotten our Lord was hated, reviled, and crucified. They have forgotten what they used to preach: that the bloody cross of Christ is an offense to unregenerate men. They also have forgotten or are trying to suppress the fact that Christians are considered the off-scouring of this world. But that Bible truth is devastating to our “self-esteem.”
Waving the bloody banner of Calvary puts one in the crosshairs of the critics and seems so unsophisticated, so uneducated, so unworldly. So after a few sips from Willow Creek, they wave the white flag of cooperation, conformity, and compromise. After all, “Can’t we all just, you know, just get along?”
Many of the Young Turks are trying to make people feel comfortable rather than convicted. They discover what people want then give it to them. That builds crowds but not character. When men come in contact with a holy, sovereign God, they never feel warm and fuzzy but fall at His feet and cry, “Woe is me for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…for mine eyes have seen the King…” When Saul met Christ, he fell to the ground, trembled and was astonished and asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” He did not swing and sway while singing three verses of a non-offensive chorus thirty-three times.
In many former Baptist churches, the members often slide into a pew dressed from foot to head as if they are at a ball game—flip flops to their caps turned backward, of course. Often a wife and/or daughters are dressed or rather undressed so ungodly that even compromising third generation Puritans would have put them in public stocks—exposing pierced belly buttons to the whole city. The husband/father might even be flogged! Any pastor who put up with such ungodliness without protest would have been flogged or shipped back to England.
Many pastors quietly acquiesce to ungodly and sloppy dress since the trend to casual, even immodest dress seems to be unstoppable. When I was a boy living in a log cabin on a West Virginia creek bank we always dressed our best when we went to town. After all, we were “going to town.” While preaching Family Conferences in Japan a few weeks ago, I was told that when a marine goes to see the base commandant, he must wear his best. After all, he is going to see the top boss. Our Georgia county court has higher standards than many Fundamental churches! Some of the better restaurants have higher dress standards than churches! A new nightclub advised customers: “DRESS TO IMPRESS.” Then interested diners were informed that no denim tops or bottoms, t-shirts or jerseys, no baseball caps, or tennis shoes would be permitted! The ad concluded by informing everyone there would be “NO EXCEPTIONS.” That was a nightclub! While a pastor should not use dress codes to drive people away from church, his wife, daughters, and church leaders should set the example for appropriate dress for church services.
I am afraid that many people never fall on their knees in abject horror of self and honor of God because they don’t come in contact with Him during the 18 minute shallow “sermon.” Many of the “progressive” mega-church pastors that some pastors are aping, would never suggest that men cry out, “Woe is me” but “Wow, I’m something special! My self-esteem oozes out of every pore in my body. God is fortunate to have me on His team.” Statements like that constantly bounce off the glass walls of the Crystal Cathedral and other Centers of Self-Esteem. In fact, Robert Schuller never discusses man’s sinful nature since that attacks his self-esteem. Schuller wrote in Christianity Today, (Oct. 5, 1984) that pointing out man’s lost and sinful condition is “crude, uncouth, and unchristian.” How can such a confused man be a Christian? Thank God he does not claim to be a Baptist!
I can only speak for myself so I will do so. I am an historic Baptist and gladly accept all that goes with that designation, even admitting the few kooks, quacks, and unbelievers that identify with us. That includes J. D. Rockefeller, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Harry S. Truman, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, etc. I am still a Baptist, a proud Baptist, and as independent as a hog on ice. I have no intention of surrendering “Fundamentalist” or “Baptist” labels because as they say in Texas, “I am going to dance with the one that brought me.”
I have great pity for Young Turks who are flirting with this New Funda-mentalism.