Friday, October 27, 2006

Leaving the IFBx* Fold


Recently I received an email with a link to this article by my friend, Voyle Glover. I enjoy his articles and this one is worth sharing. If you have not had a chance to check out the link on our sidebar to his website, Brevia Notes, I would encourage you to bookmark it and read some of his material. You can find it here.

It is never easy when we feel like we have disappointed someone we dearly love--my wife and I still have to battle some of these feelings of nostalgia. Nobody wants their family to believe that they are out of God's plan for their lives or that they have left the faith. The sooner we realize that our loyalties are to our LORD and Savior and not men the better off we will be. The bottom line is that although it is not easy to leave a church or ministry where we have put down roots, sometimes it is necessary. I want to encourage anyone reading this who is going through these difficult times to press on prayerfully--there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel! Feel free to email us in confidence and we will pray with you along the way!

Phineas

Leaving the IFBX Fold

by Voyle A. Glover

Leaving a church where one has put nearly twenty years of roots down is not an easy task. I was reminded of the difficulties recently when, during a discussion with a friend, he mentioned a certain couple who were in the process of leaving their church, an Independent Fundamental Baptist church which has a philosophy and doctrinal perspectives, coupled with certain standards, which defy grace, whilst purporting to embrace traditional Christianity. In short, what I and others have come to call IFBx.

I thought of the incredibly difficult journey ahead for them.

When I left the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana in 1987, I knew, without anyone telling me, that I had been corrupted. I knew that. I wasn’t sure how corrupted, nor was I sure exactly where. I just knew that the God I’d learned about as a new Christian was not the same God I learned about in the nearly twenty years I’d spent in that church. I knew that many of the things I'd heard propounded as being the truths of God were, in fact, highly suspect.

It took some time, prayer, and an in-depth immersion into the Word of God for me to regain my spiritual equilibrium and for God to cleanse me from so many things that were either flat-out error, or were, in some instances, nonsensical; and not a few things that were simply the preferences of a man which had no biblical basis.

For example, I recall one evening service in my new church, less than a year or so after we’d left, when a lady stood up to sing a song. Suddenly, there was background music (a tape) and some background singers (also on the tape) who were singing along with her.

My thoughts were instantly negative. I did not like it. I did not feel that it belonged in church (a singer with backgrounded music). However, by this time, I’d developed a little mental routine when I had negative reactions to something or someone in the church. This time, it was a silent conversation with myself and went something like this:

Why is this wrong?
Well, it just is. The music tape is wrong.
Is the music bad?
No.
Are the words bad?
No.
If folks were there playing musical instruments, or an orchestra, would that be wrong?
No.
If the background singers were there, would that be wrong?
No.
Why then is this wrong?

This was a thought process that went very quickly and as I did the analysis, I realized I could posit no biblical justification for the position. I also quickly realized that I’d adopted the preferences of a man and given them spiritual significance, to wit, using a background tape for a singer was “wrong,” which meant it was not pleasing to God, which meant it was sin. (I found it fascinating on one level that I'd adopted this man's preferences so completely as to actually have strong feelings of it being sinful for a singer to use a background tape.)

But the difficult issues for me and others like myself (and which will come for virtually all those who leave an IFBx church) came from teachings that had been imprinted onto our psyche such that these ideas were infused into our spiritual makeup. Our perspective was that any church that deviated from these teachings was liberal and no place for a “good fundamental Baptist.” These teachings were wide-ranging, some taking on the trappings of doctrine, while others were imbued with doctrine-like importance.

There are five primary issues that every IFBx’r will run into when he or she leaves the IFBx fold. Those issues are, in about this order of importance: (1) is the church a red-hot “soul winning” church?; (2) Does the church permit the wearing of pants on women?; (3) Do the men all have short hair; (4) Is the music without a beat and non-contemporary Christian (CCM)?; and (5) Does the church prohibit attendance at the movie theater (watching them at home on video was all right)? While there are others, those are what I call the “Five Spiritual Straight-jackets.” It is not an exclusive list and in some churches, there may be other "major" issues of importance. (Today, in that same church I left, for example, the issue of the exclusive use of the KJV Bible is an absolute.) Once you’ve been sewed up in these spiritual straight-jackets, getting your mind and spirit free from them can be a feat worthy of the best efforts of Houdini.

The place of “soul winning” was, in terms of importance, almost up there with the doctrine of salvation. A Christian who didn’t go “soul winning” on a regular basis was considered more than just unspiritual, but was deemed unworthy of the name Christian. And if one dared voice opposition to this activity, such a person was probably not saved. Going out and knocking on doors was seen to be an activity that revealed the true spiritual nature of an individual. One could not be a spiritual Christian and neglect this activity.

Imagine the inner conflicts of a church member who leaves the IFBx fold and enters a church were there is not an emphasis on door-to-door “soul winning,” but emphasizes instead, a wide array of evangelistic methods, which, while permitting an individual church member to utilize such a method, does not actively promote such a method amongst its members. Or imagine an IFBx church member who comes into a church and immediately sees some of the women dressed in slacks, or one who comes to a Wednesday service and sees some of the women in jeans. Or they hear a solo is sung by a member who is a bit more contemporary than the usual fare. Or suppose the pianist’s hair is a bit long. The list is long. It is not uncommon in IFBx circles for preferences to on a level with doctrine.

It is almost a certainty that a former IFBx church member whose mind is still in the mold that was set so long ago, will recoil within from such things. It will be an automatic reaction caused by a conditioning very similar to the methods used on Pavlov's dog. (A dog was trained to salivatate when a bell was rung.) They will see so many negatives and never comprehend that they've been programmed to react that way.

For such Christians, a myriad of questions will arise within his or her mind. They will question why they left, whether it was the will of God, whether they are going to be chastened for it, whether they’ve been deceived by Satan, and on and on. They will begin second-guessing themselves. This is a process that may be instant, i.e., on the first visit to another church, or it might take months; and in some instances, it may surface years later because those issues were never resolved but instead, had been submerged. The mold was still in place, still shaping the mental focus and perspective without them realizing it until one day they sprang back in full force.

They left the IFBx fold but had not managed to leave the mold.

They left the particular IFBx church but the shaped doctrines, philosophies and standards had not left them. It was what brought them back, or in some instances, brought them such conflict as to negate their enjoyment of their new church (and their effectiveness there, as well).

Many Christians who leave the IFBx fold become very conflicted, some become bitter, some abandon church, being unwilling to return to the fold they left, unable to extract themselves from the mold into which they’ve been cast, and unwilling therefore to accept the “liberal” standards of the new church they had hoped to attend. There are some who stick it out in the new church, but become very critical, possessed of a spiritual smugness, and feeling they have a superior understanding of the way God would want the church run in certain areas (such as “soul winning” or the musical program). They can create havoc in their new church and are often the cause of much dissension within a church as they seek to impose their “more spiritual” ways upon the church. When they have resistance, they view this as coming from liberals, weak Christians who should have no say in running the church. Their own actions are perceived as being on a spiritual level and thus, justified actions. These individuals will continue their campaign unabated, even relentless, demanding conformity to the "biblical standards" to which they are accustomed and which they believe every "real" Christian church must adopt. It can and often does, get very ugly. It can and has caused church splits.

SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO LEAVE THE WORLD OF IFBx

Here are some “musts” for you if you’re someone who is attempting to come out of the IFBx world. They worked for me and have worked for many others. If you don’t do this, then the odds are you’ll either return, or you’ll have a miserable existence in whatever non-IFBx church you join, such that eventually you’ll probably leave it; or you’ll just shut down spiritually because of the inner conflicts that keep arising, or you'll end up causing great contention within that church.

1. Get into the Word of God and ask God to show you TRUTH. Claim the promises of God. It is His will that we know truth and you have every right to expect God to lead you into His truth.

2. Assume that you have been corrupted. You don’t need to determine where or how. God will reveal that to you. Just adopt an attitude that is willing to (a) admit your error when it is revealed to you; and (b) allow yourself to be taught of the Lord. You have to have a teachable spirit.

Then sit back and expect God to open your eyes and show you things. Don’t be afraid to read books by men or women who you ordinarily might not read. Remember, YOU ARE ON A QUEST FOR TRUTH. Nothing else matters. You are not looking for the opinions of others. You are looking for God to reveal truth to you. Pray for guidance over every book you read, including the Bible. He will do that through His Word, through the teaching and preaching of others and by prayer. Bottom line is: God will show you truth. Are you willing to let Him lead you where that truth will take you? Never be afraid to learn truth. Never be afraid to go wherever truth leads, even if it leads your version of truth over the cliffs and onto the rocks.

3. Be patient. Do not be quick to make up your mind about things, either positive or negative. Cleansing comes slowly. Things that have been taught to you for years, things that are impressed on your spiritual psyche, are not easily erased. It is difficult for anyone to admit he or she has been wrong and has embraced error for years. For years, we labored under the notion that we had the truth. It is difficult to come to the conclusion that we embraced a lie. Trust me when I tell you that it takes the grace of God to overcome this.

4. Get off your high horse. Do not be offended at what you view as worldly Christians. In the IFBx world, spirituality is determined by a manifestation of externals, to wit, appearance, souls won, participation in “soul winning” and obedience to the pastor and leaders. In your new world, the spirituality of other Christians is often not readily visible until you examine their lives, where you will often find good deeds that are often unheralded; and good works that are not fancy, which lack the “wow” factor, and aren’t always on the “cup of cold water” level. But they are consistent, day by day good works that come from a heart and life that is sincere and loves God. Learn to examine their fruit without a critical spirit and without demanding to know the number of souls won that week. Be patient with people. Allow judgment of their spirituality to come from God, not you. God will judge the merit of their works. God has not blessed you with a closet full of blue ribbons to hand out in spiritual judging events you may wish to hold.

5. Pray constantly. Ask God to show you yourself. Ask God to reveal the real you to you. Ask God to open your eyes and to make you spiritual, to make you humble, to give you wisdom and understanding. Ask God to allow you to be used to help in the work of this new church in whatever role He chooses (as opposed to your volunteering to do “X” because you’re so good at doing “X”). In short, surrender to God and accept your place in this new church as a field in which God has placed you. Be prepared to help the weak Christians there, to mentor, to pray for, to teach, to reach out and help in whatever way God deems fit to use you in His service there. In short, BE A SERVANT THERE, not a Chief. If you view half the congregation as weak or liberal, then assume it is a mission field and you're there to serve God to be salt.

That’s it. If you’ll do those things and adopt that perspective, you’ll have joy, you’ll interact with the people there without being so judgmental and Pharisaical that no one can stand to be around you; and best of all, God will use you. You may never enjoy the music program as much as you did in your IFBx church, but you’ll learn to appreciate some of the new music and you’ll come to understand that the music program is designed for others besides yourself and that your preferences are not what governs the music program. You’ll realize that music that leaves you cold or “bothers” you is blessing someone else and lifting their hearts to God. You’ll actually accept the fact that tastes in music are very wide ranging and what blesses your soul may put someone else to sleep.

A final thought. This has not been an essay designed to “lure” anyone from their IFBx church and it certainly is not meant to be a critique of IFBx churches. (That would take more time and space than I care to devote.) It is simply designed to be a help for those of you who, for one reason or another, have decided that you no longer care to associate yourself with such a church. Realize that you have been psychologically imprinted far more than you know. If you’re going to break free, realize that true freedom lies in God, not in a book, not in a sermon or teachings and not in an essay such as this. These are merely tools God may use in His working to bring you along the path to liberty.

But that freedom ultimately lies in Christ.

You can move towards it and into it, or you can creep backwards into the cave of darkness from whence you came. It really is your call.

May your journey be blessed of God.
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* IFBx is an abbreviation for what we refer to as the cultural or hysteric fundamentalists, not to be confused with the true branch of orthodox historic fundamentalism known still as IFB. Some common denominators of IFBx have already been touched on in Voyle's article and are as follows: extreme adulation/borderline worship of pastors, leaders, or other preachers; extreme and militant KJVOnly positions; arrogant "preaching" that is more screeching than anything else and void of much Biblical content; light on theology but heavy on "soulwinning" which usually amounts to little more than coercion without any regard to the work of the Holy Spirit of God. This is only the short definition. ;)

22 comments:

PT Barnum said...

We had two comments on the original post of Voyle's article that I have lost. I had to remove the original one in order to make a few corrections and "poof" all the comments were gone and I don't know how to find them. Sorry for the glitch--computer geek I am not!

Matthew

Loyd said...

It was good to hear some advice from someone who has been there. I left my last IFBX church over two years ago, and am still dealing with the spiritual backlash.

Thank you Voyle and Matthew.

Anonymous said...

Voyle hit the nail right square on the head..! Thanks for writing it Voyle and posting it Matt. --VJR :)

PT Barnum said...

I haven't told very many people this, but my wife and I attended our current church for over a year before we joined the membership. I have tried to analyze why this was the case and it was definitely because of some of the straight-jackets I was wearing from my upbringing.

I realize now that my wife and I needed that time to decompress and allow the expository preaching of the Word change our attitude and our hearts. We praise the LORD for His guidance and the fact that we have come through those confusing days.

I will write more about this sometime in the future--my journey has been a very interesting one to say the least!

God bless,

Matthew

Ryan DeBarr said...

I haven't told very many people this, but my wife and I attended our current church for over a year before we joined the membership. I have tried to analyze why this was the case and it was definitely because of some of the straight-jackets I was wearing from my upbringing.

I'd say that it took me two years to decide I was through with that mindset, and then another two years to get it all out my head.

David T. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David T. said...

I wish there was an article on the misuse of "neo-evangelical" by the IFBx crowd. Everyone who is not into all five of the straightjackets is instantly neo. And everybody knows how bad neos are.
Recently I was in an IFBx church and was not in any of these straightjackets. I never made an issue of it and down the road when they found out I was labeled a deciever.
I dealt with the issues as the scripture teaches to deal with the issues of conscience. My failure in this area is ultimately due to the fact that they are not issues of conscience but of pride.
Unfortunately the few IFB churches that are KJVO and conservative music and all that, but who have sound teaching and a good humble attitude, are hard to find. The IFBx'ers would serve their cause well by leaving them alone but that is not possible because such churches are labelled as "too teachy" or "not strong enough" or just get slapped with the good ol' all-purpose label "neo." The vilification is sufficient to increase the numbers of disaffected IFBx'ers who jump straight to mainstream evangelicalism without giving moderate fundamentalism a chance.
Is it any wonder some people just nullify the decision and write church off altogether, when they are forced into a false dilemma of extremes by IFBx pastors who will settle for nothing less than point-by-point agreement.

BeckyJoie said...

I appreciate and relate to this article. I've been 17 years out of IFBXdom and I still find from time to time the re-programming missed something. I'm still finding conditioned responses here and there. I constantly take the Berean approach in every church whether IFBX, nondenom, other Baptist, or the Christian radio I admit to being afraid of being falsey conditioned that I'm like a sheepdog rooting in the dirt(man-made dogma) to make sure someone doesn't steal the bone (the real truth). I say "sheep dog" because I also tend to guard the sheep when I think a thief is trying to steal away with false man-made doctrine. I don't cause division in a church but if someone asks my opinion, I tell them what the Word says in regards to that man-made doctrine. The best way is to encourage the person to dig in deep into the Word themself and let the Holy Spirit teach them and guide them into truth. It works every time. When you get into the Word, you can't help but see a rubber steak when it tries to pose as meat. The false doctrine just becomes obvious.

Anonymous said...

I am a "secret reader" and hence why I am anonymous of this blog. Anyway, I would like to encourage those are still struggling with the memories, etc., to consider the benefit of Christian counseling.

I did not follow my own advice when I left a situation and I think it delayed my recovery more than necessary.

Just a thought.

PT Barnum said...

anonymous,

glad that you are a reader--you give some great advice. I did not seek counseling but I believe that the pulpit ministry of the church I am attending was used of the LORD in a similar way. Thanks for the thoughtful input and I hope to hear more from you in the future.

BTW, we completely understand the reasons some choose to stay anonymous. My first 3 or 4 years online I was known simply as "emptytomb". When we began this blog we did not allow anonymous comments--a wise reader sent me an email asking us to consider changing that and we did. Continue to send us your suggestions as we count them valuable and appreciate it greatly!

Matthewi

BeckyJoie said...

Also, when you go back as a free person and look at the frightful giant of IFXdom that hurt you in the past, you will see that the giant is actually a midget now. (In the sense that it's not as frightening now because you know that you have overcome and are not controlled by the system of fear anymore. It's quite healing.)I do recommend waiting a long time after leaving before making another visit. Otherwise you might get sucked back in because you've not healed enough to distinguish the voice of the past from reality.

Edward said...

Birds of a feather flock together. I have been watching your blog but I honestly got bored waiting for new posts over the past several weeks.

Any shred of unbiassed or nuetral views concerning FBC in Hammond have totally gone out the window now...Voyle Glover is hardly someone who does not have an ax to grind. Good luck getting thru to anyone with sympathy towards the ministry at FBC.

Pastor Schaap is progressive and the critics cannot stand it...who was it that said the rumors of his death were greatly exagerated? I think that saying fits perfectly right here. Ed

Anonymous said...

Matthew,

Thanks for the kind words. They were more applicable than you can imagine. Because to borrow from "On the Waterfront," sometimes the situation (let's just call it what it is -- spiritual abuse) keeps trying to pull you back in even though you might have left years ago. This happened to me yesterday as someone from the past I am trying to leave behind came right into my office and told me news that I did not want to hear.

Sorry for the vagueness but I think you understand. But what I am trying to say that even though someone might have left a spiritually abusive situation years ago, the memories and emotions remain just below the surface. The site is a bit of a cathartic release for me because it reminds (unfortunately) that I was not the only one who has ever faced this reality.

Edward -- I don't know you from Adam (and yes I believe in a literal Adam!) but I just want to encourage you in one thing. Be careful who you place on a pedestal as it is very hard landing when they fall. The landing is hard on them but especially hard on you.

Sam said...

Edward,
I don't know you from...(oh, someone said that). The issue of Voyle Glover as a personality is not really the issue. I say that, because I do not need to know who he is in order to see how injured someone could become at ANY church.

Frankly, I will speak to you the way I speak to JW's when they come into my neighborhood--look around, get past the stuff that DOES square with Scripture, and look at the stuff that seems to be such an issue with others. Then, dare to take this step, ask yourself this question--are these people having issues with things at FBC (or similar churches) because they cannot find biblical underpinnings for some of FBC's teachings, practices, etc., or are they really just "denyin' the faith" and a bunch of yellow-bellied, God-hating, scoffers? (Sorry, just trying to guess how Hyles or Schaap might say that :) ). Start there, and examine all of those issues, like those brought up here at B & C--examine each of those issues in light of God's teachings. Wait...wait...don't use Jack H's book or Jack S's book to help you understand, do the Bible study and interpretation yourself. And then ponder for a moment, could the Jacks be seeing this wrong? (Set aside the numbers arguments, set aside the "well Jack was successful, so he must be right" type of thinking. Interesting side note, I have heard Hyles and Schaap say something to the effect that Christians should spend more time reading their Bibles, and not reading what someone else wrote about the Bible. But, in listening to a lot of their messages, I also get the impression that it is only ok to read someone else's book as long as it is theirs! That is hypocritical, and self serving

Also, for those teachings that DO square with Scripture, ask yourself, "did Jack arrive at this teaching based on this text, or did he already think that, and interpret the text to make sure it said what he already thought it said?" In other words, approach the text as though you knew nothing about it except the context around it, not what some preacher or writer already said about it. I have listened to a number of Jack and Jack's messages--many times, I do not disagree with the basic tenet of their message, but they could not have gotten such a teaching from that text, for it meant something else.

Just some thoughts...

David T. said...

IFBx style, culture, and attitudes are so anachronistic. The 70s religious politics of coming out against the counter-culture was too powerful for anyone to let go of.

Breeden Gentry said...

I've been sending out these messages in a bottle...can anyone hear? I was saved in Dec 2000 in IBFism, glad too 'cuz with all the emphasis on study I did just that and about 5 years later realized something was DEAD WRONG!!! I was saved out of a life of bartending...it's all I know...now I've been a IFB missionary for seven years and my wife and children depend on our salary. How can I break with the movement, I don't even have anyone outside of the movement to talk to, in-laws included. What can I do for a living, day-labour? Can anyone help me?

PT Barnum said...

Sorry we didn't see your comment sooner--hope we aren't too late! Thank the LORD for a wonderful testimony of His saving grace and all glory to Him for His present and future grace! I would love to discuss some of this with you further off of this board--you can reach me anytime at matthewcrichards@yahoo.com

I too found myself in a similar situation when my IFBx world came crashing down around me. I can honestly say that it was one of the best things that the LORD allowed to happen in my life. Not a week goes by but that I don't thank Him for bringing me out of the world of cultural fundamentalism.

Matthew

IFB1611 said...

Just came across this post. Great post and I agree. Thanks.

Charles Church said...

I think the angle of this thread is warped. Everyone is railing at the IFBx, which I'm just now trying to figure out what/who on ear they even are, having never heard of them, for the sake of their positions, when it is not their positions that you all are really arguing about but their ATTITUDE. I believe in 4 of the 5 "straight-jackets", and do so unashamedly. But I would never consider going to any such churches as you describe, because it does sound abusive, and also to have a warped view of evangleism. My question for this board is this: Does my holding to all of these positions so ignorantly associated with the spiritual abuse that accompanied them, make me the enemy like these others? Or can I be a true Christian who loves God, and rejoices in the gospel? Or do I have to contradict 20 centuries of Christian history like the rest of you before I get to do that? Talk about no LIBERTY... yikes!!! Y'all have not shaken your IBFx heritage in more ways than you realize.

Charles

Anonymous said...

hey pt barnum, you speak the trueth man. The IFBx is a very dangerous organization. I'm only 16 and the son of an IFBx pastor. Though reading the scripture, talking with God, and getting counsel from friends I have realized how wrong everything I have been taught is. I shouldn't even be on this site but it's a great encouragment to find other believers who have come to the trueth also. I plan to escape as soon as I am of legal age and continue to help others who need to get out too.

PT Barnum said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for the comment--sorry I have been so delinquent on my blog. I hope that you are able to keep a relationship with your parents even when you leave IFBxdom. I don't know how they will react to your decision but I hope that you will not walk out of their lives forever. There are many people within IFBX that mean well and are as sincere as can be about what they believe. First generation Christians, people who were raised in IFBx and did not have the courage to leave, and a host of other examples are all over the group--be patient and do not be too rough on them. Keep studying your Bible and make yourself to listen to sound Bible teaching ministries (John MacArthur, John Piper, Alistair Begg, Jerry Bridges, etc...) and read their books. Most of what they produce are solid and orthodox and will continue to help you grow.

Drop us another line sometime and give us an update--we will pray for you.

Matthew aka PT Barnum

Anonymous said...

yes it would be nice to have my parents around after I get out but i'm pretty sure my parents will put major pressure on me to bring me back and I will not need that in my life.
I do have a support team after I get out, I will have a place to stay with people that really love Christ and will help me grow.
A friend that I have come very close to used to work for the fire department. Where she lived there were a lot of barn fires and they would have to go try to get the animals out before they all burned. So they would open the door to the barn and all the animals would come charging out until they saw all the fire trucks with the lights and noise and everything and then they would turn right around and run back into the barn. She said as soon as all the animals got out they would have to make a human wall so they wouldn't run back into the burning barn.
For the next two years I plan to get grounded in the trueth so that when I am free I don't run back into the burning barn.