picture of 20th century fundamentalist Evangelist Billy Sunday
If you are not knowledgeable about the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, please take the time to read the following posts I have written:
One of the common objections given by my critics is that I am an athiest, and because I am an atheist my writing on the IFB should be rejected or ignored. In others words, ignore the message because the messenger isn’t one of us.
Ignore me all they want, they know I have the bona fides necessary to be an authoritative writer on the IFB church movement.
I was raised in the IFB church, saved in the IFB church, baptized in the IFB church, and called to preach in the IFB church. I attended an IFB college, Midwestern Baptist College, in the 1970’s, the heyday of the IFB church movement.
The chancellor of Midwestern Baptist College, Tom Malone, was one of the top dogs in the IFB. During my time at Midwestern, I heard virtually every one of the big-name IFB preachers.
From 1979 to 1998, I pastored IFB churches in Ohio and Texas. I attended numerous Sword of the Lord Conferences and I regularly attended the Ohio Baptist Bible Fellowship Pastor’s Fellowship and the Buckeye Independent Baptist Fellowship.
Over the years, I attended or preached at IFB church Youth Camps. I was a guest speaker at a number of IFB churches. I started an IFB Youth Fellowship in SE Ohio. The IFB churches I pastored supported IFB missionaries.
My wife is the daughter of an IFB pastor. Her uncle is a noted leader in the IFB church movement. She has first cousins who are IFB pastors/evangelists or married to men who are. All of the men in our wedding party are/were IFB pastors.
I wrote all of the above to say, I know what I am talking about.
My recent writing on the latest sex scandal at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana has brought thousands and thousands of new readers to this blog. My posts have been linked to on other sites and Facebook and thousands more have stopped by to read what I have written on this subject.
Some commenters on this blog and other sites have attempted to distance themselves from the Jack Schaap scandal by suggesting that while they are proudly IFB, they are NOT IFB like Jack Schaap.
While I fully understand why IFB pastors and parishioners would want to distance themselves from Jack Schaap and First Baptist Church in Hammond, I think they “doth protest to much.”
What makes a church an IFB church? In a previous post titled, What is an IFB church?, I wrote:
I stands for Independent
The local, visible Church is an independent body of believers who are not associated or affiliated with any denomination. The pastor answers only to God, and to a lesser degree the Church. The Church answers to no one but God. Most IFB churches oppose any form of government involvement or intrusion into its affairs.
F stands for Fundamentalist
The independent Church is fundamentalist in its doctrine and practice. IFB churches are social and theological fundamentalists. Social fundamentalists adhere to an external code of conduct. Often this code of conduct is called Church standards. The Bible, or should I say the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible, is the rule by which church members are expected to live. IFB churches spend a significant amount of time preaching and teaching about how
Godthe pastor expects people to live.
IFB churches are also theological fundamentalists. They adhere to a certain and specific theological standard, a standard by which all other Christians and denominations are judged. Every IFB pastor and church believes things like:
- The inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible
- The sinfulness, depravity of man
- The deity of Christ
- The virgin birth of Christ
- The blood atonement of Christ for man’s sin
- The resurrection of Christ from the dead
- The second coming of Christ
- Separation from the world
- Salvation from sin is by and through Christ alone
- Personal responsibility to share the gospel with sinners
- Heaven and hell are literal places
- Hierarchal authority (God, Jesus, church, pastor, husband, wife)
- Autonomy and independence of the local church
I am sure other doctrines could be added to this list but the list above is a concise list of ALL things an IFB church and pastor must believe to be considered an IFB church.
B stands for Baptist
IFB churches are Baptist Churches adhering to the ecclesiology and theology mentioned above. Some IFB churches are landmark Baptists or Baptist briders. They believe the Baptist church is the true church and all other churches are false churches. John the Baptist baptized Jesus, which made him a Baptist and the first churches established by the Baptist apostles were Baptist churches. Churches like this go to great lengths to prove their Baptist lineage which dates all the way back to John the Baptist, Jesus and the Apostles.
Other IFB churches and pastors believe that Baptist ecclesiology and theology are what the Bible clearly teaches. They grudgingly admit that other denominations “might” be Christian too but they are quick to say why be a part of a bastardized form of Christianity when you can have the real deal.
Some Southern Baptist churches can be rightly labeled IFB churches. They are Southern Baptist in name only. It is not uncommon for an IFB pastor to pastor a Southern Baptist church with the intent of pulling them out of the Southern Baptist convention. It is not uncommon for Southern Baptist churches to reject resumes from pastors with a IFB background. Area missionaries warn churches about pernicious IFB pastors who desire to take over churches and pull the churches out of the convention.
When IFB churches fight among themselves, they usually fight over:
- Bible translations
- Ecclesiastical separation (secondary separation)
- Personal standards of separation
- Preacher personalities
- Music styles
- Soteriological and Eschatological differences
IFB churches all generally believe the same things and tend to fight among themselves over the small differences they have with each other. Remember this is a movement known for what it is against rather than what it is for.
IFB churches are generally subdivided according to the IFB college the church and/or pastor is associated with. They tend to fellowship with their own kind but they do often join together for conferences, revival meetings, and fellowships.
The IFB is subdivided around the following colleges (this is not an exhaustive list)
- Bob Jones University
- Pensacola Christian College
- Hyles-Anderson College
- Midwestern Baptist College
- Maranatha Baptist Bible College
- Baptist Bible College
- Tennessee Temple
- Massillon Baptist College
- Heartland Baptist Bible College
- Landmark Baptist College
- Arlington Baptist College
- Fairhaven Baptist College
- Crown College of the Bible
- West Coast Baptist College
- Faith Baptist Bible College
- Ambassador Baptist College
- Trinity Baptist College
- Cedarville University
- Northland Baptist Bible College
- Texas Baptist College
- The Masters College
All of these colleges teach Bible literalism and believe the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. Most of them are unaccredited.
There are several “denominations” that are aggregates of IFB churches (again, not exhaustive):
- The General Association of Regular Baptists (GARBC)
- Conservative Baptist Association
- The Baptist Bible Fellowship
- Independent Fundamentalist Churches of America
- Reformed Baptist Fellowship
- Association of Reformed Baptists
Within the Southern Baptist Convention, American Baptist Convention, General Baptist Convention, and National Baptist Convention there are thousands of churches that could be described doctrinally as IFB churches.
Then you have the Independent IFB churches. (yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron but it is not) These churches and pastors who are fiercely independent. Many of them are Calvinistic, Reformed, Sovereign Grace, or Primitive Baptist churches.
There are numerous IFB churches not affiliated with any college, fellowship, or denomination. These churches tend to keep to themselves or fellowship with a few likeminded churches.
IFB churches are everywhere. For decades they flew under the radar but in recent years sexual and financial scandals have turned the spotlight on them and they don’t like it one bit.
This is why IFB churches and pastors try to distance themselves from erring churches and pastors. They fear getting tarred with the same brush or they fear that the light might be shown on their own aberrant beliefs and practices.
Less than two days after the Jack Schaap scandal was made public, Schaap’s name, sermons, and the like, were scoured from websites. This is the way the IFB church movement handles its scandals…they wave the magic eraser wand and everything is right again.
Except that it is not right at all. Until the IFB church movement changes its doctrine and ecclesiology these abuses continue. As long as they continue to spiritually abuse people and demean and debase them through “hard preaching” these kind of scandals will continue. As long as pastors are considered demigods they will continue to use their absolute power and control of the church to squash dissent, run off those who oppose them, and mentally, emotionally, and spiritually abuse those who call them “pastor.” Until the cancerous head is cut of there is no hope of a cure for the IFB church movement.
The denial of basic human sexuality will continue to breed “moral” failure among IFB pastors, evangelists, college professors, and parishioners. Continuing to teach people to “deny self” will only result in excessive behavior and acting out.
I am often asked, is the IFB church movement a cult? Some churches are indeed cults. However, most IFB churches are not cults in the classic sense. They have “cultic” tendencies and these tendencies are troubling.
I can not in good conscience recommend that a person attend an IFB church. I know and have seen too much to ever recommend an IFB church to anyone. I think IFB churches hurt people mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The danger of abuse is quite high and there are better alternatives for those needing a “connection” with God.
The IFB church movement is dying…that’s the good news. The bad news is that they are dying a very slow death and until they finally kick the bucket they will continue hurt countless people.
I hope this blog can be a help in pointing people to a better way, be it joining up with a progressive/liberal church or joining the ranks of the godless.