Updated, revised, corrected
I have put the following guide together for those not raised up and educated in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church (IFB) movement. This will allow you to understand the code words that are routinely used in the IFB movement.
Before I get to the guide, let me define exactly what an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church is.
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 or Fundamental
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 God the 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 substitutionary blood atonement of Christ for man’s sin
- The physical 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 and every person, after death, goes to heaven or hell.
- Hierarchical authority: God, Jesus, church, pastor, husband, wife, children
- 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 everything an IFB church and pastor must believe to be considered an IFB church.
(Please read Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists for an in depth discussion of social and theological fundamentalism.)
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. (Please read The Trail of Blood for further information)
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.
Many 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 them out of the convention.
Guide to Words and Phrases used in IFB Churches
Inerrancy of the Bible
The Bible, many times the King James Bible, is without error, perfect in all it says and teaches. Some IFB churches believe even the italicized words added by the translators are inspired.
Inspiration of the Bible
The Bible, in its original writings, was breathed out by God. God directed(moved) the writers in such a way that their words were the exact words God wanted written down. Some within the IFB Church movement believe that the King James Bible is just as inspired as the original writings. God has preserved his Word throughout history and the King James Bible is the only Bible for English-speaking people.
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
Someday, perhaps today, Jesus Christ will come in the clouds and rapture all the Christians off the face of the earth. Then, all the unbelievers will face seven years of tribulation as described in the book of Revelation. Jesus will then return to earth, bind Satan, and establish his millennial kingdom. During the millennium, the raptured Christians will remain in heaven while Jesus rules the earth with a rod of iron. At the end of the millennium, Satan will be loosed for a season and God will defeat him. Then God will judge everyone, destroy the heavens and earth, and make all things new. (This is an abbreviated form of what IFB churches believe about the Second Coming)
The pastor, called by God, is in charge of the church. He is called by God to speak the words of God to church members and he often has autocratic authority. Most IFB churches are pastored by one man. Often, the pastor has the final say on everything.
Many IFB churches have pastors who have been their pastor for a long time. As they age and their children grow up, it is not uncommon for the pastor’s children to be hired as church staff. In some cases the pastor’s son or son-in-law becomes the pastor-in-waiting. The church becomes a possession, a franchise that is passed down from generation to generation.
Proverbs 11:30 says The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. Most IFB churches actively evangelize their community. They believe they are commanded by God to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, even if they don’t want to hear it. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses, IFB churches often go door-to-door witnessing and handing out tracts. They believe God holds them personally accountable for the souls of those they could have witnessed to and didn’t. Ezekiel 33:7-9 says:
So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
The altar, located at the front of the church, is the place where the unsaved and saved alike come to do business with God. Often the church has trained altar workers who help those who come forward during the altar call. (public invitation) In the IFB church, the altar is similar to the Catholic confessional.
Since IFB churches believe Once Saved, Always Saved, they must account for when members become worldly or stop doing what is expected of them. Such members are called backsliders. Pastors spend a significant amount of time trying to get backsliders to live like a good Christian should. A good Christian, attends church every time the doors are open, reads and studies the Bible, prays without ceasing, tithes and gives offerings, evangelizes the lost, and follows the church social code/standards.
Standards are rules that every IFB church member is expected to obey. Standards are often developed, not based on direct commands from the Bible, but based upon inferences from particular Bible verses. Every IFB church has its own standards. IFB churches fuss and fight over standards and often a church will refuse to fellowship with other IFB churches that don’t have the same basic standards as they do. (Please see The Official Independent Baptist Rule Book)
Separation is coming away, abstaining from people, actions, and things that are considered worldly. What is worldly is defined by what the pastor says the Bible says is worldly. What is worldly varies from church to church. Worldly can be be generously defined as anything the pastor thinks is a sin or could cause someone to have a “bad” testimony.
Head of the home
The husband is the boss and the decider of everything pertaining to the family.
Right hand of fellowship
When new members are welcomed and admitted into the church membership they are given the tight hand of fellowship. Many churches have new members stand at the front of the church so every church member can come by and shake their hand or hug them. This is a great opportunity for pervert Deacon Bob to cop a feel.
The call is when God speaks to someone’s heart (most often it is a man) and calls the person to be a pastor, evangelist, or missionary. The person called by God makes his calling publicly known before the church, often at the close of the Sunday morning church service.
A preacher boy is a young boy, most often a teenage boy, called by God to be a preacher. Preacher boys often have favored status in the church. Many IFB pastors pride themselves in how many boys have been called to preach under their ministry. This is very similar to a man passing his seed on.
Faith Promise is a method used by some pastors to extract money from church members. Most often, faith promise is associated with mission giving. Church members are asked to make a promise of X amount of dollars for missions and by faith they are to expect God to give them the money for the offering.
Prayer meeting is a time when prayer requests are gathered and members or the pastor prays over them them. It is also known as the midweek gossip service. It is a golden opportunity for gossips to share dirt about sinful family members or backslidden Christians.
Stewardship is a method used by some pastors to extract money from church members. Some pastors preach a series of messages on being good stewards of the money God has given each church member. The objective is to get people to give more money to the church.
A revival is when a special speaker, often called an evangelist, comes to the church and preaches each night for a consecutive number of days. (usually 3 to 15 days) Many IFB church members make spiritual decisions during the nightly revival altar calls.
This is not an all-encompassing list. If there are other words and phrases you think would be a good addition to this list, please leave them in the comments. (and make sure you define them)