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Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Lingo, A Guide to IFB-Speak

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Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

If you are unfamiliar with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement, please see The Anatomy of the IFB Church Movement for more information.

Below is a list of words and phrases used in IFB churches. IFB churches and pastors have a lingo that may sound strange to the uninitiated, so I hope this list will help.

Guide to Words and Phrases used in IFB Churches

Inerrancy of the Bible

The Bible, many times the King James Bible, is inspired, infallible, and without error, perfect in all it says and teaches. Some IFB churches believe that 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 of the Bible in such a way that their words were the exact words God wanted to be written down. Some within the IFB Church movement believe that the King James Bible is just as God-inspired as the original writings. Others believe 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.)

Pastoral Authority

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. Most IFB churches are pastored by one man. Often, the pastor has the final say on everything. Typically, the longer a preacher pastors a church, the more control he has.

Pastoral Succession

Many IFB churches have pastors who have been their pastor for years and decades. As these preachers 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.

Soulwinning

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 people don’t want to hear it. Much like Jehovah’s Witnesses, IFB church members often evangelize door-to-door and hand 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.

Altar Call

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 IFB churches, the altar is similar to the Catholic confessional.

Backsliding

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. IFB pastors spend significant amounts of time trying to get backsliders to live as good Christians should. A good Christian attends church every time the doors are open, reads and studies the Bible daily, prays without ceasing, tithes and gives offerings, evangelizes the lost, and follows the church social code/standards. Congregants who don’t are considered, backslidden, worldly, or carnal.

Standards

Standards are rules that every IFB church member is expected to obey. Standards are often developed, based not on direct commands from the Bible, but 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

Separation is the 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 generously defined as anything the pastor thinks is a sin or could cause someone to “stumble” or have a bad testimony.

Head of the Home

The husband is the boss and the decider of everything pertaining to the family. IFB churches are hierarchal and complementarian when it comes to marriage and family.

Right Hand of Fellowship

When new members are welcomed and admitted into the church membership, they are given the right hand of fellowship. Many congregations 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

The “call” is when God speaks to a man’s heart, telling him to be a pastor, evangelist, or missionary. The man called by God makes his calling publicly known before the church, often at the close of the Sunday morning church service.

Preacher Boy

A preacher boy is a young boy, most often a teenager, called by God to be a preacher. Preacher boys often have favored status in IFB churches. 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

Faith Promise is a method used by some IFB 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. And when God fails to come through? Congregants are expected to give anyway, even if it caused financial harm.

Prayer Meeting

Prayer meeting is a time when prayer requests are gathered and members or the pastor prays over them. It is also known as the midweek gossip hour. It is a golden opportunity for gossips to share dirt about sinful family members or backslidden Christians — all in the name of “praying” for them.

Stewardship

Stewardship is a method used by some IFB pastors to extract money from church members. Some pastors preach a series of messages on being good stewards (caretakers) of the money God has given each church member. The objective is to get people to give more money to the church.

Revival

A revival is a time when a special speaker, often called an evangelist, comes to the church and preaches each night for a consecutive number of days — usually three to seven 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).

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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22 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Monty

    I’ve heard things like “Your heart isn’t right” when you don’t want to do something someone in authority tells you to do.
    Or the questions EVERY IFB pastor asks another IFB pastor or even church member from another church:”How many numbers are you running” or “What are your numbers?”. This is coded language for basically “How many people are attending your church?”
    However, the most cringe-worthy is substituting “Ice Cream Social” for the word “Party”. Anyone who has spent time in an IFB church has heard this horrible phrase.
    Of course, they won’t have a Halloween celebration but rather have a “Fall Festival”, which happens to be on the same day (or close) as Halloween, complete with kids wearing costumes.
    Oh the humanity!!!!

  2. Avatar
    HeIssailing

    Bruce, you have some real goodies here, and some of these brought back fond memories. Here are a few off the top of my head: (note: this lingo was popular when I was young back in the early 1970s. I have no idea what hip Christians are saying these days!)

    DURING SERMONS:

    “Watch This!” – said by the Pastor in the middle of a Scripture reading for added emphasis.

    Carnal, Wordly, Of the World – all euphemisms for ‘sinful’

    Of the Devil – another euphemism for ‘sinful’ but a little more emphatic

    “with every head bowed and every eye closed” – implicit command of the Pastor during an Altar Call

    DURING PRAYER:

    “Lord Wejust” – the Deity’s alternate name. Invoked repeatedly during prayer

    “in Jesus NAME … ” – Over and …

    “…amen” – … Out

    “We bind you!” – the only thing acceptable to say to the Devil during prayer.

    AFTER CHURCH:

    Fellowship – Sunday afternoon BBQ with your friendly neighborhood churchgoers

    “It’s a joy to be with you” – Typical greeting during Fellowship

    Bible Study – During Fellowship, a group of Christians reads select portions of Scripture, then ask each other, “what do you think that means?”

    “I’m waiting on God” – code for “my prayers are not being answered”

  3. Avatar
    Ian

    The Right Hand of Fellowship was renamed, by my dad, as a handshaking party. Not only did new converts and new church members get a handshaking party, one other group got them often.

    People who got caught sinning suddenly became repentant. They were then instructed to come before the church and ask forgiveness. A vote was taken to forgive (the outcome was always yes), and everyone got to shake hands and cry.

  4. Avatar
    DavidB

    I spent 15 years in an SBC church, our list and the descriptions were different, but the group speak had many of the same qualities. My particular one was an Asian American SBC church. It was interesting because they cloaked themselves in their SBC affiliation. It gave them legitimacy. Maybe in the same way as the IFB.

    There was so much of that church that taught self-hatred. Then because we were these terrible sinners we needed to re dedicate our lives to Jesus. Rededication was carefully scripted with the dimmed lights, the soothing imploring voice and the piano gently calling people forward. People would come forward, often in tears because of some perceived weakness or hidden sin (pride was always a good one, or individualism). If if you stepped out of line and you didn’t rededicate yourself and repent when it was expected, you would get a rebuking, which basically meant a church leader would tell you how much you hurt god and how your were prideful and you needed to be broken, and that if you didn’t repent that something worse would happen to you. It was part theater, part manipulation and control. It ruined a lot of lives. It’s pretty scary stuff. When people did rededicate, it was uncanny how often their sharing mirrored one another. They knew what exactly they were supposed to share.

    In retrospect, although this was clearly religion, I think in retrospect that it wasn’t just the fault of the church or those pastors, each person who walked through those doors contributed to the culture. Many times, their participation was about wanting to belong, wanting to be accepted, wanting to be important, wanting to be “righteous.” So for purely selfish reasons, they bought into this and created a kind of monster together with the other insecure, lonely people.

  5. Avatar
    JoAr

    This is all great, and true. When you grow up in the IFB, these words and phrases become ingrained in your vocabary. It wasn’t until after I left the IFB I realized nobody uses the IFB lingo besides other IFBs and their true meaning and/or definition are typically only loosely accurate. The real world has taught me this is called “jargon” or a “loaded language.” Very cult-y.

  6. Avatar
    Jeff

    I’ve been a member of an IFB church for nearly 10 years. I bought into their false teaching and over the last few months after reading the bible for what it says, I can come to no other conclusion that This IFB church teaches grace plus works salvation. They teach that you MUST beg God for salvation and that if He is drawing you, you might be saved. They also teach that you must get things out of your life to be saved. This is works salvation! I’m trying to get my wife to change churches as it makes me sick to hear these false teachings. Christians can disagree on secondary issues but when the preachers get salvation wrong it’s time to part ways.

    • Avatar
      Brian

      I wonder, Jeff, if you have children, (maybe you do already?) will you subject them to IFB theology, terrify them with hellfire and damnation, make them comply with your truth? You speak of a wish that your wife would move to another church. Is that her choice? Would the kids have a similar choice, to attend or not, to believe or not?

      • Avatar
        Jeff

        What do you mean by “your truth”? I seek THE truth as there is only THE truth. Your response makes no sense

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          You do know this is an atheist blog, yes?

          Why is YOUR truth, any better truth than the truth of the IFB church you now disagree with? Since the Holy Spirit is supposedly the teacher and guide of all Christians, shouldn’t all Christians have the same “truth”? How do you KNOW that your truth is right and their truth is wrong?

          There is no such thing as Christian “truth.” Interpretations, opinions, yes, but not some sort of delivered truth that all Christians everywhere believe. Think for a moment about your contention that you, Jeff, in the year 2016, have finally figured out THE truth, a truth that has eluded billions of Christians over the past 2,000 years. How would you describe such a claim if it was made by the IFB preacher at the church you now disagree with?

        • Avatar
          Brian

          Jeff, let me assume, even though I am making ‘no sense’ to you, that THE TRUTH is that you tell your children what will happen to them if they do not comply with the command. If you agree that you are required by faith to expose those children to eternal damnation and complete obedience to God, then you do get my ‘sense’ entirely and you are a child abuser. Plain enough?

  7. Avatar
    Ralph

    A child abuser? Really, now. How wonderfully hypocritical and witch-huntery of you. Let me run down your logic.

    He doesn’t, according to you, really know the truth. As such, for him to teach his children what he believes to be right and wrong is child abuse.

    However… inasmuch as you don’t know for sure if your opinions are definitely the truth, either, were you to have children and teach them yours, how is that not also child abuse?

    Furthermore, it must logically be your belief that every teacher who expects a student not to disrupt his or her class, less they face consequences, and of course every item of law that says don’t do this wrong thing, or there will be consequences, is and are also abusing every person in existence?

    And, furthering your logic, every single job in which you are required to perform a task acceptably on a regular basis, or risk losing income, is abusive as well – because they teach you to meet their expectations.

    Not to mention the fact that, if you step directly in front of a speeding vehicle weighing many tines your weight, it will flatten you. How rude of that vehicle not to adhere to your belief system of no consequences for any action.

    In the real world, there are consequences. Not teaching that to your children, and sending them into a harsh world unprepared, is neglectful parenting. Neglect is a form of abuse.

    Someone teaching their children what they believe will happen after life is over, as a consequence of our will to live a certain way, and make certain decisions, is not abusive. It is what everyone does, every day. In any social medium that allows us to communicate. Even now.

    Expressing an opinion. Voicing a belief.

    • Avatar
      Brian

      “Not to mention the fact that, if you step directly in front of a speeding vehicle weighing many tines your weight, it will flatten you. How rude of that vehicle not to adhere to your belief system of no consequences for any action.”
      This is one of the lines often used by parentals who like to hit children. They believe they should hit the kid because if they do not, then surely the child will be run over.
      I never hit my children, sir. It would have been disrespectful. My wife and I spent alot of time being with the kids to help them learn about road-crossings and big trucks and never once did we feel the need to harm them by swatting, slapping, whipping, you-name-it.
      And yes, Ralph, it is clearly abusive to impose evangelical fundy ideas on a child. The very idea that an innocent child is evil is delusional and the Bible seems to support this delusional need to harm others. Certainly, all IFB churches are zealous in enjoying the harm they can do to their children and the sickest part of it is that they call it real love and say it is God’s way. Let me be very simple so you do not misunderstand: I absolutely maintain that teaching a young child that they will suffer eternal hellfire if they do not love the man hung on a Cross called Jesus, is abusive. It harms the basic innocence of children, a gift of life that these Christians cannot bear to face in their children and must beat out of them. You are afraid of the world, its harshness and how much it has harmed you, Ralph, so you impose it on your children. It is rather cowardly not to face your own harm, your own history instead of visiting it on little ones, don’t you think? You would be an admirer of Michael Pearl, I suppose?

  8. Avatar
    Andrew

    I will say not all ifb churches conduct themselves the same. I have been in good and bad throughout my life. I believe in the preaching of God’s Word including the hell fire and brimstone,but and this is where it hits the wall. You have to do it all with love. Love them therefore you preach not out of judgment. Then it becomes wrong. Brian Child Abuse???? Lol You must not like ifb members. There is more than just fear taught to these kids,but I realize you haven’t a clue what you are talking about!!!

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      The author of this blog spent much of his life in the IFB church. Brian? He is the son of an IFB preacher. But hey, what do we know. Sure glad you stopped by to straighten us out.

      Threatening any child with hell is child abuse.

  9. Avatar
    Brian

    Andrew is Michael Pearl, loving his children, carefully explaining to them that they will be whipped because the voice from the sky is the truth and human disrespect is not an adult beating a child but really is an adult who refuses to beat a child because he is too proud and ignorant to listen to the sky-voice, the black book, the preacher. Andrew is a normal Christian and normal Christians choose to abuse. They deny that an adult beating a child is abuse at all! It is as if I took Andrew to the woodshed to beat the dickens out of him because he is a child abuser. What would you learn, Andrew, if you were sufficiently well enough after it to learn anything… You would learn fear of me sir but you would probably become more vicious towards children, spreading further Christian harm.
    Your statement, “love them therefore you preach not out of judgement…) is woo logic, the same logic used in the second crusades to decide who among the soon to be overrun should live and who should die. Kill them all was the Christian response. Kill them all and God will know his own.
    Andrew, I know many IFB people, mostly of my own relations. I speak with them honestly about what I perceive to be their abuse of children.

  10. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    These older comments got quite heated!

    I went to Southern Baptist churches, and the lingo was much the same, especially in the more rural churches. The fancy First Baptist church in a downtown city where I went to college didn’t use these terms, but the practices and intentions were the same. These were the educated professionals who were above using such churchy terms. Funny, though, the beliefs were similar and the church service was structured the same way. They weren’t KJV-only, though – they used whatever translation the head pastor preferred.

  11. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Many of the definitions (save perhaps for the ones about the literalness of the Bible) can apply to any number of other denominations.

    Bruce: Have you ever read Ambrose Bierce’s “The Devil’s Dictionary”? Perhaps you can write something like it–related, of course, to the IFB or Christianity (or organized religion) in general.

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