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Tag: Pastor Steven Anderson

The Anatomy of the IFB Church Movement

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History of the IFB Church Movement

The roots of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) can be traced back to the internecine battles between American Fundamentalists and Modernists in the twentieth century. Denominations such as the American Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention had become theologically and socially liberal, leading churches and preachers to withdraw from their denominations, becoming independent congregations.

The IFB church movement saw rapid numeric growth in the 1960s-1980s. During this time, many of the largest churches in the United States were IFB congregations. The largest church in America, pastored by the Jack Hyles, a former American Baptist pastor, was First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Today, the IFB church movement is a shell of what it once was. Few, if any, IFB congregations are on the 100 Largest Churches in America list today. Many of the ginormous IFB churches of yesteryear are now closed. While a student at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, I attended nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. Pastored by IFB pulpiteer Tom Malone, Emmanuel was one the largest churches in the country. Today? It’s doors are shuttered.

The IFB church movement, despite its decline, still remains a force in our culture. Take, for example, the churches that refuse to close their doors during the present pandemic. Many of these rebellious congregations are IFB churches. This should come as no surprise to anyone who follows the IFB church movement. IFB churches tend to be to fiercely independent and exclusionary. IFB churches also typically tend to be anti-government.

What is an IFB Church?

What, exactly, is an IFB church? Attempting to answer this question will bring IFB zealots out of the woodwork, each saying that my description of IFB churches does NOT describe them. Regardless, I am confident that I can generally answer this question.

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. While some IFB churches have deacon boards or elders, almost all of them have a congregational form of government.

F stands for Fundamentalist (or Fundamental)

The independent church is fundamentalist in its doctrine and practice. IFB churches are social and theological fundamentalists. (see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) Fundamentalists adhere to an external code of conduct, often 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 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 such as:

  • 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
  • Hierarchical authority (God, Jesus, church, pastor, husband, wife)
  • Autonomy and independence of the local church

I am sure there are other doctrines that could be added to this list, but the list above is a concise statement of ALL things an IFB church and pastor must believe to be considered an IFB church.

B stands for Baptist

IFB congregations 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 that their Baptist lineage dates all the way back to John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles. (See The Trail of Blood by J.M. Carroll.)

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 are IFB. 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 the church out of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Because of this, often Southern Baptist churches will reject résumés from pastors with an IFB background. Southern Baptist area missionaries warn churches about pernicious IFB pastors who desire to take over churches and pull the churches out of the convention.

The Societal Structure of IFB Churches

To properly understand the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist IFB church movement, you must first understand the IFB concept of camps. In the IFB, a camp is the tribe to which you belong. It is a membership group that is defined by such things as what Bible version is considered the “true” Word of God, what college the pastor attended, approval or disapproval of Calvinism, open or closed communion, or ecclesiastical, personal, and secondary separation. Many IFB camps will have multiple “positions” that define their group, and admission to the group is dependent on fidelity to these positions. Many pastors and churches belong to more than one camp.

IFB churches, colleges, parachurch organizations, evangelists, missionaries, and pastors are quick to state that they are totally independent of any authority or control but God. Like Churches of Christ, the IFB church movement is anti-denomination, and any suggestion that they are a denomination brings outrage and denunciation.

Every IFB church, pastor, and college has what I call a camp identity. While they claim to be Independent, their identity is closely connected to the people, groups, and institutions they associate with.

Some churches and pastors group around colleges such as Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, Cedarville University, Baptist Bible College, The Crown College, Maranatha Baptist University, Texas Independent Baptist Seminary, West Coast Baptist College, Massillon Baptist College, or Hyles Anderson College. Others coalesce around specific doctrinal beliefs such as Sovereign Grace Baptists, Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America, or the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelical Churches. Some, such as Missionary Baptists and Landmark Baptists group around certain ecclesiastical beliefs. Others group around missionary endeavors. There are also countless churches that are IFB churches — churches such as John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church — but refuse to claim the IFB moniker. The Bible church movement, IFB in every way but the name, has fellowship groups such as The Independent Fundamental Churches of America.

Some of these groups will likely object to being considered the same as other IFB groups. Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptists will most certainly resent being talked about in the same discussion as the Sword of the Lord and Jack Hyles. However, many Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptist pastors come from IFB backgrounds. While certain aspects of their theology might have changed, much of the IFB methodology and thinking remains. Some of the most arrogant, mean-spirited pastors I ever met were Sovereign Grace or Reformed Baptist pastors. They may have been five-point Calvinists, but they were in every other way Independent Fundamentalist Baptists.

Most people don’t know that groups such the Southern Baptist Convention and the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches are really fellowship groups of like-minded pastors and churches. While they have many of the hallmarks of a denomination, their churches and pastors remain, for the most part, independent, under no authority but the local church.

IFB churches and pastors trumpet their independent nature and, as their history has clearly shown, this independence has resulted in horrible abuse and scandal.  But, despite their claim of independence, IFB churches and pastors are quite denominational and territorial. They tend to group together in their various camps, only supporting churches, colleges, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries who are in their respective camps.

In 1983, I started the Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset, Ohio. I contacted Gene Milioni, then the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church — the church where I was saved and called to preach — and asked him about the church supporting us financially. Milioni asked me if I was going to become a part of the Ohio Baptist Bible Fellowship. He wanted to know if the church was going to be a BBF church. I told Gene no, and he told me that I could expect no support from Trinity unless I was willing to be a BBF pastor and church. I ran into similar problems with other pastors who demanded I be part of their camp in order to receive help.

Only one church financially supported me: First Baptist Church in Dresden, Ohio.  First Baptist, pastored by Midwestern Baptist College grad Mark Kruchkow, sent me $50 a month for a year or so. Every other dime of startup money came from my own pocket or the pockets of family members. I learned right away what it meant to be a true Independent Fundamentalist Baptist.

Over the years, I floated in and out of various IFB camps. I attended Ohio Baptist Bible Fellowship meetings, Midwestern Baptist College meetings, Massillon Baptist College meetings, Sword of the Lord conferences, Bill Rice Ranch rallies, and the now-defunct Buckeye Independent Baptist Fellowship. For a few years, I attended a gathering of Calvinistic Baptist pastors called the Pastor’s Clinic in Mansfield Ohio. When I pastored in Texas, I fellowshipped with like-minded Sovereign Grace Baptist pastors.

Every group demanded something from me, be it money, commitment, or fidelity to certain beliefs. If I were part of the group, I was expected to support the colleges, churches, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries the group approved of. Stepping beyond these approved entities brought disapproval, distance, and censure.

The next time an IFB preacher tries to tell you he is an INDEPENDENT Baptist, I hope you will remember this post. Take a look at the colleges, missionaries, churches, and pastors he supports. It won’t take you long to figure out what camp he is in, and once you figure out his camp, you will know what he believes and considers important. The old adage, birds of a feather flock together, is certainly true when it comes to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement.

Is There a Difference Between the IFB and New IFB?

Several years ago, Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, started group called the New IFB. (Please see Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona and James Ach Says Steven Anderson Isn’t Really IFB.) Put off by perceived “liberalness” within the IFB church movement, Anderson started his own fellowship group of likeminded churches. While the NEW IFB has distinctives that differentiate it from run-of-the-mill IFB churches, the differences are inconsequential. Like it or not, Anderson is an IFB pastor.

In a post titled, Warning: Law of Liberty Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. Teaches False New IFB teaching, Joshua Lindsey, the son of an IFB pastor, attempted to delineate the differences between IFB and New IFB churches. As I read Lindsey’s post, I had to snicker. I thought, “what a selective explanation of the differences between the two groups.” Typical manipulation of facts to achieve the desired conclusion. Many within the IFB church movement hate Anderson. He is a nasty piece of work, so I understand why IFB preachers and churches want to distance themselves from Anderson. However, when the noise is stripped away, I see very little difference between the New IFB and the IFB. Sorry, IFB preachers, Anderson is your crazy uncle, and as anyone who follows the IFB church movement knows, there are plenty of crazy uncles to go around.

Conclusion

The IFB church movement will remain very much a part of the American religious landscape. Yes, IFB churches are, for the most part, dying, but the movement is a long way away from coding. These churches will remain anti-cultural institutions, attracting people looking for what they perceive is old-time or old-fashioned Christianity. (Please see What Independent Baptists Mean When They Use the Phrase “Old-Fashioned” and “Old-Fashioned” Preaching: Calling Sin Sin, Stepping on Toes, And Naming Names.) As the world continues its slide towards secularism, IFB churches will promote themselves as shelters for people seeking safety and protection from the “world.” Want the Christianity of the 1950s? Visit your local IFB church.

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Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Homosexuals are Vermin Scum, Says Baptist Dave 1611

baptist dave 1611

The sodomites, the homos, they do all their filthy acts in the dark of night where no one can see them. When you get these perverts on their own, they flee like cockroaches, like the roaches they are, the vermin scum, the pedophiles that they are.

….

If you’re making your son, for example, dress up as a woman and go dance at a sodomite bar, that’s hip, that’s cool, that’s trendy. But if you just believe the Bible, and you take your kid to church, that’s child abuse, right?

— Baptist Dave 1611, an unnamed Air Force Airman on his YouTube videos

This unnamed airman sure sounds like a follower of IFB homophobe Steven Anderson.  For those who don’t speak IFB, 1611 stands for the 1611 King James Bible — the preferred translation of homophobes everywhere.

Air Force Times article on Baptist Dave 1611

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Greatest Hits From the IFB Church Movement

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This is the one hundred and ninety-sixth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a compilation of video clips from various Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers. This video is a twenty-four minute infomercial for why IFB beliefs and practices can and do cause psychological problems, for both preachers and congregants. Keep in mind that many of the stories you will hear are lies — just good preaching, AMEN!

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Steven Anderson’s “New” IFB Movement Erupts Into a Food Fight Over Donnie Romero

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I recently wrote a post detailing the resignation of Donnie Romero from Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Romero’s wife had called Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona to come to Fort Worth and help deal with her husband and his sinful behavior. According to Anderson, his wife accused him of cavorting with prostitutes, smoking weed, and gambling. Romero admitted his sins and duly resigned from the church, telling them that he and his wife planned to stay on as members.

Anderson and Romero are part of a group they call the “New” IFB (Independent Fundamentalist Baptist). Founded and controlled by Anderson, the ‘New” IFB church movement believes that the “old” IFB church movement has moved away from its core beliefs and practices. While this is true is some instances, there is very little difference between the churches of these groups. Both groups are cultic; both are Evangelical in doctrine; both are conservative politically; both practice personal separation (from the world) and many of the churches practice secondary separation (refusing to fellowship with churches/pastors who have connections with compromising churches/pastors/colleges); both are evangelistic; both believe the Bible is inerrant (and many use only the King James Bible); both believe they alone are True Christians®. One thing is for certain, Steven Anderson is the de facto pope of the “New” IFB church movement.

Anderson quickly made his way to Stedfast Baptist and just as quickly appointed a new pastor by the name of Jonathan Shelley. Shelley currently pastors Pure Words Baptist Church in Houston, Texas — a “New” IFB church. Shelly’s bio page states:

Pure Words Baptist Church is an independent fundamental King James only baptist church pastored by Jonathan Shelley. Jonathan married his wife, ****, in 2009 and they have three children, ****, ****, and ****.

Jonathan was raised in a Christian home and saved at age five and baptized at age 14. He grew up in large non-denominational churches and had a zeal of God but not according to knowledge. Before his first son was born, Jonathan began to diligently study the Bible and realized he needed to make some changes. He soon became King James only and eventually started to attend an independent fundamental baptist (KJV Only) church in his area. Jonathan was rebaptized in 2015 at Arden Road Baptist Church. In 2016, Jonathan moved to Faithful Word Baptist Church to train to be a pastor. During this transition Jonathan has been blessed to have had the opportunity to preach over 150 sermons, lead soulwinning marathons, go on mission trips to Jamaica and Mexico, and memorize dozens of chapters of the Bible.

Jonathan’s vision is to reach the entire Houston area with the gospel, train soulwinners, develop and send out evangelists and pastors, and reach foreign countries with the gospel.

Anderson will argue that Shelley was appointed by the church, not him, but it’s clear that Anderson wanted his man to be pastor, and he persuaded the men of the church to ordain Shelley and make him their pastor. I say the men of the church, because the women of the church had no say in the matter. Anderson held a three-hour meeting with the men of Stedfast Baptist, a meeting women and children were not permitted to attend.

The choice of Shelly as pastor has caused a bit of controversy among “New” IFB churches. Unbeknownest to me until yesterday was the fact that Donnie Romero was also the pastor of a mission church in Jacksonville, Florida called Stedfast Baptist Church of Jacksonville, and of Stedfast Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. According to Anderson, most of Romero’s “sinful” behavior took place in while he was visiting the church in Jacksonville. Anderson also alleges that money is missing from one or more of the churches.

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Adam Fannin

Into this junior-high lunch room food fight comes a man by the name of Adam Fannin. Fannin leads the congregation in Jacksonville, and according to Anderson is best buddies with Donnie Romero. Anderson subtly implies in one video that Fannin may have involved himself in Romero’s sinful behaviors. What’s hilarious about this mess is that the various parties have taken to calling each other out with YouTube videos. Here are a few of the recent videos posted to YouTube. Enjoy!

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These videos clearly show that the “New” IFB church movement is no different from the old one. Bickering children, they are. The good news is that the women won’t be blamed for what’s happening. Oh wait, the latest rumor is that Romero’s wife is culpable in his “sinful” behavior. True IFB behavior: let a preacher get caught in sexual sin and there will always be someone who will blame his spouse or the person he had sex with. According to many of the YouTube comments, Romero is a true hero, a man of character for admitting his “sins.” Gag me with a spoon, will ya? There is nothing noble about Romero’s post-scandal behavior. He got caught. End of story.

Anderson preached at Stedfast Baptist Church today, solidifying his position as pope of the “New” IFB. In his sermon he called the church in Jacksonville trash; trash that needed to be taken out. What a man of God, right? Here’s the video of the church service and Anderson’s sermon:

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About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Bruce Gerencser