I’m optimistic about the future of the Independent Baptist movement! I’m excited when I meet the next generation of men who are currently inheriting pulpits from their accomplished predecessors. I thrill at every young church planter who shares amazing stories of God’s grace in their local ministry. Young evangelists who refuse to engage in denominational politics inspire me. I’m encouraged by young missionaries who are decidedly not ethnocentric preferring rather to contextualize the gospel ministry as taught by the Apostle Paul.
These are the new independent Baptists. And they are…
1 – Obsessed with the Gospel
Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.
People do not change because they start coming to our church! People change because they have a supernatural interaction with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the power that transforms a person’s destiny from Hell to Heaven. This is the power that brings life to the dead spirit. This is the power that slowly conforms an individual into the image of Christ. It is the preaching of the Gospel that brings true change. This is why we bristle at preaching that minimizes God’s work and maximizes man’s effort. We understand that true change will only come to an individual’s life as they “grow in grace and in deeper understanding of Jesus” not when they are subjected to an artificial list of holiness based on personal preferences.
2 – Committed to Preaching the Bible
II Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
We love expository preaching. We desire to expose what the Bible is actually saying! We loathe the practice of twisting a scripture to fit a preconceived idea. Some of us expose the scripture through sequentially preaching through entire books of the Bible, taking great care to understand each passage within its proper context. Others prefer a systematic approach that allows for sermon series that comprehensively deals with a specific topic or doctrine. In both cases the new independent Baptist takes great interest in being true to the original intent of the author. This is why we dismiss preachers who continually misappropriate the very Word of God. At best these men are naïve, at worst they are knowingly prostituting the Word for personal profit.
3 – Men of Unity who Despise Hyper-Separatism
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Sadly our movement has been identified by a misappropriation of one passageabout separation while ignoring so many others about unity. These are the hyper-separatists. Not only do they separate from godly leaders outside of our denomination they actively attack fellow independents. This has led our movement to divide into splinter camps of varying influence and size. Each group seems to demand complete adherence to not only fundamentals of theology but also to complete agreement in secondary doctrinal issues. But they go even further. They also want uniformity in personal convictions and preferential issues like worship style, service scheduling, building design, and pulpit attire. To question the status quo brings suspicion. To express disagreement brings swift separation.
However, this is changing! The new Independent Baptist is less enamored with uniformity and more dedicated to unity. The litmus test for fellowship has nothing to do with jeans vs. ties, hymns vs. CCM, or Sunday school vs. small groups. We understand that the world is going to hell, and if we are going to reach them it is going to take a wide range of doctrinally sound churches that are going to look extremely different from one another. This is not only acceptable it is preferable.
4 – Turned Off by Denominational Politics
I Corinthians 1:12-13 …there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided?
One of the great benefits of being Independent Baptist was supposed to be the lack of denominational control. Sadly, our movement has not always been able to live up to this ideal. This is partly due to our proclivity toward the inane practice of 2nd degree, 3rd degree, and 4th degree separation.
Fear is a terrible thing. Fear will lead a man to say what he doesn’t believe in order to please a critic. Fear will cause a man to sacrifice transparency at the altar of influence. Fear will keep a man quiet when he ought to speak but he will call it discretion. Fear will keep a church planter tied to a denominationally approved method though it produces few results. Instead, we choose to be men who are more concerned with freedom of expression and open dialogue than retaining influence and pleasing critics.
Trust me. I understand the pressure. Simply by writing this post I am opening myself up to reprisals. But I have found that speaking the truth is rewarding, expressing your position is freeing, and saying what you really think is tremendously liberating. Transparency doesn’t seem to limit influence it seems to expand it.
5 – Dedicated to Fiscal Accountability
II Timothy 4:5 Make full proof of thy ministry.
At the recent Idea Day East there were many great truths shared about life and ministry. One of the greatest quotes of the day was, “if the pastoral staff is afraid of financial accountability – there is a problem.” Far too many churches have been destroyed by a pastoral staff unwilling to adopt strict financial policies. Overspending, misappropriation of funds, and even outright theft have brought many churches down. I find great comfort in knowing that this trend is dying away in Independent Baptist churches due to the humility of pastors and the hard work of deacons. If we are to lead in the coming century then we ought remove the temptation of financial corruption.
6 – Well Read
II Timothy 4:5 Make full proof of thy ministry.
No pride should be taken in ignorance. We should primarily be well read in the Scriptures for they contain what is needed for a life and ministry. But we should also be well read in history, science, literature, leadership, and pop culture. One of the things I love about the young Independent Baptists in whom God is bringing me in contact is their readiness to grow. They are not in bondage to an “Index Liborum Prohibitorum” as was instituted by the Roman Catholic Church. They read broadly always being careful to filter new thoughts through the inspired Word. This allows them to reach a broader swath of people within their cultural setting. It also allows them to challenge their presupposed points-of-view.
7 – Just Getting Started
Acts 1:8 Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Our generation is just getting started! The world stands before us in desperate need of Jesus Christ. We hold the solution to the world’s problems and we are ready to give Him away. We are willing to do anything it takes to please our Lord and advance His Kingdom. We are just now arriving on the foreign field! We are just now launching our church plant! We are just now inheriting the established pulpit! We are just now beginning to see the possibilities for world-wide evangelism! The future is bright. The next 40 years belong to us! Will we be the generation that turns the nations back to Christ? I believe we can – for we are just getting started!
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 Though I use the word “young” I have found some of these new independent Baptists are in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.
 1 Corinthians 9:19-27
 2 Peter 3:18
 2 Corinthians 6:14-17
 Ephesians 4:1-6, Philippians 2:1-3, 1 Corinthians 1:10-12, The entire book of 1 John
 Be patient! I’ve noticed that the new Independent Baptist can be extremely impatient. Here I will point to myself, for I am among the worst. I falsely assume that my journey has been everyone’s journey. I assume that my conclusions will be everyone’s conclusions. I grow impatient with those who disagree and tend to write off those who differ in opinion. I forget that it has taken me over a decade in the ministry to arrive at certain conclusions. I forget that I have only learned these things by God’s grace and in His perfect timing. I forget that I have not yet arrived but have been called to keep learning and growing. For me to grow impatient with someone who has not yet arrived at my conclusions (or never will) is the height of hypocrisy.
 I will be discussing this odd practice in an upcoming post called: The Six Degrees of Separation.