Recently I received a Facebook PM from a dear Christian lady who was confused about Biblical separation and the church of God. Here is our conversation posted with permission and minor redactions. I want to hear your opinions and thoughts. After fully reading the article please comment below.
I was talking with my sister ________ at church last night and asking her for advice regarding the guy I’m dating right now. My sister suggested maybe I could ask you for advice since she follows you on social media and likes the things you post.
Last July, I met my boyfriend ___________ at a friend’s BBQ. The reason we “hit it off” I guess you could say was because from the very first conversation, it was apparent we both really loved the Lord. We both had been on mission’s trip to the same country, and we’re both involved in the same area of ministry at our own separate churches (teaching middle school aged kids in the youth group). Shortly after that, we began dating.
I go to an Independent Fundamental Baptist church where I grew up. I’m involved in a ministry that I love. While I love my church, I do see flaws with it and always have. I also believe that no church is perfect, and I don’t think the flaws are deal breakers for leaving the church. They are just things I have grown accustomed to and don’t bother me too much.
My boyfriend attends a ___________ church also in the area. Not sure how familiar you are with this denomination. They definitely have the same doctrinal beliefs as my church on salvation, and also on most other doctrines as well. There are however some differences. And this is where we are trying to figure out if the verse “…be not unequally yoked” applies or not. Obviously in a marriage, I’ve heard you want to be unified (and that makes perfect logical sense). The thing we are just trying to figure out is if these differences are too much to overcome or not.
Here are some of the differences:
Versions of the Bible. IFB is obviously KJV only. His church uses the NIV. My stance is that I’ll always use the KJV b/c I’m used to it and all verses I have memorized are from the KJV. I never really looked into WHY it’s a big deal to be KJV only, but due to this situation, I’ve started researching and realized it has more to do w/ the original text used rather than the actual translation. We have no problem with each other using different versions, however…is this something that would cause dis-unity for a future family one day?
Certain methods for soul-winning. My church has always been really big on door-to-door visitation. I’ve participated in it quite a bit. My boyfriend’s church is big on outreach also…they are a large church and do a lot of outreach events where they spread the gospel. However, they feel like door-to-door visitation isn’t something that is very effective b/c it can turn people off to the gospel. I’m really trying to seek out how I feel about this. I see both points. Both my boyfriend and I feel that sharing the gospel is extremely important…we just use different avenues to go about this. If I switch to his church though, I’m afraid of watering down my witness by eliminating door-to-door as an avenue for spreading the gospel.
Altar calls. My church has an alter call at every single service. His church only has them occasionally. However, at every service I’ve attended at his church, the pastor has offered for people to talk in the prayer rooms on the side of the auditorium after each service. I attended the Good Friday service they had this year, and the sermon was incredible…it described salvation in such an easily understood way (better than I’ve ever heard preached at my church) BUT then they didn’t give an alter call. I didn’t understand that. Then on Easter Sunday, they DID give an alter call and over 100 people received Christ. It’s strange to me that they don’t always give one and am trying to figure out if it’s something to be concerned about or not.
My boyfriend and I have both visited each other’s churches on many occasions and have been praying about where we might attend together one day. The one issue my boyfriend has with my church is that the overall attitude during messages preached from the pulpit is an arrogant attitude that doesn’t align with the humility found in Paul that he is the chiefest of sinners saved by grace alone. This is the main reason he doesn’t think he could attend my church.
That leaves me with a decision to decide if a church like his is somewhere that honors God and that I could grow in.
I am not opposed to dramatic change in my life. It’s not that I am against switching to a church I’m not used to…in fact, I think it would be neat to see what new opportunities God could give me to serve him. But I want to KNOW it’s what God wants before making a change like that. I’m finding myself having to search into issues that I previously never even gave a second thought about. I want to follow the truth of the Bible in every area of my life and I want God to use me to further his kingdom.
My first question is if issues like I listed above are issues that would hinder me in accomplishing either of my spiritual goals. Does a church need to agree with everything that IFB churches believe in order to be a God-honoring church?
____________ and I both love Jesus with all our hearts. We just have grown up in different “brands” of Christianity. Is this something that would hinder a marriage in the future? That is my second question.
I want to mention that this is something we are both praying diligently about both personally in daily devotions as well as together. We want God to show us if this is a relationship that should and could lead into a godly marriage where we could both still serve God to the max of our abilities. There are just times when you wish you could audibly hear an answer from God and now is one of those times. That’s why I’m reaching out to you. I just wanted to see if you had any insight on any of this.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this…I know it’s very long. Any help or advice you could offer regarding this situation would be GREATLY appreciated.
(End of Letter)
I’m sorry it has taken me so long to reply. I want to begin by giving you a simple answer and then move forward with a fuller explanation. No, I do not believe you will be “unequally yoked” by marrying this fine Christian young man. NO, I do not believe that a marriage to this man would keep you from your divine mission. No, I do not believe these differences will be an issue in your future marriage unless you allow them to be so.
The issues you spoke of are a few of the things that make Independent Baptist Churches unique within the family of God. From my experience I see us as a group of passionate Jesus-followers who are concerned for souls, dedicated to Biblical truth, desiring genuine holiness. However, we can also be overly opinionated, deeply pharisaical, lacking the grace of Jesus. This has lead to hyper-separatism, legalism, and confused congregants who question the spiritual standing of other Christians and ecclesiastical standing of other churches who differ slightly on secondary issues.
- The Bible Version Issue
Though I use the KJV there are a many men whom I admire who do not hold this position on the text: Jerry Vines, Johnny Hunt, Morris Chapman, Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, W.A Criswell, John Piper, John R. Rice, Bob Jones III, Robert Jeffress, Albert Mohler, David Barton, James Dobson, Franklin Graham, Tim LaHaye, J.I Packer, Warren Weirsbe, & Ted Cruz. Also, look up any other Christian leader in the world that is not Independent Baptists and you may find this to be a unique position in the Christian world. So, would I discourage you from going to any of the churches associated with the men listed above? I don’t think so, not solely based on this issue. Sadly, for some this issue has become a litmus test for “true believers” and it must stop.
- The Soul-Winning Issue
There are clearly many ways to win souls. My concern would not be in a specific method but in the results of that chosen method. Since the Bible is clear that the fields are “white unto harvest” and we should “go forth and reap” but is unspecific as to methodology, it seems the Lord of the harvest is more concerned with a full barn than methodological debates. Simply, which church is seeing souls saved? If the answer is both, then both are obedient to the Lord’s calling. Personally, I like to study many different methods and put to use those methods that seem to bring in the greatest harvest. If the Lord had been more specific about methods I would be more loyal to those methods. Alas, He was not.
- The Altar-Call Issue
American churches were introduced to the innovative idea of the altar call during the ministry of Evangelist Charles Finney. It is not a Biblical method for it is not found in the Bible. It is a pragmatic method used greatly by D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham. Since this is not a Biblical issue it really doesn’t matter if a church chooses to use this method or not.
Sadly, those who have been raised in our churches have been sidetracked by secondary issues and often forget to check on primary issues. Does the church believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, the miracles of the Bible, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, and the substitutionary atonement? These are the fundamentals. What about secondary issues that don’t demand separation but are at least doctrinal in nature? Does the church differ from you on lesser doctrinal issues such as sovereignty/free will, eternal security, and dispensational/covenantal theology, eschatological timelines? These are second tier issues but issues that matter more than the three you mentioned. Unfortunately, we have an entire generation of independent Baptists who are asking the wrong questions because we have focused on the wrong distinctions.
I have attempted to answer these questions as if I were speaking to one of my three little sisters or one of my two daughters. I hope it was helpful.
I want to hear your opinions and thoughts. I am increasingly receiving more and more of these type of questions and I would love to hear from you. What Biblical counsel would you have given her? Please comment below.