Why I’m Not Participating With The IBFI
by Pastor Bobby Mitchell, Mid-Coast Baptist Church, Brunswick, Maine
The autonomy and independence of New Testament churches is plainly taught in the Scriptures. We must be very careful about “meddling” in another church’s business. However, when a pastor and church seeks to start a “movement” that involves thousands of other churches then it is only right to comment on that movement if error, or compromise with error, is being promoted. When such an influence is presented to New Testament churches then New Testament pastors are under holy obligation to speak out about it. Some have asked why I am not involved with the newest Baptist group that is titled Independent Baptist Friends International, and why I felt it necessary to state that I was embarrassed that Mid-Coast Baptist Church was listed on their church directory. I am happy to answer and I thank you for asking. I am not able to give much time to a long and diplomatic response, so please be forgiving of the pointedness of this. I harbor malice towards none of those that I am stating disagreement with. I believe that there is much good that could be said about many involved with the IBFI, but the following are my reasons for not participating.
I do not buy into the philosophy that to obey the Great Commission we must work with those that have the name Independent Baptist and yet preach and practice contrary to Scripture. For instance, Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, was a featured preacher at the IBFI conference. Pastor Schaap and FBCH (following former pastor Jack Hyles) have, for years, promoted an un-Biblical form of “soul-winning” in which repentance is ignored and true Scriptural faith is replaced with the repetition of a prayer. FBCH’s un-Biblical soul-winning methodology is widely known and documented. It has resulted in much confusion, many lost professors of faith, and the promotion of a weakened Gospel message. Further, Jack Schaap has a perverted and twisted view of the Lord’s Supper that teaches that partaking of the elements is akin to sexual relations. This is taught in his book titled Marriage: The Divine Intimacy. Another example of the un-Biblical practice of FBCH is their refusal to practice New Testament Church Discipline.
Pastor Sexton emphasizes in his magazine, emails, mailings, You-Tube videos, and preaching that we must be friends to accomplish world evangelism. He wants men like me to be friends with men like Schaap. I am reminded of John 15:14 where the Lord Jesus said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” The Lord Jesus commanded that we preach repentance (Luke 24:47) and that we practice church discipline for the purity of the church and the restoration of the sinning church member (Matthew 18:15-17). Jesus’ friends obey Him. My friends for world evangelism (those that I will “partner” with, to use a phrase quoted by the IBFI) should be those that are obedient to the Lord. The fellowship of the church at Jerusalem in Acts 2 was in the Apostles’ doctrine and practice (Acts 2:42). It was not fellowship around non-Apostolic preaching and practice! I encourage Baptists everywhere to hold to sound faith and practice and work with others that hold to the same. But, I cannot engage in cooperation with those who are disobedient to the Lord.
It was very obvious from watching three of the services as they were broadcast live on the internet, and observing all of the video highlights, that the IBFI has a “movement” mentality driving it. I don’t see a movement mentality in the Word of God. Scripture reveals that God’s plan for this age is the local New Testament church doing all that the local New Testament church is to be doing! The Lord has promised that “the gates of hell” will not “prevail” against the church. There is no such guarantee for man-made movements. At the Friends Conference Pastor Sexton and others spoke regularly of the new “movement,” the “inaugural meeting,” and the need to “join,” “partner,” and “register.”
I did not hear one speaker encourage any attendee or webcast listener to seek the counsel of their pastor and church as to whether or not they should get involved with the IBFI. They were simply encouraged to join, give, and cooperate. My understanding is that this infringes on the authority of the local church.
One young preacher who was featured at the conference said, “To get the truth to the whole world we must cooperate and coordinate together. It makes sense and it is practical.” I do want to partner and cooperate with New Testament churches (regarding missions) that are serious about obeying all of Scripture, but I see no instruction in the Bible to work with disobedient people to evangelize. The New Testament reveals cooperation among the early churches, but not through compromise. I will not invest my time and money in a man-made movement. I plan to keep on devoting myself to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ through His church.
The host pastor, Dr. Clarence Sexton, and other featured speakers made it very clear that any criticism of the meeting or movement was not welcome. Instead of appreciating that “iron sharpeneth iron,” which is something a true friend does (Proverbs 17:17), those who questioned the promotion of some of the preachers at the conference were referred to as “presumptuous” and “immature.” One preacher stated that we should ”never criticize any man that’s trying to get people saved. It doesn’t matter who they are.” That is foreign to Scripture. Peter, a preacher and follower of the Lord, was sharply rebuked by the Lord Jesus for his un-Scriptural statements (Matthew 16:22,23). Later, the same Apostle was “withstood” by Paul for his wrong practice regarding the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11). Paul even went so far as to write his criticism down for believers all over the world to see!
“It takes no size to criticize” one preacher declared at the IBFI meeting. Of course, that leaves the door wide open for non-militancy that will always result in compromise. The Bible tells us to “try the spirits” and “prove all things.” I also see Jesus, Paul, John, Jude, and others in the Scriptures criticizing as needed. I don’t want a critical spirit, but, as a man of God, I must criticize what is un-Biblical.
By the way, Joel Osteen, Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and others who are promoting an anemic Christianity would all insist that they are trying to “get people saved.” Should we not criticize their errors, even if we could be glad for the little bit of Gospel preaching they do?
One preacher at the IBFI conference lamented that “we are so divided over personalities.” I agree that we should not divide merely over personalities, but personalities are an aspect of men and men have doctrine and practices that must be proven by Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Scripture states that we should not partner with men who preach and practice in an un-Biblical fashion.
Another preacher warned against “disagreement and division about what God has blessed.” Of course, it was implied that the IBFI has been blessed of God since it is so “exciting” and “so many are registering.” Meanwhile, Acts 17:11 still records that it is noble to search the Scriptures to check and see if what the preacher is saying is so. I do not trust any man or movement that refuses to deal Scripturally with criticism. No man, ministry, or movement is above 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
HE SAID WHAT?
At least three of the messages that I listened to via the live webcast involved misuse of Scripture. One man preached from Acts 15 and compared that meeting of two churches (Jerusalem and Antioch) to independent Baptists around the world needing to work together. He said that he had learned that he’d “better set aside my opinions, what I think we should be doing . . . and let’s do what seems good to the Holy Ghost.” In actuality Acts 15 is about two churches that believed and practiced the same and when a disagreement came up it was dealt with and they went away committed to total agreement as to the doctrine and practice concerning that particular item of business. To compare that to some “need” of independent Baptists agreeing to work together in spite of real disagreements over doctrine and practice is not true to the text. At any rate, obeying all of the Bible commands, including the command to warn and separate from erring brethren, will “seem good to the Holy Ghost” since He has given us His mind on the matter!
Another message involved the divisions in the church at Corinth over Peter, Paul, and Apollos. Once again a comparison was made to modern independent Baptists. Of course, Corinth was a local church, not an international group of Christians or churches. Paul, Peter, and Apollos all believed, preached, and practiced the same. They were not experiencing disunity over different practices and doctrine. It was disingenuous for that preacher to insist that independent Baptists should ignore the un-Biblical preaching and activities of some in the “movement” while attempting to utilize 1 Corinthians 3 for his proof-text.
One other example of a message based on a strange interpretation was the teaching that after his escape from Sodom, Lot regained his burden for souls, resulting in the preservation of Zoar (Genesis 19:20,21). During the same message, the preacher also stated that Lot’s wife “just froze up” because she realized that they had lost everything in Sodom and hadn’t won any souls. I cannot get excited about, or involved in, a movement that glorifies that kind of “preaching.”
The organizing of the IBFI online church directory seems strange, to say the least. During one of the broadcasts of the meeting I listened as it was stated that “thousands” had “registered” their churches and ministries at the IBFI website. On Thursday I looked at the church directory and I noticed that the church I pastor was listed there. None of us here at MCBC had ”registered” our church. I also noticed several other churches that were “registered” that had not been “registered” by anyone associated with those churches. The more I read the stranger it became as I looked at listings of churches that no longer exist, the names of pastors who are now in heaven, and the names of pastors who have moved to a different church. Other pastors began to notice the same thing and a disclaimer was added to the directory that seemed designed to appease any concerns about churches being listed without their approval. One pastor from Indiana wrote to me, “I just went through the directory for Indiana, and found numerous instances of wrong information. Evidently, they did not bother to check or confirm with the local churches themselves before listing them. They just added them without consent or approval, leading to numerous inaccuracies that might have been clarified if they had respected the autonomy of the local church, who should have had a say in whether or not they wished to be listed.”
When I spoke with a staff member at Crown College about having our church removed from the directory he apologetically stated that, in fact, they had built the majority of the directory from other existing church directories that were created and owned by other groups.
IT’S A ______________
Sunday night, the IBFI website appeared to be the website of a new fellowship, but it has been changed now to appear to be something much less organized. There was a statement of faith, but it has been removed. There was a link that said “Become a Baptist Friend,” but that has also disappeared. I don’t know if the IBFI is an association, a once a year meeting, a fellowship, etc. There is a logo. There is a name. There is a directory. There is an annual meeting. There are even “commemorative coins” for sale. Is there a leader? Is there a Statement of Faith that those “registering” ascribe to? Is there accountability? I don’t want to be involved in something when it is not clear what that something is.
I believe that our friendships for world evangelism should be based on obedience to the Word of God. Again, Jesus said, “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Brother Sexton wants us to be friends for evangelism in spite of error and disobedience “in the camp.” I rejoice in any truth that is being preached by the IBFI. I rejoice in the burden for world evangelism. I rejoice in the conservative dress and music and many of the positions declared by the preachers. I am troubled by the promotion of some that preach and practice in an un-Biblical manner. I am troubled by any misuse of Scripture and any hint of dishonesty in the service of the Lord. I am standing where I stand and I am not demanding that anyone else must agree with me. I do not want to be associated with the IBFI. I don’t even want the church I pastor to be listed on their directory of Baptist churches. Before God, I hope that my motivation and spirit is right in expressing this disagreement and lack of cooperation. Please consider it and please consider me with charity.