Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why I Am Still an Independent Baptist #1

Recent years have brought a rash of books, articles, blog posts, and testimonies of people who have become, for one reason or another, disgruntled with their own independent Baptist church (or their parents’ or friends’ church).  There has been an outbreak of biased and misinformed documentaries by major media scandalmongers on the proverbial witch hunt for IFB aberrants.  Some of what they say is true, but I know for a fact that some of it is nothing but yellow journalism designed to cast a bad light on anyone who believes the Bible.  It is not scholarship, it is speculation and slander.  They do not have all the facts.  I find it interesting that their claims of presenting the “facts” only give credence to the perceived “victim’s” side.  I am not denying that in some of these cases, serious wrongs have been committed by certain people in leadership.  But I also know human nature – angry, disgruntled people who are not right with God will say anything to make themselves look good and the church look bad.  There are true victims – people who have been badly used and terribly hurt.  I cannot deny that.

I myself have been in more that one “bad” church.  When I was still living at home, we had a succession of three “bad” churches.  I say churches, but really, it was the pastors.  The first was having an adulterous affair with another woman in the church.  When my parents confronted him, he denied all charges and our family quietly left the church.  During the next year, the church members were told not to have anything to do with us.  All but a few families did as the pastor commanded.  I think back on this time and wonder how hard it must have been for my parents that year.  They had worked in the church for several years, pouring time and money into the ministry.  Helping that church get started was the main reason for our coming to that area.  About a year after we left, the truth came out.  The affair was discovered by the pastor’s wife, who then committed suicide, splintering the family and church even more.  The pastor resigned, his lover divorced her husband, and the two of them were married shortly after.  It was a terrible blot on the church name in the community, and to be honest, the church, which had been thriving, never fully recovered.

The second bad situation was in the church we began attending after leaving that one.  It was a financial scandal, this time. The church had several families on staff, and though the church was a very giving one, some of the staff families were barely subsisting.  Further inquiry into the matter showed that the pastor was giving himself the lion’s share of the money.  I believe the pastor should be paid well for his work.  However, I do take issue with the fact that someone can afford $400 cowboy boots and new suits while his staff members literally eat bread and water.  Things were eventually made right, but another church name was smeared, and more people were hurt.

The third church was seemingly okay on the surface, although fraught with internal problems due to excessive “family influence” within the church.  At this point, we were in survivor mode.  During our brief membership period, there was a family that joined the church.  The man, a church camp director, was accused of molesting campers.  The pastor was involved in the cover-up, claiming that the alleged victims were just trying to cause trouble.  The man did go to prison, but the fallout was disastrous.  I know at least one of the young victims who testified against this man committed suicide shortly after the trial.  Lives were ruined, and the testimony of the churches involved were damaged.

I say all of this to make a point.  I have been in some bad churches.  I have seen terrible things covered up and excused by the people at fault.  But in most cases, the church members did not willingly side with evil.  They were either misinformed, or not informed at all.  The danger of leadership is that people will follow the leader.  Throughout time, we have seen ample evidence of people who made bad judgment calls and followed their leaders to their own demise.  The followers of Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Mohammed, along with many others have blindly followed the dogmas set forth by their religious leaders.  People follow leaders – that is how it works.  There are several motivations for following someone.  Some follow because of a lack of personal vision, others out of love for the leader, devotion to the cause, and still others out of fear.

I will publicly state this: those bad churches were full of good people who loved God and wanted to serve Him.  In each case it was not the church that was bad – it was a person who used the power of the church to cover or excuse sin.  I will also state that I have been in several wonderful churches, with godly leadership and not a hint of scandal.  In our travels, I have met hundreds of pastors, none of them perfect, but most of them serving the Lord and doing a tremendous work.  The majority of pastors that I know are not abusing their authority.  Why do people assume that because they have been in one, or even two bad churches, that God is not who He says He is? 

Just because I may discover that I have been given a counterfeit bill does not mean that I quit using money altogether.  Most money that is in circulation today is the real deal.  I know Wal-mart tests every bill $20 or greater with a special marker, but seriously(I must admit to rolling my eyes whenever they do this), I doubt they find many.  I see this excessive black-balling of IFB churches, as they are called, in the same light.  Only this time, the accusers are marking every dollar bill with the marker, looking for a fatal flaw that is not there in most cases.  They are trying to scare people into abandoning Independent Baptist beliefs altogether because of a few bad Christians.

To be continued in tomorrow’s post…

No comments:

Post a Comment