After studying the emerging church for the past five years, including attending one of the largest emerging church conferences with media credentials, reading several dozen of their books, and interviewing some prominent emerging leaders--and at the same time observing what is happening among fundamental Baptists--in 2011 I issued a warning that most independent Baptist churches will be well down the contemporary/emerging path within a generation.
I am more convinced of this with each passing month.
“Why Most Independent Baptist Churches Will Be Emerging within 20 Years” is a free eBook available at the Way of Life web site.
In this book I list the following eight reasons for my prediction:
Rejection of warning and reproof in regard to certain heroes
Unquestioning loyalty to man
Following the crowd
Ignorance about important issues
Lack of serious discipleship
Carelessness about music
More recently I have realized that a church doesn’t have to be guilty of all of these things to be a candidate for becoming emerging. All it has to do is be guilty of two of them: SOFT SEPARATISM, because soft separatism builds bridges to the wrong churches and the wrong preachers that act as conduits for other areas of compromise to enter the congregation, and the REJECTION OF WARNING AND REPROOF in regard to certain Independent Fundamental Baptist heroes, which makes it impossible to fully and properly educate about and separate a church from the compromise that spreading so quickly among IFBaptists. (A pastor that is unwilling to listen to warnings and reproof about his heroes and unwilling to let his congregation entertain such warnings is guilty of giving unquestioning loyalty to man, so these matters are intimately associated.)
I can think of several pretty strong churches pastored by men who are not guilty of most of the previous eight things. They are not careless about music in the services, at least for the moment. (Yet because of the influence of weaker IFB preachers with whom they are associated, contemporary worship and contemporary Southern Gospel music is spreading rapidly through their congregations.) They don’t promote quick prayerism; they believe in the necessity of repentance for salvation and aren’t hasty to proclaim people saved when there is no evidence thereof. Their goal is conversions rather than mere numbers of professions. (Though, again, because of their non-critical association with men who are guilty of these things, some of their church members practice the heresy of Quick Prayerism.) They are trying to disciple the people and educate them biblically. The pulpit ministry is not shallow. These pastors aren’t proud men and they urge the people to prove their teaching by God’s Word. There are many solid, biblical things in place in these churches. They have a vision of world evangelism. They have high moral standards and the preaching gets down to where the people live.
For the moment, these churches are capable of building healthy Christian lives and homes and discipling young people.
But my warning is about the future. My warning is not about big errors but about a “little leaven.” It is about how that certain “little leavens” that IFB churches are commonly guilty of, that we have learned by popular tradition from our forefathers, will eventually leaven the whole lump.
The problem with many otherwise good IFB churches is their associations. The problem lies in the matter of with whom the pastors of these churches associate and who they invite in to speak and whose books they recommend and what schools they promote and what conferences they attend and who they refuse to warn about.
If a church is not guilty of the eight areas of compromise that I document in this book (Why Most Independent Baptist Churches Will Be Emerging), yet if that church affiliates with men who are guilty of these things, that church will be corrupted by its affiliation just as assuredly as if it were guilty of all eight things.
Those who don’t narrow their associations significantly in these days will all go down the drain together, the good with the bad, because there is a rapidly growing number of IFB preachers who are not men of keen spiritual discernment and who are committed to a path of compromise (though, typically, they deny this accusation).
The Word of God warns, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
In light of what is happening and the widespread compromise and rapid change that is evident throughout IFB churches, it is time for a come out from among them movement much more than a broad independent Baptist friends movement.
The emerging church hasn’t targeted strong preachers. They have targeted our children and our grandchildren. They have targeted the next generation. (See the book What Is the Emerging Church? and/or the video presentation The Emerging Church Is Coming for documentation, both of which are available from Way of Life Literature.)
The question is whether or not the next generation is being prepared. The question is whether or not we are allowing bridges to be built to the wrong things, bridges that the next generation will cross.
Our young people will not only be influenced by us; they will be influenced by those with whom we associate.
By the way, where did we get the idea that no warnings should be given in regard to “good” men and churches? That is one of the vain and unscriptural traditions that IFBaptists have inherited from their forefathers.
Jesus reproved the good church at Ephesus, for the very reason that He loved it and wanted to see it prosper and not be destroyed.
Paul reproved the good preacher Peter because he loved Christ and the truth and didn’t want to see hypocrisy destroy the work of God.
The prophet Jehu reproved the good king Jehoshaphat for his compromise because God commanded him to do so and the prophet feared God more than man.
Take a man like Shelton Smith of The Sword of the Lord. He spoke in September 2012 at Tom Neal’s church in Florida, and Neal is the greatest Jack Hyles worshiper alive. Neal published a paper (Independent Baptist Contender) devoted to “perpetuating and protecting the principles and philosophies of Dr. Jack Hyles.” In a letter he wrote to explain his absence from the 2001 Pastor’s School at First Baptist Church of Hammond--after Hyles’ death in February of that year--Neal said:
“It has been said of me, and I consider it a great compliment, that Tom Neal is all about Jack Hyles. My agenda was to please him. ... every success I have, I owe to Pastor’s School and Dr. Hyles. ... It is my desire that Jesus and Bro. Hyles be proud of me” (March 29, 2001, reproduced at http://jackhammer.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/kneeling-tom-neal/).
The November-December 2002 issue of Neal’s Independent Baptist Contender mentioned Hyles at least 95 times by name and featured an article entitled “The Mind of Dr. Jack Hyles.”
Whereas true Christians and Biblicists seek the mind of Christ, cultists seek the mind of their human leader.
This is wickedness. It is heresy. It is idolatry. It is not biblical Christianity. It is cultish. If we should not separate from the Jack Hyles and the Jack Schaaps and the Tom Neals, we should not separate from anyone.
(Since I first wrote this, Schaap landed in prison for committing adultery with a teenage girl and transporting her across state lines to facilitate his sin, but no one should have needed to wait until Schaap was in jail to know that he was someone to separate from.)
Yet Shelton Smith is part of this man-centered crowd. Instead of reproving them, he joins them. This is part of a wide-ranging, good-old boys, mutual back-scratching network, and men who care about the truth and care about the next generation and care about their churches need to come apart from it.
Preachers who continue to associate with this crowd are building bridges whereby this influence will enter their churches and eventually leaven them, regardless of what else they do right in their personal ministries.
The same is true in regard to the music issue. There are IFB pastors who use only sacred music and who truly care about this issue, but they associate at a ministry level with men who are careless about music, men who are playing with the fire of contemporary worship music and who are justifying it, even while deceptively pretending that they are against CCM. Such associations are compromise and they are going to hurt these pastors’ churches in the long run.
Consider the following real life example:
“There are teens in our church considering college, and we had the West Coast Baptist College summer tour group in. My wife and I sampled their CDs, and ... it was [mostly] the modern style, as was their singing in church. Then we had a group from Grace Baptist College in Michigan. They were fully in line with worldly singing styles and ‘toned down’ CCM songs (some of them I can recognize by the emphasis on self and feelings). The pastor’s teaching and preaching is just WONDERFUL after many years of being in a Jack Hyles-type of cultic church that preached the pastor’s opinions and ‘how-to’ messages instead of the Scripture. But the music thing bothers me. Our own church music is almost entirely out of the hymnal and has had no hint of the CCM stuff. But, when nothing is said about these tour groups, I am afraid that it is just a matter of time.”
This church is already on the path toward the emerging church for the simple reason that the pastor will not tear down bridges to compromise. There are families in his church who are being influenced by West Coast’s compromise, and it is his fault.
Consider another example:
“Recently a West Coast college trio sang at our large IFB church. Our church promotes West Coast and defends it. Recently our pastor preached an uncomfortable message seemingly aimed at you [David Cloud] with only one or two Bible verses. He is normally an excellent expositor of the Word of God. The last time a West Coast group was in our church, some, I believe, godly music was included. This time, it was straight CCM, loud, and the auditorium erupted in clapping.”
All of the elements are in place for the spiritual downfall of this church.
First, the pastor gives unquestioning loyalty to Paul Chappell and West Coast, refusing to entertain godly reproof of what they are doing and attacking those who issue the reproof. Thus the church members are cut off from every source of information and education that could help them avoid the compromise that is permeating IFB churches.
Second, the pastor is not being careful about music but rather is justifying the “adaptation” of CCM. Thus, the people are being given a taste for pop syncopation sounds such as beat anticipation, which Pastor Graham West of Australia has warned about. This will result in the congregation becoming addicted to the contemporary sound so that eventually they will not be satisfied by the “light” stuff. This is especially true for young people who are being influenced by this church’s compromise in music. Further, by allowing the use of “adapted” contemporary worship music, bridges are being built to that very, very dangerous world, as we have documented in the video presentations “The Transformative Power of Contemporary Worship Music” and “The Foreign Spirit of Contemporary Worship Music.” (These are available as free eVideo downloads from www.wayoflife.org.)
This church is on the slippery slope of the compromise that always accompanies contemporary Christian music, and it has rejected the very voices of warning that could help it to turn around before it is too late. One of the wisest things this pastor could do would be to show the aforementioned video presentations to his congregation, but his unscriptural loyalty to a man will not allow this to happen, since these presentations warn about what Paul Chappell is doing.
I predict that this church will be emerging within two decades, probably sooner. Today it is a church where God’s people can attend and be fed and strengthened and discipled and where they can find God’s will and raise their children for Christ. Such churches are rare today, but the seeds of destruction are being sown so that they will be far rarer in a few years.
Because of the compromise and the soft separation and the undue exaltation of man, because of the foolish bridges that are being built to the world of contemporary Christian music through the influence of one of the pastor’s IFB heroes, the church will eventually not be a sound place to raise godly children who are separated from the world.
This is why I will continue to lift a voice even though I have been ostracized by men who should be my best friends in the battle for truth.
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6).
“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
About Way of Life - The name “Way of Life” is from Proverbs 6:23: “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” The biblical instruction that molds men to God’s will requires reproof. It is not strictly positive. It does not focus on man’s “self-esteem.” It does not avoid controversial or unpopular subjects. It warns as well as comforts. It deals with sin and false teaching in a plain manner. It is reproves, rebukes, exhorts with all longsuffering and doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2). This is what we seek to do through Way of Life Literature. The Way of Life preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. A mail stop is maintained in Port Huron, Michigan.
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