Friday, August 28, 2015

An Open Letter to Former Members of IFB Churches:

A while ago, I was talking with an individual in my city and he shared with me that he hates the church. He said that when he was in high school his girlfriend and him attended an independent fundamental Baptist church and they made mistakes and his girlfriend became pregnant. The church excommunicated them and their families. They were told that they could no longer come to youth group because a pregnant teenager would set a bad example to the other teens. He said they left and vowed to never again attend any church or have anything to do with organize religion.

I think it should come as no surprise to learn that my heart broke for this man and I was filled with righteous anger (I hope it was righteous) against this particular Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. To be honest some days my heart breaks for the IFB denomination and other days just driving past an IFB church will raise my blood pressure and get me very angry. Working in an area where there are quite a number of IFB churches I have heard several horror stories and even had a front row seat to one or two IFB horror stories over the years.

For those who do not know Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB) is a loosely-affiliated, cultish denomination of Christian fundamentalists. According to the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life, there are approximately 7.85 million IFB members in America. It’s unlikely there isn’t an IFB church within a half-hour drive from your house.

Some of the beliefs and practices characteristic of Independent Fundamental Baptists are:

→ The King James Version is the only true Word of God; all other translations of the Bible are the work of the devil. 

→ Each IFB church is wholly autonomous and free from any outside governance. Its pastor is divinely appointed and accountable to no earthly authority. He speaks for God, and God alone may judge him. To question the sovereignty of the pastor is to disturb God’s order and invite upon oneself separation from the church, and therefore from the very source of salvation and hope.

→ It is sinful for a woman to dress in any way that might cause a man to “spiritually stumble” by having a lustful thought.

→ Homosexuals are evil perverts who despise God and should be kept away from society generally and children especially. 

→ Black people bear the “mark of Cain,” and so are cursed.

→ Christians are called to remain steadfastly separate from the world and its sinful practices and temptations, such as movies, dancing, and any music with an addictive rock beat.

→ Educating children at home or in IFB K-12 schools is necessary in order to protect them from the knowledge and ways of a fallen and corrupt world.

(While part of this list is meant tongue and cheek the facts remain most IFB churches produce modern day Pharisees).

Below is a letter to all those like the individual I was talking with who have been burned by an IFB church.

To all those who grew up in an IFB church: I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. I’m sorry that the very institution which was established by Christ to protect you and teach you about God and His word turned it’s back on you and instead used fear mongering and bullying to keep you in line. I’m sorry that you have grown up with a picture of God as a hateful and spiteful old man in the sky who is looking to hurl lighting bolts down from heaven at anyone who steps out of line, questions the church, or makes a mistake looking in any way like a human. I’m sorry that individuals afraid of the world have in fear pulled you away from the world and taught you how to hate others. I’m sorry that the church hurt you. I’m sorry the church turned it’s back on you. I’m sorry you were taught nothing but law and were never exposed to God’s grace.

To those who attend an IFB church and to those who pastor IFB churches which engage in unscriptural fear mongering and bullying: You DISGUST ME & I’m willing to bet you DISGUST the very one you claim to be worshipping! You show by your actions that you do not know God nor the Bible. You are like the Pharaisees whom Jesus says, “woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill and cumin yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel! Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

(I’m sorry I realize none of those verses were from your beloved KJV, guess they don’t apply to you now). Please repent of your sinful ways while there is still time.

To all those who grew up in an IFB church: I love you. God loves you. Jesus loves you. Unlike what you have been told God is not a hateful, spiteful old man looking to attack you rather He is a Heavenly Father who loves you. He is a Father to the fatherless, hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless, and peace to the restless. He is a Father who desires to lavish His love upon you. He is a Father who desires you to come home and will welcome you with open arms. He wants to increase your joy and pleasure both in this life and in the next. His burden is weak and His yoke is light. It’s all about grace with Him. God loves you so much. He wants you to feel it. He cares for you. All He gives you is grace. All that He gives His children is matchless, endless, infinite, marvelous grace. He didn’t save you so He could continue to beat you up and make you hang your head in disgrace. He wants you to experience freedom, joy and a life basking in His grace.

You are a strong person for walking away from the cult which is an IFB church and I applaud you for your strength. I applaud you for thinking for yourself and for seeing through all of the lies, false teachings, fear mongering and bullying. I applaud you for walking away. I understand why you are angry, believe me I do and I realize it will take a long time and you may never “get over” what you have been through. I want to emphasize with you and I want to feel your pain. I would love to hear more.

You must know that Jesus doesn’t just love you He also loves His church. The church is the bride of Christ. Jesus loves the church so much that He died for His church. His church is the hope for the world and His church is how He is establishing His Kingdom on this Earth. He desires you to be a part of a church. I know you have been burnt by churches in the past; however, there are good, Gospel teaching, grace abounding, warm-hearted and welcoming churches. Jesus desires you to be a part of a church for your good. He did not make us to be out on our own. He made us for community and companionship all of which you will find in a church. The church is not perfect; however, a good church knows they’re not perfect and admits their imperfections falling at the feet of Jesus. I encourage you to find a church like that; a Gospel teaching, grace abounding, warm-hearted and welcoming church. A church which admits their imperfections, preaches the Word, administers the sacraments (baptism and Lords Supper) and has a heart for people; there you will find a true church.

If you are a former member of an IFB church; I love, God loves you, Jesus loves you and we are here for you.

A fellow ragamuffin,

T Welch

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