By Cooper P Abrams III
What Are the Consequences of a Baptist Church Becoming Non-Denominational?
In many circles today it is unpopular to be called an Independent Fundamental Baptist. There is a unflattering stigma attached to the name by many who are not comfortable with the uncompromising stand of most who bear the name. Some believe that we should abandon the name and change Independent Fundamental Bible believing Baptist churches into inter-denominational, non-denominational or "community" churches and conclude this would make our churches more appealing. The true man of God in the pulpit or the pew must reply, "We cannot, nor will ever do so!" This paper gives the Biblical reasons and explains the far reaching unbiblical results of such a move that many probably have nether thought of.
The name "Baptist" is very dear to those who hold to the fundamental truths of the Word of God. It is dear because of what the name traditionally has stood for. The name Baptist has in history identified those who uncompromisingly held to the truth of the New Testament. Many of these saints of God went to violent deaths in martyrdom refusing to compromise or deny the Word of God. Baptists are not Protestants and have never been Protestants which means they were never Roman Catholics! The name "Protestant" denotes Romans Catholics who left their church in "protest" of its false doctrines and practices and formed "Protestant" churches.
Baptists took the name to identify themselves as followers of the teachings of the New Testament, and in particular the biblical teaching of believer's baptism by immersion. Baptist believe the Bible and therefore immerse for baptism, not sprinkle. This sends a clear message that we literally believe and practice what God's word plainly states.
In counter distinction to the Baptists, most of Protestantism and non-Baptists believes in some form of the false doctrine including sacraments, works plus grace for salvation, baptismal regeneration, infant baptism and sprinkling as a mode of baptism. Baptists rather than compromise the Word of God chose to die by the thousands at the hands of Protestants and Catholics who tried to force false doctrine on them. The name "Baptist" has a rich heritage and came to identify those that refused to abandon, even on the threat of death, the clear teachings of the New Testament. Baptists are generally known as Bible believing people and Baptists should be proud of their biblical foundations and tradition of standing for God's truth.
The word "Independent" means that a church is not a member of or under the control of any denominational hierarchy or convention. Independent Baptists recognize that there is no scriptural basis for a church hierarchy or universal church. We following the clear teachings of the New Testament in our doctrine and in conducting our affairs. Therefore, a church that states it is Independent is further stating its adherence to the New Testament as its sole example for faith and practice.
The word "Fundamentalist" further makes the point, that the church believes and practices the fundamentals of the Faith as taught in the New Testament. The clear and literal teachings of the New Testament are its sole rule for its faith and practice. A true fundamentalist does not compromise in any way from what the Bible teaches in doctrine, principle and by example. Further most Fundamental Independent Baptist churches use sound hermeneutical principles of interpreting the word of God in its grammatical, historical and cultural context.
A name is only as good as those that it identifies. Although many today call themselves by the name Baptist, some by their false doctrines and practices, show they have grossly misused the name. A name should identify the people who carry it. The name Independent Fundamental Baptist if properly used should be synonymous with a true Bible believing New Testament church and there is no sound reason of abandoning it for a less meaningful name or a name that does not clearly identify the congregation's beliefs.
Following are just a few of the doctrinal compromises that a church would have to make if it declared itself non-denominational or inter-denominational. The following are not conjecture, or based on speculation, but the actual positions, beliefs and compromises that are seen in all non-denominational/inter-denominational churches.
1. The church would have to make Scriptural baptism by immersion optional. Many Protestants who would seek membership would have been sprinkled. The church would have to sprinkle members who would did want to be immersed even though Baptism in the Bible always is by immersion only. To accommodate those who practice false practices the IFB would have to abandon the first commandment to the newly saved child of God that he be biblically baptized by immersion. They would have to pollute God's ordnance to His church. Sprinkling in no manner pictures the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as does immersion. Even if it did, it still would still be wrong because God says we are to immerse! But to appease those who do not like the name Baptist, satisfy the compromiser, and not offend anyone, the church would have to disobey God.
2. The church would also have to consider baptizing infants if those seeking membership were so disposed. As an inter-denominational church or community church it would have to embrace this heresy which is practiced by all Catholics and all Protestant denominations. It would have to make optional the Scriptural commandment that we baptize only those who have professed Christ Jesus and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior by Faith.
That means churches would have to accept anybody into membership of their church who would want to join regardless of what they believed. They would have to forget Ephesians 2:8-9, that says salvation is by faith alone, apart from works. They would have to start accepting as church members, those who profess to be going to heaven because they were baptized as infants, joined a church (any church), or just felt they were not bad enough to be sent to Hell. Those who reject the Grace of God by trying to work their way to heaven would have to be welcomed. In a non-denominational church biblical doctrine is only optional and church beliefs and practices are determined by the desire of the congregation or pastor not "Sola Scriptura."
3. The IFB church would have to forget the very basis of what makes a true New Testament Church. The foundation of a true New Testament church is that it accepts only the Holy Scriptures as the absolute Word of God and the only rule for faith and practice. The majority of churches today have in many ways have substituted the teaching of men for the Word of God. They have accepted man's wisdom, along with church tradition, as their rule of faith. Examples: Sprinkling, church service orders, baptism and the Lord's Supper as a sacrament having saving powers, merging of church and state, a state paid clergy, salvation for only an elect few with all others having no opportunity for salvation. In not following the New Testament literally and absolutely doctrine, polity, and practice are up in the air and there is not standard to follow.
4. They would also have to give up the biblical teaching of the independence and autonomy of the local church. As Protestants have in the past, the church would be free to in time place itself under the rule of some denominational authority, who would then take away the freedom of the church to rule itself by the Scriptures. Or as bad, the non-denominational church would have to exist without any true authority accepting, neither the Word of God or any organized denomination. The Pentecostal and Charismatic movement who are proud of their non-denominationalism are proof of this idea. Many are little more than religious entertainment centers lead by men and groups who have ground rich without any having any biblical oversight.
5. As a non-denominational church the church would not be able to speak out against false teaching or doctrinal error. Doing so might offend members who do not accept biblical doctrine. For example this church could be put in the position of having to accept the false teachings of Pentecostals and Charismatics along with their unbiblical tongues speaking. The preacher could not preach anything about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit because some would believe that Christian are not "fully" indwelled by the Holy Spirit until they experience the "second blessing" accompanied by tongues. The church would have to embrace the evangelist Charismatic "healers" of today and never speak out in any way against their false teachings. If anyone wanted to speak in tongues, they would allowed to.
The church would have to shift its emphasis from God's Word and the truth to stressing emotion and experiences as the unbiblical Charismatic movement has done. The Charismatic movement has literally "hooked" many people today into a false brand of Christianity. It admittedly looks good and appeals to many emotionally, but it is spiritually empty, offering emotional feelings and religious entertainment instead of sound spiritual growth. Most of the Charismatic and many Pentecostal churches base their worship on the emotional actions of hands clapping, singing repetitious choruses, physical expressions such as raising ones hands in the air, and even mental black outs called "falling out in spirit" even though none of these practices are taught or even mentioned in the New Testament. There music is little more than worldly and sinful rock music, sang with "religious" words. Many of their services look more like hard rock concerts than a church worship service.
The emphasis in worship would have to shift from the biblical example of worship, to that which appeals to the flesh and not the spirit. Any one could stand up and claims to have had a religious experience and it would have to be accepted by the church as real because the church, by abandoning doctrine, it would have no standard to discern truth from error. Because no one should be offended by the preaching or teaching of the church, no one could even question the experience or another.
Can God bless error? Will He work where His Word is misused to support these false teachings. Can God bless a lie? The answer is a resounding NO! Thus the result of non-denominationalism, which actually means no doctrine. . . would be foregoing of the truth and the subsequent blessings and power of God.
There is a correct interpretation or meaning of all Scripture! And further the Bible teaches that God's word is absolute truth. It is the Devil's device to misuse even the sacred Scripture to perpetrate his false doctrines and deceive men into denying the absolutes of the Word of God. (Read Matt. 4:1-11) Satan at Christ's temptation used Scripture to tempt the Lord. He used it falsely and was corrected by Christ. The Devil has not changed his ways or methods even to today. This is why the New Testament preacher must address it often and warn against it teaching the Truth. So many have been literally "raped spiritually" by this false so-called "Christian" movement.
The teaching of modern self appointed miracle workers is absolutely and totally a false doctrine! It can be proven as a false teaching by an honest examination of Scripture. The only confusion about the matter is in the minds of those who have not truly examined God's Word or who have believed it. The Bible is very clear on the matter.
As a non-denominational church the church would be forced to accept this false teaching or else ignore it or worse preclude God is not clear on the matter and has left us in confusion! God forbid we even consider such heresy!
6. The church could be put in the situation of having to accept women as preachers, practicing homosexuals as members or as ministers. Practicing homosexuals would have equal status and position in the church and be accepted as an alternative form of the "family." This "abomination" unto God could become accepted as God's word ceased to be the church's authority, being replaced by human reasoning and worldliness.
To sum it all up, a church would have to throw doctrine and sound teaching to the wind. It would have to throw away most of God's Word and at the same time claim to be following God. Sin could not be spoken evil of and the Word of God would have to be abandoned at the same time it is claimed as containing the Word of God. It would not be clear what was or was not the Word of God.
Suppose that as a pastor of a Bible believing church, one would take the philosophy, "Its OK, we are both Christians and though we disagree on some things we can still have spiritual fellowship and its not really that big a thing anyway." Would not such actions be condoning false teaching and supporting error? How can a man be lead to the truth by someone who does not accept the truth themselves? How can the truth help anyone if it is compromised and mixed with error? The true child of God loves the Truth and it is important to him that no one ever hear anything from him, but the truth. He does not want to be guilty of aiding Satan in supporting a false believer in his error. Though the whole world reject the truth, the true man of God will not be a party to it. Many have been cruelly martyred for taking just such an uncompromising stand on God's Word.
Jesus in Matthew 24:24, speaking of the rise of false prophets who would come with great wonders and signs "if were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Although this is a reference to the beginning of the Great Tribulation, it teaches clearly that God's elect, who are His children can possibly be deceived by the powerful and charismatic leaders. (I use the word in its sense as men with great "charisma" or personal appeal) They are even in the world today as states John in 1 John 2:18.
It is totally clear by the teachings and practices of so called "non-denominational" churches that they would better label themselves "anti-doctrinal"or "no doctrine" because they have no respect for biblical truth or the authority of God's word. Denominational names identify doctrinal positions and it is nonsensical to denounce them. Churches today hold to a great variety of doctrinal positions and it is well and proper for them to identify themselves with their beliefs. Yes, many denominations are based on false doctrine and church polity. But does it make sense that a church could say it represents God and lead men to Him and ignore His word? Does such a church truly represent God who will not accept His word and direction in their beliefs? Would one who loves God declare itself non-denominational which in reality identifies it as having no particular doctrinal stand and accept all views as having equal value. That destroys God's truth and makes their church no more that civil or social clubs with a religion tone.
The truth is that these so-called non-denominational churches accept most all denominational positions and make no attempt to define false doctrine from the truth teachings of the word of God. In over twenty five years of ministry I have never known of even one "non-denominational" church that was doctrinally sound. There is no merit in abandoning the historic Baptist name and identifying a church as "non-denominational" or as the more popular term "community" church.
Often the reason given is to distant themselves from negative view that many have towards Baptists. Baptist are seen as intolerant people who are unbending in their insistence that they are right and others wrong doctrinally. The resolution of that matter is quit simple. Yes, we are intolerant about many things, but what are we intolerant about? We will not compromise God's word and accept that works plus grace can save, because God...not man, say that salvation is God states it is in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9) We will not baptize infants nor by sprinkling because it violates God word. Only those who believe in Jesus Christ are to be baptized and never in the New Testament is the method by sprinkling. It is God's command to immerse and therefore we will obey God. Immersion symbolized the dead, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will not pollute the ordinance of God for any reason.
The criticism is also made that we are unloving. To me that is the worse offense and untruth leveled against people who love God. Who is it that is the most evangelistic people on this earth? Yes, it is we Baptists. Is seeking men for Christ unloving? That is foolishness, but is shows a major flaw in those who oppose Baptists. What they are really opposing is the preaching of the Gospel, God's plan of salvation to a lost and dying world. They preach a watered down Gospel which is not a Gospel as Paul spoke of in Galatians 1. Preaching God's truth exposes their error and that is offensive to them. There are not more loving people than biblical Christians who love the souls of men and who are the greatest missionaries on this planet.
Sadly, experience shows that the real reason some would like true biblical New Testament churches abandon their Baptist name and biblical heritage is to change the church into a religious social organization. It is to their financial benefit supposedly to do so. They are looking for crowds with money. Gods says the "love of money is the root of all evil." It is very financially rewarding to "sell" people a religion that pleases the flesh, entertains, and dulls their conscience to sin. These false churches and leaders cannot attract the worldly religion crowds with preaching repentance from sin and against worldliness, nor the "stigma" of being a Bible believing church. Without few exceptions "non-denominational" or "community" churches change their emphasis away from being a Bible teaching, evangelistic churches to one in which social activity is the goal. Further the reason for the suggested change is that the name "community" is not offensive and the name Baptist is to some. If their intentions honorable, they have clearly overlooked the serious consequences of their proposal. In other words, these people, whether well meaning or not, feel it is less offensive to identify themselves with a church that by identifying itself as a Baptist church, says it preaches, teaches and stands for God's word the Bible. The logic of that certainly would elude anyone who loves the Lord, His word, and the souls of men.
It would be a serious mistake, for a biblical church to identify itself with a name that in reality stands for being unbiblical. It would be a major step toward eventual apostasy as history demonstrates.
Cooper P. Abrams III
(Revised March 20, 2006)