Baptist Distinctives Day 2: Autonomy of the Local Church

While most (although certainly not all) fundamentalists acknowledge that the universal church is composed of all believers in all places and times, on this side of eternity Independent Baptists are theoretically dedicated to staying as far away from most other Christians as possible. The fear is that if too many Christians get together, they’ll attempt to form a denominational unit and immediately set to dictating policy to individual churches, thereby grieving the consciences of members who have deep personal convictions about matters such as the correct way to pronounce “Johannine.”

Instead of having a denomination which binds churches together in matters of doctrine, fundamentalists instead have fellowships, conferences, and knitting circles wherein the members attempt dominate each other in pretty much every area except legitimate doctrinal concerns. By gum nobody is going to tell the preacher of an independent local church how orthodox his ecclesiology is but (unless he’s the son of a famous preacher or a regular contributor to conference news publication) they will spend four hours questioning him about his decision to move his services from Wednesday to Thursday. We’ll never tell you how to run your church…except for all the times we will.

As one might imagine, fundamentalist camps and conferences split, fracture, and fissure almost as frequently as the churches contained within them do. When you get that many men who fancy themselves as prophets, priests, and kings under one roof there’s bound to be trouble. But not to worry. No matter how much conflict may arise outside the gate, a pastor can always scurry back home to his personal empire where none shall say to him “what doest thou?” and where he’ll never have to justify his actions to anybody.

Autonomy means never having to say you’re sorry.

146 thoughts on “Baptist Distinctives Day 2: Autonomy of the Local Church”

  1. And if you ever stop believing as the mannogid taught you at West Coast Baptist College, they want you to mail back your diploma. You might now be the pastor of an autonomous church and no longer a lowly college student, but that school thinks they own your KJVO/doctrinal loyalty for life.
    Kiss the ring.

    1. I was warned at my ordination that if I ever strayed from the fundymentals they would want my ordination certificate back. I have often thought of wrapping it around a brick and mailing it to them COD. (Can you even still mail things COD?) I am pretty much keeping it to be obstinate now.

    2. “Mail back your diploma.”

      I’d love to know whose idea that one was. My wife and I have talked about this threat/ control tactic a few times.

      I want to know if it has happened yet. 😈

      1. And basically they are admitting that what they are giving you is not a legitimate education. And educational institution gives you a diploma for finishing the course of study, not for them having successfully swallowed their indoctrination.

        Any school that does this is tacitly admitting they are indoctrinating and not educating, and they are revealing that their theology and philosophy cannot stand in the face of the truth so they have to resort to arm twisting.

    3. I will return my diploma to WCBC when they return to me all the blood, sweat, tears and thousands of dollars it cost me to earn it.

      WCBC did not give me an education. I bought and paid for it. And frankly, I do not think the education I got was worth the price I paid.

  2. Love the ending line. I think autonomy might mean something more akin to “making sure everyone else is sorry” in IFB circles though. (At least for the Pastor). πŸ™‚

  3. So I read all the posts here, but this got me to comment. I’m currently leaving fundamentalism, and at first, people tried to gang up and make me miserable and force me to stay. Now they see that ain’t happening they are all dropping like flies refusing to talk to me even. I suppose they think if I get lonely enough I’ll come back.

    Problem for them is that Jesus Himself is filling the void, comforting me, helping me along.

    Anyhow, I loved the last line, it’s true. Not only do they never have to apologize, but YOU have to apologize. If you ever even think or insinuate the pastor might possibly have been wrong about something, even in a “good spirit” you are told to “touch not the Lord’s anointed”. Then you are labeled as “rebellious”. Oh, especially when you are shocked that the church does blatantly opposite of what they just finished teaching you. They will not look at any proof, either.

    1. Welcome to the club. I hope that you can find some support and comfort on your journey from the little group here.

      Eventually you will find that there is a very big community of Christians who really do strive to love each other like the Bible commands even when they disagree. Have fun! πŸ˜›

    2. A verse that meant a lot to me when people started rejecting my husband and I was Hebrews 13:13: “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” (NLT) I’d rather be with Jesus OUTSIDE the comfortable camp of the IFB, even if I must be alone. It’s been good to know that I’m NOT alone, but I have had to start all over again meeting new people and forming relationships because the fundy “friends” have dumped me.

      And I agree: it’s completely mind-boggling that they won’t look at any proof. They accuse you of being unbiblical; then when you try to prove to them from Scripture that you’re not, they ignore you.

      But it IS worth it!

    3. @Leaving
      Love and prayers on your Ò€œleaving.Ò€ Be strong and courageous. Remember that Jesus loves those who you are leaving and you should as well.

      Welcome to the wonderful community of non-Fundy and ex-Fundy believers who love Jesus with all their heart. <3

    4. Leaving, first thing you should know: the air outside the bubble is not poison. Last thing you should know: the air outside the bubble is not poison.

      And some of us, well me anyway, became ex-Fundy and then became ex-everything-else-too. And you know what? The air is still not poison.

  4. We heard a “sermon” every 3-6 months on the “local” church. One Church (local), one baptism, one Spirit. Lord help me I can still repeat every word in my head. Not many dared to question him or even better read and study to see if these things are true. This doctrine isolated us from the isolated. They worshipped the local church and still do. I took several verses that clearly contradict local church only and they had the strangest gymnasticts to get around the truth.

    1. Ephesians 4:4-5 “There is one body and one SpiritÒ€”just as you were called to one hope when you were calledÒ€” 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

      How anyone could use this to deny the universal church astounds me. It doesn’t even make sense to say there is one local church. There are hundreds of local churches – check the advertisements in SotL! We are ONE body in Christ which is beautiful! Isolationism is not of God (although they try to say it is).

    2. May as well just go ahead and say, “local church, local baptism, local spirit, local authority” and be done with it. Apparently God is unable to do anything outside of a couple mile radius without local approval.

  5. The first crack in my isolation was when our youth group would organize visits to other youth groups. (Dating the girls from our youth group felt like incest.) The (gasp) Methodist youth group had more fund$ for activities. The Pentecostal Youth group was -understandably- the roudiest. Other youth groups from our denomination were just no fun.

    1. We only got together with other GARBC youth groups, even if they had to travel in from other states for us all to go roller-skating and then watch “A Distant Thunder.”

        1. Major flashback here as well. The best was the organ music at the roller rink. Little did they know that they often played Funky Town organ musak, lol. That was my favorite. A Distant Thunder scared the crap out of me. I was traumatized.

        2. For our roller rallies, we had organ music, too… played by our church organist. Sigh.

          Don’t remember any movies, though.

        3. My friends SBC had a roller rink in the basement (still not sure how they had a basement in FL). I guess so they didn’t have to even leave for activities. There was also a man who lived in the center of the rink, he had a little house right in the center. I remember going with her to VBS and I think we annoyed him by skating every day. It was very weird at the time.

    2. We only got together with other GARBC youth groups, even if they had to travel in from other states for us all to go roller-skating and watch “A Distant Thunder.”

  6. Of course Darrell you know the reason for all this autonomy is actually to prevent the rise of Anti-Christ – if we have unity, we will hasten in the one world religion! Since of course God is not in control of these events we have to make sure they don’t happen in our lifetime

  7. I couldn’t believe this one when I first heard it told to me. Jesus prayed for unity, but we must avoid it at all costs lest the Antichrist will be revealed?! Didn’t God already have the end all planned? Yes, He did. And His plan was to hold off the Antichrist as long as possible by our little church’s refusal to participate in any community events. Amen.

  8. Autonomy means never having to be accountable as well.

    A little dash of autonomy, throw in some authoritarian pastoral leadership, add a sprinkle of extra-biblical legalist rules, bake at 350 for 20 minutes and you have yourself a cult.

      1. Green, surely you don’t think sexual abuse is limited to groups like the People’s Temple and the Branch Davidians?
        I’m hard-pressed to think of a major religious group that has NOT had a sexual abuse scandal in the last 20 years.

  9. Based on my experience in an IFB church, the phrase, “cult-like” comes to mind. They alone have the whole truth. Every other church (short of another IFB church) is corrupt. Only the King James Bible is the, “True word of God.” You must serve, serve, serve to earn your crowns in heaven (no matter that it comes close to destroying your health and your marriage in the process). God forbid you have a drink or drop a curse word. If you got pregnant out of wedlock be prepared to stand in front of the church to apologize. Oh, and don’t you dare take anti-anxiety medication. You only need to be high on the Holy Spirit! Women are second class citizens. It is implied that Democrats are going to Hell. I could go on and on. Autonomy = control in the case of IFB churches.

  10. Did anyone else ever hear that God would tell your pastor things that He wouldn’t tell you? Therefore, you need to counsel with your pastor about every major decision?

    I did and that set off my Bull Gipp detector (hat-tip Don) early.
    I have challenged several fundies to show me where that is taught in the Bible. So far, nothing. I am pretty confident that it is not in there.

    I think this doctrine was formulated to maintain the church’s “autonomy”. If your pastor is your sole source of doctrine, counseling and advice you will be less likely to deviate from the set program.

    1. Yes, I’ve heard that…

      By the way, it is Scriptural to get advice; the error is the pastor insisting that it must be him. I don’t think it was invented so much for autonomy as to make people dependent upon the pastor.

    2. That was the beginning of the end for me. A fundy claimed that “God told me to tell you…” and I responded with “Really? I talked to Him this morning and he didn’t mention that.” I was told in retort that I had a contrary spirit.

    3. Now wait a minute!!! These fundies, who teach that the gifts of the Spirit ended with the last apostle or at least with the compilation of the Cannon, say that God told them something to tell you? I didn’t buy it when Penticostals, who believe that the Gifts still operate, tried it on me. 😯

  11. I think I’m in love with that teensy-weensy church in the photo.
    It doesn’t have any road, or even sidewalk, leading up to it. And there are no footprints in the sand in front of the churchlet. Now that’s autonomous!

  12. “Autonomy means never having to say youÒ€ℒre sorry.”

    Darrell, me thinks thou readest too much classical literature. I believe this a nod to The Prince by Machiavelli. πŸ™„

      1. Ò€œThe answer is that one would like to be both the one and the other; but because it is difficult to combine them, it is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.Ò€ ~Machialelli

        Love Fails πŸ˜‰

        1. Would I rather be feared or loved? Um, easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.

        2. mounty March 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm
          “Would I rather be feared or loved? Um, easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”

          πŸ˜† Thank you, mounty for the great Michael Scott reference.

          I was trying to put this reply right below yours, but was unsure I was going to be successful.

  13. Darrell if you had an audio podcast of you singing hymns I’m certain I would subscribed, and I think I’d even be willing to plop down $7 or $8 in the offering plate on the table in the back for the CD if it were available in your display!

  14. Welcome to s small (less than 10,000 people) town that is home to the around 30 independent Baptist churches that include:
    Charismatic Baptist
    KJV Baptist (verse and chapter numbers inspired)
    KJV Baptist (LXX doesn’t exist)
    KJV Baptist (italicized words are inspired)
    Anti-choir Baptist
    Tri-Immersion Baptist
    No Southern Gospel Baptist
    All Southern Gospel Baptist

    1. And they all claim to be separating from each other because they care about the TRUTH!!! But really all they’re doing is reinforcing pride, quibbling over nonessentials, denying Christ’s prayer for unity, and being a bad testimony to the world who needs to see the Gospel, not a bunch of people arguing over if the verse numbers in a version of the Bible are inspired.

        1. Oh, yeah, they’re out there. A friend mentioned another church and I inquired about them (I hadn’t grown up in the area.) She responded, “Oh, they have real wine at Communion.” It still amazed me that THAT apparantly was what kept us separate – the issue of wine and grape juice. πŸ™ Now that I’m not fundy, I LOVE being able to fellowship with lots of Christians. We agree on the essentials, and we let each other have liberty in the other areas. It’s so freeing.

        2. My friend attended a fundy church that used real wine at the Lord’s supper.

          A friend of hers attended a church down the road that used grape juice. This friends Pastor attacked my friends Pastor by calling him a “bar tender”.

          Really? Come on now.

          Jesus was most definitely a bar tender then.

        3. Calling him a bar tender because he had real wine at Communion? πŸ™ It was this lack of graciousness that bugged my husband and me long before we thought of leaving the IFB. Insulting caricatures, character defamation, and an arrogant lack of love seem to characterize far too many pastors’ descritions of others’ ministries. It’s OK to have different viewpoints on this. It is NOT OK to demean a fellow believer who disagrees with you.

        4. Speaking of “Baptist Distinctives,” this seems like one of them. I’ve been to a lot of different churches (it would take too much space to list all the denominations I’ve visited), and criticizing other pastors or other congregations is mostly an IFB specialty. You will very rarely hear non-IFB ministers doing that, especially from the pulpit.

        5. I preached at a church in Illinois that had just been avoided by another preacher because they used grape juice instead of wine. If there is a crazy idea out there, you can usually find a Baptist that follows it. People. πŸ™„

    2. That’s even worse than the small (population < 10,000) town where I live. We only have ~6 IFB churches in the vicinity, most of which separated from each other for far more mundane reasons. πŸ™„

      1. I think tri-immersion is when the pastor dunks ’em three times instead of just one. Once for the Father, once for the Son, and once for the Holy Ghost.

        1. I’m sorry, that’s just silly. Only the Son died and was burried, only the Son rose from the dead. Yes the three are one but even that would make for one dunk… πŸ˜•

      2. Tri-immersion is what we thought it was, and is as stupid as anything else the IFB come up with to separate, so why not? I’d seen that done when I was a fundy, and thought “that doesn’t seem very Biblical. Turns out I was right! πŸ™‚

  15. Most IFB pastors are woefully ignorant of the fact that the NT teaching on church government is ambigious at best. Luke’s vision in Acts (esp ch.15) certainly has Jerusalem as an head church with influence over the polity and practices of other churches – even gentile churches. Paul takes exception to this in Galatians when people sent from James in Jerusalem come to meddle. The Jerusalem council gives guidelines for the gentile Christians to follow, including abstaining from eats sacrificed to idols. Paul seems to go for it according to Acts, but does not enforce it in Corinth. John the seer condemns such foods in no uncertain terms in Revelation.

    All that to say, there is no one NT teaching on church government, in my opinion. The Jerusalem council would argue against autonomy, while one might argue for it from Paul (unless we are speaking of Paul himself, since he did not view the churches he started as autonomous from his influence even after he moved on). I diagree with independent churches, but what really bothers me is the way they claim the biblical high ground and condemn everyone else. It is ignorance of the very Bible they claim to follow.

  16. I thank the Lord that I have found true freedom in Christ. I know at times my posts get somewhat angry talking about the extremists in the ifb churches. Now if the rest of the family would see the truth. You would think that when they notice all the SotL Books hidden away and listen to the music in my office they would get the message. I think many think that we have just become older and backslidden.

  17. Degrees and pastoring a church is one thing, being sent out from a local church is another. Degrees are earned (bought and paid for with tuition)and when one is a pastor or joins another church he is no longer under the authority of his sending church.However if one is sent out from a local church and is still under that church’s authority they do have the right and responsibility to re-call the “papers” of the missionary, evangelist, ect, if he is not in line with the stand of his sending church. Also one local church can break fellowship with an individual or another assembly that is walking disorderly according to the tradition in which they have received (2 Thess 3:6) I believe a church can believe whatever they deem is right within their own eyes, they do not have to answer to a college, denomination, or another church and/or Preacher. However that does not give them the right to go against plain scripture. However point is taken, too many try to control others and break fellowship over the silliest things.

    1. Well said, Trex. Though after seeing what can happen when a pastor is accountable to no one, I’m glad my church chooses to have its pastor accountable to a bishop. I don’t think the Bible requires this of churches, but I believe it is a biblically-allowed form of church government. Can bishops and denominations go bad? Certainly. But so can individual pastors and churches. When this happens, I believe it is better for their sister churches to first try to lovingly reconcile them than to go directly to separation from them.

      1. Which is why I have real issues with fundy churches in general and fundy baptists in particular. There is no accountability for the pastor who can (and I’ve seen have) run their churches like their own private fiefdoms. If you want to split hairs he IS accountable to the congregation that called him; but in practice a pastor who may be abusing his power is almost never taken down by the church itself (in all fairness, I can only use my own experience in this area and personally, I’ve never seen it happen). We’re too indoctrinated to treat the MoG with fear and awe to even consider that he might be wrong and even if we were there’s the old “touch not the Lord’s annointed” bull gip to deal with.

      2. A Pastor is on dangerous ground if he does not see the fact that he is accountable to God. A Pastor I believe should not be accountable to a “board” within the church or indivivduals within the church. However EVERY pastor should be accountable to the Church as a whole. A overseer yes.a Lord over God’s heritage NO!

    2. Yet, I have seen the “missionary-pastor under the authority of the sending church” scenario abused as well. I don’t believe that has a scriptural president.

      I believe the best scenario is for 1) the pastor to not be a lord over the flock 2) the pastor to have a group of leaders in the church he is accountable to. The accountability needs to be from people who see him lead week in and week out.

      This ensures the church has a self-correcting system, preserves the autonomy of the church, and places the pastor in a healthy, helpful community of loving friends who are there to support him.

      1. …and I have seen pastors abused. No senereo is perfect. My question is what does the Bible say? This is an honest question. …not what is your philsophy? not what do you or I believe or have been taught. ect.

        1. Scripture gives us examples of churches going to centrally-located leadership to resolve disputes (first part of Acts 15). We also have examples of leaders holding other leaders accountable (Galatians 2:11-13). Therefore, the idea of pastors being accountable only to God isn’t right. Besides, man’s fallen state should be enough of a reason for having accountability structures in place to deal with any wolves in sheep’s clothing who happen to slip through the cracks into positions of leadership.

        2. Exactly, trex. Unfortunately there isn’t a Biblical command on how this is done.

          Acts 15 involved the Jerusalem church because it was their members who had disrupted the Antioch church. If my church members were disrupting your church I hope you’d come and talk to me and we could make a decision, just as James, Paul, Peter, and Barnabas did.

          I agree with Josh. There needs to be some accountability structure. This is done in a variety of effective ways. I believe the problems come when churches become legalistic about how this accountability is provided.

        3. In Hebrews 13:7 we are told to “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” Them is plural, not singular. We are not told to obey a single pastor, but a plural group. I believe this supports an elder board, who share equal power and make the big decisions together.

  18. What happens, when you’re deep into the cult, is that you feel trapped. You FORGET that you can JUST STOP GOING to a cultish church.

    But you feel so trapped, as though it’s a marriage and you feel it’s a sin to get a divorce.

    In the end, you leave and you’re like “THIS FREEDOM! I FEEL ALIVE! I FEEL FREE! I CAN LOVE PEOPLE!”

    I won’t trade that for anything.

    1. I think you misunderstand the nature of this site.

      I’m not here to “prove” anything per se. I’m here providing mildly humorous commentary and random thoughts on various odds and ends of life in fundamentalism. If that’s an “attack” then I guess I’m “attacking.”

      If you’d like to disagree with me on the nature of these practices, feel free. If you’d like to make a case that the way fundamentalist do thing is either commanded or (at least permissible) by Scripture then feel free to do that as well.

      But this site is only about apologetics or exegesis to the extent that fundamentalists attempt either of those things in defense of their idiosyncratic Christianity.

        1. That’s a tough one. Especially since my own mother misspelled my name the other day. True story. 😯

      1. Your commentary is suppose to be humorous? Is this a new thing or has that always been your intention? Might want to let everyone know about this. πŸ˜›

      2. Hey Darrel, Sorry bout the name. πŸ˜‰ I like Rose’s idea.
        Thanks for explaining the purpose of this site. I still think you’d me more effective if you include more Bible verses when providing mildly humorous commentary and random thoughts on various odds and ends of life in fundamentalism.
        I do disagree with much of what you say on this site. But like you, I don’t mind sharing me mind. I find it comical that you made a whole site for this. ItÒ€ℒs satirical, or at least I probably began that way.
        If all these things you are pointing out is unbiblical, then use Bible to show what is Biblical. Just saying itÒ€ℒs ridiculous is a poor shot at condescension or humor. But I give you credit to making the site interesting.

        1. -Still think you’d *Be
          -If all these things things *that you are pointing out *are
          -*You just saying *that it’s

        2. I’m always catching typos seconds AFTER I hit the “submit” button. BTW, did you mean to use “me” as a tip of the hat to St. Patty’s Day when you wrote, “I donÒ€ℒt mind sharing me mind”? πŸ˜‰

    2. Hey Johnson, why not set a good example for us and provide some Scripture that shows “autonomous local church” pastors are accountable to their Bible colleges? How is it biblically correct to ask graduates to return a “diploma” they earned and paid for? πŸ™„

        1. Not all reason and science are found in the Bible (e.g. would you want a neurosurgeon who had studied from the Bible instead of going to medical school?)…

        2. Oh, and by the way…

          True reason and science may be in agreement with the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that they’re in agreement with any given person’s interpretation of the Bible (the earth is not flat, even though a couple of crazy people still interpret the scripture, as many ancients did, to require this belief).

        3. Josh, I don’t think he’s saying that all knowledge is found in the Bible, but that the Bible agrees with what we learn outside of it. The Bible is in harmony with other branches of learning.

        4. Josh, @your second post – I agree. People not understanding genre and metaphor have used the Bible to “prove” that the earth is the center of the universe too.

          I believe it is important to approach God’s Word with humility not arrogance, because our interpretation of something may be in error.

    3. This makes it sound like Bible is an ingredient in a recipe – “just 1/3 cup Bible, cut in butter, roll out and bake!” This just leads me to think that the Bible is being used without care or context, which would be ridiculous. Anyway, this isn’t about “proving” or “disproving” anything; this is a site for examining the characteristic foibles of fundamentalists, with a humorous slant, not one for attempting to show fundamentalists they are wrong.

  19. If IFBs are so doggone independent, how come they are so fond of Robert G. Lee, who was not only a Southern Baptist but PRESIDENT of the Southern Baptist Convention?

  20. @Leaving
    Love and prayers on your “leaving.” Be strong and courageous. Remember that Jesus loves those who you are leaving and you should as well.

    Welcome to the wonderful community of non-Fundy and ex-Fundy believers who love Jesus with all their heart. <3

    1. Fiddlesticks! This was suppose to go up top.

      Darrell, you ought to add an option for the author of a post to be able to edit or delete it. That’d reduce the typos (even though those can be fun) and reduce misplaced posts.

      1. Since I’ve made my share of mistakes, I understand the desire to edit. The problem is someone making a statement that everyone responds to, and then the original poster removing his comment. That ruins the thread because it no longer makes sense. As inconvenient as this can be, it at least keeps that from happening.

        1. Some forums limit the window of time you are able to edit your post. 99% of the time you realize within 30seconds that you screwed up. If you had 10minutes to make a change that would cover most mistakes and reduce the risk you mentioned.

        2. Oh, yeah. That’s a good idea. I usually spot my typos two seconds after I hit the “submit” button!

        3. Ditto.

          We all know Darrell is getting rich off this blog. Time to spread the love. :mrgreen:

          Seriously,as the number of posts continues to increase this would eliminate some needless clutter.

  21. This whole “independent local church thing” caused holy h-e-double hockey ticks when i got married. see, i married another christian (perfect), from a different IFB Church (acceptable) and both pastors were invited to our wedding (good). here is where it all got dicey. Who was to marry us? where were going to attend after we got married? this let to the poo hitting the fan. Needless to say, we don’t attend either church now, and basically i’m done with it all.

  22. BTW, did you know where this picture was taken? It is on the edge of a soybean field just outside of Yuma Arizona. It is a little prayer shack that a man built at the behest of his wife as a place where people can just stop in to pray. The inside holds six people, twelve if you want to be really packed. Funny enough, it is the most popular place in the Yuma area on Easter morning. The entire field fills with people coming together to pray alone.

    1. Having lived in Yuma, I somehow missed this prayer chapel, but then again, I never did like living there, and avoided going pretty much anywhere besides Target and the grocery store. They did have a very nice hospital where I gave my birth to my first born. πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.