Church Defined

All through the years I attended fundamentalist churches I frequently heard the mantra that “the church is not a building” because God lives in the hearts of believers. This was usually followed by a list of things one couldn’t do in “God’s house” such as run, talk to loudly, use pre-recorded music, wear certain types of clothing, and say the words “gee willikers.” God may not live here but apparently He has a bunch of house rules anyway.

It was not until I was an adult that I began to think about what a ‘church’ is to a group of fundamentalists: it is first and foremost where the head pastor rules. I’ve seen fundamentalist churches without choirs and without offering plates and even (as unthinkable as this may be) without blood red carpets but I’ve never seen one without a single man in charge. In fact, it would seem that all three members of the Trinity could very well be missing altogether from the premises but as long as there is that single strong voice present, there can be a fundy church.

From the reserved parking spot outside to the study filled with personal trophies and on to the special throne on the platform, the entire structure screams that church is not a body of believers. It’s not even the home of the believers. It is instead the embodiment of one man’s vision for how things ought to be, from the choice of hymnbooks to the wording of the weekly bulletin. Church is coming to hear him talk, to hear him yell, to hear his plans for what will be your future.

What is a church to a fundamentalist? It may look like a group of people united in a common cause but upon closer inspection that cause almost always turns out to be the fulfillment of one man’s dream at others’ expense.

97 thoughts on “Church Defined”

  1. Sounds like the definition for any cult. One man leads and everyone follows blindly, lest they not be in the “will of God.” Sad! πŸ˜₯

    1. Having read the other posts, the error is in the “following blindly”, not the leadership.

      The pastor DOES have authority, but it is limited by Scripture.

      Perhaps God does give the pastor a “vision” (don’t like this too-overused word), and then people gather in the church who share this vision… so it’s not just the pastor’s vision, but shared by all.

      1. GR – can you site where in scripture there is “authority” or some kind of power over other believers that is given to some “pastor”?? I am revisiting this and I think IFB has twisted scripture (yet again) and has based some contrived doctrine off of a poor KJB translation. Noteably: in Romans 11:13 where fundys think Paul is magnifying some kind of “office” that is occupied and then take a logical leap saying Paul gives authority to the pastor, when in reality this word is better translated in other english versions as “service” the NIV “ministry” and not granting some authoritarian position.

  2. Hmm. Maybe a definition for some fundy churches. Not sure (yet) that it’s true for BJ styled fundies but you’re more experienced than I am.

    1. I never experienced this type of fundamentalism until I entered the BJU orbit. Its alive and well there too.

  3. My wife attended a church that looked very much like the one in the picture when she was a teenager. And yes, it was ALL about the pastor. It took a long time to work through some of the issues she’s had due to her experiences there. The stories she can tell…

  4. Boy, you nailed it on this one. This was EXACTLY the way our old fundy church was. It did not matter what the church election results came out as, he would dictate who did what! I called him on it a few times and as a result, I labeled as a “rebellious teenager who did not know where his place was”. As soon as I got done high school, I knew EXACTLY where I was NOT going to be. After I was done school, I left and never looked back. Wow that was 25 years ago and the twitchiness continues… πŸ™

  5. The longer I read the posts on this site and others’ comments, I’m more thankful that the fundy church I grew up in wasn’t as bad as some of them sound. As much as the way I grew up had it’s problems and faults, things were downright balanced and almost liberal compared to what some of you talk about.

  6. *twitch* yep that sums up the IFB in a nutshell.

    Go into the average IFB temple and ask for the minister (cf. Ephesians 4:7-16) and I can almost guarantee that you will be directed to the “Pastor” or at the least someone on staff.

    Church in the IFB is merely an individually owned/operated Religious Franchise.

    1. Go into any church, and ask for the minister, and you will be directed to someone on staff. What’s the matter with you?

      1. Because if you read what Ephesians 4 actually says, the gifts of preaching/teaching, apostles, evangelists are to bee equipping the saints to do the work of ministry. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
        All believers, all saints are to be ministers not just the paid staff and the hired gun in the pulpit. Yes we don’t all have the same gifts, but just remember the office does not sanctify the holder of said position.

        1. Don you are exactly right! Fundys unsurprisingly twist this scripture into some kind of caste system hierarchy of “offices” where they are at the top calling all the shots building their religious corporation and good-ole-boy network.

  7. Man, Darrell, if I still gave “amens” (even if I still went to church), I’d give you a big one on this post. You’ve explained it exactly as it is.

  8. I agree completely with Don and with ktmrc8 — you’ve nailed it, Darrell. But it’s not exclusive to fundamentalism. It’s a problem inherent in independent or congregational church polity. The pastor “runs the show,” as it were — what should be the congregation’s church becomes his, and the sheep sheepishly allow him not only to direct but to dominate. The consequences of this are not only the abuses described above, but the fact in many circumstances, when such a pastor leaves, the church falls apart. It has become so identified with him that it struggles to survive without him. Very sad.

    1. The church becomes so identified with him that it falls apart without him…. that is what is happening at my former church… πŸ™

  9. Ah, but the doctrine that God lives in the hearts of believers works out very conveniently for the Mog, too. Because “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” he can add to the list of things you can’t do in his building a list of things you can’t do anywhere else, either, because you’re always in the temple. Never mind that the Holy Spirit never voiced any objection to the apostles about any of these things; these days, we can only hear what the Spirit says to the churches through the Mog.

    1. Of course, the mog has his own set of “allowable” actions within the temple, like having a hidden door to his secretary’s office installed for “private counseling sessions.” Sorry, couldn’t resist. Those of you familiar with HAC and FBCH know what I’m referring to.

      1. I had a professor at Biola who knew some people at HAC during that time (he himself was at Biola during this). According to him, there were all kinds of rumors floating about the place regarding what was going on. I remember he told us in class (we were talking about religious strictness, or something like that) that he wasn’t at all surprised to learn that the rumors were true.

        1. Also, fun fact: Jack Hyles came to speak at Biola once in the late 1960s (according to the same prof). Never once was he invited back. And back then Biola was a pretty strict place, from what I’ve heard (think HAC-like strictness; thankfully it’s far from being like that nowadays). So for a place like that to never have Hyles back… well… pretty significant, imo.

  10. This is one part of fundamentalism that got exported to Australia – right down to the reserved parking space. I’d really like the American missionaries who brought the IFB to Australia to meet a rogue dropbear or two right about now. 😈

    1. That is too funny and so sadly accurate! A rogue dropbear indeed! Unfortunately, this part of fundamentalism has also landed in Korea. I wonder if there is a rabid koala around here I could sic on them?

  11. And when the one man show leaves, so does his dream, and in comes another man with a “vision” and leads the people in another direction. And at the end of their lives, they’ve gone in every direction except the right one.

    Heaven forbid if you are a missionary on the wall of fame with a different vision than the new pastor. You’ll find a nice little letter from the MOG saying he is changing the church to suit himself and your ministry doesn’t fit into his perfect picture.

    1. This is where being a part of a larger denomination is helpful. They are accountable to others. They are part of a larger vision.

  12. It is not only in IFB churches, I have seen and heard about it in other denominations.
    There was a Roman Catholic priest who yelled at people for talking to others in sanctuary after mass. I had a friend be fired from teaching a youth Sunday school class at a United Methodist church because he complained about the pastor. He got called before the Staff Parish Board, because he had taken Sr. pictures of a girl from the church without another adult present. The man was a photographer! When he questioned the pastor was told if he ever stepped on church property they would call the police. The problem in the UM church is that all clergy are guaranteed an appointment to a church. So the losers get to have s church. I’m praying that this policy gets changed this year at our Genereal Conference.

  13. I agree that some fundamentalist pastors are that way but not all are. Some Pastors have been trained in tradition for so long it is hard for them to shake it. There are some Pastors that still see Christ as the head of the church and the “Vision” for the church should be Christ’s and not the Pastors disire to build a “kingdom” for himself. Every church should have a sheperd that feeds the flock and that protects them from the wolves. They do not need a Pastor that tries to force feed the flock their own ideas and traditions. All we need is Christ and his Word. Nothing more and nothing less. I have heard sermons on why women should not wear denim (I guess that came from the book of Levi), Sermons on why we should use the “red hymnal” instead of the blue one, and on and on. Then idea of no accountability for the Pastor leads to a dictatorship of a man instead of a fellowship of believers. Yes our church is independent, no ties to any organization, but most are. Our church is fundamental in that we believe the fundamentals of the faith not the “vain traditions of man”, and yes we are Baptist or Baptistic in our beliefs. Former IFBrs fight IFB Churchs as a whole, but not all are wrong nor are they the enemy. The enemy is satan, and many other types of churchs have dictatorships in place instead of pastors. Most non-denominational churchs are the same, hold to some man made tradistions and the Pastor feels the church should be done their way or no way at all. I heard someone sing a song recently that said.. Sweep around your own front porch before you come sweep around mine” πŸ˜‰

    1. But these same pastors bash the The Pope. They are nothing more then little pipes. At least the Pope has the council of the Cardinals.

    2. Every church should have a plurality of elders making the decisions, not a sole elder. Sole eldership, no matter how well he decks himself with high flown ideas, is contrary to the Scripture.

      1. I go to a Baptist church with elders. The senior pastor just resigned, yet I and most the church are comfortable with the time of transition coming up. Why? Because although the senior pastor just resigned, spiritual leadership of the church is still in place.

  14. Many times this attitude comes from the people in the church, and not necessarily the pastor.

    When we were searching for a pastor, we had a meeting in which people complained that the candidating pastor didn’t have enough time to preach because of all the “B.S” that preceded the preaching time. And that no one was coming to hear the music or announcements. 😑

    1. These were the same people who view the “altar” as a sacred place in the church building, because that’s where Christians go to meet with God. 😑

      1. I think that the altar is a significant part of the sanctuary. Not that is a Holy of Holies, but that significant events happen there and the area should be respected.

        1. I politely disagree, we shouldn’t “disrespect” any building or place in defacing it or whatever but the days of the “house of God” as a building are over and have been for quite some time. Should you be distracting and talk during a sermon or whatever or have your stupid cell phone go off during the preaching and actually answer it, no, that would be rude but what you would actually be respecting by avoiding those things is the “church” the people, not the building.

        2. Significant events happen in the hearts of God’s people who happen to be standing, kneeling, or praying there.

  15. Nicely sums up the local IFB church near me here. The pastor’s been there since 75. His son is the “assistant” and principal of the fundyschool run out of the same building. They did a 10,000 ft expansion in the 90’s. Doing another one now.

    The good doctor brags of his “D.D degrees” on the website. Note the plural. And oh, a B.Th, probably from some worthless paper printing institution.

    Just a church franchise that father can pass on to son, while his “godly and faithful wife who sets a good example for the other ladies in the church to follow” beams on glowingly.

    BTW, the son’s wife is a “godly wife and good example” according to their website too. Don’t know what the woman did to not earn the title “faithful” too, but there you go.

  16. I have my own issues with IFB churches and though there are many extreme “pastors” and churches as described, what is the Biblical structure for a New Testament church? Is it Pastor led, Deacon led, or some other type of leadership? While as a teenager one may not have a choice of where to attend, as an adult you are either voting for or against a “pastoral” candidate and then each week you vote again with your attendance or lack thereof. So again, a Pastor, voted in by a majority of people, tries to lead those people as best he can with a pure conscience before God and instantly become a dictator? I would not want to be considered this way, so how do I lead 200+ people with differing views and preferences and make them all happy? I have seen my share of dictators and don’t deny their existence and prevalence in many churches, but this is a pretty broad brush to paint with.

    I understand and even appreciate the satirical nature of this site and that accounts for some of the content, but again… What is the proper structure Biblically of the church.

    P.S. I would likely be consider an IBF Preacher based upon my beliefs, I view this site for insight and to avoid the pitfalls of those who have gone before me. So I really appreciate input. 74 comments or so about how this post is true, but none on how it should be or would be if “you” were in charge. You bunch of dictators(LOL, JK).

    1. I don’t think this post is about the structure of the church as much as the attitude of the pastor. Does he see himself as a servant of the people or does he set himself above the people? Does he preach the Bible or his own opinion? Is he characterized by love or by his attempt to dominate? How does he respond to those who disagree with him? It’s about his heart.

      1. You’re right. You can’t have the deacons dominate everything, but putting all the power in the hands of one man is asking for trouble. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There have to be checks and balances.

        It does come down to his heart though. I’ve known two pastors who loved having and exercising all that authority, and it is not a pleasant situation. I’ve known a few humble pastors. Like the one we have now, a few weeks ago as he was preaching he came down from the podium and said he was no different than the rest of us, and didn’t like having to be uplifted on the podium. He has said things like that quite often. Even when he’s saying how he likes things done it’s in an almost apologetic tone. :mrgreen:

      2. One “structure” that is *not* evident in the New Testament is a Church Building…

    2. Great Questions Tim!

      Here is a good resource for some of your inquiries:

      Every denomination does it differently. Personally, I think the Presbyterian (i.e., elder led) churches have a good model.

      There is accountability due to the fact the their theology is grounded in the doctrine of original sin. This means that even the mighty MOG is a wretched sinner, so they make provision for that by counter-balancing his authority with elders and ultimately a denomination entrusted with the task of watching for false doctrine and wolves in shepherds clothing.

      If IFB pastors had some sort of accountability it would solve a lot of issues and the craziness that we read about. Their legalistic, man-centered doctrine, however, would still be erroneous.

    3. When the Protestant Reformers laid out the Scripture and examined how leadership was conducted in the New Testament, they figured out that each “church” (that is, each formal assembly), was ruled by a group of elders who were appointed by preceding elders or else elected from among the believers in the congregation. The deacons, who were in charge of distribution and other mundane tasks, were nominated and elected from the congregation.

      The ruling elders would send one or two representatives to any convocation of churches that had decisions to make. In matters of great weight, all churches sent representative elders to Jerusalem, to be heard at the central governing board of Christendom.

      Rights of appeal granted to every member of the church to ascend up this ladder of hierarchy are also concluded from a study of the Scripture. In other words, the authority of Christendom does NOT end with the local eldership. For elders themselves are under the rulership of all the elders and the decrees that are binding upon the whole church. And elders may and should be removed and disciplined when necessary. But rule in Christendom, in the Bible, was interlocked and hierarchical in some ways. How else could we have gotten our New Testament, except that it was given by church authority, the authority of Christianity itself, and not a local elder or local church?

      So, in a nutshell, you can call yourself IFB, and you can boast in your independence, but essentially you are boasting in open disobedience, disregard, or possibly ignorance of the New Testament, and any or all of those actually disqualify you from the role of elder.

      1. To much complete garbage in your comment to even begin to break down call me ignorant and disobedient if you will, but there is no such hierarchy in the New Testament other than the Apostles and we continue under that authority through the Scriptures. BTW it was a waste of time with you on the FFF and I immediately recognized your name here as well. Your points are not worth the time to refute, though I would consider them from nearly anyone else.

        1. Finding My Way and Jason, This is not my first go round with Bassenco. We are opposite ends of the spectrum and while I understand that my position may not be 100% and that there is room for improvement and learning, in regards to Bassenco… I’ve wasted enough time and figurative breath to know that I don’t wish to continue.

      2. In the United Methodist Church, we have pastors who are appointed by the Bishop to serve a year at a time. Each church has an administrative board which is made up of the chair persons of each area – Christian Ed, Finance, Stewardship, Trustees, Congragational Care, Missions, Members to Annual Conference. This board is similar to a deacon board. The pastor answers to the Staff Parish committee (I answer to them as well). They are to be the voice of the congregation to the Bishop and the pastor.

    4. You’re right not much input from us about how we would do it if we were in-charge. I can’t answer for anyone else so I’ll answer for myself.
      1. That is too much power for any one man to have over a group of people. I believe that is why Scripture speaks of a plurality of elders. Not a Deacon board and the pastor, but a plurality of elders. Deacon/Deaconess is a different gift of serving. Corruption in directly proportional to the level of control any one person has available to them. Even the best of men will exercise their power over others to promote their personal aganda at some point, given the opportunity.
      2. Practice Ephesians 4:7-16. Get away from the idea that the gifts of God to the Body are offices to be fulfilled. When they are seen as an office to be filled then it is easy to adopt the heresy that the office sanctifies the holder of that office.
      3. Require that the preachers actually preach the word of God and not just use some scripture that they want to use as a spring board to launch into some oration that showcases their chrisma and blarney.
      4. Focus on the Sufficiency and necessity of the Gospel so that Jesus Christ is not some filler in the sermon but he is exalted, honored, and glorified. (few IFB preacher actually know how to do this without drawing attention to themselves, or polluting the Gospel with their personal biases and standards.)

      Those are some of the things I would point out if I were to ever be a part of one of these religious social clubs ever again.

      1. I appreciate your comments Don, I tried to comment last night but only had my phone and only one comment actually showed up. You’ll get no argument on 3 and 4 from me,I have never thought of the offices being being gifts from God but rather simple structure. Regarding 1, I am an Associate, or Administrative, or Assistant Pastor; I willfully submit to the Pastor and his decision unless he is submitting to me and mine. Behind the scenes we are a team with free exchange of ideas looking to add additional members to improve our team, but regarding polity before the people I take a secondary role, unless he defers to me.
        Is this plurality?

        1. Not if it is presented to the congregation as Pastor “Spiritual Hero” with sidekick. But then again my opinion doesn’t count because I’ve never seen or experienced a church with elders, or one that wasn’t a defacto dictatorship due to the cult of personality. So what do I know? πŸ˜•

    5. Never again will I be part of a church where the pastor has unquestionable rule. A board of equal elders should be in place. If there have never been elders who have disagreed with the pastor over the years – and continued to be part of the elder board, the arrangement is suspect.

  17. Most of the churches that I attended were fundie lite, and did not fit this. But looking back, I can see the leanings. Of the three, two would line up near this without totally being there. The third, well, the pastor was a HAC grad. You know that he was doing exactly that. He had been trained that way.

  18. I think most Christians have confused “church” (the religious organization that meets in a certain place on Sundays) with “The Church” (all who are following Jesus). We should spend less energy on church and all its activities and more energy focused on BEING The Church.

  19. Just remember that every concession to any denomination as having any boundary in Christendom is a step away from the model of the church in the New Testament. The Bible makes no allowance for denominational boundaries.

  20. “the fulfillment of one man’s dream at others’ expense.” Great summary. Just the other day, my wife stated that she feels robbed of all the years in fundyland. So do I.

    1. Just follow the money. The fundy budgets that I recall were typically 45% preacher, 15% preacher benefits, 30% building, 5% guest preachers, 5% for programs that glorified the preacher.

    2. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since leaving fundamentalism. Were the 23 years plus 3 years we spent in fundy churches wasted? Was all the service I did as unto the Lord really a waste? In my case it was mostly time and effort, not so much money but many of you have a lot of money invested in your former fundy churches. Is it all for nothing, or can we think God knows where our hearts were and still considers it service and money for His sake? I have to think so because there is a lot of effort put into it. I will not think of it as being robbed. Just that we’re older and wiser now. I hope God won’t see it as all wasted. πŸ˜₯

      1. I, too, am frustrated by the things that the IFB stole from me. But I don’t think we have to think about our service as either profitable or wasted. I cannot do anything to make God like me more. I cannot do anything to make God love me less. All (yes, ALL) of our “good” things are tainted by sin–by pride, by foolishness, by self-righteousness. But God accepts them all in Christ. Christ didn’t just DIE for us; He LIVED for us. He did everything perfectly, and that gets put on our account.

      2. @Macushlalondra: We have very, very similar backgrounds.

        It is heartbreaking to find out (for example) that the money you have sacrificed and given was misused because the pastor was a thief.

        However, we have the Scripture reassurance that “the Judge of all the earth” shall do right. I cannot undo the service I have done and the funds I have given, so I will leave it with Him. God is just, and He can be trusted.

        1. That’s true, GR, and I’m reminded of the verse that says God is not unrighteous to forget your labour of love which ye have done in his name, but I know I’m not quoting that right, it’s close. He knows our motives were for His glory. πŸ™‚

  21. We don’t think it was a waste, but we do think we were robbed. We were financially robbed, but mainly, we were robbed socially. Fundyland really strained the relationships with neighbors, friends a family. It adversely affected our marriage and our children.

    But through the experience, God shaped us to be what we are today. I don’t have to like it, but I can’t honestly say that we would be better off today if we had not went through Fundyland.

    ‘What if’ scenarios are nothing more than fantasy because it is based on hindsight and the past (which cannot be changed). Only the future can be changed and ‘What if’ scenarios are benefitial only if they help us to change the future.

    1. The Fundy experience was not all bad. There are some beliefs that fundy’s hold I agree with and will always agree with. But for the most part they’re beliefs I had before I ever became fundy.

      The one thing I will regret it how I feel we were never blessed financially while we were there and the reason for that is the whole tithing issue. If they hadn’t pounded tithing into our heads I think God would’ve blessed us if we were able to practice grace giving instead of being told over and over ad nauseum that we were robbing God by not paying our tithe. We were low income and it was all we could do to pay our bills, eat and have a few bucks left over. If we’d been told to give as God leads we’d have given SOMETHING. God can’t bless if you give NOTHING but if you give SOMETHING, even small, as much as you can God will bless you. Because the fundies say a full tithe (on your gross income not your net) or you are ROBBING God and He will curse you, we gave nothing. 2% is not good enough, 5% is not good enough, you’re still cursed unless it’s a full tithe, with an offering over and above that, plus missions giving plus this plus that til you have nothing left to live on! So we gave nothing and were never blessed. If the fundies had not hammered that tithing thing in our heads and we gave the little we were able to give, God could’ve blessed us so we could’ve given more. Jesus did not feed the 5000 on NOTHING, but on a little something, a little boy’s lunch which was nowhere near enough to meet the need. But it was something. God can’t multiply nothing but He can and will multiply from a little bit. So I feel that for 23 years in that church we continued to be low income, God met our needs but never much over and above just meeting our needs and I do blame the fundy church for that. So in that I do feel robbed. πŸ‘Ώ

      1. Of course, you could have given what you felt led to give, and then watch God bless, in spite of your church’s teachings.

        Again: I’ve been there, and sometimes, deep in the “tithing” sermons I’d want to say “but it didn’t work like that!”… but I was always way too afraid to say anything that bold. (would have been torn to shreds by the cult-like followers of the MOG).

        1. Problem is I believed them when they told us we were under a curse for not paying the whole tithe. They likened it to having a credit account at some store and them expecting the entire payment, and if you didn’t pay within a certain time they’d add a late fee. Some evangelist named Darrell Dunn came to our church and preached on back tithing, from some obscure verse in Leviticus to tell us that if we were late paying our tithe we had to add a 20% late fee. Imagine how that made us feel who were already struggling, to be told this. πŸ˜₯

          So everytime something went wrong like the car breaking down or some other unexpected expense I believed we were being punished for not tithing. πŸ˜₯

          I sure do wish I knew then what I know now but as they say hindsight is 20/20. πŸ™‚

  22. The great big mess comes from the fact that IFB people are CONVINCED without room for any doubt that they “have the mind of God” on all the various issues. So you have one guy who believes in himself (no room for doubt that maybe he doesn’t have the mind of God on all the issues), and now feels called to “make utterance” = throw public fits on the platform. Worser yet (can you tell I’m a great homeschooling English teacher), he gives “godly guidance” or “spirit-filled counsel”. That results in big messes, church turning into “the church of the rotating door”, people coming, people leaving, people being called bitter…..
    That’s why I don’t like Oulette. He’s been there for so long, built the biggest church in this neck of the wood, and thinks he owes the world some books, as if the preaching wasn’t bad enough.
    That’s why I feel better in that small church that we tried out first, where the pastor is a former Saginaw druggie, works at Walmart, and doesn’t see himself as God’s gift to mankind.
    Since my son didn’t think the youth group at Oulette’s church was the cat’s whiskers, we will be going back to that little church on the East Side, where some of our friends won’t even let their kids go for fear of the street violence. Hallelujah, we’re back.

    1. I’m glad for you guys. It’s a relief to get out from the thumb of him. I know there are some other great churches in that area, you’d just never know by listening to him.

    2. Oulette was guest speaker at my former fundy church many times. Happy to hear you are getting out of there!

      If you don’t tell them upfront you are leaving, they will begin to hound you during Saturday morning visitation.

  23. As a former Pastor.. i can tell you… there is the upper echelon who makes the rules.. I was beginning to teach Christ in you, and the truth about tithing and war in a Baptist church.. and Fire was called down upon my head… I resigned never to return to the whore of Babylon.. that was 2004. I am ever so glad I did.. because I came to know the ONE TRUE GOD and HIS SON JESUS CHRIST!

  24. Oh, I remember what this post made me think of: Every year, on New Years Eve, the faithful at our fundy church would gather together for ‘vision night’, when the Pastor would tell everybody what his vision was for the coming year. And we lapped it up. I used to love vision night.


    We need a puking smilie!!!

    1. And, of course, the verse we heard over and over was, “without vision, the people perish.”

      I think that all those people at that church, stuck inside their little bubble, have no vision, regardless of what their pastor might have told them.

    2. Our pastor rhymed his ‘vision’ for the new year: Stay Alive in 2005, Be Great in 2008.

    3. Ugh, Vision Night

      Annual themes

      Church calendars

      Preacher boys

      Pastor’s vision for spending millions of dollars on yet another phase of the building program

      Babies’ cranky from being up too late

      Glad to be done with that crap.

      1. And how many times did we hear in late summer the sermon titled, “How are you going to serve the Lord this year”, always accompanied by a checklist where a person could indicate the areas where they were willing to serve in the next year–Sunday School, Awana, kitchen, church yard etc. Service to God was always equated with service inside the church and to church members, never outside lest we be corrupted.

        1. That’s one thing that really confuses me. Do they really think there’s no other way to serve the Lord but through their programs? There are many ways to serve the Lord that have nothing to do with the church.

  25. Just some light hearted humor. Never saw all this. We had a stronger (but kind and decent!) Pastor. I didn’t agree with a lot of what he said…esp. after I started thinking for myself.
    Vision..yep…had an idea for neighbor Sunday where we were supposed to do nice things for our “lost” neighbors and then get them to come to church for a special salvation message once a month…and yeah tithing was stressed too…only bought into that for a few months. Could never do it. Would have resulted in total and abject poverty…two teachers..three kids in school..student loans…cars that break get the idea.

  26. Plymouth Brethren (open and closed) can be rather fundamentalist, even by your restrictive definition, but don’t have a pastor at all.

  27. This makes me think of “Vision Night” in Fundy Church’s across America.

    If you are not familiar with the term “Vision Night” is the last evening service before the new year, often held on New Year’s Eve. It is essentially a tribute to the one man running the show and his glorious vision for his church in the next calendar year, complete with Power Point, calendars, magnets and mugs with the pastor’s picture on it.

    It’s true, many church services are more about the pastor than they are about anything else.

  28. I think that the glorification of “pastoral authority” is often responsible for raising this prideful attitude from sinful to “Biblical” in the eyes of too many pastors and aspiring pastors. The fundy U I went to spoke loudly and often about how important they thought it was that the pastor be the final authority of the local church and that any other method of church government was wrong and against God’s plan.

    As a result, these schools give the graduating ministerial class this false idea that they are really something special. That they somehow have more authority to interpret the Bible, more of the Holy Spirit, and therefore the right to dictate to whatever church they go to.

    Human authority is a fact of life, I realize, but why that translates automatically into “we must have one man with absolute authority over our congregation” for some people, I’ll never know.

  29. Ahhh, thank you so much for writing this! You captured “the vision” beautifully.
    I remember vividly the “Catch the Vision!” services & programs that lasted for months and months all about new buildings “we” were going to build…even talk of building a retirement home. *gag* You would never have to leave the church property! It was awful, and of course, the pastor’s vision required lots and lots of additional giving. Grrrrrrrrrr!!!
    Another thing that FREAKS me out is how deep the “vision” brainwashing goes. My family attended Jack Hyles’ church in Hammond for many years until the late 90’s when we moved to the west coast. To this day my Mom & brother (who are both still fundies & in the perfect, center of the will of God, Amen!) talk about Jack like he was a god or saint…it’s the creepiest crap I’ve ever witnessed. We live completely on the opposite side of the country and yet his “vision” is still engrained on their conscience like he is watching them if they faulter. *shudder*

  30. An accurate article. This is the MAJOR weakness in the IFB movement. The Scriptures are clear. Christ is the head of the church, and there is safety in a multitude of counselors.

    There is nothing wrong with leadership, but if God can speak to one man then He can speak to 3 or 5 or the whole body (Acts 13:1-4). A wise leader prayerfully and meekly waits for other godly people surrounding him to confirm with him the leadership of Christ and then proceeds.

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