Update: How a “church” became a dark stain on the Gospel witness in my city

Way back in September, I posted the story far below about the arrest of a local pastor, Paul B., on charges of forcibly touching three women who were attending his church. My wife and I were members of the church in question for eight years back in the 80s and early 90s when Paul’s father was pastor. But we could see signs of spiritual unhealthiness at that church twenty-seven years ago, which precipitated our leaving. These charges against Paul stemmed from abuses in 2016 and 2017, but there had also been allegations of abuse in 2013 and 2014.

What has happened since the arrest in September? Our justice system does not work quickly and sometimes that is by design. Paul appeared in town court with his lawyer on October 26th, November 27th, January 18th, and February 26th and each time the trial was postponed. But on Paul’s next court date, this past Wednesday, March 14th, the town prosecutor announced that a plea deal had been struck. Paul pleaded guilty to only one of the four counts of sexual abuse and in exchange he will be sentenced in two months to one year of probation and will be permanently registered as a sex offender. What? Probation? Not even one week in jail? My, some people have to spend a month in jail for much less than Paul’s “offense.”

Once again the local media focused on the news of Paul’s guilty plea and his upcoming sentencing and once again the Gospel witness in our town received a black eye, not to mention all of the emotional pain suffered by the victims of this serial abuser and the deep betrayal felt by the church’s members.

Former Henrietta pastor pleads guilty to sexual abuse (article from local newspaper)

Former Henrietta pastor pleads guilty to sexual abuse (video from local television news)

A few things came to mind after the news of Paul’s guilty plea:

  • Some people are just not fit for ministry. Nepotism got Paul his initial position on staff at the church despite admitted scandalous conduct, which caused a split. Spirit-filled members sensed the danger, but Paul’s father steamrolled all opposition.
  • Paul became pastor of the church in 2011 after his father had suffered a small stroke. He obviously had to study the Bible frequently in order to preach all of those sermons he delivered in the six years prior to his arrest. But what was his private prayer life like? No Christian is perfect, but how could a man walk closely with the Lord in daily prayer and also regularly prey on victims? Was Paul even saved? We all need to stay close to the Lord in daily prayerful communion and we need to regularly lift up our pastors in prayer. There’s no doubt that Satan especially targets pastors.
  • I can’t tell a church I am not a member of how to operate, but the new pastor that’s now in place should ask for the resignation of every deacon who unequivocally supported Paul from 2011 to 2017 in the face of many allegations of impropriety. I was an outsider, but even I could see the flashing warning signs regarding Paul’s lifestyle. Many church boards are comprised of “yes men.”
  • If you are a member of a church in which the pastor exerts unhealthy control over the membership and there appears to be no oversight regarding the pastor, find a spiritually healthy church.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

via How a “church” became a dark stain on the Gospel witness in my city


IFB Memories #13: Peter Ruckman: God’s “junkyard dog”?

After accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior in the early 1980s, my wife and I began attending an independent fundamental Baptist church in the area. All IFB churches are completely autonomous, but from what I could tell back in those days, the majority could be categorized “somewhat” according to if they emulated John R. Rice, Bob Jones, Jr., or Peter Ruckman (photo above). Like-minded pastors networked via seminary affiliation, pastors’ conferences, and missionary support.

Rice was the more moderate of the three and from his camp came Jerry Falwell. Our IFB pastor emulated Falwell and his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virgina. Young men at our church who desired to attend seminary often ended up at Falwell’s Liberty Baptist College (changed to Liberty University in 1984). Bob Jones, Jr., was a bit more hardcore fundamentalist and separationist than Rice. Bob Jones University didn’t drop its ban on interracial dating until 2000. Peter Ruckman was definitely the most radical of the three. He became the standard bearer of KJV 1611-Onlyism among IFB churches. Neither Rice or Jones, Jr. taught KJV 1611-Onlyism so Ruckman labeled the two and all of their followers as members of the apostate “Alexandrian Cult” (i.e., those who use any other Bible translation besides the KJV 1611).

I had been reading the Bible for several years when a couple of guys at work, Jose and Ray, began witnessing to me. They were members of the very large First Bible Baptist Church in town, which aligned with Ruckman and KJV 1611-Onlyism. Because of their witness, and in addition to other people and circumstances from the Lord, I accepted Christ as Savior by faith alone. Jose and Ray invited me to attend First Bible Baptist, which was pastored by James Modlish at the time. I didn’t care for the sermons with their HEAVY emphasis on Anglo-centric KJV 1611-Onlyism, so I opted for a more “moderate” IFB church, much to Jose’s and Ray’s disappointment.

Peter Ruckman would periodically visit First Bible Baptist and preach primarily on the exclusivity of the KJV 1611 and the dangers of the “Alexandrian Cult.” His sermons from his Pensacola church were regularly broadcast on our local, community cable channel, undoubtably through the sponsorship of the First Bible Baptist Church here in town. Ruckman’s chalk talk sermons – am I the only one who remembers chalk talks? – invariably included railings against the “Alexandrian Cult.” His messages were downright nasty; full of ad hominem attacks and name-calling. But Ruckman never apologized, he proudly claimed to be God’s “junkyard dog.” Turmoil also appeared to be part of his personal life as he was divorced twice and married three times. He admitted to physical abuse and regular heated arguments with his first two wives. See here.

I’m all for teaching Biblical truth even when it hurts or is inconvenient, but some IFB pastors were just downright nasty, arrogant, and obnoxious. Our pastor was much more moderate than Ruckman, but, still, his constant railings against gays and his politicizing from the pulpit became intolerable and we left the church after eight years. But Ruckman took in-your-face Christianity to a whole different level with his constant stream of invectives. Yes, we are to defend the faith with vigor, but we should also mirror the grace and love of Christ. Ruckman died in April 2016, but I’ll never forget those acerbic chalk talks.

The other day I noticed the very sad news article below, which reported that Ruckman’s 58-year-old son had murdered his two boys and then committed suicide. So sadly tragic. Ruckman Jr. and his wife had divorced last year. It would be sheer speculation on my part to connect Ruckman Jr.s’ challenging childhood environment to this tragedy, but neither can it be ruled out.

Final messages from P.S. Ruckman Jr. include cryptic social media posts, emails of his life’s work

In the audio below, Ruckman Sr. defends abortion. It’s an unnerving thing to hear Ruckman’s followers enthusiastically “Amening” his pro-abortion heresy.


Postscript: I realize many of my brothers and sisters hold dearly to KJV 1611-Onlyism and I’m definitely not trying to pick a fight. I usually stay away from debates over secondaries, but that’s not totally possible with a post about Mr. KJV 1611-Only, Peter Ruckman. For my one and only post regarding KJV 1611-Onlyism, see here.

Civil Religion is the enemy of Biblical Christianity

This morning, I was reading through 2 Chronicles and came across the very familiar verse below:

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14

Oh, the memories!

Way back in the 1980s, my wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist church that patterned itself strongly after Jerry Falwell, Sr. and his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Needless to say, faith and politics went hand in hand at our church. Our pastor took the position that America was in a special covenant relationship with Almighty God in much the same way as ancient Israel. He was not alone. Beginning with the voyage of the Puritan pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, American Christians have historically taken the view that America is a “Christian nation” and that God was in a covenant relationship with it.

Old Testament passages such as 2 Chronicles 7:14 that were meant only for the ancient nation of Israel were appropriated by patriotic American ministers. I believe 2 Chronicles 7:14 was quoted from the pulpit of our old church as much or possibly more than any other verse in the Bible.

What started me going on this topic?

Yesterday, I posted a review of an excellent book which examined how the early church was led down a dangerous path in which Christianity was mixed with Roman imperialism and paganism resulting in an institutionalized “civil religion.” See here.

Many Americans over the last 400 years genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior because of the strong Gospel witness here, but of course many others never did. Over the last 100 years there’s been a tremendous watering down of Biblical doctrine and the Gospel message in this country. The Gospel was increasingly replaced by “civil religion,” whereby Americans of all religious stripes could join arms and sing together, “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” and “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee,” united in their citizenship and belief in a nebulous “Supreme Being.”

But “civil religion” is the enemy of Biblical Christianity. It opposes the teaching of Jesus Christ, who proclaims that He alone is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” “Civil Religion” denies the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and promotes accommodation, cooperation, compromise, and betrayal of the Gospel in the pursuit of civic morality and national brotherhood.

Jesus Christ did not come to this earth to establish “civil religion.” Countries don’t become Christians, only people do, one individual soul at a time.

Civil Religion – Wikipedia article


Another devout Catholic comes out publicly against the pope

Those who are involved in reaching out to Roman Catholics with the Gospel are very familiar with the name of Karl Keating (photo left).

Forty years ago, Keating was a lawyer and conservative Catholic who was very troubled by the fact that many Catholics were leaving the church and joining evangelical and fundamentalist Christian churches. He created the Catholic apologetics organization, Catholic Answers, in 1979 and wrote his attack on Biblical Christianity, “Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on ‘Romanism’ by ‘Bible Christians'” (photo middle), in 1988. The book lumped together responsible ministries to Roman Catholics, such as Bart Brewer’s Mission to Catholics and Bill Jackson’s Christians Evangelizing Catholics, with disreputable individuals and groups like Chick Publications, the Alamo Christian Foundation, and Peter Ruckman.

Since 1979, Catholic Answers has spearheaded Catholic apologetics in America via print, the internet, lectures, and debates with evangelical Christian apologists. Unlike Judas evangelicals such as Billy Graham and Rick Warren, Karl Keating is under no delusion that Catholicism’s gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit is similar to the evangelical Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Sixty-seven-year-old Keating retired from Catholic Answers last year, but he’s still a highly respected voice in conservative Catholic circles.

The reason I wrote all of the above was as a preliminary to the following:

I was perusing through Catholic news last night, as is my habit, and I came across the article below. I had mentioned a few months ago that I’m looking forward to a book from conservative Catholic, Philip Lawer, “Lost Shepherd: How Pope Francis is Misleading His Flock” (due out 2/28), that’s extremely critical of pope Francis. In the article below, Keating communicates his enthusiastic approval of the book.

When Francis began his tenure as pope in 2013, conservative Catholic apologists attributed his radical, off-the-cuff remarks to media misrepresentation. Over the last almost-five years, conservative Catholics have had to grudgingly face the reality that Francis is on a crusade to overturn many of their cherished traditions. His guileful lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees via a footnote in “Amoris Laetitia” was the last straw. An increasing number of conservative Catholics are reluctantly labeling Francis as a heretic. It’s an amazing thing to witness. Catholics have always boasted that their pope was divinely guided and could never lead their church into error.

For Karl Keating to publicly throw his hat into the ring with Francis’s opponents is significant. Will the folks at EWTN and National Catholic Register be calling Francis a heretic down the road as well? The tension within the Catholic church increases.

Bible Christian, what has all of this got to do with you? Make no mistake that the betrayal of the Gospel through ecumenism with Rome will probably make inroads into your church if it hasn’t already.

Karl Keating on Phil Lawler’s Pope book


Oy vey! Another doomsday prediction gone sour!

For the past couple of months, I’ve caught bits and pieces on religious talk radio of some strange prediction about the end of the world happening this past Saturday, September 23rd. Well, it’s September 25th and we’re all still here. Evidently, “Christian numerologist and researcher,” David Meade (pictured), had posted a You Tube video predicting the end of the world on September 23rd, but he’s now pushed the date back to October 15th, along with all kinds of lame excuses. It’s Edgar C. Whisenant all over again (see below). I agree that circumstances in the world are getting increasingly dicey, but no man knows the day of the Lord’s return.

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” – Matthew 24:26


After we accepted the Lord in 1983, my wife and I attended an independent fundamentalAAAAAA Baptist (IFB) church for eight years. We were firmly grounded in God’s Word at that church, but the pastor also took the congregation down some strange rabbit holes. I can laugh about it now.

In the early part of 1988, a small booklet was creating quite a stir at our church as well as at thousands of other evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Former NASA engineer, Edgar C. Whisenant, had written “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.” Based on information from the Bible and using his own mathematical calculations, Whisenant had determined the Rapture of the church would occur sometime between September 11th and September 13th of 1988. 4.5 million copies of the booklet ended up being distributed.

Like most IFB preachers, our pastor often taught the Rapture – the taking up of Christians bodily into…

View original post 364 more words

How a “church” became a dark stain on the Gospel witness in my city

Today, I am reminded that 1) our sin will find us out [Numbers 32:23] and 2) we must trust in the Lord and not in any man [Psalm 118:8-9].

This is a very disturbing story and some may be offended that I’m posting about it, but these types of toxic situations exist precisely because Christians would rather bury their heads in the sand than shine a light on sin. I’m going to give a short introduction to this post and I apologize to those who are already familiar with that part of the story.

Shortly after my wife and I accepted Christ in 1983, we began attending an independent Bible Baptist church in the area. I was looking for a Gospel-preaching church that was close to us and I picked that particular one based on an advertisement in the Yellow Pages (remember those?). We stayed at that church for eight years and became heavily involved. The pastor of the church, Joe B., was a karate black-belt tough guy and preached in an “in your face” style, which was quite a novelty and initially very appealing. I was used to limp-wristed priests when I was a Catholic and this was a refreshing change. But after awhile, the pastor’s very heavy-handed, macho-man style began to grate on me. It got to a point where just about every sermon made my skin scrawl. We finally left the church and I was so disgusted with churchianity that I walked away from the Lord for a very long period. Not smart. I had been trusting in man rather than the Lord. If I had been walking closely with the Lord, I would have just asked Him to lead us to a good church right away. But even as messed up as I was, I still felt sorry for those who remained behind at that church and voluntarily submitted to the spiritual and emotional bullying.

I’ve kept an eye on our old church from a distance over the years and it’s had its share of problems, most of them self-induced. One of the pastor’s sons, Paul B., followed in his father’s footsteps and attended his dad’s Bible college alma mater, but got involved in some sinful behaviors and activities that became known to the church’s membership back home. After he returned to Rochester, his father hired him as the young adults pastor, prompting some members to transfer to a Baptist church on the other side of town. In 2011, after his father had a temporarily debilitating stroke, Paul was promoted to pastor.

Paul not only continued his father’s “in your face” style of preaching and pastoring but he took it even further. He quickly established mixed martial arts (MMA) training and competition fighting as one of the church’s main “ministries.” Illustrations of mythological warriors with bulging muscles and menacing swords, evidently meant to symbolize aggressive, militant Christianity, saturated the church’s web site and social media. Paul swaggered around town in sleeveless t-shirts, exposing his bulked-up musculature, while his equally hard-training wife competed in Mrs. New York State competitions and regularly posted revealing modeling photos of herself in skimpy bikinis on her Twitter and Facebook accounts. This unconventional pastor couple were obviously very proud of their hard-earned, chiseled physiques and wanted everyone to know it. But in 2014, the county police department interviewed three individuals who claimed Paul had either sexually abused them or had attempted to. Some of the accusations described situations involving both the pastor and his wife. These allegations were splashed across the internet. The police concluded their investigation saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. Pastor emeritus, Joe, now fully recovered from his stroke, lobbied the church “leadership” and membership on behalf of his beleaguered son. The executive pastor and deacon board of the church fully supported Paul.

Earlier this summer, one of the Paul’s previous victims had posted on her blog that he had been “fired” (news reports say he resigned) from the church because of new allegations of abuse. I checked the church’s website and, sure enough, any and all signs of him had been erased and Joe, now age 68, had resumed pastoring duties. A week ago, the local television news and newspaper ran stories saying Paul had been arrested after two new individuals had contacted the police with claims that he had sexually abused them. Two days later, a third person also pressed charges. Paul is scheduled to appear in court today for his arraignment. The signed testimonies of the victims were released this morning and they all tell a similar story; Paul had used the MMA and workout “ministries” to connect with the women and lure them into his home where the abuse took place.

Last week, after an update on the scandal had aired on the local television news, my wife turned to me and asked, “Why did you get us involved in that church in the first place?” Boy, did that hurt. I was a baby Christian when we began attending that church, with little discernment and no basis of comparison.

I hesitated in writing this post for several obvious reasons, but the Lord kept bringing it to the forefront. There are some men who are not genuinely called to pastor churches, but do so anyway. They do more harm to the Gospel than good. This particular church has become the laughingstock/snakepit of the Greater Rochester area, with the very heavy media coverage of this scandal. All of it reflects very poorly on the entire Gospel witness in this area, not to mention the people, adults and children, who have been abused at this church over the years, both physically and emotionally. No church is perfect, but this church was on a downward spiral from Day #1. If your pastor is a megalomaniac and there is little or no pastoral oversight, you should leave immediately and ask the Lord to lead you to a God-honoring fellowship.

Former pastor accused of using hot tub to target women

See my posts from last year regarding the abuse at this church here and here.

“Don’t be such a stickler! Can’t we all just ‘love Jesus’ and get along?”

There are many so-called “evangelicals” today who muddy the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. These days, as long as a person “loves Jesus,” then what they believe about HOW a person is saved doesn’t seem to matter to many. Those who unapologetically teach a person is saved by baptism and by other sacraments are embraced as Christians. Those who unapologetically teach a person is saved by “faith” AND good works are embraced as Christians. Those who teach EVERYONE is going to Heaven as long as they “follow the light they are given” are embraced as Christians.

The past couple of days, I’ve come across many examples of so-called “evangelicals” who are muddying the Gospel. It’s a little disheartening, but our Lord is still sovereign and He’s aware of the compromise and betrayal much more than I am. But I would like to point out just a couple of the examples I’ve come across today:

First, we have “America’s Pastor,” Purpose Driven Rick Warren, being held up as an exemplary model of loving Evangelical-Catholic ecumenism in a new article below from a Catholic source. Warren has a long history of cooperation with Catholicism and has held several seminars for Catholic dioceses on reversing dwindling church attendance (filling the pews via modern marketing methods is his specialty). Warren’s watered-down, purpose driven gospel is pretty compatible with Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit because, for Rick, the bottom line is just “loving Jesus.”

In Orange County, bishop and pastor model Catholic/Evangelical ties

The next example is much more personal. I attended a Catholic church in suburban Rochester, NY as a child and teenager. In my late twenties, I came out of Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. My wife and I then attended an independent Bible Baptist church for eight years where we had the opportunity to fellowship with many of our spiritual brothers and sisters. One of the guys, Lou, was on fire for the Lord. Sadly, the pastor did very little in the way of comparative theology, which is often the case in most evangelical churches. We finally left that church because it was way too legalistic in many respects, along with some additional problems, which I’ve touched upon in the past. See here. Well, that church is still having problems (more to come on that later) and as I was doing some associated research on the internet, I came across a PDF file saying Lou had visited my old Catholic church in 2008 to give a presentation at the parish’s “Christian Unity Service” (see photo above). I was flabbergasted! I had come out of Catholicism with its false gospel and accepted Jesus Christ and the Gospel of grace, but old friend Lou had gone back and visited my old Catholic parish as part of a “Christian Unity” event? Does not compute.

Why are evangelicals, who supposedly believe in the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE, participating in unity services with purveyors of a works gospel? Are we also scheduling unity services at Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Halls and Mormons’ meetinghouses since they all “love Jesus” too???

Papal allies accuse Catholic and evangelical Trump supporters of joining together in “ecumenism of hate”

For centuries, Bible Christians never had much of a problem distinguishing between the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit.

But beginning around sixty years ago, evangelical pastors and para-church leaders began to rise up saying ecumenism with Rome was fine and even desirable; influential men like Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Bill Bright, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell. Sure, they didn’t embrace all of Rome’s doctrinal deviations and “eccentricities,” but they gladly overlooked the “fine print” and declared Roman Catholicism to be “close enough.” After all, Christians in America were in a bitter battle to preserve “Judeo-Christian morality” and to “save America for Jesus,” so it didn’t seem wise to inspect the denominational dog tags of fellow soldiers combating the onslaught of secularism. Chuck Colson cleverly coined this alliance, “ecumenism in the trenches.”

But at this stage of the “culture war,” in the year 2017, politically-involved evangelicals have to concede that secularism has pretty much taken over the high ground. However, political/religious ecumenism with conservative Catholics and the culture battles continue. Research shows that 81 percent of White evangelicals voted for unlikely-candidate (to put it mildly), Donald Trump, in the presidential election. That’s no surprise given the only other option was Hillary Clinton. What is surprising is that 52 percent of Catholic voters, historically supporters of Democratic candidates, also voted for Trump.

But an article last week from a Vatican-approved source reveals not all Roman Catholics are pleased with the alliance between politically conservative Catholics and evangelicals in America. The article, written by two of pope Francis’s close advisors, warns of the “ecumenism of hate” shared by conservative Catholics (labeled as “integralists”) and evangelicals (labeled as “fundamentalists”).

“Appealing to the values of fundamentalism, a strange form of surprising ecumenism is developing between Evangelical fundamentalists and Catholic Integralists brought together by the same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.” – from “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism,” La Civiltà Cattolica, July 13, 2017.

See here for the full article.

According to Francis and his allies in the church, religious and “social justice” ecumenism is just fine, but ecumenism based on “the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state” is not.

Where does Jesus Christ fit into all of this? He doesn’t. Evangelical Christians need to be about their Father’s business as emissaries and ambassadors of the Kingdom and the Gospel of grace. Roman Catholics are our mission field, they are NOT our allies in some misguided Falwellian “culture war” to “save America!”

Below are two articles on the controversy from a conservative Catholic source. This newest squabble gives traditionalist Catholics yet another reason to hope for an early end to Francis’s reign.

Vatican-reviewed magazine accuses Catholics of ‘hate’ for supporting Trump

Archbishop rips Vatican-approved magazine’s ‘ignorant’ attack on pro-Trump Catholics

What’s going on with the Southern Baptist Convention?

News sources have recently reported that well-known Calvary Chapel pastor and evangelist, Greg Laurie, has decided to align with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  See the article below. I had wanted to write a post on the SBC at some future date, especially in light of reports about declining membership, but the news about Laurie got the ol’ brain synapses firing.

After my wife and I trusted in Christ in the early 80s, we attended an independent fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church for eight years. I subscribed to an IFB newspaper for awhile and one of its favorite targets was the “liberal” Southern Baptist Convention. I became increasingly unhappy with the legalistic preaching at our church and eventually walked out. Sadly, I allowed the experience to turn me away from the Lord.

The Lord graciously took me back three years ago and where did we start attending church? You guessed it! At an SBC church! I know I was purposely looking for a fellowship that didn’t resemble our previous one.

The small SBC church was a breath of fresh year because the new pastor just out of seminary emphasized God’s grace and mercy as much as His holiness. Regrettably, he was also very ecumenically-minded and often praised Catholic theologians, which is why we left after one year and began attending our current non-denominational church (with Baptist roots) about 20 months ago.

The Southern Baptist Convention reports around 15 million members in 47 thousand congregations. After one year in an SBC church, I’m certainly not an expert on the convention but I do have some thoughts on why it’s experiencing a decline in membership:

It’s too conservative

I believe the SBC is not attracting new members because it’s perceived as too conservative. In this era of egregiously hip church names – Resurgence Church, Elevation Church, The Gathering, etc. – having “Baptist” in the church name just doesn’t cut it for many. Research from Lifeway, an SBC organization, shows unbelievers and especially millennial unbelievers have a comparatively low opinion of Baptists. When Hollywood needs an “overly-zealous” religious character, who do they turn to? The character is invariably a Baptist. Then there’s the completely crazy Westboro Baptist Church nightmare in Topeka, Kansas. People also still link the Southern Baptist Convention with the White slave owners of the antebellum South and post-Civil War segregation. The young pastor of our previous SBC church dropped the “Baptist” from the church’s name only one year after he arrived.

It’s becoming too liberal

I believe some people are walking away from the SBC because it’s drifting into liberalism. An intense battle raged between orthodox and liberals over control of SBC seminaries beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the late 1990s with the orthodox eventually claiming victory. But liberalism continues to nibble away at the convention. SBC leaders, Richard Land and Larry Lewis, were initial signers of the 1994 ecumenical document, Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Popular Southern Baptists such as Rick Warren, Steven Furtick (pictured with his polar opposite, Charles Stanley), Beth Moore, Ed Young, and Dallas Willard (d. 2013) continue their assault on Biblical orthodoxy. Former SBC president, Ronnie Floyd, joined with pope Francis at Together 2016. Now, with ecumenically-minded and TBN-favorite, Greg Laurie, joining the SBC, the orthodox/conservative members of the convention have another reason to be concerned.

Too conservative? Too liberal? Is there a Catch-22 going on here or what? The rising number of “nones” (no religious affiliation) nationally is also assuredly affecting the SBC.

I am a Baptist Christian and I love my Baptist brothers and sisters. There’s many excellent, godly pastors and para-church leaders (Charles Stanley, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Paul Washer come to mind) and Christ-loving members in the SBC. No doubt about it. But in such situations as we currently see with the SBC, there’s the danger of fidelity to the organization and numbers taking precedence over fidelity to Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and Biblical orthodoxy. My prayers go out to those in the SBC who continue to uphold the Gospel and God’s Word.

Greg Laurie, Calvary Chapel’s Big Crusader, Joins Southern Baptist Convention

Southern Baptists have lost a million members in 10 years

Southern Baptist Convention Deploys Theology Referees To Elevation Church (satire)

IFB Memories #12: Church and politics

There’s always been a tension within Christianity regarding what kind of a relationship the church should have with politics and the state. The early Reformers unfortunately adopted the Roman Catholic viewpoint that the state was the divinely ordained agent of the church. That concept still lingers in varying degrees throughout the West but especially in the United States. European countries still have official state-supported denominations although few people attend services.

In American evangelicalism today, at one end of the spectrum are Christians who argue the church and state should work hand in glove; elect Christian-friendly politicians, ensure the appointment of Christian-friendly judges, and legislate laws that reflect Judeo-Christian beliefs and values. At the other end of the spectrum are Christians who argue the job of the church is to evangelize and disciple and not to become entangled in worldly concerns. We are ambassadors of our Father in Heaven on a mission to evangelize, not to be deeply-rooted, nationalistic patriots.

My wife and I accepted Christ back in the early-1980s and we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist church that patterned itself after Jerry Falwell (pictured) and his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Falwell and his Moral Majority were so focused on championing conservative causes that the Gospel was relegated to the back seat. Co-belligerency alongside religious unbelievers (e.g., conservative Catholics) eventually contributed to an “ecumenism of the trenches” as Chuck Colson once approvingly noted.

Our pastor regularly mixed the Gospel with politics from the pulpit. America was presented as a Christian nation that was in a covenant with God in the very same way as was ancient Israel. Old Testament passages meant only for Israel were regularly misapplied to the United States. Our church was heavily involved with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a political advocacy group supported by IFB and conservative evangelical churches in the state (see last article below). During election years, candidates from both parties were invited to our church to discuss their political positions but only Republicans bothered to show up. That church’s heavy involvement in politics and the constant harangues about the culture wars from the pulpit led to our decision to leave, among other reasons.

I don’t know exactly where the line is regarding the church’s involvement with politics and the state but I’m quite happy politics are never mentioned from the pulpit of our current church.

I’m currently reading “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America” by Frances FitzGerald, which was published in April. It’s a history of evangelicalism in America from an unbeliever’s perspective. It’s not always complimentary but the facts are fascinating, especially regarding the struggle to determine the church’s relationship with the state. Review to follow.

Below are a few articles that touch upon this church-state dichotomy:

With God on Their Side: How Evangelicals Entered American Politics

Don’t compromise the gospel in social cooperation

Evangelicals gather in Albany