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Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 1 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Some may read this blog title and wonder, “Is Richard still a Christian?”.

Yes, of course I am.

Others might wonder, “Is Richard backslidden?”

Frankly, I feel more alive as a Christian now than I ever have been.

While I don’t believe God programs certain people to accept Him and others to reject Him, I also do not believe salvation can be lost once attained. And, I also don’t believe that only specific denominations are true believers.

I still consider myself a Baptist, meaning that I believe baptism should take place after a person has reached the age of accountability and has received Christ, and I believe a person should study the Word of God and live a responsible, temperate life. However, I no longer consider myself an Independent, Fundamental Baptist (From here on out, we will abbreviate it as IFB).

Let me start with my background.

I became a Christian when I was eight. After my oldest sister left Mormonism (my parents did not regularly attend church), we attended an IFB church in Alvin, Texas, a town about 20 miles southeast of Houston. Then, we moved to Beeville in South Texas and after about two years attending what I’d consider a Southern Baptist Church, we again attended an IFB church.

In those days, the rules were: short hair for boys, no earrings or necklaces. Clean cut. One Baptist minister, whom I will not name, preached a revival service and announced: “Any man who wears an earring probably wears lace on his underwear!”

For women, they were to guard their modesty and wear dresses, skirts or culottes. No pants, not even Capri pants. Many wore no makeup; some men referred to cosmetics as “fake-up” and “mass-scary”. Hair had to be long or, if cut short, lady-like and easily distinguishable from men.

In the home, the husband was the ruler, although he was gently encouraged to cherish his wife. Many men took this to mean they were the boss, the absolute ruler of their home. This, not surprising, led to many having children living secret lives of rebellion as they grew restless having to share their parents’ IFB convictions that they themselves did not share.

In general: no movies (you might be going to the movies to watch the G-rated movie, but how do others know you’re not there to watch the R-rated one instead? Hmmm?). A strong discouragement of television, no alcohol, no tobacco, no drugs, no rock music, no country music, no music with a beat. No contemporary Christian music: no Steve Green, no Steven Curtis Chapman, no Amy Grant, no Carman and no Michael W. Smith (One famous IFB preacher referred to Smith as “Michael W. Smut”). I imagine some even disliked Rich Mullins because he grew his hair long. A David Benoit-style sermon on rock music was sure to include a story about how the beat of rock music was similar to the drum beat used by primitive African tribes to conjure demons.

Dancing? Forget it. Not even ballroom dancing.

Some would add: No fun, no kidding!

And when it came to the Bible, King James Bible only. Not King James Version, since the term version implies there are other acceptable Bibles to read in the English language. There was no room for the New King James Version or the New International Perversion. One friend at college grew up in Germany and often carried with him a German Bible on campus; there very possibly may have been some who murmured, “How come he doesn’t use a King James?!”

And, speaking of college, I attended Pensacola Christian College. To say there were strict rules at PCC is like saying Baptists love potluck meals. After college, I served four years in the Army. Initially, that was a culture shock for me since I went from sheltered church and sheltered college to the military. Lots of my fellow soldiers, drank, smoke, had tattoos and body piercings. Some didn’t believe in God, some had ideas of God that must’ve originated from a marijuana-induced haze while others couldn’t have cared less.

After the military, I attended an IFB church in Texas that wasn’t as strict (the pastor’s wife wore slacks at times), but the pastor still took time to warn us to not listen to music of the style of Madonna, AC/DC or Hootie and the Blowfish.

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 2 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

That being said about my background, I offer this observation: the purpose of IFB, what many might call an ultra-bland, neo-puritanical lifestyle, is to eliminate all sinful elements that would deprive you of being a godly Christian, having an intimate understanding of the Scriptures and having an intimate relationship with God. Sadly, it has turned out to be more about control. If control runs amok without accountability, it results in a cult.

Also, while we were encouraged to study the Bible and ask questions, ultimately it was up to your pastor and church leaders to decide for you what is acceptable and what is sinful. One couple who taught Sunday school resigned from a church I attended rather than sign an agreement stipulating what they could and could not do in their private lives. Others choose to follow without question, even if their church leaders or pastor have no formal Bible training and show it by mispronouncing words in the Bible or showing a consistent inability to understand Bible contexts.

Often I’d see things that, now, leave me speechless. Once during a revival, there was a minister who, as he warmed up early his sermon, took off his suit jacket, removed his tie and preached in his white, short-sleeved dress shirt. The sermon was about continuing in the faith, and somehow, the subject shifted to how women dress.

LADIES,” he thundered in a gravelly voice that reminded me of a used car salesman yelling out all his special deals during a 30-second television commercial, “Deuteronomy 22:5 still means the same thing today that it meant thousands of years ago!”

Any IFB woman knows what this verse says: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” (King James Version)

The verse is interpreted to mean women should not wear pants; ostensibly, men should also not be cross-dressers or transvestites. The fact that Deuteronomy 22 has lots of other verses the same Baptists probably don’t heed, and that fact that many Christians and non-believers alike probably don’t realize that Mosaic Law consists of an intricate network of dietary, moral and ceremonial laws are blog postings for another time.

That being said, I recall a few years ago taking pictures of a church carnival. A woman wearing modest culottes rode down an inflatable slide. And, for about three seconds, her culottes rode up, showing off her thighs and underwear. I did not get a picture of that and if I had, I would have deleted it. I was too busy marveling that a woman riding down the slide in jeans or capris could have been more modest than the woman wearing “women’s attire”.

One very wonderful female Christian friend I know tells me she hates culottes.

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 3 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Over the years, as I’ve grown, matured, made mistakes and have stumbled here and there, and have come to one conclusion: while there are wonderful, godly people in IFB circles, I find many of the rules to be personal preferences that have magically evolved into Biblical convictions rather than being true, Bible-established convictions. I also see a culture where it’s far too easy to let others think for you instead of growing in your faith, developing a close relationship with God and allowing God to work in your life.

Christianity should not be primarily about following a set of rules. It should be about learning to develop a closer relationship with God and then, as that relationship matures, you see right and wrong from God’s perspective and better understand how to read, interpret and explain Scripture. In this imperfect world of imperfect churches and imperfect Christians, the rules often tend to be manmade. Granted, there are absolutes and clear Biblical teachings on various subjects, but there are also areas God chooses to be silent about. I suspect those are the minor issues left up to us to decide for ourselves.

When I first moved to Michigan, my family and I temporarily attended a non-denominational Bible church while intending to find a strict Baptist church. We found we liked the Bible church and stayed there. Lots of wonderful people there. Some guys in the youth group wore earrings while many of the women wore jeans on Wednesday nights and slacks on Sunday morning (especially if it was winter).

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 4 of 4

February 14, 2013 1 comment

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 4 of 4

I don’t see God as a Supreme Being who wants robots to follow Him. We are created in His image, but we are all unique. Each of us has our own DNA (except, of course, for identical twins). We have our own personalities and eccentric ways. Myself, I love ducks, love to cook and eat gourmet food, love to get myself in an energetic mood by listening very loudly to Van Halen, and I love to wear a necklace that represents something about me and my background. I also have an off-beat sense of humor that I make no apologies for. Some might think of me as far too exuberant. I approach life the way I cook: I like food with different ingredients and with spices (this morning, I made scrambled eggs with onions and arugula and loved it). I like to explore and be different. While I don’t drink, I don’t make an issue of others doing so as long as they are responsible.

I currently attend a Regular Baptist Church (equivalent to a Southern Baptist Church or a Bible church) with my sons. The church’s youth pastor looks to be working on a beard, and he had that facial hair while recently preaching. Lots of women wear pants, and lots of men dress casually, even on Sundays. And the Word of God is preached, and there is a friendliness I have seldom seen in other churches!

In my DVD collection are PG, PG-13 and R-rated movies. My favorite movie is the R-rated Heat, where Robert De Niro plays a career criminal who, in a different lifetime, would’ve easily been best friends with the police officer (played by Al Pacino) who’s trying to arrest him. I like contemporary Christian music but also like secular. I very rarely drink but someday out of curiosity might try a tequila sunrise. I also own an empty, skull-shaped vodka bottle, not because I like vodka (I don’t), but because I love to collect unusually-shaped bottles. Someday I’ll add to the collection an 1800 Tequila bottle since I like its very-geometric shape. I’ll also collect a maple syrup bottle that’s shaped like a maple leaf.

My Bible reading? I own four Bibles: a King James, a New King James, an English Standard Version and a New American Standard. I use the ESV and NAS primarily as reference materials and, frankly, do not like the way the NAS reads. Primarily, I read from the New King James. My two youngest sons read from the New King James and from the Holman Study Bible. They were late bloomers in reading, so I prefer to encourage their reading by giving them a Bible in a contemporary language.

I am hoping to move back to Texas this summer. Sorry, but I will not be attending an IFB church. Any church I attend will either be Southern Baptist or a Bible church. Those are the speeds of Christianity I prefer these days and I feel those are the ones where I will grow the best in my walk with the Lord.

What should you do? Seek the Lord, abide in His Word and go where He leads. Maybe you will attend an IFB church, maybe not. All I know is this: one size does not fit all in Christianity.

Richard Zowie currently attends First Baptist Church in Vassar, Michigan. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Preview of upcoming blog about being a former IFB member

December 8, 2012 Leave a comment

I grew up attending Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches.

I attended a college which was IFB in its atmosphere.

When I was 32, I began attending a church that could be deemed either Independent Fundamental Church of America or, perhaps more appropriately, non-denominational.

Currently, I attend a Regular Baptist Church.

When I eventually move back to Texas, I plan to attend either a Southern Baptist Church or a non-denominational Bible Church.

After years of being led to believe necklaces on men were girlie, today I consistently wear one of three: a dog-tag-style one honoring my German heritage, a medallion with leather string to honor my time spent studying Chinese and leather string with a cross made from horse ties. I plan to add several more necklaces.

Soon, I will write an essay about the how and why and will decide if it needs to be two or three parts.

Stay tuned…

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My Bible bid bites the dust

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

A few hours ago, someone again outbid me for the NKJV New Open Bible I wanted.

After some thought, I chose not to bid further.

There comes a time when you reach your limit. And, of course, it always seems odd how you place a bid and somebody immediately outbids you. I wonder sometimes if the seller will set up a fake I.D. to try to drive up the price.

Yes, I really wanted this Bible, but I just felt it was getting too expensive to continue bidding on. And, if this makes any sense, it no longer felt right. Lately I’ve grown to trust my intuition more and more. Besides, one friend told me the Bible’s also on sale at Amazon. Used but reasonable.

new open bible

I imagine some reading this from the confines of an Independent Fundamental Baptist church would simply say “Tsk! Tsk!” and admonish me for bidding on a New King James Bible. God didn’t want you to have such a sinful Bible, they might say. That’s why He allowed someone else to outbid you! Repent NOW, sinner!!!

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Keeping on, even when it hurts

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Back in 1989, we had a revival at church. It was considered a “mystery meeting” since the revival was designed more for the church members rather than as an evangelization tool for the public. Topics included “Church Attendance”, preached by one always-energetic evangelist who would end up making a statement my pastor didn’t quite agree with; “Bible Study” by another pastor…

…And to close out the week, “Keeping On” by one pastor from the Austin region. The pastor approached the pulpit in suit jacket and tie, but his Sunday-morning-appropriate attire didn’t last long. As he began preaching energetically in a medium, gravelly voice, he removed the coat and took off his tie. Soon, he thundered from the pulpit wearing an open-throated, short-sleeved dress shirt.

I suppose to a person who loves to think of Independent, Fundamental Baptists in caricatured concepts, it would’ve been an interesting spectacle. But to a Christian who has seen other believers get chewed up and spat out by Satan, it carried a very serious message: no matter what happens in your walk with God, you have to “keep on”.

Forget about trying. Instead, DO!

Hoo-boy.

This past week, I got some very sad news from my family. Add that onto living in an area of the country where, save for my sons, I have no blood relatives within about 1,000 miles; working to make ends meet; seeing the world get uglier and uglier; being alone in the emotional sense; seeing wonderful Christian friends drop from the faith over the years like flies.

What is the sense of keeping on? Why not just give up?

I’m 39 and will turn 40 in a little over two months. I’ve been a Christian for 31 years. There are many days where I feel I still have much to learn and much more maturing to do. Sometimes I find myself amazed at how I’ve changed in my walk over the years. Some for the good. Some…it’s hard to say if it’s realizing God’s not inside a box as I thought He was or if I am indeed floating too far off the path.

There are times when I wish the race were over. It’s like being on lap 5 of an eight-lap race and being encouraged by a coach to keep going. Before you know it, the race will be over. You try to convince your aching legs and burning lungs of that news.

In reality, what matters is not how far you run the race but how you run the race. Some do wonderful things for God and are dead by their 30th birthday. Some live to be 95 and do nothing for God. Nothing is worse as a Christian than running the race poorly and seeing all the missed opportunites to be a blessing.

Keep on. Please.

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