FWOTW — Regency Baptist Church [NT Version]

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Regency Baptist gives us today’s FWOTW. ‘Regency’ is atypical as a congregational name. Perhaps these good people wanted the majesty of ‘Christ the King’ without the appalling liability of being Episcopalian.

Soulwinning and ‘Education’

Regency is a soul-winning congregation. regency-baptist-of-souls-orangevaleYou know this because at Regency, opportunities for soul-winning are frequent. In fact at Regency, it seems that people are not people. They are ‘opportunities’ and ‘souls to win.’

Tuesday, men’s soul-winning.
Wednesday, teen soul-winning [during the school year].
Saturday, All church soul-winning.

The teen soul-winning program begins at 2:30 pm. This is curious since teens are usually in school at that time. So what’s going on here? Well, we have a theory.

Regency apparently has its own school. Regency Baptist Academy is a K-12 ‘school’ which is maintained at 6830 Hazel Avenue, Orangevale, CA. It happens that this is also where the Regency Baptist congregation meets.

Our best guess is that every Wednesday, the A Beka curricular materials are retired and teens are unleashed to win souls in Orangevale, CA. This would explain why teen soul-winning is limited to the school year.

But don’t think for a moment that this means Regency Academy has lax standards. Just check out the standards for entering Regency Academy!

Singing and ‘Devotions’

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Steve R. Nichols pastors Regency Baptist. Pastor Steve both preaches and sings, although we’re not sure which he is doing on the left. With his singing family, Steve Ray [not the Comedy Music King, Ray Stevens] has produced several musical CDs including ‘Lets Build That Wall!’

Pastor Steve Nichols has also written devotionals which Regency says are ‘filled with Bible truths and inspiration for Christians.’ One example of his fine work is Luciferian Cursing Champs. With a source more explicit than we expect preachers to know, he expounds the real meaning of outbursts such as ‘Gosh, Golly, Gee and Geez‘ and the like. This seems to compliment well the ‘beliefs’ section of the website.

If preachers pick ‘great preachers’ who become their mentors, Nichols is no exception. He tells us who he regards as one of God’s ‘greatest.’

I wondered whether this should be a FWOTW or Friday Challenge in which I invited people to list all the things that scream, ‘fundamentalism.’ Since Darrell’s original SFL occasionally did a Friday Challenge on a day other than Friday, replies from either perspective will be honored. Blessings!

Our Pastor | Regency Baptist Church

Fundamental Heresy and Worldly Alliances

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No Alliances, No Prisoners

God’s confessing people do appalling things. Persecution is often involved. And whether Protestants, Catholics, Jews or other infidels are involved, it gets done in Jesus’ Name. In recent days, Muslims take the hit.

The Man and his Message

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Rev. Michael Herrington of Belmont Drive Missionary Baptist in Hood River, Oregon has won a measure of attention usually reserved for larger congregations or for bizarre figures such as pastor Terry Jones. We’ve learned that Jones [who likely has several fatwas on his head for burning the Qu’ran] is now cooking french fries in Florida.

who-said-christians-worship-allahHerrington saw fit to grace the Belmont Drive Missionary Baptist [BDMB] sign with ‘Allah is not our god’ and ‘Koran is just another book’ messages. Predictably, the BDMB Facebook page is crowded with voices lauding Rev. Herrington as the model pastor that Christians need.

One Guy Gets it Right

I don’t know Ronald Leon or who he is. His Facebook page convinces me that he has a credible understanding of our undoubted Christian faith. He is certainly farther right politically than I am. But who isn’t?

At issue here is Ron Leon’s reply to the BDMB sign. With multiple texts, he offers a Biblical perspective on Christian witness, reminding us also to speak with grace because words can alienate as well as reconcile. A more Christian reply you’d be hard pressed to find.

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Shooting Your Own

Also illuminating are the replies to Leon’s statement. Someone offered a ruling on his state of grace and on his eternal destiny. Apparently, Ronald Leon is excluded from God’s redemptive purposes. All this in 21 words, if one counts the ‘words’ that are not words. The obvious thing to say is that Leon’s critics brush aside his texts, and denounce him based on their own perspective. In some churches, this can lead to discipline for a slanderous violation of the ninth commandment.

At least as instructive are ‘Niki Dillon’s’ words:

‘All Christians should be willing to declare these truths about Christ. If the sign makes you uncomfortable, you need to examine your relationship with our Lord. And to non-Christians: yes, this is what we believe! The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Christian God. All others are wannabes. We should not have to apologize for this or keep silent about it.’

‘These truths about Christ’ go to the heart of it.

What is Declared

Citing Jesus’ saying, ‘if I am lifted up I will draw all peoples to myself,’ Leon stands in the very best of Christian tradition. Reading that in his statement made me recall the great, liturgical confession, ‘Christ is died, Christ is risen, Christ is coming again.’ THESE are the truths about Christ that ‘all Christians should be willing to declare.’

It makes a world of difference whether Christian confession means lifting up Christ or tearing down Mohammad. What the sign and conversations in congregations across the land reveal is that many confessing believers are not prepared to make that distinction. But they are prepared to attack and destroy the testimony of those who confess, ‘if I am lifted up, I will draw all peoples to myself.’ God’s confessing people do some appalling things.

Why Do we Do It

This matter has sufficient gravity to require explanation. Explanations better than mine no doubt exist. But for now, I’ll suggest that confessors are overlaying on the theology of the cross an alien, heretical narrative in which Muslims [or Jews, Protestants, Catholics and other infidels in their time] become the embodiment of evil [the kingdom of darkness] and a threat to our peace, safety and good order.

Don’t suppose that congregations can’t be targeted in political operations. Our government has spied on Mennonites because they are anti-war. This isn’t to say that BDMB was infiltrated by government operatives, although that no doubt happens in some places. On the other hand, congregations should be aware of the influence of secular ideas about sin, deliverance, faith and obedience, often made palatable with partisan or patriot zeal.

Alien ideologies exist in congregations as parasites which seek to engorge themselves on what it can supply. If Christ is to reign over all, then church must host no alien agenda. All such agendas are parasitic entities and must be exposed for that. Tragically, congregations sometimes presume to base ‘ministries’ on such agendas.

Toward another Way

As the body of Christ, the calling of the church is to lift up Christ the head. This is entirely different from fighting wars, supporting one system of political economic over another, and other secular agendas. In theological perspective, all those alien, partisan, nationalist agendas are dead. Trying to resurrect and animate them in the church is Christian necromancy.

Jesus said, ‘let the dead bury the dead.’ He was right.

By buying into dead, alien, dead ideologies, fundamentalism is anything but ‘separated’ from the world. It is the world. That’s why it attacks the Ronald Leon’s of the world.

We’re still left with the question of what to do with the Qur’an, Allah and Christian witness.

The Qur’an isn’t the holy book of Christians. It is the holy book of Islam. But you knew that. And saying so compromises nothing.

And as for God, Christians worship the Blessed Trinity. Muslims don’t. But you knew that.

Concerning witness — Christians need only lift up Jesus. That’s all. The rest is Jesus’ problem. He’s the one who draws the nations to himself.

Sometimes, there are no great issues at stake. Sometimes, it’s just people being stupid. But too often, our stupidity is an obstacle to faith. It’s time churches recognized this, and offered the ‘strong preaching’ people claim they love — by kicking alien, heretical ideologies out the door.

What about my Muslim Neighbors

Those genuinely interested building bridges [did you know that bridges are an important theme in Islam, Mr. Herrington] with Muslim neighbors may gain much from this paper by Christian Troll.

Friday Challenge — Find the Freedom in the Gospel

Key to Freedom

Church and Kingdom

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” [Mt 16:18-19].

Good dispensationalists [which Independent Fundamental Baptists are] reliably push kingdom into the future. They are well aware that that any interest in social justice likely means theological and spiritual rot. People who are interested in kingdom eventually question a system which values profit over people and wealth over work. This means they question the Good News of Capitalism and its false promise of infinite growth. So it is for good reason that God’s kingdom has no place in your local IFB sect.

But kingdom was the theological core of Jesus’ preaching. If you push that into the future, wouldn’t that make a markedly different church? That ‘difference’ may be behind yesterday’s cartoon at the Naked Pastor.

My observation suggests that IFB preachers are very clear that kingdom concerns Israel and the future. God brings the kingdom in his own good time. Our concern is with building the church. As you know, that means building the IFB pastor’s fundamentalist empire.

What’s curious is that Jesus appears to have gotten it backwards. Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’ and ‘YOU get the keys of the kingdom.’

See the difference?

We can now dispense with those pesky questions about hungry masses, closed schools and failing communities while our allegedly cash-hungry nation blithely poured nearly 5 trillion into wars over the past 15 years.

Where’s the Freedom?

In his temptation, Jesus refused to align himself with the powers of this age — War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. He formed a kingdom in which we would be freed from the domination of demonic powers. That truly was/is Good News. But it isn’t ‘Good News’ you’ll hear in IFB sects, or in many broadly evangelical congregations for that matter.

The truth is, we’re far better at locking people up than setting them free. And we enlist many ‘present age’ narratives to rationalize it. You can’t help those people. The only thing they understand is force. If we cut them off, they’d learn to fend for themselves and become stronger.

Today’s Challenge

But sometimes, people are better than their theology and better than their stated convictions. Today’s challenge is to tell/find a story of genuine redemption experienced in an IFB setting.

This does not mean substituting one form of death [addiction/slavery/etc.] for another [legalism/hypocrisy/etc.]. It means that despite its theology, some IFB sect somewhere used the keys of God’s kingdom to redeem a situation and set someone free to the praise of God’s glory and grace.

Rediscovering the New Testament Church

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This is Garden Road Independent Fundamental Baptist in Wallace, SC. Garden Road IFB is a ‘New Testament “church.”‘ We know this because the Garden Road Baptist website tells us as much.

‘The organization of a New Testament church is simple. Christ is the head of the local church, (Eph. 5:23) and its Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). The local pastor is the under-shepherd (bishop), overseer, or leader of the congregation. (Heb. 13:17, Acts 20:28, Eph. 4:11) The Independent Baptist church has a congregational form of government, with each member equally having the right to vote on all the affairs of the church.’

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The ‘New Testament Church’ line echoes across the fundamentalist baptist movement. Presumably, this means to convey the idea that IFB ‘churches’ are somehow closer to the Bible than other churches. This is odd since IFB congregations are not churches at all; by definition, they are ‘sects.’

Still, IFBs everywhere defend doggedly their supposed link to the church of the New Testament. It won’t help to say that the New Testament church was beset by doctrinal heresy, lapses of faith and other shortcomings — all of which have been cited as ‘proof’ that others churches are decidedly NOT ‘New Testament churches.’

What the Church Did

The New Testament church did plenty of things that we don’t do today.

  • The NT church collected Jesus’ sayings and committed them to writing for preservation. Unless the IFB pastor’s interpretations are elevated to canonical status [which isn’t unheard of], that just isn’t done today.
  • The NT church saw leadership transferred from apostles to the first generation of elders and deacons in post-Pentecost history.
  • Although the NT church usually emerged from synagogues across the Roman empire, it soon began a process of necessary disassociation from Judaism. Under the charade of ‘dispensational truth,’ self-advertised ‘New Testament “churches”‘ now seek rapprochement with Judaism.
  • The NT church disassociated from political factions and refused to take part in the Jewish revolt against imperial Rome in 70 AD.
  • NT church believers served as a human torches to illumine Nero’s gardens. They had no political influence in Rome and did not seek it.
  • The NT church applied the Revelation’s sayings about Jesus’ sole worthiness of worship directly against the claims of Emperor Domitian, who demanded acknowledgment as being ‘Lord and God.’

What Was the NT Church?

Believers in the NT church were non-violent. They rejected capital punishment and military enlistment. They refused to kill even in self-defense. They refused government involvement of any kind. And they distributed their resources according to need [Ac 2:44-45; 4:35].

For all the talk about being ‘New Testament,’ IFB members would not be comfortable in a New Testament church. They would likely protest that such churches were unpatriotic, liberal [worse than the devil], and the cause of the erosion of Christian faith and practice.

Moreover churches which ‘return to their roots’ in terms of reviving ancient practices and defining normative Christian living as a simple lifestyle have no real interest in fundamentalism or its issues.

The great irony here is that Christian fundamentalism has almost nothing common with the ‘New Testament’ church; but it has very much in common with the Church of Constantine. Constantine’s model of ‘church’ prevailed for many centuries. But as Kierkegaard said, that model is now [thankfully] collapsing.

In my opinion, much fundamentalist outrage with the ‘liberal/unbelieving church is based NOT on departure from the New Testament church; rather it is a reaction to their loss of earthly power/influence with the decline of the church of Constantine.

Christian Fundamentalism is not the church of the New Testament. It is the ‘Church’ of Constantine, the church of the Roman empire, the church of earthly political power and military domination, and as all these things, it is too often too similar to the church John depicts under the imagery of the false prophet in leading the nations to serve the imperial beast.

Burning a Pinch of Incense to Caesar

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Students, swearing the pledge of allegiance on Flag Day, 1899.

If the game ‘Balderdash’ used ‘Polycarp’ as a word, I suppose someone might define it as an adhesive compound used by roofers to waterproof tiles. Students of church history recognize Polycarp as a disciple of John, as the bishop of Smyrna, and as an early Christian martyr. Although a life-long believer, he was by then an aged man, perhaps in his 90s.

Rome didn’t want to do Polycarp. Burning an old man of gentle character just doesn’t give an imperial cult the victory it wants. A believer all his life, Polycarp may have made it to his 90s before he was bound and tossed on a pyre. But the flames didn’t touch him. So he was stabbed to death.

It is said that Polycarp’s martyrdom was his greatest gift to the church. Why he accepted it probably holds instructive lessons for every age.

Polycarp was supposed to burn incense to Caesar. The annual rite meant taking a pinch of incense, tossing it in a fire and saying, ‘Caesar is Lord.’

Rome had a whole pantheon of gods. It really didn’t matter what god you served, so long as your swore allegiance to Caesar that one day. It wasn’t necessary to believe/mean what you said. You just had to do it. It was a ‘do this and then live however you want the rest of the year’ thing.

Polycarp refused.

Polycarp was begged to do otherwise.

He refused.

Polycarp was asked, ‘will you at least denounce the atheists,’ meaning Christians, who were regarded as ‘atheists’ as they didn’t acknowledge Rome’s deities. Polycarp turned toward the angry mob and shouted, ‘down with the atheists.’ By that, Polycarp declared practitioners of Rome’s imperial cult to be the atheists.

Allegiance pledged to the Republic and to the flag that means the Republic is not burning incense to Caesar. No one-on-one equation of the two is possible, and the attempt to make it so is ahistorical.

Still, Rome and Washington may show more imperial commonality than we think. The imperial slogans inscribed on Roman altars, coinage, etc. are alive and well today — peace, security, victory, prosperity, freedom, and more. But empires are not built on slogans. The projection of imperial power, its conditions, the narratives which support it, and its promises to its peoples may be more at the heart of the matter. It is in those things that we may find ourselves more and more resembling imperial Rome.

The issue of allegiance — what it presumes, what it means, on what conditions it is given, what it requires, etc. — matters especially for Christian believers. This bears on identity, our assessment of the world in which we live, what is our task, and where we are going. It matters profoundly whether allegiance can be divided, or whether by definition it can belong solely to one Lord, be that an earthly or an heavenly one.

This is troubling because mere discussion of such things retains a certain discretion about things which powerful forces want left sacrosanct. Quite frankly, such subjects are ‘not supposed’ to be open for discussion. But that is precisely what Christians MUST not do.

It is ironic that where independent fundamental baptists ought to be most insistent [in retaining distinctives of faith allegiance], they are too often most compromised. IFBs too easily and without criticism align themselves with the powers of this present age. THAT is a significant part of the reason for which they MUST have a ‘Christian Nation’ narrative.

IF a wedge is driven between Christ and Caesar, THEN it is necessary to decide between them. In my experience, that is something which few IFBs or few evangelical Christians are prepared to do.

The intent here is NOT to decide the issue allegiance or whether or how one can faithfully swear fealty both to Caesar AND Christ. As I see it, we must allow each person to decide that for her or himself.

The point is that we dare not make this a ‘closed’ matter on which there can be no ongoing discussion. Discussion is needed, because we are unable to assess our faithfulness to Jesus Christ without considering it. Moreover, believers need mutual accountability in these matters, regardless of how they come down on the question of earthly allegiance.

Polycarp is extraordinary because he was prepared to look Caesar in the eye and say, ‘no.’ That’s why he died as he did. What is not clear is that evangelicals in our time and place would do the same in any dynamically comparable test of allegiance. That’s where and why discussion is needed.