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.

lessons we learned

IFB Power-Brokers

A recurring Independent Fundamental Baptist theme is that we know better than you. You are supposed to sit down, be quiet, and learn.

This means that your IFB pastor is supposed to direct the relationship [if you call it that]. IFB pastors say that the power is God’s. But demeanor, relations with members and ministry show that if God has all the power, it is IFB pastors themselves who exercise that power.

If members begin changing the direction of their relationship with the pastor and/or other members, that’s damning. That diminishes pastor power and weakens his stranglehold on members. As his ability to bully, intimidate, manipulate, cheat, cow and deceive members slips away, IFB pastors discern that God is calling them to another ministry.

Some of the lessons we’ve been learning are relevant to these things.

Lessons Learned

  1. Quoting texts at people and getting in faces for unbelief because issues and questions remain helps nothing. This alienates people from God. It is also an obstacle to faith. It is far better to formulate intelligent, rational questions and bring these to Scripture as we did with God’s gentleness.
  2. With a good concordance or Bible program plus time and effort, average believers can do competent Bible study without textbooks or pastors prompting and/or telling them what to find in their Bibles.
  3. By the time they study and meditate on several key biblical motifs and divine attributes, average believers will be better theologians than many, overpaid, broadly-recognized IFB preachers.
  4. Good churches attempt to impart those skills to believers. They are not threatened by the growing theological comprehension or the questions of the membership. Instead, they are thrilled by it.
  5. IFB self-promotion, denigration of others, schismatic tendencies, bickering, disputing, infighting and other forms of behavioral malfeasance manifest the very behaviors Phil 2 forbids. IFB pastors are on the wrong side of Phil 2 however 2:12 is translated. But they evade correction much more easily if members can only quote their Bibles and nothing else.

The Image of God Again

Fundamentalist sects err by not seeing that we all image God uniquely. In Fundamentalism, God’s compassion, mercy, justice, love, goodness, etc. are filtered from view. We are allowed to see God’s law, severity, rage, etc. Having discovered a wrathful, hateful God, they develop a twisted system of holiness/righteousness/justice to serve God with dutiful obedience.

This leaves those made to reflect such traits with little means to do so in Fundamentalist sects. Those God gifts for compassion, mercy, justice, love, goodness, etc. have minimal opportunity to edify others or to serve in meaningful ways. And under such circumstances, little growth or Christian maturity occurs.

Church, Not Sectarianism

Within the eternal fellowship of Trinitarian life, all of God’s attributes interrelate continually. As God’s image, we reflect few of those attributes, maybe only one or two. But in her unity, the whole church reflects much more fully the fellowship between Father, Son and Spirit. God’s attributes open a world of possibilities for love, life, worship, witness, peace,¬†joy, justice, grace, glory, deliverance and incarnational living!

Jesus prayed:

‘that they may all be one even as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me’ [Jo 17:21].

The tragedy of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement is that by their ‘separation,’ they exclude themselves from this blessedness.