Archive for July, 2014

Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 3

July 7, 2014

Title: Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 3
Text: Matthew 22:37-38, John 17:15-18, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
Time: July 7th, 2014

 
In the last two messages I shared my experiences with pasturing a small, protestant evangelical Baptist church near a large independent fundamentalist mega-church. I mentioned that my brush with fundamentalism was highly educational and opened my eyes to a different form of Christianity than I had been accustomed. I grew up in a protestant main-line denominational church, converted to evangelical Christianity in my late teens, and went on to attend a Christian college and seminary in preparation for pastoral ministry. In the denominational church of my childhood, I experienced an emphasis on friendly tolerance and diversity of belief and behavior (a bit too much latitude I’d say, especially for behaviors and beliefs outside of biblical boundaries). In my experience with independent fundamentalism I encountered the very opposite – strict intolerance of any beliefs and behaviors that didn’t conform to the leader’s narrow vision of Christianity. Now to be fair, the fundamentalist mega-church in my area, the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana was more or less biblically Christian, except that it felt especially called to define and determine every detail of Christian belief and behavior. And it separated itself from every other type of Christian that didn’t believe and behave the same thing. For example, First Baptist church leaders taught separation – not separation from the sinful world, but separation from other Christians who didn’t believe and behave like they taught. And not only that, they separated even from Christians who did believe and behave like they taught, except who didn’t separate from other Christians the way they thought they should separate. Does that make sense? If it doesn’t, don’t worry, because it doesn’t make sense anyway. I’ve already listed a number of things to beware of when dealing with some of these types of independent fundamentalist churches, so I won’t go back over that ground. But today I’d like to mention three more broad, general themes that I find in a number of independent fundamentalist churches that we need to be aware of and avoid. They is, one, anti-intellectualism, or in other words, opposition to the mind, to thinking deeply about things, and a mistrust of learning and education. Two, there is an anti-culture attitude that shows itself in the tendency to be excessively counter-cultural. And third, there is an anti-charismatic attitude towards Christians who believe in the continued gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in the church today. I believe all three of these general tendencies are wrong and I want to point out why in this message today. Hopefully, we can equip ourselves to think biblically in these areas, and believe and act as authentic Christians. Let me explain further. (more…)

Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 2

July 7, 2014

Title: Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 2
Text: Acts 15:28-29, 1 Samuel 14:24, Mark 7:13
Time: July 6th, 2014

 
Last time I talked about my experience as a young pastor in South Chicago, Illinois living and ministering near the large First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. For the two years I pastored the church in South Chicago I informally interacted with the Hammond church – I rubbed shoulders with its members, I attended a couple Pastor’s School conferences there, I attended a few Sunday night church services, I read a few of Pastor Jack Hyles’ books, and generally tried to learn as much as I could about anything that could help me in my church ministry. After I moved on from the small Chicago church after a couple of years I lost track of the First Baptist Church of Hammond as I focused on other things in my ministry. But during the two or three year period I was pastoring in Chicago I became somewhat familiar with this large fundamentalist mega-church, and even though I ultimately didn’t adopt its ministry style, I did appreciate a few things I saw there. I think the thing I liked most about First Baptist was its unashamed conviction for the fundamentals of the Christian faith. When Jack Hyles preached you knew he believed what he taught and it caused you to firm up your own convictions toward the faith. So the biggest thing I walked away from in connection with First Baptist Church was its strong conviction that stirred strong conviction in me towards Christian truth. The world constantly tears down Christianity, but it’s nice to go some place, or hear someone, with strong Christian convictions that isn’t afraid to say so! I appreciated that. Yes, this can lead to being overly dogmatic, but a lack of it can also lead to being wishy-washy also. Another thing I took away from my contact with First Baptist Church was the seriousness of church ministry. Hyles and the church leaders and volunteer workers were very dedicated and serious about evangelism and discipleship. This wasn’t fun and games; this was hard work, and they were willing to put in long hours and wear themselves out for the Lord’s work. That inspired me to do the same in my ministry. Yes, this can lead to excessive physical, mental and spiritual burnout, and that’s always a temptation. In fact, Jack Schaap, who followed Hyles as Pastor of First Baptist Church, who ran into legal trouble for having sexual contact with a minor, in his court case sited burnout as a contributing factor for his poor judgment in involving himself in sexual immorality. So for every positive characteristic I saw at First Baptist Church I could think of a negative opposite characteristic that could cause trouble. But I don’t want to give the impression that there aren’t positives to my experience with independent fundamentalist churches, there are. There are just negatives that people need to be warned about, to beware. Here are three more warnings. (more…)

Beware of Some Fundamdentalist Churches 1

July 7, 2014

Title: Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 1
Text: John 7:50-52, Acts 12:21-23, Romans 12:18
Time: July 5th, 2014

 
I happened to be surfing the Internet the other day and I stumbled upon an article about a fundamentalist Christian pastor who was tried, convicted and sentenced to twelve years in prison for sexual immorality. His name was Jack Schaap and he used to be a pastor at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. How do I know about Jack Schaap? Because as a young pastor in South Chicago, Illinois during the late 80’s I became aware of First Baptist Church of Hammond through their evangelism outreach program in South Chicago. Every Saturday the area would be saturated with First Baptist Church buses recruiting kids for Sunday school in Hammond, Indiana. Eventually I thought I’d better check out this church that was covering so much territory, even reaching up to Chicago and beyond. So I attended what is called Pastor’s School for three days at the church in Hammond. It was there I saw and heard the main pastor Jack Hyles and his assistant pastor Jack Schaap. As I watched and listened as they explained their ministry methods I was impressed with some of the things they were doing, but also bothered by some other things they were doing. I walked away with mixed feelings about First Baptist Church of Hammond. On the one hand there’s no question they were reaching a lot of people, especially children, with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And not only that, they were discipling these converts every week in Sunday. So it wasn’t they just prayed a prayer, baptized them and then left the converts alone. They followed up and really tried to train them in Christian living. On the other hand, the church came across as overly dogmatic on doctrine, excessively authoritarian in leadership, and unnecessarily divisive towards other Christians and churches in attitude. I concluded that Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap and the other leaders at the church were definitely doing many good things – things that I’d like to incorporate into my Christian ministry. But the way they were going about doing many of these good things wasn’t good – and I concluded that I definitely didn’t want to follow them in their methods. So as a young minister I didn’t go in the direction of independent fundamentalism, but rather moved in the direction of biblical evangelicalism. Looking back, I believe I made the right decision because as it turns out, both the main pastor Jack Hyles (he’s since died) and his assistant Jack Schaap were found guilty of sexual immorality (Schaap became the main pastor after Hyles death, but was removed and sent to jail for his sins). But it wasn’t just these pastors problems that led to their downfall, it was the whole church culture they built that really caused the problems. That’s why I offer a few warnings to people about independent fundamentalist churches. Not all or even most fundamentalist churches are dangerous, but some are, so that is why I’m warning people based on my observations and experience with First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. Hopefully, my words can spare others the same problems some independent fundamentalist churches produce. (more…)