I am, without apology, an independent fundamental Baptist. As a new Christian, I was raised up spiritually on the preaching of Jack Hyles, John R. Rice, Bob Gray, Lee Roberson, Bob Jones and Tom Malone. My pastor was Loren Dawson who operated (and still does) The Gospel Tape Ministry with over 10,000 sermons on tape from all of the great fundamentalists of this century. Pastor Dawson fed me a steady diet of great sermon tapes for over ten years. I graduated from Midwestern Baptist College (an independent Baptist college) in 1974, pastored an independent Baptist Church and started an independent Baptist Christian school. I have, for 33 years, been an unwavering, uncompromising fundamentalist. I am deeply concerned, however, for my fellow fundamentalists. I am much afraid that we will go the way of the Amish if certain attitudes are not corrected rapidly.
I know that many of the Amish people are saved and love the same God that I love. I was raised in a Mennonite church as a child. I have spoken in Amish (and Mennonite) schools. I don't mean to speak evil of the Amish people but they serve as a great example of what I fear is happening in our independent Baptist movement. Please allow me to explain: Several years ago I was speaking in an independent Baptist Church in the middle of Amish country in Canada. The pastor arranged for me to speak in an Amish school. The kids were very well behaved and listened intently as I spoke. I noticed that some were dressed with black clothes and some had blue clothing. Some kids had buttons while others had hooks and loops. I learned that there are over a dozen kinds of Amish and Mennonite in that area. All are splinter groups off the original church. Some have electricity, telephones, cars, etc. while others do not.
Here are my observations:
Many of the Amish people really are saved and love the Lord.
Each group uses peer pressure to keep its members in line. Any member who violates the rules of the group is "shunned". This shunning has severe economic and social consequences for the outcast member.
The Amish win few if any outside people to the Lord. The purity of the group becomes their badge of spirituality. The great commission is not being fulfilled in the Amish community to any visible extent.
They are a gazing stock. People come from miles around to 'look at the Amish' but not to join the Amish. They think they have fulfilled the command to be a peculiar people.
Each group of Amish thinks of themselves as being more spiritual than the others. Those without a telephone feel like those who have phones are denying the faith and should be avoided. Adherence to the group's rules becomes evidence of spirituality.
The issues they split over are non-Biblical.
They use guilt by association-shun those who don't shun those we shun, if a member is shunned, any who associate with them will be shunned as well as any who associate with those who associate with the one being shunned.
There seems to be no limit to the number of these "degrees or levels of separation".
They are fighting the wrong enemy. Satan is the enemy. Many good people are being wasted for
God's service because they get discouraged with the petty rules of the herd.
Many independent Baptists are just as childish in their behavior. Many have created petty rules that are several levels removed from scripture.
We would do better to get back to winning souls and building the believers in the faith.
The real enemy is the Devil, not other Christians.
It is easy to find points to differ on with anyone. Some points (like the Deity of Christ) are worth breaking fellowship over and some (like drums in church) are not.
We need to learn to eat the meat and spit out the bones. Take the good and reject the bad.
My ministry on the subject of creation is the foundation of Scripture. All Christians need a solid foundation in Genesis. After we win the war over the authority of Genesis, we can continue our fight over other doctrinal distinctives. Please try to understand. I'm not suggesting that Christian denominations should forget all their distinctive and unite into a super church. I'm glad for the differences. I'm just trying to rebuild our foundation. To those who differ with my policy, I ask for Christian charity and understanding. I really love the Lord and want to serve Him.
Dr. Kent Hovind