by: Allen Domelle
If you listen to the detractors and critics of the independent, fundamental Baptist movement, you would think that our best days are gone. From within and without, the detractors have declared the days of old paths fundamentalism as dead and gone.
Their reasoning for fundamentalism being irrelevant in today’s world is because of our unwillingness to change our stance on things they consider irrelevant. For instance, they think the days of decency are dead and gone. Many of these detractors have declared that holiness, or dress standards, is dependent upon one’s culture or conscience. They criticize preachers or churches that still believe it is right for a lady to wear a dress, for men to have short hair and for churches to expect those in ministry positions to adhere to the dress standards of the church. These detractors like to preach grace without holiness; as if grace means you can live any way that you want.
Before you get the tombstone inscribed and set it on the grave of the independent, fundamental Baptist movement, let me encourage those who still stand that there are still many growing churches who continue to stand for and promote the old paths. We may not have the national platforms that we had in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, but we are still building churches according to the old paths of the King James Bible.
I’m afraid the proclamation from the modern day Balaam’s that the old paths, independent Baptist movement is dead and gone is very premature. It reminds me of the critics in Nehemiah’s day who said, “Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.”(Nehemiah 4:3) These critics were obviously very wrong as we read later in Nehemiah 6:15, “So the wall was finished…” So much for the wall not being built. Just like Nehemiah’s detractors and critics were wrong in his day, so are the detractors and critics wrong in our day when they say that you can’t build a church the way they used to be built.
Three of my most recent meetings can reassure you that the old paths, fundamental Baptist movement is still alive and well. A few weeks ago, I preached for the Faith Baptist Church, in Wildomar, CA, where Dr. Bruce Goddard is the pastor. He asked me to come in and hold a four day meeting on soul winning and revival. What amazed me about this church is that they have grown to such a size that they are holding three services on Sunday morning to house the crowds. The evening crowds were not a skeleton crew like it is in many emerging churches, if they even have night church, but a packed out auditorium for every service. During the week of meetings, the LORD gave us over 200 people who accepted Christ as Saviour and altars filled with God’s people making decisions.
There is no doubt that the Faith Baptist Church of Wildomar is an old paths, fundamental Baptist church. They didn’t want me to get up and preach sermons that appealed to the flesh; rather, they wanted me to stand and preaching strong, pointed sermons that brought conviction, encouraged the saint and moved people to make a decision at the invitation time. The stronger I preached, the better they responded. I enjoyed hearing music that didn’t sound like it came out of a bar, but music that you know was glorifying to the LORD. The ladies were dressed decently and most of the men dressed like they were going to church and not a country club. The teens were obviously more in love with the LORD than they were with the world. They were not dressed inappropriately, and they didn’t look like they got their style of dress from the latest Teen Vogue magazine. Instead, they dressed like they represented the Lord Jesus Christ.
The next week, I preached for the Spring Creek Baptist Church in Seven Springs, NC, where Jason Watford is the pastor. This church is not found in a big metropolitan city, but it is a country church out in the rural roads of North Carolina. This church is everything that you would imagine a country church to be. Though they were a country church, they didn’t let their distance from the city hinder them from packing out the auditorium for every service. Sunday morning was packed with people filling their pew with friends and family. One would wonder what type of crowd they would have on Sunday night being that they are a country church. Yet, that Sunday night and every night that week the auditorium was full with hardly an open seat. Again, 6 people were saved that week and the altars were filled.
This church didn’t have the fancy buildings that some would say are required to build a thriving church, but the buildings were very well taken care of and the services were very organized. They didn’t have praise and worship teams on the platform during their song service, but the people sang with fervor and enjoyment making it very easy for any preacher to preach. The pianist was not a concert pianist, but she was a business lady who gave her best effort in playing for the congregation without one drum to back her up, and she did a great job. These people loved the preaching of God’s Word and the old paths, which didn’t hinder their attendance as the church was experiencing its best attendances in the church’s history.
The following week, I went to preach at the Woodlawn Baptist Church in Bowie, MD, where William Tyson is pastor. This church is located in a more wealthy community, but they didn’t let their location stop them from running busses to the inner-city to bring the financially poor adults and children to church. It was a holiday weekend, but they still were still packed out in both morning services and the Sunday night service. Just on that Sunday we had 12 people accept Christ as Saviour and 3 people followed the LORD in believer’s baptism. The church is definitely not in decline as they are in desperate need of a larger auditorium so they can continue to grow.
Did this church compromise to see the growth? Absolutely not! They are the epitome of an old paths, fundamental Baptist Church. The standards this church expects from their workers are not borderline or trendy, but they are modest according to biblical standards. Old paths, fiery preaching is what this church enjoys. They believe in using the altars in every service, and the people are aggressive about reaching the lost for Jesus Christ. Their music is not starchy, and neither does it sound like it came from the latest Country & Western music album. Yet, their music was pleasant and exciting, warming the heart of each listener who attended.
Each of these churches that I mentioned are simply a representative of the hundreds of churches across America that are growing and have not compromised the old paths for this new emerging church philosophy. Yes, they all have their own unique personality, but you could walk into each of these churches and not question where they stand positionally. None of these churches have followed, nor do they want to follow, the emerging church mess that many so-called independent Baptists have started copying. These churches just believe that you can do things God’s way and still reach your community for Jesus Christ. They definitely prove that the old paths, independent Baptist movement is alive and well. There were several things that I identified in these churches that helped them to see God’s blessings on their church.
1. The bus ministry was an integral part of the church outreach.
The bus ministry was not a token ministry, but a big part in reaching their communities. Each of these churches that I talked about believed that the bus ministry is a place where any person in the church can and should be involved. They realized that it was a spiritual ministry, not because they had busses, but because it allowed them to bring more people to church in one vehicle.
The bus ministry is one of the ministries that the old paths, independent Baptist churches have embraced for years. They understand that the command to bring people to Jesus Christ can be accomplished in a greater fashion through the bus ministry. Though I don’t care how we get people to church, whether it is by filling our cars or filling a wagon, I do believe that the bus ministry allows us to bring more people to church. I do believe that a balanced approach to the bus ministry will help our independent Baptist churches continue to thrive.
2. Each church had an aggressive soul-winning ministry.
The one key that I have seen throughout the years that has perpetuated the old paths, independent Baptist churches is that we believe and practice confrontational soul winning. You can go back to the days of Christ and see that the church went to where the sinner was to show them how to be saved. These churches I preached in all had aggressive soul-winning ministries. I believe that people are still open to the Gospel. The problem is not that people are too hard to get saved, but the problem is that Christians are not going soul winning. You compare the old paths, independent Baptist churches to these emerging church growth methods and I’ll promise you that the old paths, independent Baptist churches are seeing more saved. That in and of itself will keep us alive and well until our LORD returns.
3. Each church had an aggressive Sunday school program.
What I loved about these churches is that they believed that teaching the Bible in Sunday school is still more advantageous and biblical than having small groups in a house. They all understood that Christ died for the church and not for the small groups. (Ephesians 5:25) Their Sunday school programs were their discipleship programs. Old paths, independent Baptist churches have always discipled their people and church through the Sunday school. As long as Sunday school continues to be embraced in our old paths, independent Baptist churches, we will continue to be the breeding grounds for future preachers and church workers.
4. Each church loved old-fashioned preaching.
These churches that I preached in wanted old-paths preaching and didn’t apologize for having it. We live in times when too many pastors are afraid to have the pointed preacher because they are afraid he is going to run someone off. My answer to these weak, Balaam following pastors is that if someone can run your people off through their preaching then you have done a poor job in grounding your people in the Word. In over two and a half decades of being an evangelist, only the churches that have fashioned their ministries after liberals could not take my passionate preaching. I still find today that there are scores of old paths, independent Baptist churches that love hard preaching. They understand that old-fashioned preaching needs to be the centerpiece of every service, and they enjoy it.
5. Fasting and prayer was still practiced by these churches.
One of the things I noticed while I preached for Pastor Bruce Goddard was that he scheduled a month long fasting and prayer for the revival meeting. It is no wonder that God blessed when most of the church participated in fasting and prayer. He simply asked different members to choose a day during the month that they would fast and pray for the meeting. What I noticed was that there wasn’t just one person a day, but several people a day fasting and praying for the meeting. When you get Christians who believe that the church should be the house of prayer, and they are willing to fast and pray to see God’s blessings, then you will see the old paths, independent Baptist churches continue to grow.
6. They still had requirements for church workers.
These churches didn’t believe that you had to compromise your standards to grow. What I noticed about them was that they still enforced having modest dress standards for their workers. The detractors of the old paths, independent Baptist churches say that we are running people off, but what I have noticed is that we are not running people off but we are reaching more people because there is a difference. Let the detractors push their worldly programs and dress standards, but the old paths, independent Baptist churches will be blessed in part because they follow God’s biblical and modest method for those who are going to lead in a church ministry.
7. They all had a vibrant music program.
What I loved about these churches is that I didn’t feel like I had walked into a rock concert when the special music was sung. The music didn’t sound like it came from a charismatic praise and worship service, and neither did it have the sound of country music. It was music that was lively, exciting and warmed the heart for the preaching. It was music that matched the preaching. They all realized that music shows your direction, and they wanted everyone to know that they were not ashamed to be an old paths, independent Baptist church.
8. They all embraced the King James Bible.
What is interesting to me is that none of these churches said that they used the King James Bible for unity purposes, but they all embraced it as the inspired and preserved Word of God. Watch out for those who say they only use the King James Bible for unity purposes because what they are saying is that they don’t believe it is inspired and preserved today. They are saying that any version will do, which is absolutely wrong! The old paths, independent Baptist churches will continue to be blessed by God because He will bless those who hold true to His Word.
To all those who have declared the old paths, independent Baptist church movement as dead, I hate to disappoint you but we are growing and you know it. If we were irrelevant, you wouldn’t be trying to talk about how our methods are out of touch for today’s society. People in J. Frank Norris’ day said that the old paths, independent Baptist style of church building wouldn’t reach the people of his day, and they were miserably wrong. He used the old paths to influence hundreds and even thousands of pastors across our nation to build their churches. The old paths, independent Baptist church movement is still very alive in America today. To those who are part of an old paths, independent Baptist church, take courage because there are still many churches that are building aggressive works for the LORD. To the critics and detractors, you might want to put a hold on ordering the tombstone for our movement because we have been going since the day that Christ started the church, and we will continue to be around until the day He comes to take us to Heaven.