Why Churches Are Losing Ground
by: Allen Domelle
A preacher asked me, “Bro. Domelle, how do you see the independent, fundamental Baptist movement?” He asked, “Are we losing ground in America?” My immediate response to this question is always that we are doing fine. I told him there are many young preachers who are not yet recognized, who are doing a great work in their area.
Just a few days later, I had a preacher call me about an issue where a pastor justified compromise by saying that each generation has their own morality standard. This pastor said, what was wrong in the past may not be wrong today, for each generation has to define morality for themselves.
Immediately, Judges 17:6 came to mind as it says, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” That was exactly what this preacher was doing. He was doing what was right in his own eyes. Another thought I had was that truth is not defined by a person, but by the source of truth, Jesus Christ. John 14:6 says, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Jesus Christ is truth, and truth is unchangeable according to Hebrews 13:8 when it says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” If Jesus never changes, then certainly truth never changes.
The very next day after that conversation, I had another person call me for advice on how to handle supporting ministries that wouldn’t adhere to the holiness standards of the Scriptures. This person told me that they were dealing with people who just didn’t want to make holiness an issue. They determined that the end justified the means.
To top that week off, I had breakfast with a preacher friend of mine who had been contacted by some men who wanted him to join their group. They called themselves, The Ecumentalist Fundamental Group. He told me of the men who were involved in this group, and two of the three men I knew fairly well. When I got back to my room, I went to their church websites to see what these men were like. The first man I looked at has a father who has pastored a well-respected independent, fundamental Baptist church in the Midwest. I watched this man start his services out with contemporary “Christian” music, that sounded more like a wannabe Country and Western group than a Christian group. With their drums in the background, and their music on the screen, they stood up and sang their sensual music. Each member of the group was dressed down, and the lady in the group had clothing so tight that it left nothing for the imagination.
I then went to the second pastor whom I’ve casually known for years. I went to his website, and the first picture I saw was this pastor dressed more like a Country and Western singer than a preacher. To be honest with you, Joel Osteen and Rick Warren dress with more class than this preacher. With his emergent church style philosophy well portrayed, I watched a portion of his service that was modeled more after Rick Warren than it was of Jack Hyles or Lee Roberson.
Finally, I went to the third pastor’s website. At first, I was pleasantly surprised that this pastor seemingly was trying to look like an independent Baptist. He was not dressed down in his appearance. Every portrayal of the church on the website seemed to be what you would want. Then, I clicked on the associations tab of his website and noticed that he was affiliated with the Southern Baptists.
Within a few days time, all of this came across my plate. I then recalled the question the pastor asked me, “Bro. Domelle, how do you see the independent, fundamental Baptist movement?” To be honest with you, I try to be an eternal optimist, but I don’t allow my optimism to negate reality. The reality is that the independent, fundamental Baptists are losing ground. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s all over. I still believe there is hope as I travel across this country, but to deny that we are losing ground is to bury my head in the sand. Whenever you bury your head in the sand, you are going to get kicked where you don’t want to be kicked. We are losing ground because we have adapted to a self-destructive philosophy of progress. Let me show you why independent Baptists are self-destructing and are regressing instead of progressing.
1. We are focusing on spreadsheets instead of people.
One of the biggest problems with pastors today is they are studying the growth patterns of their church instead of getting out and doing what God commanded them to do. I have more preachers ask me how to grow their church than I do any other question. God did not send us to grow churches, God sent us to reach the lost. According to 1 Corinthians 3:6, God is in charge of the increase when it says, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”
Our job is described in Matthew 28:19-20 when it says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” I’m not saying that a pastor shouldn’t keep track of the growth, but we have focused so much on the spreadsheets that we have neglected to win souls and disciple Christians. If we will do our part by winning souls and discipling Christians, then God will take care of the spreadsheets.
2. We have lowered the standard of expectation for young people.
Another reason we are losing ground is because we have lowered our standard of expectations for the youth. It used to be years ago that most preachers had no problem with telling the youth that they wanted the young men to be preachers and the young ladies to be a preacher’s wife. With that philosophy, we had young people leaving home for Bible college to become full-time servants of God. They graduated and went out and started independent Baptist churches worldwide. That is why many of the largest churches in the 70’s and 80’s were independent Baptist churches. We had no problems filling pulpits or full-time positions in churches, because there was a plethora of young people given a higher standard to shoot for with their lives, and they rose to the occasion.
Today, we have preachers who have lowered the standard of their expectations for youth. They now say that you must be “called” to be a preacher or to serve God full-time. Of course, if you ask these same preachers how you will know if you are called of God, they simply say, “You’ll just know.” If you’re going to tell people you need to be called, then you better define it.
How about let’s go to the Scriptures and define the calling of God. Romans 12:1 defines the call of God when it says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Friend, God accepts volunteers as a calling. When a person volunteers to serve God full-time, then that is their calling. If the independent, fundamental Baptists are going to progress, the we had better stop lowering the standard of expectations for our youth.
3. We are producing results with no fruit.
We have focused so much on numbers that we have produced no fruit. The reason we have no fruit is because you must have disciples to produce fruit. If you are going to disciple people, then you are going to have to push holiness and separation from the world. God says in 2 Corinthians 6:17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” You will never have fruit until you separate from the world. The disciples of Christ had to separate themselves from the world to be His disciple. Just because you have numbers does not mean you are successful. We had better stop focusing so much on having weekly numerical results, and we better start focusing on producing fruit that remains.
4. We have focused on inclusion.
Another reason we are losing ground is because we have tried to be so inclusive with man that we have pushed God right out. I’m not saying that we have to be jerks to be a Christian, but I am saying that we must contend for the faith. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 says, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” We have so desperately tried to include everyone that we have watered down who we are. God commands us to withdraw ourselves from those who do not follow the tradition of the Scriptures. We are more concerned with “unity among the brethren,” than we are with the truth of the Scriptures. When truth is not our focus, then we will try to build our Tower of Babels to show we have the power of God upon us. Just because you can include everyone does not mean you have God’s power. We must only allow inclusion when they come the way of the Scriptures. If they don’t want to follow God’s methods, then we should separate from them.
5. We are studying the wrong standard.
I’m afraid one of the biggest reasons we are losing ground is because we have studied church growth guru’s who have never built an independent Baptist Church. It amazes me how many preachers study the church growth methods of Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. They have thrown out the standard of the old-time independent, fundamental Baptist like, J. Frank Norris, Jack Hyles, Lee Roberson and Tom Malone. Jeremiah 5:5 says, “I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the Lord,…” Instead of studying men who build evangelical, emergent churches, you need to get yourself unto the great men who built independent Baptist churches without compromise.
6. We are sabotaging our own cause.
Finally, we are sabotaging our own cause by criticizing and fighting. Let me remind you of Jude 1:3 that says, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” If you are going to stand for truth, then you are going to have to fight. We have a generation of preachers who intentionally avoid fighting because they can’t stomach it and they are tired of it.
I’m not saying that we should look for a battle, but we shouldn’t run from the battle. You shouldn’t be afraid to fight for truth when you see it’s under attack. Don’t try to say the battle is over semantics when you know it’s not. Semantics is a word compromisers use to avoid battles.
On the other hand, we are sabotaging our own cause because we are criticizing the proven entities. Don’t fight the “Generals” of the cause. You may not like how they do it, but they are fighting the battle for the next generation. You should not use your criticism to tear down, but you should use criticism to build up. Don’t joy in the discovery of a leader’s weakness. Instead of getting into the internet forums to find the “dirt” on every preacher, you should be on the streets winning the lost to Christ. Don’t destroy those who are fighting for your cause just because you can’t stomach the fight. Instead of destroying them, you need to get tougher skin and learn to contend for the faith yourself.
Let’s be careful about participating in these self-destructive ways. Let’s not lose ground, but let’s gain ground for the next generation. There is a generation that follows us, and it is our responsibility to hand the independent Baptist movement to them in as good or better condition than when it was handed to us.
Allen Domelle is the editor of the Old Paths Journal which is more than just a Christian’s publication. It is an excellent place to learn how today’s headlines will forge tomorrow’s laws and statutes. Keep yourself in tune with what is happening around the world, as well as in your own backyard with our daily updates and devotionals.