The Female Fundamentalist offers both a positive and realistic look at the life and culture of biblical fundamentalism. We hope to provide a stimulating, axiomatic, and fun atmosphere in the discussion of the values associated with this historic movement.
There is a great deal of slander abroad on the
Internet.The kind of thing that calls
Independent, Fundamental Baptist (IFB) homes and churches part of a cult, insinuating that confrontational preaching in fundamental churches is verbal abuse.These blogs and articles are frequently written by disgruntled
individuals who believe they have finally found freedom after having been inundated with cult-like dogmas most of their lives. From my own observation, it seems a great number of these "finally freed" individuals are women. And so, as a woman happily serving in an IFB church, I would like to answer a few charges against the slander. Such entries may be extended over time, but I hope to satisfactorily and Scripturally deal with some of these allegations.
One woman claims to have had to put on a face for years in
her IFB church, staying under the radar, just obeying the rules, but inwardly
chafing the entire time.She felt
coerced into tithing and, when she was first able to try on a pair of jeans and
walk around another town far from her own, she felt free.Just taking a walk through the city brought
her immense exhilaration.
She asserts that true freedom in the greatest sense is found
outside IFB churches.
But she and others preach a message that I don’t embrace—based both upon God’s Word and my own experience.
The problems with this woman's analysis are many. I speak, firstly, from experience. Having been born and raised in an IFB home myself, I felt great freedom to be me—in the context of the Word of God.When I went out to do farm chores at 5:30 in the
morning, I inhaled fresh air and cherished the freedom to consider ideas for
myself.I would feed the animals and, in
the winter months, as I glanced up at the stars, would frequently spend moments marveling that the same
God who formed Abraham and promised by Himself to send a Savior into the world
was yet that same God who saw us, who loved the fledgling congregation in my town, who
knew every problem and understood every need, who offered Himself freely to me
each day in His Word.
I remember, as a 1st
grader, stopping and pondering eternity—the immensity and never-ending nature
of that forever place where everyone would live somewhere.It seemed a circle to me and held me in
its grasp.To think that the
God who inhabits eternity would love me, would give Himself for me, would call
me to Himself to worship Him!What
My parents were true servants, and I loved the freedom I had
to work with them repairing the old farmhouse we moved into.I was just a young girl at the time but I
clearly remember waking up one morning and asking my dad, “Can I wear slacks
To which he replied, “Yes.”
We were on the journey to abandon trousers
from the girls' wardrobes of our home, but I wanted to make sure it was ok before
I went outside wearing them.I knew Dad
wanted me to dress like a lady.And that
was ok.But I still liked my slacks.
Then there was the time in 1st grade when all the
other girls in my PE class at school were wearing jeans and I, trying to be more lady-like,
wore a dress over my slacks.My teacher
had me tuck in my dress so that I could do the exercises.But in that environment, I began to feel odd about
not wearing jeans and a t-shirt to PE, so I would wear them—by this time my
parents had said the girls in our family were going to stop wearing slacks as an outer garment—under a long coat, so
that if my sister were out for recess, she would not be able to see me with them
Then one day, as we sat at dinner, I confessed.I had been wearing slacks to P.E.,
I told my parents.But from now on I
would wear culottes to PE or just keep the slacks on under my dress.In my heart, I determined that I would wear
slacks in the regular way when I got to be 18.Then I would have my own way.Until then,
I would want to wear them in my heart even if I outwardly conformed to the
But I didn’t reckon with one thing that day as a seven-year-old.The Holy Spirit of God began to work on my
spirit.He began to show me that
“rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness as iniquity and
idolatry" (I Sam. 15:23).Even more, He opened
my eyes to other truths of His Word.In
sixth grade, I read the Bible through for myself and in 7th grade, I
had firm conviction concerning my apparel.I believed that it was a sin for a woman to dress in men’s apparel.While many argued that “Well, they all wore
robes” in biblical times, so “It’s ok if women wear slacks today,” God had
convinced my own spirit that to “wear that which pertains to a man” (Deut. 22:5) would be to
wear what has been traditionally male apparel in our Western culture—slacks, whether or not they were
in the men’s or women’s section of the store.
While I have had to continually consider the Scriptures
related to this issue—God often commands us to “Remember” in His Word—I have,
by God’s grace, held to this position since I was 12 years old.Held to it not because I was forced into it,
but because the God of Heaven writes His laws in the hearts of His children. I held firmly to
it—not looking down on others for wearing trousers, for I had been there at one
time—but understanding that, as for me and my conscience, my relationship with
God—I would obey His Word.And that is
what it is for me. It’s not some sort of freedom to indulge in something other
than what God has convinced me from His Word.This
is the kind of God I serve.He longs for
people who are emptied of self so that He might fill their hearts with His
Word. And, Oh--how I need His filling every day to make me echo the words of the song writer, "None of self and all of Thee!"
Isaiah 66:2 is one of my favorite
verses—“For all those things hath
mine hand made, and all those things
have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look,even
to him that is poor and of a contrite
spirit, and trembleth at my word.”The
freedom-preaching bloggers frequently fail to exposit Scripture.When I look into the Word, I see the Word
leading and guiding my every decision.I
see that it is incredibly called what many might view as an oxymoron—a “law of
liberty”--and not only that, a perfect law of liberty!
“But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work,
this man shall be blessed in his deed" (James 1:25).Certainly, the freedom God offers in His word is found in a law.And that law is perfect.It is the law of liberty, for God has always wanted us to be free—in
The psalmist knew this God.And he wrote:
“I will behave myself wisely in a
perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me?
I will walk within my house with a
I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.A
froward heart shall depart from me:
not know a wicked person.Whoso privily
slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I
Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful
of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he
shall serve me.
He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my
sight.” (Psalm 101:2-7).
One lady writes of the freedom she
has now to do what she wants after suffering near PTSD symptoms after leaving
her IFB congregation.But God’s perfect
law is the law of liberty.And Psalm 101
tells us that this law results in a lifestyle that does not embrace anything that opposes God.No wicked thing.No slanderers
even.Unfortunately, many of these
freedom-preaching bloggers clearly slander the people of God.
The discomfort these bloggers feel from confrontational preaching is so frequently
slanderously applied to a man of God who is merely teaching the Word of
God.It saddens my heart that these
bloggers fail to discern the voice of God’s Holy Spirit. Isaiah, Jeremiah,
Ezekiel—these prophets were refused because the people discarded the messenger
and failed to understand the truth of God’s Word. And yet, through these sometimes awkward preachers, God delivers truth throughout His Word.
No preacher of God is perfect.But my own preacher—my father in an IFB
congregation— loves God and His Word.Truth matters to him.A lot. After listening to his sermons, I am so often encouraged to take God at His Word, to spend more of my week reading and pondering the Bible, to
spend more time of my day with Jesus in prayer.Those kinds of
messages help to drive me to the Sovereign God of the Universe, the eternal God
who loved me with an everlasting love.
Taken in Spain, in 2004
My parents gave me a lot of freedom.I could drive at 16.I traveled overseas to several European
countries, often by myself, before I was married.I loved exploring new places.But when I saw new things and explored new
countries, I couldn’t help but see souls.All around me, people were dying and going to hell.Every person was a soul created in the image
of God.It filled my heart with a desire
for missions—to see missionaries raised up to go all over the globe.This is a beautiful world, a complex world,
but it is a fallen world.And, as such,
it demands that people reach it with the Gospel, for that is God’s heart
cry.Jesus Himself, the Word, came to
“seek and to save that which is lost" (Luke 19:10).
Sometimes I’ve struggled with the balance between a fervor
for souls, as we see in the Apostle Paul, and moments in which we are to enjoy
all things God gives us –something Paul writes to Timothy while he himself
was suffering the deprivations of hunger, being bound in the
Mamertime Prison in Rome.But that
doesn’t mean I’m not free.It means I’m
experiencing the tension of a Christian in the world but not of it.My home is not here but in heaven.As Abraham, I am merely a sojourner here.
Another photo, taken in Spain, 2004
I love to travel, having been to about twenty different
countries.Opportunities such as these have allowed me to explore the world and have given me freedom to write and to reflect.
But at salvation, I was given the most important freedom--the freedom found in Christ. It is this freedom which I greatly cherish.In
fact, I find that one of the most fulfilling things I can do in a day is to share
with others the Gospel, for at salvation, Christ gives us a heart to see others redeemed.
Please be ware of false teachers in the form of
“freedom-preaching” bloggers who assert that IFB churches offer no
freedom. When Jesus Christ redeems you, He makes you free
indeed.He offers a completely different
perspective on life, found in the perfect law of liberty, His Word. Tithing, for example, is a joy, for life is not about pleasing ourselves, not about following our own way but about letting the God Who has redeemed us shape us through His Word that we may please and glorify Him.
Truly, great freedom
In the words of John 8:36, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed"!
CHARITY . . . HOPETH ALL THINGS (I CORINTHIANS 13:7)
According to Thayer, the Greek word elpizo (translated hope in the above verse) means, "in a religious sense, to wait for salvation with joy and full confidence." This kind of hope encompasses the idea of assured expectation of a future event. True, Biblical love, then, views the most impossible situations with
the eyes of faith.It looks upon
the seeming hopelessness of surroundings and sees an omnipotent, omniscient,
and omnipresent God.
Some time ago, I considered what a
different place this world would be if we would see advertised
upon the road of
life billboards displaying products for a Heavenly Kingdom. One such company I envisioned was Faithwear.Its commercials might go something like
“Put on Faithwear’s glasses and
change your perspective!You’ll
see the world with much clearer vision.Not only will every blade of grass and each twinkling star magnify the Original Designer, but so will your daily tasks be transformed as you encounter a fresh
view of God.Look upon your every
task and each relationship and perceive our glorious Creator, Who has revealed
Himself in each aspect of His creation.
“Mothers, see those children to
whom you minister as strong in God’s service.Working women, see those frustrating moments in your daily
schedule as opportunities to praise God—to rejoice because God’s mercies are
better than life itself.Children,
see every rebuke as a correction of love, offered to you from heaven, borne
from God’s own throne.
“Our new brand of hearing aids
assist you in perceiving with the ears of faith.Mothers, hear not the crying infant nor the complaining
child, but the voice of the Master saying, ‘I was in all points tempted as you
are, yet without sin.’
“You’ll be amazed at how our
products transform the senses.So
try some to day! And the fantastic part of all our specialty goods is that they
will cost you nothing but a willing mind, a broken spirit, and a contrite
heart.Pay no money, but offer
yourself as a living sacrifice, willing to enjoy God’s perspective.Faith comes by hearing (hence you must
have the right heart attitude), and hearing by the Word of God.So, once you’re outfitted with the
right spirit, taste and see that the Lord is good!Investigate His Word, meditate upon it, live it, and you,
too, will be transformed by Faithwear!
“Faithwear.Don’t live life without it.”
But instead of Faithwear, the sight
perspective, the sensual, crowds upon our lives, drowning out the message of
faith, the perspective which truly satisfies.When I see with the eyes of faith, I note not the Peter who
doubted Christ nor the disciple who denied him but I see instead the martyr who
hung upside down upon a cross, meekly offering his body, refusing to die in the
same way as his Lord and Master.Every student of mine I view, not as a discouraged, discontented, or
rebellious teen but rather as a vibrant, victorious Christian, slaying the
enemy in daily life by the sword of the spirit, which he grasps firmly
I look past the difficulties of
this turbulent world, the sea upon which heaps of discarded, wasted lives have
been cast—and see that beautiful potential which Christ has for every life, a
pathway of peace, which He desires for each of His own.Facebook searches occasionally yield discouraging
realities of the direction individuals have chosen, but instead of being
overcome by the unbiblical decisions of people to whom I once ministered, I can
view all with the eyes of faith.The hopeful sees that, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”She understands that if Christ’s
best earthly friend denied Him, I too have the possibility of doing so and likewise realizes that the flesh is
strong, for even Lot himself vexed his righteous soul from day to day, living
among the sinners in Sodom.The one whose hope is steadfast in God is satisfied—ultimately, from God Alone—realizing that no sensual
feeling can replace the solid relationship of a walk with the Almighty.
When Discouragement rears its
misshapen head, when Defeat casts down its deathly gaze, when Despair tears in,
tantamount to her temper, the one infused with agape love eats, satisfied, at the table of
Wisdom.Christ has furnished His
table, mingled His wine, and set abundant provisions for those who recognize
their need to dine there!He has
built His house and prepared an abundant spread for His hungry guests.His bread and beverages satisfy,
contrasting with the fodder of fools, the taste of which leaves only a mouthful
of gravel. (Prov. 20:17).
Oh, to seek the Lord at His table
each day, to recognize our inadequacy, our inability, our insufficiency!This recognition is part of that hopefulness which is part of love, for the one imbued with such hope realizes she has no strength in herself and thus seeks the
Lord, finding Him satisfactory.After dining at His table, she notes that the fruits of folly look less
attractive.The delicacies of the
devil appear as they are—not delicious, but deceitful.That sinful thought is smitten by
recalling a personal feast at His table, and praise daily perfumes her breath
as those moments with her dear Savior linger in her memory, for she has dined
with Him, her Satisfaction.
Dear Sister, is this your
state?Do you revel in God’s
meditations?Do you find yourself
often encouraged by His Word?Like
the psalmist, can you pray, “Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which
Thou has caused me to hope.This
is my comfort in my affliction, for Thy word hath quickened me” (Ps.
119:49-50)?Upon what word is your
hope today?This abundance of
wisdom is available to you.Feast
at the Savior’s table.Let your
hungry soul be satisfied.How your
heart will live forever when Christ is your daily Bread! Your heart, sound in
God’s statutes, will live; you will be unashamed when you stand before Him if
this feast is your daily reality (Ps. 119:80)!
And this love, which hopes all things, will emanate from a heart saturated by the One Who is Eternal Love!
The house was barren, stripped of all furniture except a
small table lamp that illuminated the living room.It was December when my husband and I walked through the
antiquated home for the first time, thin orange carpet, loosely laid, gathering
and folding with many of our steps.The place would need a lot of work, and we weren’t actually considering
purchasing—not seriously, at least.But a month later, it was a done deal.The day after we closed on the house, we began the work of
gutting out that orange carpet, painting the dulled walls, and transforming the
place into the vision we had for it.
When we first saw it, that home off Main Street in our
little town felt empty, devoid of human spirit and personality.Sure, the remnants of homemade curtains
still hung on certain windows.And
wallpaper hinted at the taste of the daughters who had selected it.But those people were all gone now, or
at least had moved on to another place.After purchasing the house, it was our joy to spend time making it a
home once again.
That house before inhabitants reminds me of the emptiness
which can occur in the lives of believers.It’s reflected in lifeless hymn singing, dullness to hearing
God’s Word, and an apathetic ministry with others.
Lifeless Christianity is an oxymoron, for Jesus is a risen
and living Lord Who affects the spirit of those He indwells.Jim Eliot once said, “Wherever you are,
be all there.”A passion that
consumes us, a wisdom that balances us, a love that enlivens us—such spiritual
vitality can resonate from our souls when we are in love with Jesus
But that is the rub.To be in love with Him is essential before we can in any way be
effective in loving others.And
yet, too often our ministry can be a sham, for it is not sourced in His
love.God wrote the Manual on
Love.How our ministries must
reflect that love!How that agape
kind of love must perfume every relationship!How this selfless love should envelop all our service, so
that we are merely stepping in the footsteps of the One Who is Love.
When we fail to follow Love’s leadership along the path of
life, we will feel the emptiness, the hollowness.We will begin to doubt God’s perfect love for us and
question the service He has sanctified for us.In turn, that faithless focus will affect others.Living in unbelief will quench the
fires of love for others, turning our ministry gaze to focus upon the sin, meanwhile
failing to adequately view the kind of love God has for the individual sinner.
But living in the reality of Him—that is where love begins
and continues, for every act performed from a heart of love never fails but
rather brings forth eternal fruit.He is All-Sufficient, my source of wisdom, my strength in weakness, my
Savior from woe.How intimately do
I know Him?Obey Him?Does He have my waking moments?Does He have my time?Do I freely give Him all things, as He
freely gave for me?
Withholding minutes from the One who gave His life for me
screams “Insensible!”Claiming my
rights when He yielded up His own entirely shouts, “Illogical!”Failing to love others wholeheartedly
when He loves them absolutely yells, “Insensitive!”
False fronts gone, stripped of all our own ways, in step
with the Spirit, we can be the channels of love which God originally
intended.Rights in hand,
time our own, failing to abide in God’s Word and spend moments reveling in His
goodness, we will block the Love which God desires to send through us to
Oh, let us not be weary in continuing our daily time with
Him, in spending seasons of prayer alone.Let us not fail of God’s grace in this fellowship with Him.In due season we shall reap a harvest
brought about by God alone.Faint
All-Sufficient One has love enough for you! --Heather Ross
Having grown up in a pastor’s home and seeing young people
in the throes of decisions, homes in the heat of the battle, and individuals
daily, weekly, monthly embraced in decision-making that will affect the rest of
their lives, I submit this first article in this series as a specific question
directed to members of IFB churches.
IFB churches and schools are regularly given harsh criticism
from external sources, but within the own local church proper, no lack of
charity should ever exist!And
yet, I have watched happy, contented, thankful people grow angry and bitter
over time and leave within a decade (or less!) of their arrival in such a
We are negatively evaluated for our school handbooks, dress
codes, and demerit systems.Authorities are criticized for harshness, discipline, and a “lack of
mercy.”Again, while critics come
in all forms, this post deals specifically with those within a congregation.
Rarely do the preacher’s critics take seriously the command given in Romans
12:9, “Let love be without dissimulation.Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.”
The above verse commands that members in the local church
body love with no difference between those we prefer and those we don’t
naturally get along with.Hatred
is never toward an individual but to evil.Good is that to which we cleave—not to criticisms,
irritation, or complaining.
If every believer in an assembly determined to practice
biblical, self-sacrificing love (as described in I Corinthians 13), that church
would be a completely different place.The local community would be transformed; homes would be restored; lives
would be brought back together.Believers and families within every assembly must practice biblical
The kind of love depicted in Romans 12:9 encompasses the
following:No negative discussions
at home about people at church.No
talking behind people’s backs.No
storing up frustration or anger in the heart.The same kind of love, appreciation, and kindness evidenced
to every member of that body of Christ, whether it be kindness toward the
person with occasional body odor, or the woman who is overweight, or the guy
who talks too loudly in the lobby.
Truth is one thing, but charity must serve as the mouth of
truth:if we speak words of
criticism we must utter them from a heart of love, as described in I
Corinthians 13.Love is patient,
kind, not easily provoked.Love
thinks the best of others, does not plot evil, rejoices—yes, rejoices—in
truth!It seems the loudest voices
are often the critics, but that need not be the case!God’s people can cleave to good, rejoicing because of
truth.Everything that is good and
godly they can hold dear.
“If you love me,” Jesus said in His final sermon to His
disciples before His crucifixion, “keep my commandments.”Oh, how we must embrace the biblical
injunctions to love, which sprinkle themselves generously throughout God’s
Word, which evidence the loving heart of God!Defining love God’s way is a task completed through His
Book.It’s an incredibly rich experience,
looking at and studying these verses on biblical, self-sacrificing, agape
love.But take just one passage,
John 14:15, part of Jesus’ final words to His disciples before His crucifixion,
and see that love is obedience in action.If every member of every IFB church took only one of God’s commands
today and decided to live by it—just one—practicing it now and continuing in a
regular, consistent manner, our assemblies would be transformed!Consider Romans 12:10, for
example:“Be kindly affectioned
one to another in brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.”
The phrase, “kindly affectioned” is used only once in the
Bible.Thayer defines it as
1) the mutual love of parents and
children and wives and husbands
2) loving affection, prone to love,
2a) chiefly of the reciprocal
tenderness of parents and children.
What an endearing, tender description this phrase offers us
concerning our familial ties specifically to those within the local church
assembly! This is a heart attitude—a spirit of kindness that envelops our
innermost being and manifests itself outwardly toward everyone with whom we
come into contact!
Practically speaking, then, others within the church will be
the objects of good words, which make the heart glad. We will be givers, not takers.We will be caring, surrendered,
joy-filled individuals toward every believer!
“In honor preferring one another,” Romans 12:10 concludes.
God says we are literally to prefer others within the local assembly to
ourselves. Many critics of “standards” or “preferences” seem to indicate that
their opinion is as important as God’s own Word, but that idea is not taught by
It’s so much easier to point fingers at others than to blame
ourselves.I know.I’ve been there.I remember literally putting tally
marks on my notes paper at one time for every grammatical error a preacher made
in his sermon!My focus was on his
mistakes, not on my need to embrace truth.
In his poem , “To A Louse:On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet, At Church,” Robert Burns,
the Scottish poet, wrote words that, without the Scottish dialect, read…
“What a gift God would give us—to
see ourselves as others see us!
It would free many blunders from us
and foolish notions.
What airs in dress and gait would
leave us, and even devotion!”
The fine Miss Lunardi seemed unsuitable for such a
despicable visitor such as a louse upon her person, but sure enough, out from
underneath her very pristine bonnet, a louse crawled.And Burns saw it, the poor Miss Lunardi completely oblivious
to such a show. While she seemed to assume she manifested flawlessness, Burns
saw her inadequacies.
If we perceived the error within our own way, that our
opinions are not infallible, that our criticisms may be incorrect, that our
perspective is not as important as God’s Word—our demeanor would change.Our pride would
crumble.Our love would grow.Let us prefer our
brothers and sisters within the church to ourselves, live by God’s book,
embrace His commands, and show true, biblical love one toward another.In every situation.Regardless of our own natural
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this
blog, but I think that, after over nearly a decade has passed, it’s about time to
get started.Not that the passage
of time means something should get a restart but in this particular case, as
the years elapse, my “voice” has begun to develop.(That’s a term I heard back at a writers’ conference—that
sometimes the writer’s voice inside of you needs time to develop, grow, and be
nurtured before you have something worth saying.)
It’d be nice to think that I could speak more to the point
now than I did when I started blogging, that the issues that troubled me then
have been worked out.In fact,
grey issues have melded into closer shades of white and black and a new
perspective has emerged in the several twelve-months that have separated me
from this blog, but I am far from having all the answers.However, my colleague Ricci and I will
seek to post once every 7-10 days, to keep this blog a lively journey.
And so again begins our trek toward congruity, the Female Fundamentalist.
Before we continue on our journey, I find it necessary to
define my terms.By “Female
Fundamentalist” I mean these posts will be authored by women in an IFB church,
an independent, fundamental Baptist church.
Historically, fundamentalism acquired its name in the early
part of the 20th century when G. Campbell Morgan, R. A. Torrey, and sixty-two
others wrote in defense of the “fundamentals” of the faith in dozens of
essays.That is essentially the
link to the term fundamental, a term
which speaks of the rudiments of belief.
Unfortunately, this term fundamental is confusing in a number of ways.The ultimate question in fundamentalism
is: what are the fundamentals?Several groups within fundamentalism proper will argue over which
fundamentals are important and which are not, making fundamentalism more of a misnomer than an accurate depiction of our
Another confusion is the link of this term in our society
with radical movements, such as radical Islam.A “fundamentalist” Muslim believes in the fundamentals of
the Koran.A fundamentalist Christian
believes in the fundamentals of the Bible.When God says love your enemies, the Koran says, "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly
with them." (Surah 9:121).Both the fundamentalist Muslim and
the fundamentalist Christian take their holy book literally.The problem is, the Koran and the Bible teach radically different ideologies concerning, among many other things, the treatment of one's enemies; this example merely illustrates one polarizing "fundamental" difference between the two belief systems.Yet, because of its literal interpretation of Scripture, Fundamentalism has been bashed because secularists consider such a
position extreme.However, I would
argue that everyone in our culture is a fundamentalist about something.You must be a fundamentalist linguist
to put together the rudiments of a sentence.You must be a fundamental historian to grasp an overview of
world history and cultures.And
the list could continue. For a Christian, whose entire belief system is rooted in Scripture, what better place to be a "Fundamentalist" than about the interpretation of this fundamental book?
So the fundamentals of belief are needful, but which ones are
important are argued over time and again; thus, the term “Fundamentalist” in
this blog will essentially embrace those elements of Christian culture
within conservative IFB churches.
“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth,” states I Cor.
8:1.So much has been said to
bash IFB churches, and this blog is intended to do nothing of the sort.The evaluations offered in this blog
will, by God’s grace, include edifying words that seek to build up the body of
Christ and fellow believers.
Opinions are offered understanding that meekness is
necessary for any and every reproof (Gal. 6:1).Personal accounts are given to illustrate the authors’ own
identification with struggles within IFB circles.
Fundamentalist thought concerning the back row can sometimes be interpreted as, “Back row means backslidden.” Teasing about the “Back Row Baptist” is fairly common. We have all wondered where that person in the second to last row disappeared to before the end of the service.
The question is, why does the back row have such a bad rap? Why such stigma and stereotype?
As my fellow blogger humorously elaborated upon, there are multitudes of distractions when you sit in the back. You can see every sleepy head nodding. You can see every moment of a parent’s disciplining. You can see, and maybe hear, those two teen girls whispering and giggling.
And all of these things are taking place between you and the pulpit. According to Ephesians 4:11-12, God has given His church pastors to perfect the saints and edify the body. These ministries of the pastor are certainly going to be hindered if the saint cannot focus on Word of God that the pastor is faithfully proclaiming. If that believer cannot block out all the activity going on in front of him and sincerely pay attention, it will certainly limit his spiritual growth. This giving and receiving of the Word is part of true worship. Worship can become more like work when one chooses to sit in the back.
Speaking of worship, have you ever tried to sing in the back? It is terrible. You can only hear yourself. It seems like no one around is singing at all. And for me, that is a very bad thing. Put me on the third row, left hand side, aisle seat, and I can sing praise to God with the glorious sounds of a congregation that loves God surrounding me.
But wait, that beautiful sound comes from behind me. So herein lies the problem. Not everyone can sit in the front four pews. Someone, unfortunately, has to sit in the back. Right?
The stigma and stereotype come from the people who choose to sit in the back. Let’s be honest, when was the last time you saw young people goofing around in the second row of the church? No, the ones who want to cause trouble sit in the back. If you want to sneak out during the invitation, where are you going to sit? Fourth row by the window? Nope, the back. If you do not really want to hear what your pastor has to say, it is much easier to ignore him from the back of the room. Part of fundamentalism is that we believe the Bible teaches that what is going on in our soul, in our spiritual life, is going to reflect itself in our actions. One of the actions that just might be affected by our spiritual condition is where we choose to sit in church. Maybe we should each examine ourselves to see if we are in the right seat.
The solution to the problem of the back row is this: everyone in the whole church building should behave as if they are sitting in the front row, even if they are sitting in the very back. All, young and old alike, should join together in a joyful sobriety that would make all seats in the house equally desirable. And then maybe, just maybe, we could all change seats every once in a while. But then we might have to give up “our pew.” Horrors! What if someone steals it while I am away! I know some would think that way, but really, if the whole congregation, from front to back and side to side, had the same earnest spirit, no messing around, no passing notes, no slipping out early, there would be no problem with the back row. The stereotype and stigma could be cast off, and all pews would be regarded with equal status.
But, this will not be accomplished without organization. Therefore, I call for a committee to revolutionize seating in the fundamentalist world. It will not be easy, but the battle for Pew Rights must start somewhere. Let it start with me. I call for all serious fundamentalists to remove themselves from the third row, left side, aisle seat (Where all good fundamentalists sit. It is a myth that they sit in the front row.), and go sit in the back! Maybe not the very back, but venture towards the back. And when you do so, behave yourself. And sing. And pay attention. And encourage others to do the same. Let The Pew Revolution begin!
"The Sea of Joy":What Grace Sees and Where Praise Abounds
The grace of God, extended to the humble soul, makes such vistas as what Spurgeon calls the “sea of joy” daily and vital parts of our worship. Ephesians 1:11 reminds: "All things are yours, for ye are Christ's and Christ is God's.”
“Reach the bottom of Christ's sea of joy,” Spurgeon wrote in his Morning by Morning entry on this verse, “and then hope to understand the bliss which God hath prepared for them that love Him. Overleap the boundaries of Christ's possessions, and then dream of a limit to the fair inheritance of the elect.”
The Ocean of Joy: an Allegory
Jedediah swam on, passing estuaries laden with spawning fish; crossing uninhabited coral reefs glistening in the sunlight; and making his way amidst underground mountain ranges, their virgin rock jutting with magnificent carvings. This ocean’s undeniable splendor spelled victory for the young boy, who had searched high and low for some degree of imperfection. Though he had scoured the ocean floor, square inch by square inch, exploring night and day, regardless of weather conditions, Jedediah’s quest for equivocation ended in emptiness every time.
At the boy’s request, Jedediah’s father had even sent out search teams—parties of ten to twelve who left every hour on the hour—to examine this amazing phenomenon of nature. They, too, arrived at the same conclusion: this ocean was magnificent, abounding in perfect bliss, where any of the Master’s servants might come to refresh themselves in its flawless splendor.
The ocean, over-laden as it was in wondrous beauty, had its counterfeits, masked behind all sorts of lovely facades, which tempted unwary ocean-going travelers, causing them to wonder about the ocean’s own authenticity; hence, Jedediah’s search. The boy now passed another swimmer and yelled, “Imagine, this is all ours, for our Master owns it!”
The other swimmer gave him a thumbs-up, saying, “I got a little hung up in that crazy lake back there.”
Jedediah looked back to where the young man pointed. A green lake, sparkling like a thousand diamonds in the sunlight, with the most lovely of plants at the water’s edge, offered refreshment, like the ocean. Jedediah squinted to read the sign posted in front: “Come and enjoy the Lake of Luring,” it read. “Don’t battle giant waves! See for yourself this wonder of nature.”
“I was very attracted to the sweet-smelling flowers outside the Lake,” the boy said. “And I really liked the part about not fighting giant waves. Even though I’d heard there were counterfeits in these parts, I didn’t expect any to be so close to the Ocean of Joy. This one seemed real, so I tried it.”
“What happened?” asked Jedediah, who was now treading water.
“A lot,” answered the boy, pushing wet hair back from his face. “The sweet smell seemed to lull me to sleep while I was swimming. Before I knew, it, I was gasping for water, choking for air. That’s when I cried to the Master of the Seas. Before I knew it, He had deposited me back onto dry land, and there I sat for what seemed like hours pulling out of my arm jelly-fish tentacles and sea urchin needles that my enemies had left behind.”
“Those animals were--in a lake?” Jedediah asked.
“Hard as it is to believe, yes. It was really a salty sea, you know.” Here the boy showed Jedediah the damage that had been done to his arm. There was no doubt: something very real had attacked him.
Jedediah’s new friend continued: “The sweetness I smelled actually led to poison tentacles in my arm, but the Master saved me from complete ruination. You know, as I was sitting on the beach, pulling out those prickly things, I looked up into the sky and noticed the Faithfulness Stack—you know when all those clouds pile high, one on top of the other and remind us of how our Master is just waiting to shower His servants with blessings? Well, it was just the encouragement I needed.”
“The Master encouraged me today, too,” Jedediah said, as he and his new friend walked across the sandy shoreline and sat down. Slowly, Jedediah opened his closed fist. The sunlight above caught a reflection of the glistening gem he held and scattered its beauty in several directions.
“The pearl of perfect peace!” his new friend exclaimed.
“It was in a clam I located just outside the coral sands,” Jedediah said. “If you want one, you can get as many as you like: there were several more where this comes from.”
“Isn’t it awesome to think we have such riches available to us at all times?” Jedediah’s new friend, whose name he learned was Jacob, said. “We can be right near Luring Lake”
“Or Desert Depression—“ added Jedediah.
“Or Vanity Valley,” said Jacob,
“Or Faithlessness Fort,” they said, looking at each other knowingly, “And simply call to the Master in humility."
Within milliseconds, we can be right here, basking in the glory of the riches of His grace, claiming His promise of the Ocean of Joy,” Jacob finished.
“Yes, thanks for the reminder,” Jedediah said. We’re only a fraction of a second away from what is rightfully ours, through Christ. What riches are ours because of our inheritance in Christ!”
“Well, let’s go get those pearls!” Jacob said, heading for the ocean.
“Make it there first!” Jedediah challenged.
And they were off, diving into the Ocean of Joy once again for yet another glimpse of the riches of the glory of their inheritance as saints in Christ.