April 18, 2011 David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, email@example.com
The 20/20 report Victim’s Forced Confession pretends to be a fair and balanced report on abusive churches, but instead it was a hit piece against Bible-believing Baptists everywhere.
The report a mixture of truth, slander, hypocrisy, and hatred of God and His Word.
Let’s begin with the truth.
The report covers the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult Survivors, a loose Facebook network of those who claim to have been abused by Independent Baptist churches. It focuses on a couple of particular cases of sexual abuse that were allegedly covered up by churches. These cases involved married men who were members of IB churches who had sexual relationships with underage girls.
I have no reason to disbelieve most of the allegations that are made in this context, because I have been warning for decades that some IB churches are cultish. A former IB church member is reported by 20/20 as saying, The whole culture is you don’t question the pastor. Another person says, A man who is essentially unaccountable to anyone else you have a recipe for abuse.
That is exactly right. I have written many reports about IB pastors such as Jack Hyles of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, and his predecessor Jack Schaap who require unquestioning loyalty and who treat all forms of criticism as an attack on their spiritual authority. Sadly, this problem extends to many IB churches. First Baptist is one of the largest IB churches and its school, Hyles-Anderson College, has trained many preachers since its inception in 1972.
As for the coverup of sexual abuse and immorality in general, there is no doubt that it has happened. Pastors have been reinstated at some other church after committing adultery and homosexuality. I think of Jack Hyles’ son, Dave, who after committing adultery with women at Hyles Anderson was recommended to a pastorate in Texas, where he committed adultery with multiple women. This type of thing brings great reproach upon the name of Christ, who requires high moral standards of pastors and deacons (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). Every Christian is a mere sinner saved by grace, so it should not surprise us to learn that Christians sin, but God requires a lot of those who hold positions of spiritual authority. James said, My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation (James 3:1).
Now let’s consider the slander.
20/20′s accusation that Independent Baptists as a movement are a cult and are guilty of the type of abuse documented in the report is slanderous. They should have done a lot more research. The IB movement is very large and diverse. While First Baptist of Hammond and Hyles-Anderson College has a lot of influence, it is only one part of the IB movement. I have documented this in the report What Is Independent Baptist? Independent Baptist is not a denomination; it is simply a name that describes churches that are Baptist in doctrine and that are independent in polity.
There are differences among Independent Baptists in such matters as music, dress standards, the Bible version-text issue, Calvinism, Baptist briderism, the practice of communion, alien immersion, repentance and evangelistic practices, pastoral authority, church growth practices, relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention and evangelicals, and other matters touching on ecclesiastical separation.
The bottom line is that Independent Baptists are truly independent. I don’t doubt that there are good old boys networks that operate in some IB circles, but there are also large numbers of IB churches that are outside of the influence of these networks. Independent Baptists are not yoked together in any organizational sense with other Independent Baptists who might hold a different doctrine or practice. Some of the larger IB schools, such as Hyles-Anderson, West Coast, and Crown, wield influence, but only in their own circles. None of them have a reach that extends to a majority of IB churches. Large numbers of IB preachers are trained either in their own churches or in the countless medium to smaller IB schools that are not under the influence of the larger institutions. IB preachers are a very independent-minded group of men. Large numbers of IB preachers refuse to bow down toward any man-made institution and refuse to kow-tow to the big boys.
To lump all IB churches together into one pot of cultic abuse is slanderous.
I have personally preached in hundreds of IB churches whose pastors do not demand unquestioning loyalty, whose pastors are humble men who know that they are under discipline just like anyone else in the church, whose deacons and teachers are godly, compassionate men and women and are nothing like those exposed in the 20/20 report.
20/20 interviewed and gave total credence to the criticisms of some people who were allegedly the subjects of abuse in IB churches, but they could have interviewed thousands of people who grew up in IB homes and churches and would testify that they were treated with Christian compassion and grace.
This brings us to the hypocrisy of the 20/20 report.
20/20 found some abuse and possibly some coverup of sexual abuse. We wonder why that should be so shocking in the wicked society in which we live.
20/20′s ABC television network is culpable in creating the climate of moral relativism and the tearing down of divine authority that has produced rampant immorality, including the abuse of women and children. If man is merely an evolved worm, why should he not act out his impulses? If there is no supreme law-giving God, what is the basis for absolute morality? What moral culpability does a termite have when it eats the pillar of a house so that it collapses and injures people? If the Bible is a myth-filled book and Jesus was merely a good man and there are no moral absolutes, why would it be wrong for a man to abuse a child? What about homosexuals and their rights? If a homosexual acts out his love for boys, who is to say that is wrong? In fact, there are organizations of homosexuals that don’t believe that it is wrong. Will ABC expose them? Will it interview the boys who are the objects of homosexual advances? Will it treat them as victims the same way that it has treated the girls who were allegedly abused by IB church members?
Will 20/20 create a report about sexual abuse and coverup within the homosexual community?
Will 20/20 create a report about sexual abuse and coverup within the Muslim community?
No, because they are hypocrites with an agenda to discredit the God of the Bible, and they are not even handed or balanced in their reporting when it comes to such things.
This brings us to the final point, which is 20/20′s hatred of God and His Word.
Much of the report was devoted to their outrage at the fact that some people still take the Bible seriously.
The sexual abuse was indiscriminately lumped together with the alleged mental abuse created by fundamentalist preaching.
20/20 would have its viewers think that it is abusive to take the Bible seriously and to interpret it literally.
20/20 would have its viewers think that it is abusive to believe what the Bible says about corporal punishment. While we reject the foolish statements that were quoted by 20/20, such as spanking two-week-old infants or laying 100 stripes upon children (I have no idea where they dug up that nonsense), we do not reject the Bible’s wise teaching on corporal punishment. It wasn’t that long ago that corporal punishment was used in public schools in America. When I was in junior high school in Florida, our principle had a fearful paddle made from the end of a water ski with holes drilled in it! Most people then didn’t consider that abusive. Corporal punishment can be exercised properly without moving into the realm of abuse, and the vast majority of IB churches believe in a wise, compassionate use of the rod and are opposed to any sort of abuse.
20/20 would have its viewers think that it is abusive to believe that the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church. But the Bible’s teaching on this has been believed by most Christians for 2,000 years, and it was believed by the Jews for thousands of years before Christ came. It is 20/20′s feministic views that are the new kids on the block of human society. The Bible exalts women. Nowhere does it teach them to follow their husbands blindly. Husbands are under divine authority just like women are. Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church, which is a very high standard of love. Any husband that abuses his wife and who treats her with anything other than compassion and respect is disobeying the Bible. Women played a large role in Christ’s earthly life and in the early churches. It was women who were the first to visit the empty tomb and the first to believe in Christ’s resurrection. The church at Philippi started with a woman’s prayer meeting. Phebe was one of the apostle Paul’s helpers (Romans 16:1-2). Priscilla is always mentioned in the context of Aquila’s church planting efforts (Acts 18:26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19).
20/20 would have its viewers think that it is abusive to preach that there is only one narrow way of salvation through the blood of Christ and that those who reject God’s way will not be saved. But to think that this is abusive is to assume that the Bible is not true, because the Bible plainly teaches this doctrine and if it is true then it could not possibly be abusive to preach it and to warn men and women to be saved in the right way before it is too late. And it could not possibly be abusive to think that those who are not saved in the Bible way are lost. 20/20 painted those who believe this as self-righteous, and doubtless some are, but most Baptists who believe that there is only one way of salvation aren’t self-righteous. They know that they are sinners just like everybody else and they know that they don’t deserve salvation and could not possibly earn salvation through their good works. In fact, they know that their good works are filthy rags in the sigh of a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).
20/20 would have its viewers think that it is abusive to preach the Bible’s commands to live in a way that is separated from the wickedness of this present world system. They mock churches that encourage women to dress modestly in a society that flaunts immodesty. They mock churches that seek to maintain music that is spiritual in quality and to avoid music that is conformed to the pop culture. But the Bible says that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11-12). God’s people are taught not to love the world (1 John 2:15-17), not to be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2), and are warned that to love the wicked world system is to commit spiritual adultery (James 4:4).
The 20/20 report Victim’s Forced Confession pretends to be a fair and balanced report on abusive churches, but instead it was a hit piece against Bible-believing Baptists everywhere.
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The following is by the late Davis Huckabee:
New Testament churches do not naturally die; they are so constituted that they cannot die a natural death. They may, however, be killed, but even in this, they can hardly be killed by outsiders except by the annihilation of the entire membership. Churches are most often killed from the inside; their own members kill them. A church is not just an organization; it is also an organism — a living thing, and as such, it has the potential of either growing and thriving, or of languishing and dying. The Lord promised that His church, considered as an institution, would not die, (Matthew 16:18), but this only means that there will be a continuity of churches like the Jerusalem church until His return; it does not guarantee the continued existence of any individual church.
How then may a church be killed?
I. BY STAYING AWAY FROM IT
The Scriptures liken church members to the members of a physical body, (I Cor.12:12ff), and just as certain organs of the human body cannot be removed without death coming to the body, so it is with the church, the body of Christ. When the members of the church start staying away from it, this soon leads to its death.
This is generally a gradual thing, starting first with the neglect of the business meetings because “it doesn’t matter whether I am there or not. The others are going to run things to please themselves.”
The night services are really the acid test of a church member’s love for the Lord, for many people come to church for the morning services simply because there is nothing else to do except stay home. Of course, many professed Christians who will even forsake the House of God Sunday morning in order to sleep in; these are the very most unfaithful kind. But of those who attend the Sunday morning services regularly, many could not be gotten out for evening services for anything. But the same excuses that are thought valid for staying away from church services, will not do when one is invited to a party, or when money is to be made by being in a certain place, etc. But the Lord will one day settle up the accounts. “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits” Prov. 16:2.
Some church members permanently forsake the church, never more to return; but if we consider the connections between the two verses in Heb. 10:25-26, we find that this is an indication that the individual was only a false Christian. The same is true in I John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
2. BY STARVING IT
Starving the Church through Lack of Converts
A church lives and grows only by conversions and the additions of those converts to its number, and therefore if it is not nourished by conversions as a result of preaching and praying, it will soon die off from lack of additions. Souls being saved are a blood transfusion to any church. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” Acts 2:47. God does the adding to the church, yet He does it through the prayers and the preaching and the witnessing of His people.
Starving the Church through Lack of Spirituality
A church may be killed by starving it of spirituality; we must remember that the degenerate Church of Rome was once a New Testament church until it lost its spirituality. Heresy in doctrine is first preceded by heresy in practice; i.e., by a carnal life. How may this be prevented? By its members living a sanctified (dedicated) life from day to day (not week by week, nor month by month). But dedication requires self-denial, and all too many professed Christians are unwilling to do this.
Starving the Church through Lack of Prayers and Finances
Then it is possible to starve a church to death by not supporting it with one’s prayers and finances. A church is a business — the grandest, most worthwhile business in the world, and therefore it must have money to operate. Because it is a heavenly business, it needs, in addition to money, the prayers of the Lord’s people. Some professed believers are much more diligent in running down the church, the pastor, and those who are faithfully working in the church, than they are in praying for these and helping them. The same thing is true of Christians as it is of mules: THEY CAN’T PULL WHILE THEY ARE KICKING, AND THEY CAN’T KICK WHILE THEY ARE PULLING.
As to the failure of God’s people to support the church financially, Malachi 3:8-10 is still in the Bible, and it calls the withholder of the tithes and offerings just what he is — a thief. Nor will it do to say “But that is in the Old Testament.” The division of the Bible into the Old and the New Testament is strictly a man-made division; the Scriptures themselves know nothing of this. But in any case, I Cor. 9:1-14 obligates believers to support the church in precisely the same way that the Tabernacle was supported — by tithes and offerings. See especially I Corinthians 9:14.
3. BY STRIFE IN IT
Strife has probably killed almost as many churches as any other one thing. When two people are in disagreement, and both are utterly selfish, it will cause a strife which will grow until it consumes the whole church, unless the church takes steps to end the strife. Strife is a mark of spiritual immaturity and carnality: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ … For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” I Cor. 3:1,3.
Strife generally has its roots in pride, for where there is strife, both parties proudly assume that they are right, and will not admit even the possibility of being wrong. At the same time, neither will try to see the other’s point of view, nor will either admit that the other could be right in the least degree. It is a fortunate church which does not have such an undercurrent of strife.
Strife is also promoted by self-righteousness in that one looks down upon others, while exalting self in his own mind. He takes the attitude of the Pharisee in Luke 18:9. Pride stands in the way of humility, which is always the first step toward repentance.
One of the most tragic forms of church strife is when a member, or group of members, get their feelings hurt by the preaching (which is very common when the preacher is faithful to preach against sin, and to declare the members’ duties). Often the dissident members will mount a campaign to run the preacher off, and the most common excuse used is that he is a “dictator.” Now we have no sympathy with a genuine dictator in the pulpit, but ere a man of God is stigmatized as a dictator, men had best consider what the preacher is commissioned and commanded to do: he is to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” II Timothy 4:2. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” I Timothy 5:20. “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” Titus 2:15. “This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that the y may be sound in the faith” Titus 1:13.
On the basis of these, and the many other similar texts, the preacher has a duty not only to declare the truth, but also to rebuke those members who are living wayward lives, and no one has a right to call him a dictator for only doing his duty. This is not to say that he may use the pulpit to chide members for personal differences of opinion, nor that he should jump upon and spur every one for every little misstep. The wise pastor will quickly learn to use Christian psychology even in the most serious breaches of Christian ethics, and that “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger,” Proverbs 15:1. A belligerent or overbearing preacher will produce only heartache for himself and discouragement for the church.
Strife between the members of a church and the pastor often destroys a church for the simple reason that by rebellion against the pastor, the members are rebelling against the Lord, for though the church may vote to call a man as pastor, yet if they are led of the Lord in doing so, the pastor is made the superintendent or overseer (Greek “bishop”) over the flock, Acts 20:28. Not only so, but the preacher, when he stands to declare the gospel, is an ambassador for Christ, beseeching men in the stead of Christ to be reconciled to God, II Corinthians 5:18-20. And yet more so, when he preaches Christian responsibility to believers, they are obligated to obey and submit themselves, for the pastor is accountable to God for them, and thus it is a solemn thing to disobey when the pastor is only endeavoring to lead one on to serve the Lord better and more faithfully. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they th at must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you,” Hebrews 13:17.
Some churches degrade the pastoral office to that of a mere figurehead, and treat the pastor with less respect than any layman in the church; sometimes they let their independency and autonomy go to their heads, and they think they can run the preacher off any time they don’t like what he says. But it is noteworthy that the Scriptures give not a single example of the dismissal of a pastor from a church, nor of a church even challenging the authority of the pastoral office.
It is to be granted that the church has authority over its members, including the pastor, but it is also true that the pastor is a man specially called of God to his office, and he stands in a special relationship to God, and while on rare occasions it may be necessary to dismiss and exclude a preacher because of immorality or heresy, yet a church should be very slow to take any action against one of the Lord’s prophets without good reason. “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses” I Timothy 5:19. “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” Psalms 105:15.
4. BY STUBBORNNESS
In the Scriptures, stubbornness is a sin that is compared to witchcraft and idolatry, I Samuel 15:22, and yet some people seem to delight in stubbornly resisting all spiritual progress and activity in the church. It is no virtue to be so set in one’s ways that one hinders a church from changing for the better. No church was ever so perfect when it started but that it has room to change for the better. Indeed, sanctification is itself a progressive changing for the better of individuals, and if the members daily change for the better, so should the church. The sin of the Sardis Church was that it stubbornly refused to repent of sin, Revelation 3:3, and consequently it slowly died on the vine, all the while refusing to admit its cold and indifferent state. There is such a thing as dead orthodoxy — a doctrinal soundness which is devoid of any real love to Christ.
Some say, “Well, it is my life, and it is my business whether I repent or not,” but this is not true, for every person is an example to someone else, and his bad example will lead others astray, perhaps concerning something much worse. Besides, the corruption of a church member is a corruption of that much of the church, and “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” I Corinthians 5:6. No one can afford to indulge any sin, because sin in church members is what kills churches.
There are many ways to kill a church, but the important thing to notice is the solemn consequences of tearing down a church of the Living God. “If any man defile (the Greek word is the same as that translated “destroy”) the temple of God (a church, as the preceding verse shows), him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple are ye” I Corinthians 3:17. It matters not what excuses may be given, if an individual or group of individuals so conduct themselves as to cause the death of a church, they had better prepare to shortly face the judgment of God in the loss of their physical lives.
A church is of more importance than the collective rights of all the members, for a church exists, not just for its own present members, but is a witness to many who may never join it, but who may be led to the Lord through its ministry. Not only so, but the rights of future members must also be considered when taking any action that might be detrimental to the church. Many carnal church members, in their zeal to get their own way, justify their own sins, sooth their own pride and hurt feelings, do not care that they may quench the only faithful lighthouse of the truth in their community. They care not that future generations may not have opportunity to hear the gospel and to be saved because a church was destroyed by the carnality of its members.
The attitude of some is “I’m saved, so let the rest of the world go to hell for all I care.” Such an attitude hardly evidences genuine salvation. If it be true that “Whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” I John 3:17, how much more so is this true of those who have no concern for the welfare of the souls of others? God pity the man who destroys a church: if he is saved at all, he puts himself under the judgment of physical death for putting his own selfish wants and will above the welfare of a church of the living God.
5. BY SELFISHNESS
All of the foregoing points may be summed up in this one, but we venture to make a few more comments which fall specifically under this heading. We live in the most affluent age that this world has ever known. Add to this the fact that this generation has greater means to get the gospel to every race, nation and tribe of people than any previous generation. Radio, TV and the press make evangelism possible as never before. But what happens? Instead of using these means for the glory of God, men become so selfishly involved in them that all of these become definite detriments to the truth.
It has been found that people [in some countries] spend hundreds of times more on pets than on all religious enterprises combined, and Newscaster Paul Harvey reports that for every dollar that is spent on churches, $12,000 is spent on crime. It should be obvious from this that we are working at the wrong end of the problem.
Giving to missions is the thermometer which shows the spiritual atmosphere of a church. It is generally the gauge of godliness in the church. Call it home missions or whatever one pleases, but the selfish use of the Lord’s money for the gratification of the members of a church will kill that church as quickly as almost any one thing. May God give us more sound and serviceable churches by stirring up church members to be more dedicated and obedient.
Are you killing your church by your sinfulness by your selfishness, by your neglect? Then repent before both the church and yourself are destroyed.