Departing From the “Old-Time Way” (Matthew 5-7)

I recently read a, probably well-meaning, article on why someone, as a young preacher was refusing to depart from the “Old-Time Way.” As a young(er) pastor myself, I felt impressed to respond to this article, as it was clearly one to, in part, appeal to others to reconsider their thinking, if they were thinking of leaving the “Old-Time Way.”
 
No doubt, when the “Old-Time Way” is being mentioned, in this young man’s article, he is referring to the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) rhetoric that has become pretty standard for IFB churches over the past thirty or forty years (perhaps longer). This group likes to refer to their rhetoric as the “Old-Time Way” or “Old-Time Religion.” In truth, it is not so, but I digress.
 
I am a pastor that believes in following biblical Christianity. I am not a Calvinist or Arminian, but follow the Bible. This means obeying what is put forth in the Word of God, not focusing on a denomination, culture, political party, etc. God’s Word is Truth, and we are to found our faith upon it, not the whims and teachings of mankind. Matthew 7 and plenty of other Scripture passages are clear on this. We are to build the house of our Christian walk upon Christ and His doctrine (which is found in His Word alone).
 
As a pastor that believes in following biblical Christianity, I do believe that the King James Version of the Bible is the preserved Word of God for the English-speaking people. As such, it is what our church uses, and what I read/study from. Also, I do believe in biblical standards of modesty and identity (biblical, not manmade). Furthermore, I reject the emotionally driven, sensual, so-called “Christian” music of our day, in favor of God-honoring hymns and spiritual songs. (This explanation was put forth in the young man’s article)
 
I am a pastor that grew up believing that the “Old-Time Way” of the IFB was biblical. I grew up in an IFB church, and went to an IFB college and seminary. I pastored for several years as an IFB pastor, and then God started to show me in His Word that the IFB “Old-Time Way” was not biblical at all for many reasons:
 
1.) It promotes the office of the pastor as an untouchable, never-to-be-criticized position. We are going to walk through the Sermon on the Mount for a bit: comparing what Christ teaches to the IFB Movement. This sermon of Christ opens up with the Beatitudes (the attitude of a believer), which promotes how a true believer ought to act. As we work on our attitude, with God’s help, and for His glory, our actions will respond accordingly. The sermon covers dealing with our anger, lust, honesty, and loving our enemies. Many, many ministers & church-goers in the IFB movement are given over to one or many of these things. All of it stems from pride.
 
I grew up worshipping men that abused me. Thankfully, this abuse was not physical, but it was emotional and mental. I excused men that were given to wrath, because they seemingly preached well. I excused men that refused to be a good pastor, because they were “God’s man”. I excused covetous, greedy individuals, because they were seemingly entitled to their lavish lifestyles. I also excused the inappropriate comments and jokes preachers would make about their political and religious adversaries (so thought), because it was accepted as appropriate. The truth was that these were men that were full of pride. They refused to work on their anger, lust, greed, and loving their enemies. As a result, I have seen many of them fall away from the ministry.
 
Let me put forth a few truths. 1.) Pastors are human beings. We are all sinners that need a Savior, pastors are no different. 2.) Pastors are sheep that have been given shepherding duties. They are no better than anyone else in the church. They can live in the flesh and are not perfect. They are called to pastor a church, because God wanted them to and has a use for them, for His glory, and that is all. 3.) Pastors make mistakes. The Bible puts forth a way to deal with this. They are to be treated with respect, just like anyone else. They are also to treat others with respect too. 4.) Pastors are to work their entire lives promoting Christ. This means they work hard to be qualified for the ministry, as they work in it. It also means that they are not working to build a little empire for themselves, but are pointing people to Christ, as John the Baptist and Paul did (among many others).
 
2.) It promotes working on the outward appearance, instead of the heart. God told Samuel to not look on the outward appearance, because God looks upon the heart. This is resounded in the Sermon on the Mount, and also when Christ scathed the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.
 
Much of the IFB Movement is founded in hypocrisy: do what the pastor says to do, while he does something else. I know pastors that preached against adultery, while they were committing it themselves. Many of them are/were big-name preachers, so-called. Some still live today, and are sheltered by corrupt IFB pastors. I know of IFB pastors and colleges that have shuffled sex offenders and adulterers from place to place, instead of disciplining the sin. Such hypocrisy!
 
I know of IFB pastors that preach against poor financial stewardship, while having put their own churches millions of dollars in debt! They preach against debt, while being in debt themselves! Others preach a sort of prosperity Gospel: promoting that God would not have us to live uncomfortably, and the pastor especially should have a high salary. The Bible teaches differently. This is hypocrisy.
 
Jesus taught His disciples to be careful with their giving, praying, and fasting especially, not acting like the hypocrites in making such actions public. Many IFB churches proudly proclaim their numbers (professions of faith, baptisms, attendance, finances, etc.) to the world via social media, fellowships, phone calls, etc. I could name church planters, missionaries, and pastors that do this often. It is lauded and applauded. Many times, God is never mentioned, as if it was all Man’s doing. This is pride and hypocrisy.
 
To the IFB mind, this is all okay, as long as you have the numbers, and look good while doing it. The Pharisees thought the same things, and they were lost, Hell-bound individuals!
 
3.) It promotes a false Gospel, not a real one. The true Gospel is put forth as the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins (I Cor 15:1-4). It explains the Person and Work of Jesus Christ clearly. It points people to trust in Christ, repenting of our sin. Christ is clear that few will believe this message, in light of all of humanity that ever lived.
 
The Gospel is not unclear. It is not a sales pitch. It does not push people to pray a prayer (and thus, trust in it). The Gospel is the message of the good news that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners! It then leaves the sinner to decide to believe it or not! This is the Gospel that Christ & the early church preached.
 
The IFB Movement has long fallen into the way of Charles Finney and Jack Hyles. It has come to rely upon emotional appeals, to foster an emotional response to the Word that was given. It has come to rely upon sales pitches, to garner professions of faith. It has watered down the Gospel so far that it is not the Gospel at all! The tracts of this movement largely leave out the Person of Christ, Resurrection of Christ, and/or deceive people into trusting in some prayer for salvation (as if any magical set of words could save).
 
IFB churches brag upon their number of professions of faith, while their attendance numbers stay the same. They claim to have had revival, when their communities remain unchanged. They claim that the Spirit did a great work, when all that happened was emotional people made a short-lived, emotional response. This is not the life-changing work of the Gospel in action!
 
4.) It promotes men, not God. One of the standards that Christ puts forth, in Matthew 7, for discerning true and false prophets is who is being promoted. In the Law, the Jews were to discern a true prophet by who was being promoted in the message. John the Baptist promoted Christ. Christ promoted His Father in Heaven. Many IFB pastors promote themselves. This is not biblical.
 
It falls to the God-called minister to point people to Christ. He is to preach the whole counsel of God, not his favorite topics. He is to work to live a holy life, as he follows Christ for himself. He is to teach the doctrine of Christ to the church. He is to train the church to read, study, and follow the Bible for themselves. He is to decrease, as Christ increases in his life, and the church. This rarely happens in IFB churches. Usually the church follows the pastor, not Christ. They follow a personality and end up worshipping him and his wife. They promote, dote upon, and lavishly raise him up, while he does nothing to stop it, for pride’s sake. Again, I could name pastors of the mega and smaller churches that do this often. They have their followings, their disciples, their mini-empires, and have forsaken their callings.
 
5.) It promotes carnal results, not spiritual fruit, for Man’s glory, not God’s. Another way that Christ puts forth, to discern between a true and false prophet is based upon his fruit. The IFB churches will tell you that this fruit is souls won to Christ. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, we understand that it is the fruit of the Spirit (as opposed to that of the flesh).
 
No one can make someone be saved. We can con/badger someone (or a group of people) into praying a prayer, and declare them to be saved. But, that does not make them to be so. Nowhere in Scripture does Christ declare Himself to be pleased with a person that has won many souls to Christ. It does fall to the believer to be a faithful witness to a lost and dying world. But, we are not called to save anyone. We are simply messengers. The standard IFB member is told that, if they knock on a certain number of doors, pass out a certain number of tracts, or some similar thing, that they will eventually see someone accept Christ. This is not guaranteed in the Bible. Who is and is not saved is up to God, not us.
 
The IFB movement promotes carnal results and, many times, ends up worshipping the so-called “soul winners” because of their supposed results. It worships the large churches, because of their money, attendance, and buses. It worships the large buildings and flamboyant preachers. It thinks that, “If I will be like this preacher, then my church will grow too.” These are evil thoughts and deeds.
 
Christ teaches His disciples that true prophets are those that point others to follow God (in the Word), while bearing the fruit of the Spirit in their own lives. This means that the minister is a disciple of Christ himself. He has not stopped studying, learning, applying, and following the Lord Jesus. He bears the fruit of the Spirit that only God can bring forth (Galatians 5:22-23). He does not bear the fruit of the flesh, and repents, when he does. This is not the teaching of the IFB Movement.
 
6.) It promotes service as spirituality, not obedience to God’s Word. Jesus states that there will be many in the Day of Judgment that cry, “Lord, Lord!” These will be those that did and sought to do many wonderful things in the name of Christ, for any number of reasons, but will be rejected, because they did not know Him.
 
I know many ministers and church-goers that believe burning yourself out (effectively killing yourself) for Jesus is a good, godly thing to do. I know many that run themselves ragged in serving, while leaving their personal devotional life in tatters. They do not read their Bibles or pray. Some do not even get to sit in a church service on Sunday. They are even so focused on “soul winning” and ministry that their own families are dying & going to Hell. They think that doing much in the name of Christ means that God is happy with them, when just the opposite is true.
 
Knowing Christ means that we read His Word, study it, and seek to apply it daily. It means that we walk with Him. Out of this discipleship comes balanced, God-pleasing service. Some sort of service can come before this, but it largely ends up being that which Christ does not accept or smile upon. He only accepts service & worship as done according to His Word.
 
This short jaunt through the Sermon on the Mount reveals some major points as to why I no longer follow the “Old Paths” crowd, and why, by God’s grace, I am never going back. This crowd tends to be full of prideful hypocrites. They like to promote themselves as holy, but, when questioned on the things of God, end up revealing their true nature. There is no love for people or the Truth of God’s Word about them, only a love of prideful things: money, power, self, etc.
 

God brought me to this stance several years ago, through my personal Bible reading, and I am thankful that He did. To the young man that is determining to stay with the prideful IFB crowd, I pray that God opens your eyes, like He did mine, and you learn the truth of your influencers and surroundings. Not only so, but I pray that you have the strength to depart from what you have grown up under, and follow Christ & His Word.