By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
The term “independent Baptist church” applies to Baptist churches which are not members of some Baptist organization of churches, a few examples of which are Southern Baptists, American Baptists, and the General Association Of Regular Baptists. Independent Baptists are understandably concerned about an organization of churches asserting control over its churches, something which is not Biblical, for all churches of the days of Jesus Christ’s apostles, that is, of the 1st century A. D., were completely self-governing. Hence, they were independent.
However, many years of personal experience among independent Baptists has led me to conclude that, in spite of their independency, they often are remarkably similar to one another. That is why the title of this post is “Independent Baptist Uniformity: A Strange Characteristic.” Not only are they often similar to one another, there is an expectation of uniformity among many of them. They are often expected to use the same Bible translation, use the same kind of church music, support the same kind of missionaries, associate with the same kind of churches, keep their distance from the same kind of churches, and do other things much the same way. In other words, there is a lack of independency among many independent Baptist churches.
One evidence of this required uniformity among independent Baptists is the consequence for not conforming to their expectations. If an independent Baptist church deviates from what is expected of it, the editors of some independent Baptist papers and some independent Baptist bloggers will be sure to bring this to the attention of their readers. These churches will be used as examples of a departure from what is thought to be the absolute truth of the Bible, when it is only a departure from the well-worn path of many independent Baptists who have confused their personal convictions and opinions with the teachings of the Bible. Those of us who have read the New Testament many times will recognize the similarity between these independent Baptists with the scribes and Pharisees written about in the Gospels. Those groups did not tolerate any deviation from their views, and they denounced anyone, including the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who did not live by their expectations. Fortunately, though, the independent Baptists about whom I now write do believe in salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and do not teach salvation by good behavior of any kind. This is in direct contrast to the scribes and Pharisees of the days of Jesus Christ who mistakenly believed one must merit salvation by living by their rules, and by keeping the laws of God. But this should not cause us to allow this expectation of uniformity among independent Baptists to go unchallenged. We must resist any and all attempts by well-meaning but mistaken independent Baptist brothers to pressure the rest of us to follow the path they have chosen for themselves.