The Fringe Versus The Mainstream (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #24)

fringe copyAre the problems in the Independent Baptist world across the board? Does taking the name alone make one guilty of all its crimes? Surely only the most hardened cynic would say “yes”.

Are Independent Baptists the only group in Christianity with an embarrassing fringe group? Certainly not. There is always that element that you wish would go away, at least publicly, that never easily can be silenced. If that is so, and it is, why do I write a series such as I do here? Someone asked me, one of the good guys actually, that very thing, as well as a few others. It is in the context of the dichotomy between our fringe and mainstream that the answer to why I write this series will be found. Our mainstream has some wonderful people who are kind and dearly love our Lord. At the same time, we have a rather wacky fringe group who do great damage to the cause of Christ. These two facts were never meant to be in an easy harmony!

Points To Consider In The Conflict Between Our Fringe And Mainstream

1. We Are Most Responsible For Our Fringe Group.

I might have some insight into the fringe elements of, say, the Presbyterians. Do you think that someone outside the group, though, would be taken as seriously as someone inside the group? Have I experienced the issues that plague them? Have I lived where they live? So I turn back to my own. In the same way it makes sense for a pastor to look to the issues of his church, or a parent to look after his own children, or a worker to address the issues of the organization he or she is part of, so it makes sense for Independent Baptists to address our own issues. It is, in fact, a dereliction of duty just as it would be in any of the above examples. To most people looking on, our silence appears as denial. It actually silences critics when we deal with a problem before they scream about it.

2. It Does Not Damage The Mainstream To Call Out The Fringe.

Actually, the opposite is true. Nothing lumps the mainstream and fringe together like never speaking out against the fringe. To never say anything is tacit approval of the fringe. If you met someone from a foreign country who mentioned that our country supports abortion, would you not as a Christian explain that some of us absolutely find it appalling that some who share the name “American” with us support such a position? There are some positions held by the fringe of the Independent Baptist world that I want to be far distanced from and say that I find appalling. I will use my influence too, such as it is, to fight abortion. I feel the same way about issues I have been battling against in 23 previous articles.

3. The Fringe Have Hurt Innocent People.

At what point does right trump public relations? I think the moment people are hurt, driven away, or abused is the time to throw the PR out the window. I could see Jesus doing that. Jesus did a number on the PR of the religious hierarchy when He overthrew the money changer’s tables. There are greater issues at times.

4. When You Call Out The Fringe You May Attract The Fringe On The Other Side.

I admit that there are people on the more liberal side who are equally of the fringe. They would hurt others to advance themselves in the same way. Of course there are, for example, church members who are working a personal agenda as much as some pastors (though that has not been my theme in this series). Some feel calling out the fringe makes the mainstream look guilty by association. I, for one, have never thought our wonderful mainstream could fairly be made equal to the fringe. In the interest of fairness, let’s not lump everyone who is exposing the wrongs they have experienced at the hands of our fringe as trouble-making, heartless compromisers either. The charge is not true. I know of too many stories where they have gone far out of the way to limit the consequences for others.

5. The Mainstream is Guilty Of Allowing The Fringe To Define Them.

Our fringe is particularly noisy. For decades they have had the microphone and used it like a billy stick. Our silence has been equivalent to shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot. I remember years ago when I wasn’t so disillusioned with politics that I heard this statement: ” ‘Do not speak against other Republicans’ is the Eleventh Commandment.” How did that work out?

6. Calling Out The Fringe Will Not Turn Away Non-Christians.

Again, I think the opposite is true. I have heard this from a few people, but upon reflection I do not believe it is true. In the first place, it is quite a stretch to assume an unsaved person would even read an article about Independent Baptists. In the event they did, or they saw a Facebook thread about it, I think it would actually encourage them. Many have suffered abuse from religion, so when they see Christians holding Christians accountable, they better can believe our sincerity. Since Alicia and I have some atheists as Facebook friends, we actually know this is true.


So how long will I write? Until the victory is won! As in the aforementioned example, I will never stop speaking out against abortion until it stops. Nor will I stop speaking out against the abuses perpetrated  by our fringe until they are dramatically changed. I encourage others to join me until our voices drown out theirs. Let’s be the morally responsible mainstream who holds the fringe to account.


Find all articles in the series here.




The Best Bible Atlas of All–The Carta Bible Atlas




If you could only own one Bible Atlas, what would be your choice? The Carta Bible Atlas, 5th Edition, by Carta would be my recommendation for pastors like me and serious Bible students.  I make that recommendation as a Bible Atlas nut who owns almost every one out there. It has one claim to fame that allows it to outpace the pack–It has the most maps for specific Bible events. They are unrivaled for accuracy.

Carta maps are the preeminent ones out there today. They publish larger atlases for scholars like The Sacred Bridge as well as more popular ones for general audiences. This one, now updated, however,  has been the standard for years. Originally called The MacMillian Bible Atlas and a pastor’s favorite since the 1960s, five updates have only made it better.  I have used an older edition for years, but I love the maps that have since been added with all my old favorites still there too. I guess my son will get my older edition so he will have a great start on a Bible atlas

The additions supplement world history among the Bible maps. They put Bible history in the larger context. The world around God’s people is important to the narrative and are part of the story in many cases. The maps are better for the Old Testament than the New, but the New Testament section is improved from previous editions.

The maps are not as vivid or colorful as those in some other atlases. There are occasions where a conclusion on Bible history or chronology is more liberal than I could accept. Still, even with those caveats, this volume is the best. Read your biblical passage and turn to the appropriate Bible map in this volume and you will see for yourself. Better still, what you are given is not beyond what would be benefical to a pastor or teacher unlike the larger volumes designed for scholars.

There are extra features like a list on all the archaeological sites in Bible lands in an appendix as well as great indexes of persons and places for cross study. You might want two or three other Bible Atlases, for great color graphics and pictures, but this is the one you must have for rich Bible study.

This volume is available at most online book retailers. Check out the Carta website to see all the fine products they put out.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Check out my article on Bible Atlases in general here.


Salvation By Crucifixion by Philip Graham Ryken

How is that for a theme? You could hardly think of one more significant! In this slim, yet powerful volume published by Christian Focus, we find a treasure trove of thoughts. Based on sermons from a weekly evangelistic lunchtime outreach in the city of Philadelphia, we can only imagine how special those meetings must have been.

As you read you can tell you are in the hands of an accomplished expositor. Though this book could be passed out for outreach, preachers will find it suggestive and enjoyable. Even his illustrations are above average. Great thoughts on how one might preach on this topic are found in these pages.

You get the cross from several vantage points: 1) The Necessity of the Cross, 2) The Offense of the Cross, 3) The Peace of the Cross, 4) The Power of the Cross, 5) The Triumph of the Cross, 6) The Humility of the Cross, and 7) The Boast of the Cross. He never stretched texts to get these points–they are there!

The humility of the cross on Philippians 2:8 was my favorite while the boast of the cross on Galatians 6:14 was the most enlightening for me. It is so pleasant and helpful to linger at the foot of the cross again.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

This one is a dandy!


Is Shunning In The Bible? (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #23)



Have you ever experienced it? Being shunned, I mean? Perhaps you have seen it in an Amish movie, but have you seen it in the Independent Baptist world? It shows up in two distinct places in some cases:

1. Families

The story usually goes this way…someone decides that certain standards that their family held are not what the Lord actually asked of them in Scripture and they make changes. Most would call this a mature step as each person must individually seek the Lord and make relationship with Christ personal. Plus, in matters not addressed in Scripture, this is exercising our own priesthood as a believer as told us in God’s Word. The problem comes when some members of the family take exception to the changes. In many sad cases, the relationship becomes strained. In a few isolated cases, the relationship is ended. The person is shunned until they repent of the changes they have made. In every case I am personally aware of, discussion is shortly limited to complete agreement or the discussion is over. Logical arguments are not accepted and biblical ones are belittled and ignored. (After writing this I just became aware of another sad demonstration of this behavior).

2. Churches

Here it may be over standards, but it is more likely a case of not submitting to the pastor’s overreaching demands. While there are situations where church members disrespect and try to manipulate the pastor in their own shameful power play, I speak here of cases where pastors misuse their power in turning the church into their personal kingdom. Someone wouldn’t mindlessly accept the increasingly unbiblical demands of the pastor and they are pushed out the door. Usually this is followed by a smear campaign, sometimes accompanied with a tirade from the pulpit, and ended with incredible pressure on the whole congregation to break fellowship and have no contact with the lambasted person under fear of similar repercussions.

The pain is disgraceful and horribly out of place among God’s people. In the cases involving family, holidays and family gatherings are smashed, relationships gutted, and hearts broken. If the case involves parents, you have the added devastation of the cry of every heart to be accepted by parents. If it involves the church, there are all those awkward encounters around town.

I have written on standards, soul liberty, and pastoral abuse from many angles in this series, but in this matter of shunning I ask us to look at the Bible together. Can you find verses that champion shunning? Some may cite separation verses but none of them are ever prescribed to be used in such cases, and there is not a shred of evidence that they are to be carried out this way.

Where really is there even a story in the Bible of shunning in this way? There is the shunning of Absalom by David after Absalom killed Amnon. That wasn’t even over something as minor as a standard, but actually a horrible and serious matter. David would not speak to him in any way–it was a complete shunning. Come to II Samuel 14 and we find a woman of Tekoah who the Bible presents as a heroine for getting David away from his ridiculous shunning. It caused deep problems too. David, I believe, had great regret over this when Absalom died. Check out David’s emotion in II Samuel 18: 33, “And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” How catastrophic when life is over that the tale ends so tragically. That is not exactly a ringing biblical endorsement to the shunning that some practice.

It is not the glory of God that is honored in shunning, but the basest of unchristian behavior. A complete shunning is not called for in the Bible. Please do not cite the church discipline verses in I Corinthians 5 where the context is the Lord’s Supper and the putting away is in regards to churching someone over horrible sin, in that case incest. Even in the case where church discipline must take place, the shunning I described above and that I know many cases of, is never told us to do by the Lord. Instead of shunning, I believe we should hold the shunners accountable. The weight of Scripture is against them as is the guilt of hurting fellow believers whether family or fellow church members. We can’t make any person do anything, but we can avoid shunning ourselves and love those who have felt the blows of the heavy hand of shunning.

Find all articles in the series here.





Building A Ministry Of Spiritual Mentoring by Jim Grassi



Would you like some practical help on discipling men? Most pastors, including me, are alarmed at the falling away of men in our churches today. We want to address the issue and we have help in this volume published by Thomas Nelson. Mr. Grassi has written on these issues before, but here he gives us the nuts and bolts of a mentoring ministry with just enough background to make sure we see the gravity of the situation today.

He succinctly rehearses the urgency in our society that churches must face. The absence of fathers have well nigh destroyed our culture. Amid the wreckage we find ineffective churches. We have in Jesus Christ what men need. Are we reaching out to give it?

If you are like me, you scratch your head wondering how to do it. That is where this book is valuable as the practical implementation makes up the bulk of the book. He begins by making sure we understand the concept of what mentoring really is, that we avoid the misconceptions, and that we put in place a solid team to carry it out. I appreciate his explaining that neither a pastor nor any other man can handle this ministry alone. It would be overwhelming and likely crash the ministry.

His guidelines for assessing where men can productively fit in to make the ministry thrive are outstanding. I can see easily see using them exactly as he gives them. It gives men an opportunity to show where their strengths really lie. There is a place for every man!

Whether it be ideas of things to do, how to be intergenerational, how to foster real relationship, or assessing when things are off, he has the bases covered. For what it is, this is a great volume!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.



The Worst Crime (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #22)

If we Independent Baptists were to practice real introspection and ask ourselves what is the worst crime that comes out of the issues we struggle with at times, what would it be? In this series I have slammed the pettiness that overtakes our movement at far too many points often. You may think that pettiness is annoying at most and not the biggest of problems, that it is of the roll-your-eyes variety. Could it be more?

Well, it comes across as a big deal to those who practice it. These pettiness perpetrators have presented it as life and death. To them, music, dress standards, and other extra-biblical issues are the Christian life, or so they come across. Some are offended to be told they come across that way, but it the subject most often on their lips, and the key element in how they size up other Christians. Strangely, pride, arrogance, temper issues, rudeness and the like are rarely discussed while going to a movie theater might prove once and for all someone’s spirituality or the lack thereof! Before you think I am too dramatic, I personally know far more people who have been shunned or separated from because of these petty issues than any of the aforementioned spiritual problems.

Let’s look beyond the individual elements that make up the pettiness and instead consider its impact in toto. How serious is it? Let’s consider it in light of a very possible future scenario. How will this pettiness appear to all of us if intense persecution comes?

If we must worship, as some other Christians have done, with a whisper so we can hear the footsteps of the authorities coming to get us, will these petty issues matter? If we are secretly meeting in the woods in the winter for church, will her pair of pants matter? If someone risks his life to share the Gospel, will you be obsessed with the rhythm of the music he listened to that morning? If she shares her food with you, will you care that she would go see a movie at a theater if she could? If you met one not ashamed to mention the name of Jesus, would you really write him off if a buddy said he was liberal and should be separated from? No, so why now? Only times of plenty can afford pettiness.

You may say, these issues are not petty to me. Well, to you I ask, will they honestly matter if being a Christian is itself life and death? You may say yes, but I humbly submit that I do not believe you. The potential of persecution has never been greater in America, so our pettiness grows ever more ludicrous. When it comes, we will remember in our pain the waste involved in our pettiness and weep. That is, too, the worst crime.

Find all articles in the series here.


KJV Illustrated Bible Handbook–An Awesome Visual Reference!

As a pastor, I have discovered a book here I would love to see all church members have to use in their personal Bible study. There is a chapter on every book of the Bible to give an overview of what you will be reading. Those who are visual learners will find a feast in this attractive volume. This hardback volume by B & H Publishing meets a real need!

I congratulate the publishers for having the insight to see what some might call a niche market–KJV users. In light of World Magazine’s recent article stating the KJV was the preferred translation for 55% of Americans (April 5, 2014, pg. 68), perhaps it is more than a niche market after all. In any event, kudos to B & H Publishing.

This book not only gives a good overview, but it suggests lines of thought for Bible students. For example, a key text is given for each book. You might not agree with their choice, but that is a great thought process in studying a book of the Bible. Key terms are vital and those are discussed briefly too. Things like purpose and occasion give real insight and the section called “First Pass” launches us into our reading. The section on finding Christ in the book keeps us Gospel focused too. I enjoyed the smaller books of the Bible (we can need extra help on some of the smaller books like those in the Minor Prophets) getting equal time.

The section on reliability will be the least useful to many, but they usually come down on the conservative point of view. You might find a point to disagree on here and there, but overall the volume is really solid. There was a statement giving credence to “Q” in the formation of the Synoptic Gospels, but such statements are rare.

The maps in the book are taken from Holman maps and they are outstanding and sharp. The selection of photos and charts add real value as well. The claim “a complete visual reference” by the publishers is not an exaggeration.

As a bonus, you get two fascinating articles on the KJV. There are interesting ones on the Canon of the OT and the NT respectively as well. Each article is written on a level even beginning Bible students can grasp, but with real detail too.

My best recommendation for this book: I am a pastor and I am going to encourage the dear folks I pastor to get this volume and enrich their own personal Bible study.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


When Did You Die? –A Book Review with Observations

Here is a volume for when you seriously want to consider your spiritual life. The careless or unconcerned will not be able to stand reading it. As you might imagine by the title, the book addresses the concept of “dying to self.”

Crown Publications has brought this fine volume back in print. Its claim to fame is that it is the book that changed Lee Roberson’s life. As one of the prominent leaders of the Twentieth Century for Independent Baptists, many are fascinated by this practically lost volume. I actually had one the old copies that was more like a pamphlet. I read it several years ago, but was challenged in reading it again. In this lovely reprint, you actually get a bonus volume entitled “How To Die Daily”, also by B. McCall Barbour. An introductory chapter on Lee Roberson along with the volume’s appealing look makes this a fine addition to any library.

There has been some debate in recent years over the theology of these type writings. Particularly the phrase “let go and let God” has been under scrutiny (The phrase was mentioned in this volume). Some have thought to say “let God” implies giving God permission! But in this context it is about what you and I are going to do, not what the Lord may do.

Half way through my reading of this book, I did an online search and came across R. C. Sproul’s website that had an article on this phrase and theology. He raised a few points worthy of consideration. Some taught it as the “second blessing” and that is actually more than the Bible teaches. To make it all about one exact point in time rather than an ongoing process of sanctification is a mistake. If you remember that it is still a process, though with possible great breakthroughs, this volume will enrich your spiritual life. I see Mr. Sproul’s point to some degree (he seemed most concerned, sadly, only about adherence to confessional reformed theology), but no doubt there are special seasons of God’s dealings too. When that happens your self life is going to take some blows! Don’t be lulled into thinking you have crossed a threshold and now are safe, or beyond certain things. You could hardly be in a more dangerous place. Be cautious about thinking you are in the advanced Christian group–that is not the point of dying to self.

This is not a short cut to spirituality, but the real business of the Christian life. The idea of reckoning what Christ has done has sure helped me in some problem areas in my life. You will be helped by this volume’s discussion of that subject. No matter what anyone wants to criticize theologically, the subject of the self life fills many pages in the New Testament. It is worthy of our attention and revolutionary to our spiritual lives.

You can find this volume here.


From The Pew (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #21)

They speak. We must listen. I have their emails and Facebook messages. They want our issues addressed and changed. While some are just leaving, others are staying but praying God will bring to pass the changes we need to truly glorify Christ and honor His Word.

I could share horror stories one piled upon on another, but instead of sharing our worst, I want to share the thoughtful comments of a godly lady. She stayed, but she is concerned. You can tell she cares deeply about her church. She gave permission for me to share her letter, but only anonymously so as to not shame or hurt her church. I think some of our pastors have trouble seeing it, but this is a great representation of the hearts and minds of the rank and file. Here from the pew:

Pastor Jimmy,

First, I want to say thank you for your series on Independent Baptist Churches. I am currently a member of one and have had a variety of church experiences. I appreciate that you recommend books, because sometimes church members/attenders would like to read some good books, but they don’t know where to start. I really appreciate when pastors aren’t afraid to ‘add to’ their own preaching/teaching by recommending the thoughts of others, even if they also include a disclaimer.

Secondly, I didn’t want to comment on your recent post, because I was introduced to your blog via a former member, a young man, the son of the patriarchal church family, who went to Bible college, got married and is now a part of another church. He has two brothers connected to our pastor’s family. Although things don’t generally get political and ugly, even during business meetings, it’s a little scary to see how much that family is growing in leadership and influence. All that to say, I didn’t want to post, because it is not my intention to cast a bad light or offend anyone from our church who might follow your blog as well.

I agree that our society has created a selfish, hedonistic generation, and that has been detrimental to the church, but I have also observed that the churches that are growing while remaining Biblical sound are those that are casting off detrimental traditions, using both old and new from ‘the storehouse’, teach what true discipleship is (rather than just going through a curriculum), encourage outreach and church planting (reproduction), preach and teach expositionally and applicationally (often through books of the Bible) and not concerned with having to have an evangelistic (baby food) message on Sunday mornings, trust that people actually do want to know what the Bible says (including comparing other views) and not demonizing certain things that may not be wise but are not sin, etc. I am grateful that our leadership is very missions-minded, does support a local sister church, and has a bus ministry as well as a newly established food pantry, but some of the things you have posted in your series can be found and have been harmful to true spiritual growth.

I can imagine how discouraging pastors must get when they don’t see the results and responses they hope for, but it is really discouraging to hear a pastor express a lack of ‘faith’ and knowledge about what people are doing outside the walls of the church. People have even been made to feel guilty for not attending a small church activity. A good shepherd knows his sheep and the state of his flock; he doesn’t assume the worst. I know he isn’t God— omniscient, omnipresent— and we have a responsibility, too, to the ministry and to each other. I can only imagine the weight pastors carry, and it’s nice when they accept help or trust people with responsibilities, as well as providing the resources and/or authority to do what is needed. That, too, has been an issue, and so another thing that growing churches have is entrusting people to perform the ministry and use the talents with which God has gifted them.

Sorry this is so long. Thank you again for your heart, courage, boldness, and grace. I think your posts have been very balanced, and from the looks of things have been a blessing to many.

God bless! And I mean that. :)

_______ from ______

We ignore her, and those like her, at our peril.

Thanks _____. You are overly kind in your words about me, but you spoke eloquently from the pew.

I want to also share what I believe was a widely-read article by Jeff Amsbaugh recently released. He is a much more well-known pastor and blogger than me. I am glad to see it. LINK

Find all articles in the series here.

Rose Then and Now Bible Map Atlas–A Review

Would you like a fine Bible Atlas written by someone who has been immersed in the lands of the Bible? Then the Rose Then and Now Bible Atlas is a great option for you. Substantial at 272 pages, yet accessible even for newer Bible students, we have a real asset here.

Perhaps you saw the earlier Rose Then and Now Bible Maps. I always felt it was more of a Sunday School item than one for the serious Bible student, though the modern overlays are a brilliant idea. Frankly, there were just too few of them and I would have preferred a different scale at times. There are about the same number of overlays, but we have a fine atlas too. Really, the overlays are just a nice addition to the atlas itself.

What we have now is Rose Publishing joining the big boys in the atlas world. What is unique to this volume among the atlases out there is the historical detail given. Paul Wright does a great job of relating the biblical narrative as he progresses incorporating well the geographic details. The history begins with the Patriarchs. There is no mention of Adam or Genesis 1-11, pro or con. My guess is that there is little real geographic knowledge of those times.

Still, Scripture pervades the volume. In the chapter on Jesus, He is described as God in human form. The entire atlas takes a historical approach. There are no sections on parts of the Bible like, say, the Minor Prophets. Their time period is covered in the historical flow, just not the books themselves. Most atlases take the other approach, but I am glad to have one from this distinct vantage point.

The maps themselves are from Carta, which is the gold standard of Bible maps. The pictures are satisfactory and the maps plentiful enough to go along with a rich text. Most people just try to get one quality Bible Atlas. This volume is a contender for the Bible Student.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Check it out here.

Related Post:
Bible Atlas-Finding the Right One



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