Can Two Walk Together…


I’d like to push the discussion a little farther on the matter of labels and basing our fellowship and partnerships on agreement rather than labels. In part, learning about two conferences serve as provocation for these musings, so I’ll need to provide a little background on these conferences in order to give context to my point(s).

The first conference, the 2010 Regional Bus and Soul-winning Conference, was held at the Faith Baptist Church of Avon, Indiana, where Marc Monte serves as the Senior Pastor. One of the keynote speakers was Jeffrey Fugate, pastor of Clay Mills Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Fugate also took over leadership of Beebe Publications and the Church Bus News after the death of Wally Beebe. Fugate “made news” last year when he announced that he was separating from Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, mainly over the Schaap’s failure to claim that the KJV is inspired. Fugate wraps his position in the fundamentalist flag—“In light of these things, it appears to me that you are moving to the left of the stand we, as Fundamentalists, have taken for these many years. I am not interested in moving to the left in any way. I want to remain firm in my positions on the King James Bible and our Baptist Heritage.” Marc Monte, host pastor, also clearly affirmed all of the conference speakers “are fundamental, independent Baptists—from several ‘camps.’ All of them want to win souls, preach Christ, and build great churches to the glory of God. These are sincere fundamentalists with a real burden to reach the lost.”

The second conference, Independent Baptist Friends International, is being hosted by Clarence Sexton and Temple Baptist Church. The purpose of this conference is to rally Independent Baptists for the cause of world evangelism. The words truth, friendship, and world evangelism seem to be the controlling concepts and burdens that have motivated Pastor Sexton to organize this conference. He is clear, though, that the circle of truth within which friendships can be formed must include commitment to the KJV—he calls it a conviction that only the KJV should be used for ministry. Pastor Sexton seems like a genuinely gracious, kind man, so he recognizes that not everybody agrees with that conviction, but he is clear that this meeting of fundamentalists will be made of men who share this conviction. The full roster of speakers is interesting, but of particular note is the presence of Jack Schaap.

Observations:

  • The label fundamentalist is being claimed simultaneously by people who would deny it of each other.
  • The label fundamentalist is being hijacked by those who are making a claim (exclusive use of the KJV) which flies in the face of fundamentalist history and theology.
  • Efforts like these which ostensibly display and promote fundamentalist unity actually misrepresent it (by the KJV claim) and pose one of most serious threats to the genuine biblical Christianity. The ministries of men like Fugate and Schaap are blights on the cause of Christ and should not be welcomed by anyone with an earnest commitment to biblical theology and ministry. I know that is a strong statement, but the former has abandoned the biblical doctrine of inspiration and the latter presides over a bizarre sideshow of theological quirks and ministerial abuses. Calls to separate from unbelief and ungodliness ring hollow when glaring errors like these are ignored.
  • The fact is, though, that not all separatists agree with me on this point of judgment—look at the list of speakers and you’ll see good men who don’t agree (I assume) with Fugate and Schaap. Their presence in conferences like these is genuinely baffling to me. Don’t agree with it at all. That someone would be involved in conferences like these is significant to me, but seems not to be to others. And this is the problem of our day—because there are no clear boundary lines, men will have to make their own judgments and others will have to wrestle with what ramifications those judgments have on current or potential relationships. The fact that someone wears an outdated label really means nothing.
  • The real issue of our day is theological and ministerial agreement, not label or membership card in some club. It does not bother me at all that I would be unwelcome at both of these conferences simply because I would not want to be at either of these conferences. In spite of the presence of some good men, we simply don’t see eye to eye on some very important theological and ministerial issues.
  • Fellowship means you share something and the more you share the stronger the fellowship. These conferences, and the claims made about them, show that the name fundamentalist no longer serves effectively as a summary of mutual agreement. Fugate doesn’t think Schaap is a fundamentalist. Sexton thinks Schaap is. Monte seems to think anybody who loves the KJV and souls is. I think that Fugate and Schaap are not. Frankly, it is a waste of time.
  • Throw away the labels and ask these two questions: Of what are you in favor? To what are you opposed? Agreement on those two items will more likely produce workable partnerships and real fellowship.

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