Is It Wrong for an IB Preacher to Preach in a Southern Baptist Church?
Recently I received the following challenge:
“I want to thank you for your ministry. It has been a help to me much over the years.
I would like to clarify one minor thing with you, though. In your letter to Clarence Sexton, you stated about Andrew Phipps: ‘Another speaker scheduled for the Friends conference in April is Andrew Phipps (shown right). He regularly speaks at Freewill Baptist, Southern Baptist, Christian Unity, Social Brethren, and other types of churches.’
“I do not dispute with you that this man has problems and I agree with you that this pattern of preaching indicates a real problem. It is here that I would like to make a distinction. Though I am an ‘old school,’ separated Independent Baptist, where I preach is between myself and God alone. It is He who called me to preach the gospel. I’ll preach anywhere as long as they don’t mess with my message or invitation. Preaching in a Freewill Baptist church doesn’t make me a Freewill Baptist. Preaching in a Southern Baptist Church doesn’t make me Southern Baptist, etc., etc.
“However, I understand your point. If I am asked over and over to preach in Southern Baptist Churches like Andrew Phipps ‘regularly speaks’ at these places, I would want to examine my message and invitation to make sure they were right before God. But, an Independent Baptist preacher preaching in a Southern Baptist church does not automatically make him a compromiser. If the door opened, I would preach in a Catholic church or a Mormon church or a Southern Baptist church or in a prison or in a nursing home or on the street, so long as they do not tamper with my message or invitation. I pray God to give me the backbone to preach uncompromisingly as those Old Testament prophets did before the wicked kings and nations.
“I just wanted to clarify this for young preacher’s sakes, that they do not get the idea that they cannot preach in certain places. God may use a preacher to help lead a false church to the true gospel. God may use a preacher to lead a wayward church to the truth. God may use a preacher to lead a Southern Baptist Church to become Independent. Thanks for reading my rantings.”
REPLY FROM BROTHER CLOUD
Thank you for taking the time to write and to do it in such a gracious manner. Your e-mail is a model for how to communicate concerns effectively and properly to a preacher.
This is an exceedingly important issue, and I am glad you brought it up.
I believe a man might make an exception and on a rare occasion preach in a compromised church. I would never call a man out in my writings just because he preached once in an SBC or Freewill Baptist church. But when a man makes this a working principle, he is wrong, as you yourself have noted. That, of course, is all I was talking about in the open letter to Pastor Sexton. The Bible warns that the leaven of error corrupts the truth, and this is the purpose of separation. Good apples don’t redeem spoiled ones.
Further, if a man goes to a compromised church and preaches the truth, one of two things will happen, that church will repent or he will not be invited back! I once preached one whole Sunday in an SBC church without knowing beforehand that it was SBC. They hated the preaching so much that they fired the pastor for inviting me! The man who is repeatedly invited to preach in SBC churches, worldly IB churches, Freewill Baptist churches, and such is not preaching the right thing, in my opinion. He is tickling the ears of the rebellious. I take it from your e-mail that we agree on this.
I warned about Dr. Sexton’s conference because separation is being weakened on every hand among Independent Baptists in our day, and if ever there were a day to be separatists it is today! What we need are separation conferences. Every IB Bible college should have one of those every year. But the silence is deafening. One of the few schools that will even touch such a thing and have someone like me in to inform and warn is Fairhaven Baptist College. You see, separation doesn’t build big institutions!
Separation is nothing to play around with. It is no minor thing. We really have to get this one right. My alma mater Tennessee Temple and its home church Highland Park Baptist in Chattanooga, decided to soften its stand on separation and it wasn’t long before they were back in the Southern Baptist Convention’s deeply compromised fold and now they are well on their way to an emerging church perspective.
As for leading a church out of the Southern Baptist Convention, I believe this should be done only when the church actually invites a preacher to do it and everything is up front. If a man is invited on the condition that he lead the church out of the SBC, there is be nothing wrong with that. But to go with a secret objective of leading the church away from its heritage is wrong.
What I strongly disagree with is in the idea that a man is at liberty to preach in a Roman Catholic Church or a Mormon Church, because the Bible clearly restricts my liberty at this point. We are forbidden to preach in forums associated with false gospels, false christs, false spirits, and other such “cardinal errors.” See Romans 16:17; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Timothy 3:5. I believe these Scriptures are clear and unequivocal.
I was actually shocked and saddened to hear you say that you say this. This was the very error that led to the great downfall of Billy Graham and an entire generation of “evangelicals.” They decided they had the liberty to go wherever they were invited under any forum, theological modernist, Roman Catholic, SDA, you name it. The result has been predictable. They disobeyed God’s Word and confusion and great harm to the truth has been the product. Billy Graham did not strengthen the theological modernists and Roman Catholics to a more biblical position, but they definitely weakened him and millions of his comrades to greater and greater compromise. He has stated support for infant baptism, has denied the fire of hell, and has even allowed for the salvation of unbelievers. The Bible does not say in vain, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33). How many apparently think that this verse does not apply to them! We think of Billy Graham, Harold Ockenga, Jerry Falwell, Jack Van Impe, James Robinson, and a frightful slew of others.
I have been invited to preach in a Jehovah’s Witness church and my son was invited to preach in a Seventh-day Adventist church. We declined, because these “churches” hold a false gospel, and it would be disobedience and confusion to preach in such a forum. If they want to hear the truth, it is readily available. No one is keeping them from it. It is available in sound churches, in sound books, on the Internet, and in other ways. I don’t need to compromise God’s Word to preach to heretics in their own churches. They need to obey God’s Word and turn to the truth that is already available. I have never gone to a Charismatic church and preach and thus join hands with their false spirit (and their false gospel and false christ, in many cases), but I have seen many Charismatics come out and join good churches through my preaching via the printed page and on our web site.
What about Paul preaching in Jewish synagogues or to the pagan philosophers on Mars Hill? The Bible makes a distinction between our association with the world and our association with heretics. We are allowed to preach to pagans in about any forum, but we not allowed to go to a forum of heretics and preach. Though Paul preached on Mars Hill and in Jewish synagogues, but he never preached in a convention of Galatian heretics! One is allowed; the other is forbidden. Our relationship with professing Christians who disobey God's Word is different than our relationship with the world. Paul developed this principle in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.
The doctrine of separation is a neglected, despised, and misunderstood doctrine in the average Independent Baptist church, and this should not be so.
In Christ, Bro. Cloud
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