Independent Baptist Pragmatism
Enlarged February 8, 2017 (first published September 21, 2016)
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Independent Baptist Pragmatism - David Cloud
Pragmatism is to focus on the practicality of a decision rather than a principle.

Pragmatism is “a reasonable and logical way of doing things or of thinking about problems that is based on dealing with specific situations instead of on ideas and theories” (Merriam-Webster).

A preacher friend commented about church pragmatism along this line: “It is to do something on a practical level without diligently considering the theological implication. It is when the practice 
overtakes the theological principle. It is to do whatever it takes to get a good result even if it violates biblical principles or undermines divine power.”

The pragmatic preacher makes decisions about the church and ministry based on what “works” to produce a desired goal as opposed to making decisions based
strictly on Bible truth, though he will give lip service to the latter.

The pragmatic preacher will not be faithful to the whole counsel of God because he has other objectives that are more prominent and pressing.

The goal might be getting big numbers and building a big church. Years ago I was driving through a city with a pastor friend, and as we passed by a large church facility he expressed a strong desire to have that type of thing. I was amazed and puzzled, because personally I have never thought in those terms, and I didn’t realize that he harbored such aspirations.

For decades, the sin of “big-mindedness” has run rampant among Independent Baptists. It is the motive behind the practice of “Quick Prayerism.” What other motive could there be to adopt a method of soul winning that produces so many empty professions? What else other than “big-mindedness” could motivate a pastor or missionary to report 100 “salvations” when only a few show any evidence of the new birth?

Many Independent Baptist preachers would be more impressed with rich Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-17) than with little Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-10).

Having a big church or ministry should
not be a pastor’s objective. Having a church that is pleasing to the Lord and faithful to God’s Word in ALL aspects should be the SOLE objective, and in this day and age it is exceedingly rare that the two objectives will harmonize.

The goal of the pragmatic preacher might be not to offend prominent people in his church or even not to offend the women in his church.

The goal might be not to offend some prominent preacher or his own circle of preacher friends. A brother wrote to me recently about a pastor he had talked to regarding the danger of being a soft separatist and not drawing the lines against West Coast Baptist College (in particular) and its influence. This pastor told him that “he didn’t agree with the music at West Coast and wouldn’t attend their pastors conference as a result, but saw some good fruit come from the school.” But when he has Bible conferences, this pastor invites men who are strong supporters of West Coast. The man who had talked to the pastor made this observation: “I can see that the implications to this pastor, of taking a Biblical stand, are great. To take a stand against West Coast/Lancaster would send waves through the network of Pastors/Churches in our area and bring isolation.”

The goal of the pragmatic preacher might be to keep his preaching engagements open. For example, a Bible conference speaker or evangelist who is a pragmatist will weigh his preaching and the stance he takes by whether or not it would close doors. He learns how to preach in generalities enough to “keep his options open.” Recently an evangelist published his stand on separation, but though he made some good biblical points, the position was so vague and shallow (being based on only one Scripture passage as opposed to the whole counsel of God and not being practically applied in a clear manner) that it was almost useless. It appears that his objective was to be thought of as a separatist while not really separating in a practical sense and not closing doors of ministry.

The goal of the pragmatist might be to get students for a school or to get subscriptions for a paper or orders for his books.

The pragmatic will give lip service to separatism and to being faithful to the whole counsel of God, and he might speak strongly for it in private.

A few years ago I met the editor of a prominent Independent Baptist publication for a lunch that was arranged by a pastor friend. As soon as we met at the restaurant, this editor asked me to keep the discussion “off the record.” He then proceeded to agree with me about many issues, including my concerns about Quick Prayerism. I was greatly puzzled, because his publication has long promoted the men and churches most responsible for inventing and spreading these practices and has never warned of them, to my knowledge.

Then I realized that this man is a pragmatist, and the pragmatist isn’t at liberty to speak out on all matters, because he has a publication and a ministry to think about.

A pragmatist is a religious politician, and I believe this is a stench in God’s nostrils.

God’s Word calls upon preachers to renounce pragmatism and to be faithful in all matters.

The apostle Paul was not a pragmatist. He had only one objective, and that was to be faithful to Christ his Master. He called himself a “doulos” or bondservant. He had been purchased by Christ from the slave market of sin and did not own himself. His objective was to be faithful to God’s truth. Period. He had no other objective. He would not have dreamed of having another objective. The non-pragmatist Paul testified,

“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Paul didn’t weigh his message by practical considerations, as to whether it would offend someone he wanted to impress or close doors of ministry or reduce the size of his crowd or the number of book sales. Every time he spoke or wrote, he did so with complete faithfulness to God’s Word.

Paul even solemnly commissioned Timothy to keep the New Testament commandments “without spot,” which refers to the “small” things (1 Timothy 6:13-14).

Every preacher is commanded to preach the Word, all of the Word, in season and out of season, no matter what happens, no matter how popular or unpopular it is, no matter who is offended or what doors it closes, humanly speaking.

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Faithfulness to this divine command is the opposite of religious pragmatism, and may the Lord give every Bible-believing preacher the spiritual conviction and backbone and passionate love for Christ that will drive away every pragmatic concern.

The churches desperately need courageous, faithful preachers, not pragmatic politicians.

If a preacher is not willing to narrow his associations in these days and to walk a more lonely path with Christ in solid truth, he will definitely compromise and the effect of that compromise will be evident in his church in this present generation and even more in the next.

May each preacher pray, “Lord God, help me not be a pragmatist or a politician. Help me be faithful to you and to your holy Word. While multitudes have been willing to rot in prison cells, to be torn asunder, and to be burned, woe unto me if I am not willing to bear whatever offense or cost comes for being faithful to the truth in an evil age and a compromising hour.”

“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1).

- Receive these reports by email
- "About" David Cloud


Sharing Policy: Much of our material is available for free, such as the hundreds of articles at the Way of Life web site. Other items we sell to help fund our expensive literature and foreign church planting ministries. Way of Life's content falls into two categories: sharable and non-sharable. Things that we encourage you to share include the audio sermons, O Timothy magazine, FBIS articles, and the free eVideos and free eBooks. You are welcome to make copies of these at your own expense and share them with friends and family, but they cannot be posted to web sites. You are also welcome to use excerpts from the articles in your writings, in sermons, in church bulletins, etc. All we ask is that you give proper credit. Things we do not want copied and distributed freely are items like the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library, print editions of our books, electronic editions of the books that we sell, the videos that we sell, etc. The items have taken years to produce at enormous expense in time and money, and we use the income from sales to help fund the ministry. We trust that your Christian honesty will preserve the integrity of this policy. "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward" (1 Timothy 5:18).

Goal:Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc., the Fundamental Baptist Information Service is an e-mail posting for Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. Our primary goal with the FBIS is to provide material to assist preachers in the edification and protection of the churches.

Offering: We take up a quarterly offering to fund this ministry, and those who use the materials are expected to participate (Galatians 6:6) if they can. We do not solicit funds from those who do not agree with our preaching and who are not helped by these publications. We seek offerings only from those who are helped. OFFERINGS can be mailed or made online with with Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or Paypal. For information see:

Way of Life Literature


Publisher of Bible Study Materials