Some Reflections From Fifteen Years Amongst the Primitive Baptists
Although hectic, this summer as afforded me some much needed time for introspection. I have entered the stage of life where as an adult I can now look back on decisions that I and others have made and observe the long-term consequences of such. Some are reflected upon with great fondness and others are remembered with sadness and disappointment. This fall will mark fifteen years ago that I attempted to preach the gospel in earnest. It seems like it was only yesterday that I endeavored to stand before the saints at Macclenny Primitive Baptist Church and proclaim the riches of God’s grace. They were encouraging, patient and very charitable during those early, feeble attempts.
What follows are some reflections that are derived from going in and out amongst the Old Baptists for fifteen years. Be warned, what follows is a ‘from the heart’ assessment of what I see as successes, and possibly more important, the failures that have been encountered in this time. Author George Santayana wrote that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Fit words indeed as we labor in God’s kingdom and strive to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye (we) are called (Ephesians 4:1).
1. Primitive Baptists are some of the greatest people to walk in shoe leather. I am thankful to be counted in their number and hope to be one until I depart this life! One will find no more loving and hospitable people than those who make up the Primitive Baptist Church. My non-church friends are often astonished at the idea that one can leave their home and travel hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles to another church and enjoy an instant connection with complete strangers. I believe this to be a phenomena only found amongst the Lord’s people striving to walk in His way. This ‘tie that binds’ is a love that only comes from a steadfast continuance in the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42). The love of Christ constrains those who walk in His way (2 Corinthians 5:13) and produces a fellowship that this world cannot offer. The Bible teaches that such love is foreign to the everyday world around us (Ephesians 3:19). I have observed such love in spades amongst the Lord’s people contained on the PB church and can say without hesitation that this has been a heaven on earth for me and my family throughout the years.
2. Some Primitive Baptists are not so kind. Before you tune out, I will add that such people exist in all groups. However, I am most concerned with those of which I am associated. It grieves me to think of the many that I know who are no longer affiliated with the PB church because of the cruel and/or inconsiderate actions of others who profess to love the Lord. There are those who have adopted the spirit of Diotrephes that desire center stage (3 John 1:9). Their idea of how the church should be run trumps the word of God itself! Unfortunately, these folks have done much harm in their respective spheres of influence. Left unchecked, such folk have (and will) lead to the ruination of the local church body. No matter how respected or well-known such an individual might be, this attitude nothing more than evil and should not be encouraged of followed (3 John 1:11).
Certainly, those that exhibit an attitude of persistent rebellion against the teachings of Christ should be withdrawn from (1 Corinthians 5:5) in an effort to save them from error. But it has been my observation that a number of people have been driven away from the church for reasons that extend beyond the biblical scope of church discipline. Sin does not exclude an individual from church fellowship; the failure to repent and turn from unbiblical actions does. If transgression in and of itself warranted withdrawal of fellowship, we would all be excluded from church membership! I can think of many who have been driven away from the church because of others who deem their sin ‘unpardonable’ or their life decisions to not suit the standards of those who have exalted themselves to the position of the keeper of the church. My friends, the church is to be a refuge for those who are hurting. The fact is that we all sin and miss God’s mark (Romans 3:23). We are also allowed a degree of diversity in our lives within the realm of scripture (Romans 14:17-19) and great charity should be exercised with such.
Lord help us to be discerning in determining what constitutes rebellion in the church versus a hurting brother or sister that succumbs to the weakness of the flesh (Galatians 6:1-3). May we also carefully examine that which is essential as far as church fellowship and exercise charity in the nonessentials. Much more could be written about this, but I leave the reader to consider such cases in which they are acquainted.
3. We also assume too little or too much when it comes to young people in our churches. I am thankful to see the addition of quite a few young people to the Primitive Baptist Church over my fifteen years of ministry. This growth has occurred from within as families grow and also from without as people are converted to the truth. I offer a couple of thoughts about our younger generation. First, they generally are not a reflection of much of our culture portrays them to be. Overall, the younger generation that is committed to our churches are not the apathetic, sex crazed, drug addled, self-centered lot that our culture/media would like us to believe. For that I am thankful! There appears to be a bright future for many PB churches because of this blessing. In light of this we need to be diligent to recognize that these young people are a valued part of what we do as a church (1 Timothy 4:12). They are not merely the future of the church, but are valued participants in the here and now.
On the other hand, we must also not assume that they automatically ‘get’ everything that we believe both doctrinally and practically. As ministers we must take extra care and time with the little lambs of the flock to make sure that they have a handle on the precious truth of the Bible (John 21:15). The current generation is being constantly bombarded by humanism (truth is up to the individual), relativism (there is no absolute truth), and Post Modernism (we have moved beyond the archaic idea of truth) in all avenues of life. Sadly, such can be seen in many religious religious institutions such as the seeker-friendly and charismatic movements that are so popular amongst many today. We must diligently counter such false teaching at every opportunity! Jesus said, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life: (John 14:6). The doctrine of grace and biblical discipleship is not merely one option amongst many, it is our only hope and only true source of joy in this world!
One of my greatest regrets as a minister is not being more diligent to remind our young people of these truths. It is disappointing to observe young adults abandon the principles that they once professed to believe for the idea that truth doesn’t matter as long as we have good intentions. Sadly, this leads individuals down a path that eventually has them looking like the rest of the world and far away from the standard of scripture. As Christians we are commanded to be different. This includes the clothes that we wear (1 Timothy 2:9), our personal conduct (Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 13:5), the places we go (1 Thessalonians 5:22), and how we treat others (Matthew 7:12). The Bible is clear about such! WE must clearly, regularly and repeatedly convey the message of truth to our young people. This should definitely be occurring from the pulpits across America. It must also be articulated during personal conversations, in counseling sessions and through our personal conduct. In today’s ungodly, truth-hating culture it is a mistake to assume that are young people are scripturally on course. Titus 2 and other similar passages should be applied like never before! Lord strengthen our ministers (AND PARENTS) not to neglect this important area of ministry!
More to come....