by Bob Gray Sr.
They are young, brash and a bit leery of some of the older preachers. They are smart, opinionated and not afraid to get into an argument. They grew up after the great Independent Baptist renaissance of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. They heard of John Rice, Bob Jones, Sr. and Lester Roloff but never heard them preach in person. Some of them actually heard Jack Hyles, Lee Roberson, and Tom Malone preach, but they were very young and they really do not remember them. They carry IPads, IPhones and are totally comfortable with how to use them in their Christian work. They are very adept at using social networking and are already availing themselves of it in their ministry. Blogging, texting, and twittering are second nature to them. Many grew up attending Christian schools, but they knew that most of their fellow students were merely going through the motions and were talking the talk, but not walking the walk and were only there because their parents forced them.
They could easily be described as disillusioned with what they see in the Independent Baptist world. They have few heroes. They clan together, but they are a loosely knit group. They are very different even in their similarities. They see the doctrinal faults of the emerging church, but still it intrigues them. They believe in the fundamentals of the faith, but shy a bit away from the label of fundamentalists. Their core beliefs are Baptistic, but they question many of the things Baptists do traditionally rather than Biblically. They look from the outside at the mega churches having seen very few in their world that were Independent Baptist. They dress casually as often as they can, replacing the white shirt and tie of daily life with more comfortable attire. They are stylish, but not trendy. They play more than their predecessors, often finding their way to a golf course with their buddies. They are very family oriented. They enjoy spending time with their family and are not willing to sacrifice family for ministry.
They love God! They are strong in the belief in the inerrant word. However, they tend to preach more to the needs of hurting and struggling people. They are more textual in their preaching than topical, but they use the text to bring topical truths to light. They are not ready to walk lock step in line with the older men nor are they afraid to question them. They are concerned with the way things have been done in the past and sincerely want to be part of a pure and sound movement. They have watched their heroes fall and quit and they are not afraid to question why. They have replaced many of the methods of their fathers and pastors with new modern methods.
They are very honest! They talk about their fears, their struggles and even their faults openly with one another. They are looking at a world which is fundamentally different than that their parents knew and they are aware of it. They want to reach their world, but they know the challenges they face. They are trying to adapt to it without compromising, but they hear the cries of compromise from some of the older men at some of their changes. They appreciate tradition, but they are not willing to sacrifice their ministries to the traditions of the past. They see the weak churches of the generation ahead of them and refuse to be like them. They have standards and they live them, but they do not emphasize them above a personal walk with God. Their ministry styles are comfortable for young Christians to grow.
They use the King James Bible and they know the modern versions are corrupt, but they are not sure the fight is one they want to or even need to address in their ministries. They are separatists, but not isolationist. They will not compromise their beliefs to anyone, not the liberals and not even to their older independent brethren. They have no one college or leader to which they commit their loyalties. Conferences do not define them and they are not afraid to borrow the good methods of others who are different than them and discard or ignore the bad. They call themselves the millennial generation and unapologetically differentiate themselves from the generation before them.
Are they rebels? Or, are they a new generation of real independents?
The truth be known if you could go back in time to the early in the mid 1900’s we would find that a group very similar to them was arising. The best way to define this generation today is by the men who God used so mightily back then. Those men were tired of the failure of their predecessors and the compromise of their peers. They rebelled. They fought tradition. They wandered the wilderness until they were brought together for the cause. Their differences in background were immense, but their similarities in purpose were colossal. In their time modernism was thriving and fundamentalism was waning. They were not willing to allow either to define them, for they were rebels. They did not do what they were told. Don’t misunderstand, they listened to the older men, but they refused to be caught up in the traditions or the compromise.
They built great works for God. It was the era of John Rice, Bob Jones, Sr., Lee Roberson, G. B. Vick, Jack Hyles, Lester Roloff, Tom Malone, Dallas Billington and many others. They were true renegades …rebels … mavericks … INDEPENDENTS and God blessed them mightily. They were not the original Independent Baptists, but they WERE the ones who revived it. They were the post war generation.
So now we have this group called the millennial generation. What are we to think of them? Are they capable of reviving the Independent Baptist movement to what it once was and could be? It is entirely possible they could, but it is also possible that they could fall on the faces and do little that has a lasting impact. Let’s consider several things I believe they must do if they are to make a significant difference in their generation.
1. They must realize that they did not discover grace. OK, we hear your cries for grace as if you discovered something new. Sorry, but we discovered grace long ago. You are like someone who found their first Hershey bar and thought they discovered chocolate. Look, you are excited about something that you had to learn on your own. Maybe we did not show it enough, but grace has always been a part of us. The longer you live and the more battles you face, the more you will understand how difficult it can be to keep it fresh. That is why we need you. As you discover it for the “first” time, we get to be reminded of how precious it is. However, do not judge others even as you discover grace for yourselves, lest you be denied the joy of your grace by that judgment of others.
2. They must maintain their independence without eventually uniting into a defined group. This is where it always dies. ALWAYS. A movement turns into a monument and the generation that follows sees the monument and misses out on the movement. DO NOT unite. DO NOT overly commit. Do no sell out your independence as many have done. Dr. Hyles had a following that became denominational especially after his death. Men who refused to bow to Hammond became the enemy. Real men fight harder when they are told to bow to anyone other than God. However, often what we hate begins to look better and better with time. If they can resist the temptation to “unite” wrongly they can have a lasting impact. There is a vast difference between “union” and “unity.” There is no such thing as a “union” of churches being endorsed by God. There is however a plea from God for there to be “unity” inside the walls of a local church. Men of God are going to disagree, but true men of God will disagree without being disagreeable.
3. They must compete with one another, but not compare. Compete? Do not miss the meaning of this word. Strong men compete to become better and encourage others to do the same. Weak men compete to beat the other guy and become dominant. Competition is when men push each other to do better and accomplish more. Many of these guys play golf. They must look at ministry like golf. You compete as you play together. You congratulate the other guy for a good shot, but it drives you to work harder to become better. Competition brings the best out of men OR THE WORSE. They must compete not for power or prestige, but to grow and improve. As they do they will sharpen their focus and their skills.
The giants of old were competitors. They believed that they were able to do more and the “success” of another inspired them to do so. They did not believe that one man’s blessings made his work or even the man better, but it made them thrive to do more. They pushed each other to greater heights for God.
4. They must look to a generation they knew little about as their inspiration. Study the great works of the mid 1900’s but more importantly study the men God used. Do not judge them by the next generation. For example, do not judge Lee Roberson by the church and college today, but rather by what it was when he was leading it. The same is true of Tom Malone and others. These men built great works that often were mimicked by in method NOT in principle. Study these men and you will discover things about them which were often misrepresented by the ones who followed them. Those men were more like you than you realize and they built great works for God at a time when modernism was prevalent. Know your history and learn from the good and the bad.
5. They must remain pure to their purpose. What is the purpose? They better know what it is. Most movements die because they lose sight of the purpose and begin to merely maintain the work they have. Great men never forget what they are fighting for even when they become older. They mature, but do not mellow with age. They become more focused, more determined, and more passionate. This new generation must do the same. If you are not clear on your purpose you will drift quickly. There must be an understanding between a “position” and a “purpose.” You can lose a “position,” but you can never lose a “purpose” as long as you are breathing.
6. They must stay humble yet never resist being raised up by God for a greater purpose. This is a balancing act. God will raise up a man who is willing to be HIS man. Humility does not resist nor seek for renown; it merely submits to do the will of God. Know God and be filled with the Spirit. Never forget your roots and the fact that it is God who raises men up and God who puts them down. Remember that to put down others is to elevate yourself. That, in itself, is a form of pride.
7. They must be fearless and take a stand for their beliefs. Why is it that when we are young we are fearless and when we are older we are cautious? Perhaps it is because when we are young we are willing to take risks not caring about or even considering the price. The older we get the more we seek the comfort and safety of just gliding through life. Someone has to be the seasoned veteran for any team to succeed. The greats die in the saddle.
8. They must not discount the advice and leadership of the older men. There are still great men who may have been caught up in the decline of a movement, but who themselves have a track record of faithfulness and commitment to Christ. Do not judge them too harshly. Some of them have much left to offer you. They must also be careful not to be critical. A critical spirit will destroy the purity of a movement. To honestly examine a man is wise, but when it turns into condemnation it can destroy the purity of the endeavor.
Dr. Hyles never belittled his predecessors whether locally or nationally. He always studied and adapted the great qualities of the great men of God. He became a composite of the great traits of the great men. He never discouraged those following him by exposing the negatives of his predecessors. He always encouraged those following him by exposing the positives of his predecessors.
Dr. Rice was at the lowest point of his ministry as Dr. Hyles was being greatly used of God. To many Dr. Rice was all but finished in his effectiveness for God. Study history and you will see this to be true. Dr. Hyles did not ride Dr. Rice’s coattails to influence. He saw the greatness of John Rice that was foolishly being discarded by many. He took Dr. Rice as his mentor and allowed him to influence his life. He learned from the genius of Dr. Rice and Dr. Rice rose back to a great prominence. Together, the older man and the younger man stormed a nation with the message of soul winning and church building. We experienced one of the great moves of God upon our nation because of this Haggai and Zechariah pair. It will be disastrous if this generation discards the value and input of the older generation of men of God who are staying by the stuff and refusing to dip their sails.
Many of the names we know today were unknown and would have been forgotten except for the fact that a great man of influence brought them back to prominence. A great man named Charles Weigle would have perhaps been lost in obscurity had it not been for Lee Roberson. There are men in the generation before you that deserve to be remembered, but more importantly you need their insights and experiences to help you reach your potential for Christ. Do not ignore their counsel. Honor them. Use them. Promote them. God will bless you for it.
9. They must not fall on the emerging church side of the fence. Some who are going the route of the emerging church know better. They know the music and doctrinal compromise is wrong. They are merely overreacting to what they are rebelling against. Remember, rebellions create one of two things. They either create adjustments or they create a coup. America needs a new generation of rebels; not to overthrow our system of government but to revive it. Encourage your fellow rebels/independents to bring back the purity of the past, not discard it entirely. The foundation upon which you stand is solid, but in recent years the construction has fallen into disrepair.
God is looking for rebels. It is within the nature of a child of God to rebel. The problem is the thing one is rebelling against. I am to rebel against Satan and, in so doing, I am yielding myself to God. When I rebel against God, I am yielding myself to Satan. I was a rebel when I left the American Baptist Convention.
When they started dictating to our local church, it was time to leave. When they began correcting the King James Bible, it was time to leave. I was a rebel when a national leader attacked the bus ministry. I rebelled. I was a rebel when Jerry Falwell allowed homosexuals into Liberty University. I rebelled. I was a rebel when it came to canned music. I believed in hard work. I rebelled. I rebelled when one of our own said there were 22,000 errors in the King James Bible. I rebelled. I rebelled when one of our own said “God hated man.” I rebelled.
Rebellion is good!Rebellion against Satan is submission to God, while rebellion against God is submission to Satan.Click To Tweet
10. They must see the big picture without losing sight of the work in front of them. The giants see the big picture of what is threatening our world and the overall work of God. Little men make the big picture their focus and their churches suffer. Bigger men focus on the ministry at hand, but are aware and active in the causes that are vital. The issues of the King James Bible have caused many men to fight a fight to the detriment of their church or ministry. They fought when there was really no fight. Truthfully, their church was already fine on the issue, but they decided to start a fight that was not even there. Wise men are ready to fight the fight, but they know how to teach and lead their people along the right path.
Balance is vital. It is like the local county commissioner who has big national beliefs and takes on those issues to the detriment of his work for the county. A great man of God sees the big picture and is very strong in his beliefs and positions, but does not allow that to hinder or interfere with pastoring his church at their level. When Jack Hyles was in the fight of his life, he just kept pastoring his people and God blessed him. There will be big fights and you will have to fight them. However, fight them on their own battlefield not in the confines of your local work. I guess what I am trying to say is be careful not to become too issue-oriented. The people Jack Hyles pastored knew little of his national battle, for he was focusing on them and not him.
11. They must stay with the basics. I challenge you millennialists to study what the men of the past spoke about. They preached much on the fullness of the spirit, the power of prayer, personal holiness, love for God, the power, and purity of the Bible, separation from the world and a passion for souls. Check it out. They had their premillennial conferences when it was a big issue, but they never strayed far from the basics. They knew what would bring revival and blessings from on High and they focused on those things. They had a successful local platform that helped them with the national battle. Dr. Lee Roberson would say often, “The light that shines brightest from home shines brightest at home.”
12. They must stay pure. I am not speaking only of moral purity, although that is certainly of utmost importance. Purity must be maintained at all levels of your ministry. Stay doctrinally pure, ecumenically pure, and ecclesiastically pure. Stay pure of worldliness, pure of outside influence, and pure of power temptations. Stay pure of peer pressure, pure of denominationalism or anything that smacks of it. Stay pure of pride, envy, and jealousy. Stay pure of wrong motives. Stay pure of anything that takes your eyes off of Christ and His work of reaching the world with the Gospel. Stay pure of a critical spirit. Your purity will determine your effectiveness for Christ.
13. They must not compromise. This is such a difficult concept and an even harder “act” to balance. Separation is a Scriptural principle. Standards are an extension of your separatists’ beliefs. They are not wrong, but neither are they cause for separating with another brother. You must have them, but they should not define you. Without standards, worldliness prevails and nothing works. However, with standards can come pharisaical attitudes? How do you avoid this? Keep the focus of spirituality within. Standards must be functional not a sign of holiness. This deserves an entire chapter by itself. We hear your cries against the war others have waged over women wearing pants and levels of music. Be careful not to quickly throw standards out; learn how to “grow” your people, not dictate to them, and you will be fine. Tolerance, balance, perspective, patience, and grace are a just a few of the words you must use to keep that balance.
When I go soul winning I am looking for people who are under conviction of the Holy Spirit with a desire to be saved. I do not make them trust Christ; I give them an opportunity to trust Christ. The same is true with baptism, church membership, and Christian service within the church. At every level you are looking for people who have a desire. We choose from the members already going soul winning to be Sunday school teachers rather than choosing them to be teachers and telling them they have to go soul winning. We choose those with the standards to be a part of the leadership team rather than choosing them and then making them live the standards. Dr. Hyles would go an entire year and never push these issues that grind the young preachers today. He was making the orchard healthy with his teaching and preaching. The orchard produced the fruit naturally. He never backed down on his standards, but he wisely chose those to help him who ALREADY had those standards. It is so simplistic that it is missed.
14. They must be passionate for souls. It is fine to improve soul winning, but do not abandon it. We hear your cries of “a prayer does not save”, but be careful that you do not discount the fact that in the Bible we see that prayer does indicate the heart’s decision. Do not fall trap to Lordship Salvation. In the 50’s Dr. Rice heard Jack Hyles soul winning lecture. He was amazed at the substance of it and asked him to present it at every Sword Conference. Go back and listen to it and you will hear the Gospel presented carefully, thoughtfully, and thoroughly. Have some made it too easy? No, not too easy because it is easy. A better word would be carelessly. The way is still easy, but we have lost the thoroughness of our presentation in a rush to gain more numbers. Don’t fall for the arguments that many use that make Salvation more difficult than it really is. What you must do is be diligent in teaching people how to win a soul to Christ. Jack Hyles won men to Christ because he believed in and knew how to present the power of the Gospel. We are so inept in our command of presenting the Gospel that we are scared of thrusting our nets into the depths. The young men are scaring more of God’s people away from being soul winners than to become soul winners.
15. They must not over think things. Now this may seem a strange thought, but it is actually a slippery slope for men who want and are seeking their own identity. Sometimes, one can over think things and make the past worse that it was and the adjustments more drastic than they need to be. We can build up more of a case for change than is necessary. The methods you guys need to employ are not that complicated, so be cautious or you will complicate them. Jack Hyles taught, “Life is a series of minor adjustments.” That is true in this case as well. Are the adjustments important that you must make? YES! However, over reaction can be just as damaging as no reaction and sometimes worse. You may avoid the deer in the road and crash into a tree.
Be careful to “lean not unto thy own understanding.” More than you need to understand the problems of the previous generation; you must know the mind of God. Think, but remember that wisdom comes from asking, not just thinking.
James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
16. They must be innovative without being trendy. This is the most difficult thing you will attempt. Many years ago as a young pastor, Dr. Hyles was the innovator of his day. He did not originate it all, but he did institute many of the innovations that would help propel him to the great church builder he became. However, he was careful not to be trendy because he knew that trendiness often led to compromise. He loved innovation and good ideas, but he refused to change just because everyone else did. It had to make sense.
He was also careful not to copy liberal ideas or become infatuated by liberal pastors. He saw the wisdom of learning from others without following them. He warned of the dangers of being affected by the wrong crowd from spending too much time studying their methods. He never attended a conference of a man outside of his acceptable doctrinal crowd because he feared them influencing his theology. The young men today may see the innovative success of an Ed Young or Joel Osteen and become infatuated if they are not careful. Then they become tempted to change entirely. Use the ideas of those in your doctrinal circle without being swayed from your roots.
Yes, we know you do not want to build your father’s Independent Baptist church, but do not lose the core values that built this movement. Be independent and innovative without losing the soul of who you are.
17. They must be Men of God! Where did all of the men of God go? Oh, there are still some left, but we need a new generation of them. We often ask where the great political statesmen went in America. Well, we must ask the same question here. We need a generation of men who mount the pulpit with the power of God, the Word of God, the presence of God, and present the truth of God to the people of God. They will listen. This world is tired of political correctness. They are seeking men who will speak the truth in love.
18. You must pick your fights carefully, but you must pick your fights. One generation becomes a fighting generation because of that which was placed in front of them. The next generation comes along and sees all the fighting and decides that they do not want to fight. Sorry, but you will have to fight. Look; the Bible does not talk about the weapons of our picnic, nor does it say the paintball fight is the Lord’s. This thing we are in is called a battle. God’s people were constantly fighting a battle. Do not get comfortable with peace. It will not last. Your generation WILL have to go to battle and woe unto you if you refuse to do so.
19. They must not be sucked into the emerging church trap. This is scary and it is vital. These emerging church leaders sounded promising at first, but now with the crossover they are making into Word Faith heretics and their acceptance of same sex marriages, we are discovering they are doctrinal chameleons. They seem to be as comfortable with Pentecostal women preachers like Christine Caine as they are with heretics like Rod Bell and Brian McLaren who claim homosexuality is not a sin. Look out, young independents. DO NOT fall prey to these liberals who speak of grace with forked tongues. Do your homework and know your Bibles. They are now denying the Trinity. They are not only not your contemporaries; they are enemies to the cause of Christ.
So, all you rebels/independents, I like what I see in you. You are the new hope for a movement that has in some areas lost its way. You give me hope. Are you ready to allow God to use you? Are you certain? Are you willing to pay the price and to make the sacrifices? Are you willing to accept the responsibility? Are you up to the task? If ever a generation needed it, yours does. It is your turn, but even more importantly, it is your responsibility. Don’t mess it up!
by Bob Gray Sr.