I shouldn't write blog posts when I am angry. Really, I shouldn't. But right now, I am a little bit angry. You'll just have to bear with me. I was raised in a Baptist family. Not just any kind of Baptist... we were Independent Fundamental Baptists. And we were a special kind. I have learned that many other denominations carried many similarities to us, but I do believe we were a breed unlike any other. I went to Independent Baptist churches, I went to an Independent Baptist college, and I completed my Missions internship with Independent Baptist missionaries. I have taught in Independent Baptist schools (and been fired from one), and I served in Independent Baptist churches. No one was as Independent Baptist as I was. (I promise I'll stop with the repetition in a minute.) And I have seen some great things, and I have seen some bad things. There were liberal and conservative extremes even within our little sect of Baptists. And I think I have seen it all. I have met some people that are so bound up in legalism and their own works that they can't see straight. And I know some people that are far more conservative that I am, and they love people and there is not an ounce of judgment in them. I have been mistreated by the former and accepted by the latter. I have had to work and study and pray to settle on which parts of my upbringing were of God and which were of man. And in the end, I love that I had parents who gave me a place to start. They taught me scripture and doctrine and they gave me solid reasons for the things we did and didn't do. I had a solid foundation.
Somewhere along the lines, I stepped outside of my Independent Baptist world a little. I taught at a non-denomonational school. I attended a Presbyterian church. And here I am, a Children's Pastor at a Community Church. We are not just non-denominational, we are inter-denominational. And you know what have found over the years? Other people love Jesus, too. And I am happy and convinced that each step I have taken has been God-ordained, and I feel like I am in the right place, even when ministry is hard.
Several days ago, I saw a familiar sight on Facebook. It was a picture of a Christian publication, and it had photos of various pastors that I knew from my days of IB church membership. One of the pastors was the one who fired me. So I made a funny little comment about it on the photo, which had been posted by a Facebook page supposedly dedicated to the "humorous" side of Independent Baptists, and I laughed to myself about those days. Later, I checked back on the photo and found that people were making some pretty harsh accusations about the pastors pictured. They were accusing them of being child abusers and perverts. And I have to tell you, it made me angry. Because I know some of those men personally, and even though I do not agree with some of their philosophies and ministry practices, I do believe that most, if not all, are good people who love God and their churches and their families. And as I studied this page further, I realized that a video of another of my former pastors was featured on the page. In the comments below, he was called hateful and ignorant and a cultist. I know this man. I sat under his preaching for several years, and I grew to love him and his family. He is not ignorant, nor is he a cultist. And in that church, I saw people saved and discipled. This man loves unsaved people, and He loves to see their lives changed when they accept Christ.
This page is not the first thing I have seen that brings out this response in me. I have had friends that I went to college with that have moved on to non-denominational ministries, and they mock and insult their former pastors and their upbringing. They act as if they are evolved and they carry an air of superiority to those that came before them. And I love that God brings us all through our own journey and He undoes the things that need to be undone, and He teaches us to value truth rather than tradition. But I do not love when we take those things that God has done for us, and we wear them proudly as if we have accomplished something for ourselves. I do not love when we act as if we cannot respect people that live by different standards. I do not love the pride that is involved in believing that our way is the only way that makes sense.
I was raised by Godly parents, and you want to know why? Because in 1945, an old-fashioned Independent Baptist Alabama preacher was concerned about people, and he knew that most people did not have transportation in those days. So he hired city buses to drive from Prichard, Alabama to the housing projects on Blakely Island to pick up my grandparents, my aunt, and my dad, who was saved as a teenager. And in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1964, a preacher named Jack Hackworth went by and visited my great Aunt and Uncle, inviting them to church and meeting my grandparents in the process. As a result, my grandparents began to attend, rededicated their lives to Christ, and my mother was eventually saved. I am the beneficiary of a gospel that was passed down from those conservative Independent Baptist men, to my grandparents, to my parents, and now to me.
So you know what? When I see bus-running, culotte-wearing*, alcohol-abstaining**, jean-skirt-sporting, suits-in-the-pulpit wearing, KJV-only using Baptists, I will not make fun. I can laugh about some of the silly rules I had while in college without being hateful. I can disagree with someone and fight the urge to be prideful about my beliefs or opinions. I will not get above my raising. Because in the end, when I think about where I have come from, I am nothing but grateful.
* Oh, who am I kidding, I might make fun of the culottes, but only if they're really ugly.
** I am an alcohol abstainer myself, so I can't really make fun here anyway.