My husband and I spent eight years in the IFB. Just a warning this is going to be long.
We were members of an American Baptist church and saw things going on with the denomination that were quite concerning. Nobody at our church, including the pastor, seemed bothered by it. At that time there was an ad for a new Baptist church starting near us. I went on their website and it seemed okay doctrinally. They had a link to David Cloud’s website and I spent a lot of time on there. At first I blew off the KJV-only and living standards. I showed it to my husband and we both said that we had never thought about such things.
We didn’t go to that new church but started attending an IFB church a few blocks from us. We eventually joined and the first few years were definitely a honeymoon period. The pastor and his family had high standards and held themselves as an example. The pastor wasn’t a bully about standards but showed favor towards those who lived them. We had evangelists that came through that hollered about right living and I always felt convicted about how I should be living more separated.
Being a woman in the IFB is an even heavier yoke. There was this ideal of a godly, modest, submissive help meet that I so strived to be but never could reach. IFB women are only seen as single looking for their Boaz or married at home with their children. I was an oddity because I was married with no children. The pastor’s wife would make snarky comments because I worked full-time outside of the home. I wasn’t a good wife in her eyes. One time I got my hair cut and was so worried that I would get in trouble because it was only to my shoulders. I stopped by the parsonage and breathed a sigh of relief when the pastor and his wife said how much they liked it.
I started seeing things that bothered me. There was a teenage girl that got pregnant and the pastor made her write a letter of apology to the congregation. I had told the pastor that I had been abused as a child. He said that it was my fault because I tempted him and I needed to repent of my anger towards him. Ron Williams from Hephzibah House came to our church. I told the pastor the things that I had read about there. He said that all the girls were lying.
After being there a few years, a former pastor moved from out of state and joined the church. He said his ministry was helping families. His idea of help was spanking. He carried a wooden paddle in his brief case if parents wanted to use it. People would call him over to their house to spank their children. He would make them lay over his lap bare butt. This included teenage boys and girls. He was saying bad things about the pastor and causing a lot of problems. Eventually he was kicked out but left scars in the congregation.
Our first pastor left saying he felt called to evangelism. The next pastor still had high standards but didn’t push them on anybody. By this time, my nerves were so frayed from living in constant anxiety that I just couldn’t go anymore. We went to a large, contemporary church for a few years just to detox and learn that church was a good thing. A few years after leaving the IFB we started going to church that had Sunday School. I asked a question in class and immediately panicked because I had been so trained that as a woman I wasn’t to speak in church. I emailed the pastor and he assured me that it was ok. I felt so stupid but he was a tender under shepherd caring for his flock.
LCMS pastor Bryan Wolfmueller talks about the pendulum of pride and despair. This summarizes life in the IFB perfectly. One day I would be proud of how I was dressed modestly, listening to the “right” music, and being submissive. The next day I would be in tears of how awful I am because I might have listened to a secular song or broken some other IFB rule.
I found a sermon on you tube from our first pastor at his new church (his evangelism career failed). He said that people watch his family and they watch other families as examples for holy living. Looking at anybody other than Christ is idolatry. The main problem in the IFB is the elevation of man and his opinions. They say God has said things that He has not said. We live in an area with Amish and other plain sects. God doesn’t care how big of button that you have on your jacket, but the Amish bishops say that He does.
I would say to those still in the IFB that the gospel is for the believer too. We are new creations in Christ but we will not be perfect until we are home in glory. Be free in Christ and trust in His promises.