Hey guys. I came across this podcast about a month ago, and I started listening to it on my drive to and from work. I have been helped so much by this podcast that I felt I had to share my story with you.
My IFB story is a long one, and it starts when I was a small child. I should start out with my family life first I guess. My family has always been Baptist, but not on the fringe like todays IFB churches are. They have always worn normal clothes, and I went to public school. Both of my parents worked, and my mom did and still does earn quite a bit more than my dad at her job. So we aren’t your typical IFB church members. My parents and I started attending Bethel Baptist Church in Linton, IN when I was a toddler. I don’t know for sure, but I was probably around 3 or 4. I don’t remember much about the early days there, but it seemed pretty good to me as a child. They had good kids programs, and a lot of other kids my age were in the church. It all seemed pretty normal to me at the time. I know it wasn’t as strict at the time, because I remember my mom having an NIV bible. She also had an early electronic bible that kind of looked like a fancy calculator that was also an NIV. I do remember that our pastor liked to jump around and shout a lot, and some people there wore the long dresses and all that, but it was never judgy that I can remember. I got saved when I was 7 years old, and I got baptized there. I can remember the pastor holding me up above the baptistry so everyone could see me. I was too little to see over the sides. My childhood years there were good. They had VBS, and childrens church, and a lot of fun activities. Fast forward to when I was around 11 or 12 years old. It came out that our Pastor and a married woman in the church were having and affair together. He resigned from his position and our assistant pastor took over. He is a really good Christian man, but he wasn’t really prepared to be a full time pastor of a church. So eventually a new pastor was hired to take over there. My parents didn’t like him that well, so we kind of stopped going. Before long we had quit completely. Most of my Jr. High and High School years were spent out of church, but I never stopped believing in God. I went to a Christian Church youth group for a while when I was in high school, but it was extremely liberal, and it was the cool place to go. I saw a lot of issues there and stopped going. (the kids who I saw wasted at parties and sleeping around on Friday nights were up on stage talking about living for Christ and acting “holier than thou” on a regular basis. These kinds of things are what bothered me. It was more the people attending the youth group than it was the church itself).
When I was a senior, a man stopped by our house to introduce himself. He was the new pastor of Bethel Baptist church, and he had seen that we were members from years ago and he wanted to come invite us to come back to church there. We thought that was really nice, so my parents and I started going back to church there. However, I noticed almost instantly that it was different this time. The crazy IFB standards we being preached somewhat regularly. All the women in the church wore long dresses, and most men wore at least a shirt and tie. I heard lots of sermons with yelling, calling out the typical sins that IFB preachers go on and on about, sermons on the evils of public schools and modern music, KJV only-ism, and many other things. But a lot of the sermons were really good, or so I thought. This pastor is really good at making you think he is preaching the true word of God. His scripture memorization is amazing. So he can rattle off scripture in any conversation. This type of preaching and the way he carries himself led the church to basically start following him and not Jesus. My parents still didn’t agree with the dress standards, but they went along with pretty much everything else. My mom even started wearing the long denim dresses when we went to church. She still dressed normal outside of church events, though. She basically told me that nobody is going to agree on everything, and that the dress standards are just one small thing that they can agree to disagree on. She just dresses up for church to be respectful of the pastor and other members that believe it. Anyway, for the next several years, I was one of those “Sunday morning only” Christians. So I went to church because I was supposed to, and lived my normal life outside of it. I met my future wife when I was 23, and not long after we started dating I brought her to church with me. She was already a Christian, and her family attended the First Christian Church in Dugger, IN(the next town to the west of us). It is a pretty traditional church, so I figured she would like it. She pretty much saw from the beginning that it was problematic, but by this point, some of the brainwashing had stuck, and I believed a lot of the man made rules to be bible doctrine. Mostly that Baptist churches were the only ones that were right, the KJV only-ism, and that only old time hymns belonged in the church. I was still pretty normal in my personal life. I listed to my old music and all that. I had started to get convicted about my lifestyle, and I quit a lot of the drinking and partying that I did while in college. At this point, I realized that all I could remember about my salvation was the baptism. This troubled me for a while, because I was no “water dog”, HAYMAN! So I decided one night to kneel down next to my bed and settle it once and for all. I accepted Jesus’ as my personal Lord and Savior that night. This wonderful moment in my life sadly saw me continue down the dark path that is the IFB. About a year later, Katie and I got engaged. We started planning our wedding, and I was adamant that we get married at my church by my pastor. By this point Katie already saw a lot of the problems there, and had told me how she felt about it, but I kind of used the same argument my mom did earlier. That we disagreed on some things, but the pastor is good and right and other churches will just lead you astray. So we sat down with the pastor for our “marriage counselling”, and that’s where the problems really started. He asked the normal questions at first, like if we were both saved, if we both believed the bibles definition of marriage, and if our parents had given their blessing. Then the weird started. He wanted Katie to take his wife with her when she went dress shopping so she could make sure that it was modest enough for use in a “godly church”. It would have to have no open back, no chest showing, and it had to have sleeves. He also informed her quite bluntly that if she was not “pure” then she should avoid buying a pure white dress, and instead by an off white one. If she wasn’t pure, and she wore the dress of a pure woman, she would be sinning against God. We then told him that our reception would not be at the church, but we were planning on having it at the Elks Lodge( they have a full service restaurant and do a lot of weddings for people in the area). We were not going to have alcohol served at the wedding, but there is a bar in the building that would be open if anyone wanted to go in there. He informed us that he would not be able to marry us in good conscious knowing that we were going to go to an establishment that served alcohol afterwards. So at this point I begrudgingly agreed to get married at her family’s church by her Minister. It ended up being a nice wedding and reception. Believe it or not, my pastor and his wife attended our wedding. I’m surprised they didn’t melt when they walked through the door of a non-Baptist church.
When we got back from our honeymoon, we argued a lot about who’s church we would go to. I was already starting to serve at Bethel, so I argued that Gods calling was for us to serve there. Katie begrudgingly agreed, as long as I agreed to go visit her church once a month with her. I thought to myself that this would be good, because she would eventually see how right we were and how wrong her family’s church was. So as time went on it kept getting worse and worse, and Katie would come with me less and less. She didn’t always wear dresses to church, and many of the ladies wouldn’t talk to her or shake her hand because she didn’t meet the standard. The next Sunday she would come back wearing a dress, and they would act totally different towards her. I started serving as an usher in the church not long after we were married. I would get there early and open the doors for people, welcome new visitors, take the offering and help count it, and do a head count at each service. I was there all the time, and it was starting to really pull our marriage apart. I just thought that she needed to submit to me because that is what God had for us. I talked with my pastor about this quite a bit and he basically reaffirmed this. He said that I needed to get control of my household, and she needed to submit to me and help me work Gods will in our lives. (This just shows how most IFB people feel about women. They think that God doesn’t have a will for them, but their will is what God has for their husbands). It finally came to a point where Katie told me I needed to either leave this church, or she was going to leave me. We fought all the time about where we would raise our kids, and how we would explain to them why mommy and daddy went to different churches. I went and talked to my pastor again about this, and he basically told me that although I couldn’t divorce her according to scripture, I could still separate from her, and “put her away”. We would just have to live single until she submitted to me, or until death did us part. He even offered me the head usher position in this same conversation to try and convince me to separate from her and stay.
I went home really deflated, and I finally decided to side with my wife, and I agreed to leave bethel and try out some other Baptist churches that weren’t so strict and extreme. We ended up at a wonderful little church out in the country near Jasonville, IN called Providence Baptist Church, pastored by Darren McDonald. Our first service we attended there was on a Wednesday night, and it happened to be business meeting night. So we told the pastor that we would just come back on Sunday, because we were not members and we didn’t want to interfere with their meeting. He told us to please stay, because even though you cant vote, you will get a picture of the love that this church has for each other. So we decided to stay, and I am so glad we did. Everyone in this church dressed normal, and they all got along and didn’t seem to judge each other. It seemed like they all truly loved each other. The stuff that was voted on in the business meeting seemed so trivial to me at the time. Basically the pastor or the deacons don’t do anything at all with the churches money or resources without first making an opportunity for the church to discuss it and vote on it. Im talking about things so simple as spending $250 to repair the sound system. They truly make themselves accountable, and they are a great example of how an “independent” should be ran. So we visited there for a few weeks, and the experience was wonderful every service. No extremism, no yelling and stomping and pounding, no judging. Just love for each other and love for God. This is still a pretty traditional church, though. They still use the KJV, but nobody preaches that it’s the only one. Its just the one our pastor prefers to use. He has even said this from the pulpit, during a sermon where he called out legalism and nit picking in these extreme IFB churches. We still sing from a hymnal, but we have a praise team as well that sings some more modern music. After a few weeks, I was already starting to see how messed up I was in my old church, and I was so glad I had got away and saw the truth. I decided to go tell my old pastor at Bethel what we had decided to do, and officially leave the church because we were going to be joining at Providence. He told me that I was getting out of Gods will for my life. (its amazing how he knows what Gods will is for MY life). He told me that all the people that leave “good IFB churches” and go there end up out of church and backslidden within a year. He also told me that all I would get there was my ears tickled. So at this point I knew I had made the right decision. Unfortunately, my parents don’t see it this way, and they are still in this church. Luckily our relationship isn’t broken, but they don’t really approve of our decision and they usually just don’t bring up church conversations, since I don’t go to a “good” church. I feel terrible for what I put my wife through, and for not listening to her and respecting her advice. We have been out of the IFB and at Providence for almost 7 years now. I am so thankful that she stuck with me through all of that. I have grown so much over the last 7 years, and I owe that all to Gods grace and my wife’s patience and love for me. We have also had three children since then. The first was a miscarriage. We had the name Macy picked out, so we assume she was a beautiful girl, and we know she is in heaven with Jesus waiting for us to come home and be with her. Our second and third are both boys, and they are currently 3 and 2 years old. Life is good. I still sometimes have some old IFB glitches, but I am working through them. This podcast has opened my eyes to a whole world of good churches and good people that are not even Baptist at all. Unfortunately, I have come to the realization that our country Baptist church that is so Christ centered is a rarity. Most Baptist churches have went the way of the IFB. I am so thankful that I came across this podcast and started listening. I feel like I have grown in my Christian faith and in my beliefs so much over the last month listening to all of the stories and discussions about all of the issues that I used to so strongly believe. Thank you guys so much for what you are doing. I hope you can continue to help me and many others. I will be praying for you.