You guys have probably seen me blowing y’all up online (sorry for that), but I figured I’d still share my story in a more complete fashion. First off, I want to sincerely thank you guys for making your podcast. I cannot express how meaningful it has been to me, even though I have been separated from the IFB for near a decade. There is just something to knowing others share that road with me, understand the hurt and struggle faced in it, and have come out the other side. I was sold on your podcast the moment you guys started talking about culottes. I thought to myself, “Yep! These guys get it!” I’ve been listening rabidly ever since!
I was not born into the IFB. I actually come from a family with a ton of preachers in it. I have traced my family back to the 1700’s, with my great-x6-grandfather planting Pilgrim Church in Pennsylvania. Carrying on that tradition down the generations, my grandfather was an ordained minister in the Southern Baptist Convention, planting several churches in the Cleveland-area of Ohio, all of which are still alive and well today. While my father was not a pastor, he was a teacher and preacher to the core. That being said, he was concerned with much of the flowering liberalism (his words) creeping into the SBC in the ’80’s and so he left it when I was just around two years old. We joined our first IFB church when I was very young, and throughout the years we would continue to bounce from church to church every 6-7 years until I was a young adult myself.
The problem was always that my family didn’t fit. My dad was still an old Southern Baptist at heart; he didn’t agree with the pastor being untouchable and unaccountable, my mother wore pants at home, my dad wore shorts in the summer, et cetera. That being said, we still felt the full-brunt of the IFB when I was old enough to be in the youth group. Summer camps still consisted of non-mixed swimming, long pants in 90 degree heat with humidity, girls in culottes, preaching against Catholics and liberal sissy Christians. Girls were expected and were groomed to be housewives, men were expected to be over-confident cavemen, and so on. You know the story.
I grew up and attended summer camps and youth conferences under the preaching of people like Jack Schapp, Oliver Araiza, Reno Likins, and others of the H/A persuasion. I believe I even heard Hamblin preach at one of those Conferences, but I may be wrong. While I can talk all day of the hurts, there is at least one good thing to come out of those Youth Camps, which was my salvation. I was sixteen at the time, at Indian Creek Baptist Camp, and the invitation went on forever, and I finally broke and went forward and received salvation. That was the best thing to come out of the years of beatings I took in the IFB church.
When I was twenty, my family made the decision to buy a house and move to southern Illinois. I was actually already moved out at the time, was engaged, and all my friends lived here in Ohio, so I stayed put. My brother and three sisters, my father and mother, all moved 11 hours away. I say that because with them leaving church became my only community and interaction outside of work.
I was heavily involved in my church. I was a charter member of a church in Stow, Ohio, was helping to plant a church in Kent, and was preaching regularly in a church in Mantua, Ohio. I was at church (at least), on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Saturday mornings. I preached every opportunity afforded me; popcorn preaching, open speaker nights, pulpit supply, whatever. I taught a Sunday school class, and was in the choir. I gave gospel lessons to kids during neighborhood carnival events, and during VBS, and preached during tent revivals. I was all in. I didn’t know it, however, but I was on my way out.
In listening to your podcast, a lot of my being dismissed and cut-off has started to make sense, but in the moment it seemed sudden and painful; and I was completely blind-sided. Looking back and with context from your show, however, it was obvious. See, I must have inherited an inquiring mind from my father, because I asked questions. Why couldn’t women go to college? Why do women have to wear skirts only? If people are getting saved, what makes other churches liberal?
I had told my fiancé when we got married, I didn’t care if she wanted to work, it was fine with me. She could even wear pants if she wanted to! My mom did. I preached a sermon on 1 John 3:16 about loving your brethren and Christian compassion (gasp!)! I remember an entire sermon preached against Star Wars and Lord of the Rings (my favorite movies and books), and I remember commenting that it was fine if the pastor didn’t like them, but I disagreed (gasp!). I was cutting my own throat, but didn’t know it.
It came down all at once though, when I had a conversation behind closed doors with my pastor. He had always said that if he preached something and people had questions or disagreements, to see him after because he wanted to be correct or to explain his stance. I took him up on that offer, marking several examples of women working in the Bible (like, I don’t know, Proverbs 31), and seeing him after in his office. I sat across from him and just asked him to show me wear it was forbidden. He flipped through my references, glancing at them, then closed the Bible, slid it across the desk, and said, “I think it’d be good if you left.”
That was it. That night I got a text from the girl breaking our engagement, and a phonecall from her father telling me to not see her anymore. He was the song leader and choir director in the church.
No one from any of the congregations I had worked in came by to see me. I didn’t receive anymore phonecalls, nothing. I was alone. 11 hours away from family, cut-off.
I admit it, I spiraled. I was angry, hurt, young, and stupid. I never became an addict, but I formed some bad habits. Drinking, smoking, rebelling. But, in a moment of Providence, at a party I admit I never should have been at, I met a girl that, I didn’t know it at the time, would lead me back to faith. My wife, Katie.
I won’t go into all of it, but after our marriage, she said she wanted us to be in church and wanted us to have a Christian marriage. After a year of stubborn refusal, I caved. I made a list of local churches and started visiting. At every one, I could make excuses why we shouldn’t go there, and on the very last Sunday of visiting, I stepped into a local Nazarene church.
That was it. I was ministered to in a way I had never been. The people were warm, genuine. No games. The message preached was gracious, loving. They didn’t even talk about any other denominations! They just preached about a loving God, a compassionate Jesus! It was so different, and God ministered to me there like never before. Over the course of a year, my walls were broken down, and eventually I began to pursue God’s calling on me again and am now a Licensed Minister in the Church of the Nazarene. I have been able to use much of my experience and history to broaden my view and approach spiritual things in a more gracious manner, and it has actually helped my preaching.
In addition to pursuing my ordination in the CoTN, I also host a podcast, Bible Chat, and am using it to start a series on different ‘Christian’ cults, and will be doing an episode or two on the IFB.
Again, thank you for all that you are doing on this podcast. It needs to be brought to light. The level of spiritual abuse and damage at the hands of these pastors and preachers in the IFB is innumerable. I can honestly say that I only know two people from my youth group that have remained faithful to God after the hurt experienced in these churches, the rest have all wandered.
That said, the shadows of the IFB still creep in occasionally. Since publishing my podcast, starting a year ago, I have received several messages online from people I have not heard from in years. I have been berated for switching translations (I now use the NASB), joining a liberal denomination, being a heretic, et cetera. I have been called antichrist, of the church of Laodicea, of the devil. I have been accused of preaching a false gospel, being unsaved, and preaching perversion.
My question for all of this, is wear is the restoration? If they are so concerned, rather than blowing me up and accusing me of all this, where is the offer of restoration? Where is the love? I see the rebuke, but where is the spirit of grace?
Anyway, keep up the good work, guys! And that you. I may never meet you guys, but I love you and the work you are doing, and you’ll never know how much it means to me, really.