I recently left the IFB. Although I can say that my experience is nowhere near as bad as that of others, eventually I got to a point where my convictions would not allow me to stay in the movement any longer.
Starting from the beginning. I was born in Ft Worth, Texas, and was raised in a large Southern Baptist Church. At the age of 12, I made a profession after being taught the sinners prayer and reciting it. I spent my teenage years living pretty rough and we stopped going to church altogether due to martial problems my family was having.
Flash forward to my mid-twenties, I am studying philosophy at the University of North Texas in my senior year. I had spent the better part of the last few years digesting secular humanism, and this caused me to reach out online to find apologists. People like Ravi Zacharias, Lennox, Turek, and Craig all aided me in thinking through the untruths I experienced as a student. This leads to me searching for sermons online.
I encountered a number of different pastors popular at the time, as well as some not so popular. A sermon I heard by Paul Washer, was the sermon that ultimately leads me to genuine conversion at 26. After that, I dove head deep into internet theology. Being conspiracy-minded, I found popular doctrines online like “KJV onlyism, the evil 501c3 church, and others compelling and quickly adopted them.
After a year or so not attending church, I was convicted that I needed to go, despite my feelings on the corporate church. After a quick KJV-only google search I found a little IFB church right down the road. I began attending with my recently converted fiance and we found the legalism we learned online enthralling. I started noticing some things that didn’t sound right to me at the time, which I later found out was “Baptist Brider” theology.
Around that time I was offered a position in the State Capitol of Texas, so I moved my then-wife and son to Austin to accept the position. We found a new IFB church that felt like home, not a woman n pants for miles! Perfect! We spent a solid 3 years there and I built a great relationship with the pastor who is a wonderful man, but he retired in 2016. He was replaced with another for the West Coast, also a good man.
I felt a call to a pastor I answered in 2017 and my current pastor convinced me to get a degree from West Coast Baptist College. I began a master’s there which I finished in 2019. During this time is when I really started noticing problems in the culture. I had a number of different people at the capitol that I would strike up religious conversations with, and I found out that there were genuine Christians outside of the IFB, even “liberal churches”! Through my study despite being taught KJV onlyism, I came to reject it, but I dare not speak up at church even though I was leading the young adult ministry at the time. It grew from about 3 people to 25 in the matter of a year.
I had a dear reformed Baptist friend of mine come to me and offer me a book, “Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan. Although he was clearly a compromiser, I thought what the heck sure. The book changed the way I looked at church completely and there was a strong focus on The traditions becoming commandments. I started seeing it everywhere in the IFB church. My world began to fall apart, I believed in a plurality of elders instead of pastor lead, I believed we had freedom of dress and music. I began listing to Shane and Shane, they completely changed the way I felt about “CCM” music. My children (4 boys at this point) were singing at the top of their lungs to God. It was amazing. During this time I also attended a church planting intensive with We Are Church and Chan’s Elders in Dallas.
This was the experience that changed me forever. Nothing Crazy happened, except corporate prayer in a way I had never seen before, it was awesome, genuine relationships and love being the focus. Over the next year, I plugged in with their organization and continued to grow in faith. My pastor had at this time agreed to send me out of the church as a plant, but I realized I would not be planting an IFB church and I needed to have the talk with him.
I went in with the intention of leaving the church and I told him so. I explained my conviction changes and that I would not want to be a plant that “flipped” and would rather be honest upfront and leave the church to find a church I agreed with. He was surprisingly understanding and begged me to stay. He promised me that he would work with me and that I could plant whatever church I wanted. Amazing I thought, I agreed. At the time I didn’t realize that likely b/c of covid and the amount of loss the church had sustained, I believe he just could not lose another family and this likely was why he asked me to stay.
A Few months later for a variety of reasons I felt like the Lord was leading me up to Fort Worth again to plant as a bi-vocational pastor. Pastor and I had set an ordination date, I told friends and family and I was excited. A few weeks before I was to leave I noticed he was being really weird and had not yet announced my ordination and was being aloof with me. I approached and pressed him and he said he would get a committee together. The weekend of the committee my wife and I had our 5 children, a girl! Finally! I called to talk to him about rescheduling and he said not to worry about it. The week of there had still been no announcement other than I was leaving. Pastor approached me after a Wednesday night service and told me he needed to call me tomorrow. I knew this wasn’t good, as he usually chose phone calls to give bad news, as he is pretty anti-confrontational.
The next day, 4 days from the planned ordination, he told me that he was studying the Bible and he found a new understanding of ordination. That he had also talked to 5 other IFB brothers and that they agreed he should just say bye to use, and then let the people I started a church with ordaining me. I had never heard of this in IFB circles and argued with him for about an hour over doctrine. It finally dawned on me what had happened, the toxic culture caused him to get cold feet. This is precisely the reason I met with him months back because I knew he would hear it from peers for a “liberal church plant”.
There were many, many other concerning things I witnessed over the course of my time there, countless people swept under the rug. Ultimate I don’t believe he is a bad man, sincere in fact, but just a product of a toxic culture that rules with an iron rod. The culture was the problem, and I no longer can be part of it. I am happy to say I am currently still working toward a house church plant, that will be loosely based on the principles of the “We Are Church” movement. I feel free and am truly excited about my future ministry. There still is a lot I am working through right now, and y’all podcasts, that I discovered in the last few weeks, have been really helpful. As I said, there is more to the story that I simply don’t have to share, but thank you for what y’all do, and please be in prayer for me and my plant next year!