Hello, guys. I recently found your podcast and have enjoyed it, keep up the good work of exposing the dangers of fundamentalist legalism!
I wish I had the courage to share this publicly, but I still struggle with the fear of man and the tendency toward people-pleasing!
I grew up in a small IFB church in Kentucky. Both of my grandfathers were IFB preachers and most of my family are in the IFB. I was saved at the age of 15 in “an old time camp meeting”. I heard a lot of standards based preaching, a lot of wild topical preaching, a lot of end-times prophecy preaching, and a decent amount of expository preaching. (But always with a heavy IFB interpretation or bias.)
I was “called to preach” in 2006 and in 2008 I started attending the Crown College of the Bible in Powell, TN, because I thought God wanted me in the ministry. I later came to realize that my motives were more about making people back home happy. I saw a side of legalism there that made me uneasy about fundamentalism, and I began to question the Biblical fidelity of many of my beliefs. I started studying what the Bible actually said on various issues like standards, Bible versions, and what sin is, and I saw that a lot of my beliefs simply didn’t add up. I wound up becoming very disillusioned with the image of Christianity that I was being presented. I dropped out of college, became very depressed, and briefly considered leaving Christianity behind. The reason for this being that I had no idea there were other true Christians and faithful churches that were not in the IFB movement.
My turning point was when a friend invited me to a Baptist Church that was independent but not legalistic or IFB. I hesitantly accepted the invite and when I walked through the door I realized that was where God wanted me to be. God was sovereignly moving me in a rather different and difficult path to where I am today- and I had no real grasp of the concept of His absolute sovereignty over our lives.
Fast forward another year or two, and I had been laid off from my job in Tennessee, had to move back home, and saw God doing things in my life. I attended yet another IFB church/college that was even more legalistic, while trying to finish my degree. There I met the girl that would later become my wife. We were married in 2015. All this time I was still in fundamentalist churches, because that’s all I knew except for the brief time I spent in that non-fundamentalist Baptist Church. I tried and tried to fit in, to squash my non-fundie beliefs, because I thought the problem was with me! My theology was steadily growing more Reformed as I read the Bible and other books. I knew I didn’t fit in but I didn’t know I could leave and still be right with God, and didn’t know where to go.
My wife and I were growing as we tried to follow the Lord, we knew we wanted better for our family, and we wanted more out of church than topical preaching, legalism, and a lack of real community. I started looking for churches that had doctrinal statements that were conservative and even somewhat reformed-leaning. We visited several and finally found one that seemed to be close to what we wanted. The final decision to leave fundamentalism was difficult. It was scary to leave all we had ever known. I knew we would face a lot of opposition from friends and family who were and are fundamentalists. When we finally left, the amount of fear-mongering, condemnation, guilt-trips, gossip, and judgemental behavior gave me even more of a bad taste in my mouth for the IFB. It truly is like trying to leave a cult. Our new church was a small conservative Bible Church, and they welcomed us with open arms. They showed us what it meant to love Jesus and each other.
My wife and I went through a very dark time in 2018 when we lost our oldest daughter. She had an accident that put her in the hospital, from which she did not recover. In the middle of my pain I was told that the blame was on me for leaving the IFB (you know, the only true church, with the only true Bible…) And that God was judging me for leaving. And so, the fundamentalists once again showed their potential to exhibit fear-based preaching and condemnation and blatant Pharisaical legalism, and downright unGodly and unBiblical behavior.
Who showed us the love of God in this time? Our Bible Church family. God was working in our hearts to show us the joy and peace that only he can bring in the midst of sorrow. They helped us, and myself specifically with depression.
Several months after our daughter’s funeral, I told my wife that God was leading us to move to Indiana to help her aging mother, and once again it was God moving us along. He led us to Indiana, to another solid Bible Church where he showed us again what it meant to be the Body of Christ. A place where legalism is not present, where the Gospel is preached, and the Bible is faithfully exposited, and we fellowship around the Word.
I’ve dealt with periods of deep depression since 2018, doubts about my decisions, and wondering if my conversion was even real because of the fear that was instilled in me because of IFB teachings. It took a long time to deprogram, and I’m still going through that. God used the eldership in our new church to help challenge me in my walk with God and used the love of the church and the preaching of the Word to start stripping me of my pride, my reliance on my own works, and my addiction to pornography that I had struggled with for almost a decade. The teachings of the IFB never allowed me the freedom from these things- never the vulnerability to tell anyone of my struggles. But God is merciful and gracious and he has given me more than I ever deserve. He has led me to true freedom from addiction, and to a greater love for Him and His grace. My wife and I grew more in our spiritual life in a little over two years after we left the IFB than we had in our entire lives of attending IFB churches.
There’s so much more to this story, but I’ve gone long enough, so in closing, I want to tell you all to please keep up the ministry you are doing. You are doing the Lord’s work.
P.s. the Dr. Phil Kidd interview was amazing. To see his insight on the state of the IFB movement and the gracious way he treated you with was truly eye-opening!
Soli Deo Gloria!