Let me apologize up front for this being long but my journey was long. I will try to get it down to the “readers digest” version as best I can.
First off, let me say, I cannot look back on my life in the IFB and completely regret it because I accepted Christ while in that movement and found my wife while in that movement, so the two best things that ever happened to me came while I was in the IFB. Secondly, so everyone knows, I was not a pastor or church leader, for the most part, in the IFB but was emerged in it basically from birth. I grew up in a VERY old fashioned, very small, hell fire and brimstone preaching church where the only real vote on any issue in the church was one vote to be cast by the master, I mean pastor of the church. The men I sat under were extremely controlling men and looking back very hateful men. As a young person I really didn’t think anything of it. It was just “normal” to me. As anyone who has been a part of this very old fashioned IFB culture I was taught the following:
- If a man’s hair touches his ear he is in sin
- If a woman puts on a pair of pants at any time she is in sin
- If a man or woman puts on a pair of shorts they are in sin
- If a woman has hair that isn’t long enough, she is in sin
- If I listened to any music other than “sacred” hymns I was in sin. Not even quartet music was Godly enough.
- If I, or anyone in the church asked any question of “the man of God” we were in sin
- If anyone was having mental issues and could use the help of a good psychiatrist they were just in need of more Bible study
- If anyone mentioned the Holy Spirit outside of referring to the Trinity, they were charismatic
- If I were to single date I was in sin.
- If anyone read any Bible translation other than the KJV, they were not reading the Bible but a perversion straight out of the “pit of hell”
- Going to a movie was sin. The only movies I was allowed to watch as a child were two poorly produced award winners called “The burning hell” and “If footman tire you what will horses do?” Demanding that a child watch either of these movies is in my opinion child abuse.
An event happened in my church when I was probably around 10 years old that haunts me to this day. A female visitor came to church one Sunday morning and sat down on the back left side of the church. I had not noticed her but apparently the pastor did. I don’t remember if it happened before the 3 usual hymns or after but the pastor stood up behind the pulpit and announced that this church does not believe in women wearing pants and instructed a deacon to escort the woman out of the church. I have wondered many times throughout my life if this lady walked out of that church, totally humiliated and never received Christ as her savior and whether she could be in hell today because of that one heartless incident.
The list could go on and on but I will spare the reader more. In the 5th grade my mother, who by the way was a very Godly woman and who led me to the Lord, enrolled me in a “Christian School”. Little did she or I know that basically what she had enrolled me in was a cult. Free labor for the authoritarian leader to build his empire. No one was to question him, only follow like obedient sheep. And we did, otherwise swift and painful punishment would follow. I didn’t learn a lot about math and science but I did become a professional folding chair mule that helped set up for countless events where like-minded preachers would come in and preach for what seemed like hours on the evils of long hair on men, pants on women and rock and roll music. Even as a young person I wondered is that the only thing they know how to preach on?
The overriding emotion during this time of my life was fear. God was presented as this mean powerful God just looking to sling out judgement right and left for even the slightest of missteps. The God that was presented to me was not a God that someone would want to get to know but hopefully just stay out of his way as he tosses out judgement on all the little rebellious teenagers. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in chapel and let my voice fall into place as we all chanted “God hates rebellion, God hates rebellion”
- Played basketball in pants
- Girls in culottes
- Swam in pants and of course only with other guys because we were all “bathing” you know, not swimming
- Hair not touching the ears and 2 fingers above the eyebrows
- Girls in long skirts and blouses buttoned to the throat otherwise demerits or paddling
- In chapel or Bible class or any other time boys and girls would be in the same room with basically row seating, no boy or girl could be on the same row. Everyone knows if boys and girls sat on the same row in chapel there would be sex in the pews.
- In the mornings before school started boys and girls could not speak to each other. I was told I could not even speak to my sister. We had just rode in the same car for 45 minutes but once we got to the school grounds if we spoke there would be demerits.
I remember being told to go to the airport and pick up Lester Roloff. I remember driving that car back to the school with him in the car thinking I had just picked up Christ himself. Afraid to even say hello I simply drove, eyes forward. He didn’t speak to me either but somehow once he got to the school and in front of a lot of people he turned into the most talkative person you could imagine. Of course the main things he talked about was his homes for wayward children and how we should all be drinking carrot juice as our main dietary intake. I will leave that story there.
We were basically told to idolize men like:
- Jack Hyles
- Lester Roloff
- Tim Lee
- Attorney David Gibbs
- John R. Rice
- Curtis Hudson
- Bill Rice, III
- Paul Levin
If we could somehow get these men to sign our Bibles it was almost like having Christ himself sign it. I cannot speak to the hearts of these men. I just know that the God they presented to me was not a God I wanted to get to know but a God I wanted to hide from.
Fast forward to today:
After years of straying away from God and Church because of the bad taste put in my mouth by the IFB my wife and I are beyond blessed to be a part of an incredible church in Birmingham, Al. Through my pastor and his staff I have finally learned what a relationship with Christ is all about and how to do that walk. My pastor and his staff are incredible people who love the Lord and show us how to walk out our Christian life. The theme of our church is:
- Know God
- Find Freedom
- Discover Purpose
- Make a Difference
I could go on forever about how my pastor has taught me so much and without really knowing me or my background has freed me from my past and shown me the true Jesus Christ and his love for me and how he wants to be in a deep rewarding fellowship with me not hover over me looking for any opportunity to punish me.
My leaving the IFB physically was years ago. Leaving it mentally took much longer but Praise be to God that he has me exactly where I need to be and loving him more every day!
Thank you guys for your podcast. It is like a breath of fresh air for those of us who were raised in the stagnant air of the old fashioned IFB.