October 24, 2017

The New Testament Baptist Fellowship

Kevin T. Bauder

The New Testament Baptist Fellowship met Tuesday through Thursday of this past week. The name is a new one, and that creates the impression of a new organization, but the impression is not quite correct. Instead, the New Testament Baptist Fellowship is a label for the combined meetings of the New Testament Association of Independent Baptist Churches and the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, International (now also known as the Foundations Baptist Fellowship, International).

What’s the difference between these two fellowships? The parent organization of both groups was the old Conservative Baptist Fellowship, which was the continuation of the old Fundamentalist Fellowship of the Northern Baptist Convention. The CBF represented the fundamentalist “hard core” of the old Conservative Baptist Association—indeed, it was the organization that founded the CBA. When the Conservative Baptist movement rejected fundamentalism in favor of the neoevangelical “soft policy,” the CBF decided to organize a new association. Founded in 1967, it became the New Testament Association of Independent Baptist Churches.

Incidentally, the doctrinal statement that the NTAIBC adopted was drafted by the faculty of San Francisco Baptist Theological Seminary. Only one of these authors is still living: Charles A. Hauser, who now resides in Louisville, Kentucky. Perhaps the association could express some level of appreciation for his, and his colleagues’, contribution.

Back to the story: not everyone got excited about a church fellowship. James Singleton of Tri City Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, was an example. Every church fellowship he’d led his congregation to affiliate with had gone bad. Each one had subverted his leadership within his own church. He had been forced to fight to disconnect his church from every one of these organizations. By the time the NTAIBC was organized, he had adopted a simple principle: never get involved with an organization that a church has to vote into or out of. Singleton was far from alone in this opinion. Many within the Conservative Baptist hard core still preferred an individual fellowship aimed mainly at pastors.

The result was that some of the men (and churches) went with the NTAIBC, while others renamed the CBF and turned it into the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (it was not yet “International”). Not many individuals stayed with both organizations, though it was technically possible.

Consequently, the New Testament Baptist Fellowship meeting represents a kind of second-and-third-generation family reunion. Few of the original founders are left from either organization, but their spiritual offspring still recognize and resemble each other. The conference was like a meeting between long-lost cousins.

In short, it was a joyful event. There was an element of jubilant curiosity in the air, combined with a sense of camaraderie and a certain level of nostalgia. The preaching and workshops were substantial, the music edifying, and the personal interactions delightful. In an age when conferences are built around celebrities, it was a pleasure to attend a meeting where the speakers were just ordinary guys preaching the Word and serving the Lord.

Know what I like best about these conferences? I enjoy talking to the pastors of small churches in little towns that nobody ever heard of. These guys are slugging it out faithfully, week after week, knowing that they’ll never have a congregation of much more than a hundred. They work hard. Some of them have to labor in outside jobs. They pour themselves into the study and proclamation of Scripture, into the lives of their people, and into shepherding the little flocks over which Christ has given them oversight. They can be sure that they’ll receive little or no earthly recognition for their work. Nevertheless, they spend themselves unstintingly, seeing their work as a privilege and not a burden. They do it only for the praise of Heaven (and you can take that both as a subjective and objective genitive).

These meetings are also a great opportunity to meet the chaplains. Theirs is one of the least-known ministries: unlike missionaries, chaplains don’t go around to churches to raise their support. Nevertheless, they perform a critical task, meeting soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines at important spiritual crossroads and turning them toward truth and grace. In a civilization that fairly crackles with political correctness, they can easily become lightning rods. The Flying Wallendas had no better sense of balance than these guys. Both the NTAIBC and the FBFI are chaplaincy endorsing agencies recognized by the Department of Defense. They are organizations that absorb the cultural shocks so their chaplains can continue to do biblical ministry.

Daytime sessions at the conference were held on the campus of Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown, Wisconsin. The evening sessions occupied the spacious auditorium of Calvary Baptist Church. Special thanks ought to go to President Marty Marriott, his staff, and his faculty at the university, and to Pastor Bob Loggans together with his church staff—especially Dean Kurtz, who led much of the music.

One very large piece of news was the retirement of John Vaughn from the leadership of the FBFI. He has occupied this key position for about two decades, and has brought to FBFI into a more mature and balanced stance. His initiative in recruiting and endorsing chaplains has been particularly significant.

Gary Thompson is both president and national representative of the NTAIBC. He was very visible during the meeting, as was former president Marlon Mielke, who held that office for many years. These are men who have sought to make the New Testament Association a genuine help and blessing to Baptist churches.

It is worth noting that considerable diversity was on display at the New Testament Baptist Fellowship. Of course the two groups differ in their organizational principles. Besides that, attendees and speakers did not all have the same ideas about how speakers ought to dress, what Bible versions they ought to use, what a good sermon should sound like, or how many points of Calvinism they would deny (if any). Whatever their differences, they were united by more than just their commitment to the gospel. They also shared a common vision of the New Testament local church and a common desire to be separated to the gospel and from those who endanger or degrade it.

So will these groups merge in the future? I have to say that it seems doubtful, for the simple reason that they are different kinds of organizations. From the beginning the FBFI has been a fellowship of individuals, while the NTAIBC has been an association of churches. Those are not necessarily contradictory principles, they are supplementary. On my view, both organizations should continue just as they are, each in its own way helping churches and pastors to do God’s work. But they should also do combined meetings like this on a regular basis—every year would not be too often.

By the way, the FBFI meets at Tri-City Baptist in Chandler, Arizona next summer. This is a different building, but the same church that Jim Singleton once pastored. Its present pastor is Mike Sproul. I know by experience that the church not only has a good ministry, but also a wonderful air conditioner. I’m putting the event on my calendar now.

clip_image001[1]

This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.

clip_image001[1]

Awake, Our Drowsy Souls
Elizabeth Scott (1708–1776)

Awake, our drowsy souls,
Shake off each slothful band,
The wonders of this day
Our noblest songs demand.
Auspicious morn! thy blissful rays,
Bright Seraphs hail in songs of praise.

At thy approaching dawn,
Reluctant death resigned
The glorious Prince of Life,
In dark domains confined:
The angelic host around him bends,
And ’midst their shouts, the God ascends.

All hail, triumphant Lord,
Heaven with hosannas rings;
While earth, in humbler strains,
Thy praise responsive sings:
Worthy art thou, who once wast slain,
Through endless years to live and reign.

Gird on, great God, thy sword,
Ascend thy conquering car,
While justice, truth, and love
Maintain the glorious war:
Victorious thou thy foes shalt tread,
And sin and hell in triumph lead.

Make bare thy potent arm,
And wing the unerring dart,
With salutary pangs,
To each rebellious heart:
Then dying souls for life shall sue,
Numerous as drops of morning dew.

Comments

  1. Mary Singleton says:

    Appreciate your remarks about my husband (Dr. Singleton). He left the Methodist Church, Southern Baptists, and was in a Conservative Baptist Church when he decided to go independent. The criticism he received never changed his mind and he enjoyed working with these various organizations over the years.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mrs. Singleton. Your husband was a great blessing to our Fellowship and a blessing to me personally on those occasions I was able to hear him preach.

      Don Johnson
      Editor, Proclaim & Defend
      Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Victoria


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.