November 22, 2017

Are You a Member of the FBF?

John Vaughn

FrontLine — May/June 1999

Editor’s note: This article comes from eighteen years ago. It has one or two points that are a bit dated, you might spot them as you read. But today we begin our Annual Fellowship meeting at Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown Wisconsin.

It seems most appropriate to recall this article with its emphasis and description on what it means to be a part of the FBFI. The article uses our legal name, but as you may be aware we decided to change our operating name earlier this year. We are now branding ourselves as the Foundations Baptist Fellowship.

Regardless of the brand name, when we describe ourselves, we mean exactly the same things as we mean by our legal name as Dr. Vaughn wrote in this piece. This isn’t a blast from the past. This is what we are, what we have been, and by God’s grace what we will be for the days to come.

This is a question often asked among fundamental Baptists. Many men will quickly answer “yes”; some will say, “No.” A few will answer in a tone that communicates more than a simple “yes” or “no.” Others argue that no one is really a “member” of the FBF, but is rather an “affiliate.” Yet terms like “FBF men,” “FBF churches,” and “members of the FBF” are used regularly, and here at Frontline we hear from churches inquiring about our “denomination” or wondering how their church can join. But churches do not join the FBF; it is a fellowship of individuals. Although most of those identified with the FBF are pastors or missionaries, it is not required to be in the ministry to be a part of this fellowship.

The position of the FBF has not changed since it began in 1920. We are often accused of being archaic, and we plead guilty; our position is as old as New Testament Christianity. Identifying with the FBF means identifying with this position articulated in our doctrinal statement and manifestos on separation and evangelism. The attempt to avoid the term “membership” has probably been more a matter of semantics than fact. Membership fees have not been collected since the 1970s when the leadership of the FBF sought to avoid any appearance of a trend toward denomination or hierarchy.

Producing an annual directory and maintaining accurate records—a valuable tool for pastors, missionaries, and church members relocating—is costly. There has to be a charge for the directory, just as there is for Frontline. The increasing number of services provided by the FBF will necessitate a return to some sort of nominal membership fee in the near future, but it is far more important now for us to understand what membership in the FBF actually means, and therefore what the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship actually is.

It is first and foremost fundamental. Fundamentalists will often disagree on the exact number of fundamentals and some Baptists assume that their distinctives are fundamental to Christianity, but we mean by “fundamental” what Fundamentalists have historically meant— belief in and faithfulness to the fundamentals of the Christian faith. We are not, however, merely a “Fundamentalist Fellowship.” That was the original name of the Baptists who met to encourage each other in the days of the American Baptist denomination’s departure from orthodoxy nearly 80 years ago, and it was understood that they were Baptists.

As that denomination continued its doctrinal deterioration, separation was the only alternative, and groups such as the General Association of Regular Baptists, and later the Conservative Baptists, began to pull out. In the 1960s the name “Fundamental Baptist Fellowship” was chosen to identify those separatists who were the remnant of those who had first sounded the alarm in 1920. The goal was to maintain a pure fellowship of true Fundamentalists practicing and proclaiming Biblical Christianity, while continuing to stand against compromise and corruption.

Furthermore, the FBF is Baptist. We hold not only to the fundamentals of the Faith, but to the historically held Baptist distinctives such as Biblical authority, the autonomy of the local church, the priesthood of the believer, the two ordinances—baptism and the Lord’s supper—individual soul liberty, a saved and baptized church membership, the two offices of pastor (synonymous with elder and bishop) and deacon, and separation of church and state.

Again, the FBF is a Fellowship—not a denomination. The doctrinal statement of the FBF affirms, “We hold that the local church has the absolute right of self government, free from the interference of, and hierarchy of, individuals or organizations; and that the one and only superintendent is Christ through the Holy Spirit; that it is Scriptural for true churches to cooperate with each other in contending for the faith and for the furtherance of the gospel; that every church is the sole and only judge of the measure and method of its cooperation; on all matters of membership, of policy, of government, of discipline, of benevolence, the will of the local church is final.” Dynamic personalities will always have influence, but no personality has power in the FBF.

We exist to honor the Lord and His Word and to encourage other likeminded fundamental Baptists. We are grieved at unnecessary fragmentation among fundamental Baptists, recognizing that Satan has a vested interest in keeping us distracted with transient controversies. But even separatists learn and grow and ought to love each other. Information appears elsewhere in this issue about how to obtain the upcoming directory of the FBF. It contains information on how you can identify with the FBF and be listed with us in next year’s directory. If you are a Fundamentalist and a Baptist, we would love to hear from you.

John Vaughn is the President of the Foundations Baptist Fellowship International.

(Originally published in FrontLine • May/June 1999. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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.