The name Independent Fundamental Baptist Church is used traditionally by churches which pattern themselves strictly after the example of the early church, as found in the New Testament. Today the name Baptist is used by many churches that are not following the teachings of the New Testament. Thus the words “Independent” and “Fundamental” have been added by many Baptist churches to further identify themselves as true Bible believing churches and to show a distinction between themselves and Baptist churches that were not following God’s word. Most Baptist churches were in the past founded on the sound doctrinal teachings of the New Testament; however, many of them have in varying degrees have drifted away from the teachings of the Scriptures. Some of these churches have gone so far to even deny the fundamental teachings of the Bible, such as the deity of Christ, the virgin birth and salvation by the Grace of God, through faith. Others have to a lesser degree compromised the Word of God by their teaching, practices, and church polity by trying to conform to popular religious trends. These worldly churches still call themselves “Baptists,” but in fact they do not believe or practice what true Baptists have historically believed and more importantly, what the Word of God says. The true Independent Fundamental Baptists have no association or fellowship with these churches because they teach or practice things contrary to the New Testament.
The name Independent Fundamental Baptist is of recent origin and came into being because many modern day Baptist churches have compromised the Word of God and are teaching and practicing false doctrines. There are, however, many Baptists who have loved the Word of God and held true to its teachings. These churches have refused to abandon the teaching of the New Testament and have found it necessary, to distinguish themselves from the doctrinally unsound churches. To make this distinction, true Baptists added the adjectives Independent and Fundamental their name. This name change identified them as separate and distinct from unsound groups.
The word “Independent” means the church is not a member of any council, convention nor is a part of any hierarchy outside the local congregation. A true Independent Baptist church governs itself apart from any outside agency and would not be a part of a national or international denomination that would exercise authority over the local church. Thus, the name “independent” means the church patterns itself after the New Testament example and stands alone under the authority of the scriptures. Independent churches are autonomous assemblies having no organization over them in authority. Free from outside interference, they direct their own affairs under the authority of the New Testament Scriptures.
The organization of a New Testament church is simple. Christ is the head of the local church, (Eph. 5:23) and its Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). The local pastor is the under-shepherd (bishop), overseer, or leader of the congregation. (Heb. 13:17, Acts 20:28, Eph. 4:11) The Independent Baptist church has a congregational form of government, with each member equally having the right to vote on all the affairs of the church. The pastor and members of the New Testament church direct and rule its actions following the guidelines of the New Testament.
Independent Fundamental Baptist churches have fellowship one with the other and often cooperate in such endeavors as evangelism. They will not participate, as a church, in any outside function with churches which do not also strictly base their faith and practice on the New Testament. They will not engage in joint meetings, or evangelistic endeavors, with Protestants, Catholics, or other doctrinally unsound church groups, who do not hold to the fundamental teachings of the New Testament. Fundamental Independent Baptists churches will remain separate from unsound churches, as well as other Baptists groups who join in with the unscriptural churches. They practice the biblical teachings of separation as taught in Ephesians 5:11, which states, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Independent Baptists believe that to join with churches that teach and practice false doctrine is to tolerate and approve of errors. True, New Testament churches strongly believe that all doctrinal error is sin as the New Testament teaches.
The church government of many Independent Baptist churches is to have pastors and deacons as officers of the local church. (1 Tim. 3:1-16) However, some Independent Baptist churches do not accept the word “officer” as the proper biblical term to be applied to deacons.
The pastor of the church is called by majority vote of the congregation. Men meeting the biblical qualification of deacons (servants) are appointed from the local congregation and approved by the majority vote (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Many Baptist churches have trustees, but their position was established in order to have legal “signatories” to sign legal documents of the church. Biblically, neither deacons nor trustees are a governing body, or a “board,” but titles of special appointed servants who serve at the will of the pastor and congregation. In a biblical church the pastor(s) is the “overseer” or leader of the congregation. (See Acts 20:28, Hebrews 13:7)
The word “Fundamental” means the Baptist church uses the New Testament strictly as its authority for faith (doctrine) and practice. In recent years the news media has called doctrinally unsound churches, such as the Charismatics and Pentecostals, “fundamentalists.” Even some TV evangelists have referred to themselves as being “fundamentalist.” But they should not be confused with Fundamental Baptists. They are worlds apart. Many of the TV evangelists and all the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches promote teachings which are not biblical. Fundamental Baptists use the name in its strictest sense, as meaning to hold soundly the fundamentals of the New Testament teachings without error. True Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches uphold the purest teachings of the early church as revealed in the New Testament.