The Bible says in the book of Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk therein.” Now some of you read the title and read this verse and have already labeled me as hermeneutically dishonest. But can we agree that in Jeremiah 6 we find Jeremiah encouraged and challenged to follow the right way that is to follow the well-established and time tested old-paths? Can we agree that in the Christian life there is a right path and a wrong path? After all the Scripture says,
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” – Psalm 119:105
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life.” Psalms 16:11
“Make me to go in the paths of thy commandments, for therein do I delight.” – Psalms 119:35
We are all walking down a path in our lives and in our ministries. We must all give account of our decisions and how as pastors we have lead the ministries to which we have been entrusted. The Scripture says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.” In these areas of discussion and controversy someone is right and someone is wrong. There is not two sides to truth. There may be perspective and there may be interpretation but ultimately truth is truth.
There has been a lot of discussion in fundamentalism over many decades about the “Old-paths.” Some have embraced what they believe are the old-paths with passion and vigor while others have run from it not wanting to be associated with these old-paths. Many of these decisions have been made from watching moral collapse, experiencing mistreatment or simply misunderstanding or disagreeing with a position. I have had discussions with many over the last year about the old-paths and I believe from my conversation that there are varying definitions of what the old-paths really are. I will attempt to define what I believe is and isn’t Scriptural old-paths.
I am thankful for anyone who shares the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ. I may disagree with your methods of discipleship, with your administration of the church or your interpretation of Biblical principles but if you are reaching people for Christ, YOU are NOT my enemy.
With that being said, when a church, a pastor and a Christian are following paths that are unscriptural we must be willing, in love and with care, to tell the truth, to state the case and share with an individual who has gone astray a pathway to restoration.
My question for you is simple…What are the old-paths? Are the old-paths relevant to millennials? Are the old-paths rooted in 20th century Christianity?
As I think about the old-paths and as I have observed my brethren and even self-examined my ministry I believe the old-paths have been defined by three distinct characteristics:
- A Style – The old-paths is defined as a style of preaching, a method of evangelism or a focus of ministry. There is a unique look to the old-paths preachers, old-paths churches and to old-paths conferences.
- A Principle – The old-paths are defined by doctrine that is taught and how Biblical principles are applied to the people of God.
- A Movement – The old-paths as a movement is simply the circle of men and ministries that ascribe themselves to similar methods and practices that are consistent with the principles and styles of the old-paths movement.
I believe the old-paths are simply the implementation of Biblical principles in our modern day. I am reminded however that style is not as important as substance and truth should not be compromised for political correctness or cultural relevance. After all, Paul told Timothy to be “instant in season and out of season.” What is right and wrong does NOT change with culture and with societal changes, even if these changes happen within the church. Sadly we are seeing a shift in fundamental churches. This is shift toward ecumenicalism and in some ways embracing the emergent church movement.
The Old-paths was not founded by Jack Hyles or his contemporaries. The Old-paths are not defined by men who wear plaid suits or bell-bottom pants. The old-paths are following a set of practices grounded in the Scripture in our modern day.
- The Old-Paths are paths that identify the Scripture as the exclusive authority for our faith and practice.
- The Old-Paths are paths that result in an awareness of souls. This awareness causes us to run buses, establish Sunday Schools and send out and support missionaries.
- The Old-Paths are paths that lead to holy living. We recognize the importance of being different than the world.
- The Old-Paths are paths that recognize the influences around us.
- The Old-Paths are paths that walk in humility and integrity.
- The Old-Paths are paths that recognize our responsibilities to the institutions God has ordained.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1
“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.” – I Corinthians 8:9
Liberty is a wonderful thing. We have been freed from the bondage of sin. We have washed, justified and sanctified! But our liberty is not a license to sin nor is it a license to do whatever we wish. We are to acknowledge Him and HE will direct our paths. Our Christian liberty ends where Christ’s commands begin.
- Ecclesiastical Separation
“Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate…”-2 Corinthians 6:17
“Can two walk together except they be agreed?” – Amos 3:3
We all believe is separation. Separation is appropriate, necessary and wise. I do not believe it is wise to subject ourselves and our congregations to men who teach false doctrine. Standards are not irrelevant nor are they to be pushed aside as unimportant. There is validity to the difficulty of multi-layered degrees of separation. My policy is simple. I want to associate with men and ministry who are like-minded in doctrine and practice. This does not mean that I do not appreciate men with whom I differ.
I believe the true battleground in the fundamental movement is the application of Scripture in the areas of music, modesty, methods, manuscripts, and movies. Every Independent Baptist no matter what camp or set of standards believes in reaching people for Christ. We all believe in the fundamentals of the faith. We can gloss over standards but truly isn’t standards the “elephant in the room?” The reality is that:
Every Independent Baptist is obsessed with the gospel.
Every Independent Baptist is committed to preaching the Word.
We want to be unified but the issue is that old-paths preachers believe that compromise has crept in and standards have been dropped. Is it fair to expect us to drop our standards which we believe are biblical to unify? Why are we the ones expected to change?
Denominational politics are unavoidable. It happens no matter what camp you may be in or what field of vocation you pursue. There is a constant ebb and flow to the ministry. I have experienced this myself with individuals who have left our ministry who continue to interfere and sow discord. We would all help ourselves and improve our spirits if we looked forward and not backwards.
I believe we should be students of the Bible. I believe we should be well read. But what does “well read” mean? Do I need to read books from men who have questionable doctrines and ministry philosophies contrary to my own? Why are we so desperate to do so? How does that help us in our ministries? If we can read a book from an ecumenical or evangelical source and “eat the fish and spit out the bones” is that wise? I guess my follow up question would be to those who practice this philosophy, would you read books from men who follow what you deem to be the old-paths and do the same? Read…read…read but be careful what you recommend to younger men who may not be as ready or as mature as you. They may choke on the bones.
Fundamentalism has a new generation of preachers who are asking questions, some very valid questions. And while there is broad consensus on evangelism, the truth is that the elephant in the room is standards. We have a generation of young people who have conformed rather than have convictions about what the Scripture teaches. The issue is music, dress standards, door to door soul winning & Calvinistic leanings, the King James Bible, and movies and entertainment. In most cases you do not have an issue with one without having issues with many. They are inter-connected as a philosophy of ministry.
Contemporary Christian music has infiltrated many Independent Baptist Churches and it has affected ministries and men of God in a negative way. The Biblical principles of music are important to the spirit of a service and the direction of a ministry. Isn’t the divide today that old-paths preachers believe that our music should be Christ-honoring, spirit filled and Biblically distinct and that much of what is marketed is Christian is not very Christ-like. I should not wonder whether a singer is talking about her boyfriend or the Saviour! When I was a teenager I fell into the CCM scene and was consumed by it until one day a co-worker heard me listening to a CCM song and asked me, “What rock band are you listening too?” This was a catalyst for me to change my direction. I realized that this music was a “bridge” but not one to reach the lost but rather a bridge of compromise to be seduced into secular music entertainment. Our music should have a different sound, a different message and a different feel than that which is in the world.
If I had a dime for every time I have been called a legalist I could buy another bus for our bus ministry. I believe the Scripture is clear in relation to dress standards…modesty and distinction. Every preacher, every ministry and every Christian has some level of dress standards. So let’s not deceive ourselves regarding this topic. As old-paths preachers, our FIRST desire for men and women in our churches is that we have a heart for God and have a Christ-like spirit. Our yieldedness to the Lord in this area simply reveals our heart. Ask yourself this question, how is your spirit when you discuss the area of dress standards? Are you defensive or are you yielded to whatever the Lord would have you to do? Why should a ministry support and promote men who change in this area? And finally why would those who do not hold to these dress standards demand that we accept their decisions and extend to them the liberty to make such decisions but not respect our decision to keep our dress standards where they have always been. You simply can’t have it both ways. There is a concerted effort to blend the sexes, blur our God given roles and talents and to impede upon Biblical principles of modesty. Since you are asking the question or talking back already let me state in clearly…I believe women should not wear pants because most are not modest and certainly all are not distinct. Further, tight clothes & revealing clothes violate these principles as well. Men should be modest as well. Skinny jeans and tight clothes are not modest guys! I never thought I would have to say it but men should not wear skirts either! The metrosexual look isn’t distinct! It’s time for Gods people to get this right. Men and women in the Bible both wore robes but men wore britches under their robes so before you pitch a fit know that Biblical culture supports this position.
I have had numerous conversations on social media about door to door soul winning and tools of evangelism. And while we debate the JWs and Mormons are gleaning the harvest we should be reaping. I am concerned when churches close their bus ministries down and discontinue their Sunday Schools. I am concerned when churches cancel Sunday evening services. Sunday nights should be one of the most vibrant and spiritually challenging services as your church family gathers under the preaching of the word of God. At WBC, our Sunday night services are “prime time” as dozens of workers who have been spread throughout the ministry join to worship the Lord together!
The battle over the King James Bible has been well documented but sufficed to say this is an area in some circles with the new group of pastors coming on the scene. May we never compromise on the preserved, inspired Word of God.
Entertainment…well enough said.
- The moral failures in fundamentalism.
Our hearts should be broken when any man falls, when any marriage fails and when any ministry is torn apart by scandal. The moral failures of prominent fundamental leaders has devastated our generation. We simply cannot ignore or sweep under the rug these collapses of judgment, these character flaws and the air of enablement in our fundamental churches. We must as fundamental leaders in our churches set the example of morality, transparency and integrity.
The moral failures of men like Jack Schaap do not define our movement. They simply show how susceptible we are to destruction if we are not sober and vigilant. His collapse as a leader, as a husband and as a Christian should drive all of us to reflection. I was disgusted by Jack Schaap’s behavior and frankly he has reaped what he has sewn. But our desire should be restoration not ridicule.
Every pastor should be held accountable by his brethren. The warning signs with Jack Schaap were everywhere yet his staff and his closest friends did not challenge his direction. We cannot move forward with this mentality. We owe each other the truth. When our friends in the ministry are heading in an unhealthy direction – say something. For the sake of a new generation of pastors, we must protect our marriages and ministries from moral failures.
- Respect for your heritage
Let us never forget those who have invested in us. I am concerned as we turn to a new chapter in fundamentalism that we will forget the men who have gone before us. We owe them a debt of gratitude. They do not deserve our ridicule they deserve our respect.
Independent Fundamental Baptist should be at the forefront of using tools and technology to reach the next generation for Christ. We should have dynamic websites, robust use of social media formats and effective tools. New is not bad but new must be filtered through Scripture and examined under the scrutiny of principle. There was a time when the bus ministry and Sunday School were new tools for the church to use. New methods should be used if they are effective and do not violate principles of Scripture. The reality is should the Lord tarry there may be ministry tools in the future that are not even developed in this generation. Let’s not be closed-minded to new!
Just because it is old does not mean it is useless. Nor does it mean it is ineffective. The old is time tested. The old is well thought out. The old has wisdom. Let us not ignore the old.
- The Old & New should be the same!
The Old-Paths movement and the New Independent Baptist should be on the same path. Baby boomers to millennials have no reason to be in contradiction with one another. Principle is principle. Truth is truth. Error is error. Sure the new guys have IPads and the internet but ultimately we have the same doctrine.
I believe we are living in one of the greatest times in history. God could have chosen Moses, Peter or Paul for this generation but he has chosen you and I to lead for such a time as this. Let us contend for the faith with graciousness, with understanding, recognizing there may be times that we will not agree but will part as friends and pray for one another. I am thankful that a new generation of preachers are coming on the scene of fundamentalism and I believe there should be open dialogue. We should sharpen each other as we form our opinions and build our ministry philosophies. May each of us lead our ministries with our eyes focused on honoring our Saviour and reaching our communities with the glorious gospel!