FBFI "Why we are still here"

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Jim's picture

The FBFI? Though this magazine reaches a much larger number, we have just 444 US members and 33 international members. I counted. And precisely 26 of these members are what I’d call “young.” That’s 5%. No one my age has ever once said to me, “Hey, wanna go to the FBFI annual fellowship this year?”

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Pillsbury, Calvary, Northland, and Clearwater are gone—and their deaths didn’t send floods of students to other fundamentalist institutions. Who’s next to die?

 

TylerR's picture

Bro. Vaughn wrote:

Rather than join those in his generation who took to the Internet in umbrage to declare (in essence), “They have no right to say these things about us!,” he called me and asked for clarity.

I tried to have a conversation with the author of an unfortunate hit piece from this Frontline edition. He accused me of treachery, deliberate deceit, and said I was in violation of copyright laws because I posted some relevant excerpts from his article online and posed questions from them. This particular author wrote a very nasty piece, then became outraged when I responded with a list of questions on my pitiful blog, and even sent him the link. I appreciate Bro. Vaughn' gracious tone, but let's consider this chain of events (I am referring to one particular article from that unfortunate Frontline edition, not the entire piece):

  1. You write a very negative, very ill-advised, very ridiculous piece attacking young fundamentalists
  2. I email and ask for a telephone conversation
  3. You accept
  4. I post a list of questions online, and send you the link
  5. You respond by accusing me of copyright infringement, and of wicked deceit.

Let me say this - if you don't want a public response, don't write publicly. The FBFI doesn't deserve only a private audience. It put some very bad stuff out. The organization shouldn't be surprised if folks respond in just as public a manner as the original salvo. To be fair, I made it a point to meet with Don Johnson recently as he made his way to the FBFI Regional Fellowship. We had a wonderful lunch and actually didn't chat about fundamentalism at all! Yes, we survived -  behold the proof.

I'm just as open to private conversations as the next guy, and can get along with just about anybody. But, let me be clear - if the FBFI puts out something publicly, it doesn't deserve only a private response - and it shouldn't expect one.

I suspect most of the contributors to this new edition are folks who are already sympathetic to the FBFI, and have written for its publications before. That is, I suspect they didn't try to actually engage with "convergents." We still don't know who they actually are.

I'll read the edition. After all, I am one of it's 444 US subscribers. I'm interested in what it has to say.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Jim's picture

Pillsbury, Calvary, Northland, and Clearwater are gone:

My hypothesis is that there is no one reason that each failed:

  • Northland: Stupendously poor management. A clique within the U was promoting CCM in complete violation of the official position of the U. Some in senior positions were unaware of what CCM coterie was undertaking. Combine that with its remoteness. 
  • Pillsbury: the root of its demise was the RV Clearwater (board chairman) breach with the Pillsbury President. This lead to the creation of Maranatha Baptist. This plus aging infrastructure, debt and the drain of students to Northland (1976) and Maranatha lead to its demise. The MBA itself (owner and student-feeder) shrunk from 130 or so churches to 50
  • Calvary: I'm unsure of what lead to its closure
  • Clearwater: Not that clear to me but debt was a part of it
  • BJU: Another story is that its enrollment is half of its apex
  • In general there's been a decline of college-age students
  • CDS's are in decline and this impacts Bible colleges two ways:
    • Less feeder students
    • Less jobs for teachers
  • Next? Others will fail. Not sure which
Ron Bean's picture

How many members were in the FBFI 25 years ago when I was a member?

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Andrew K's picture

Jim wrote:

Pillsbury, Calvary, Northland, and Clearwater are gone:

My hypothesis is that there is no one reason that each failed:

  • Northland: Stupendously poor management. A clique within the U was promoting CCM in complete violation of the official position of the U. Some in senior positions were unaware of what CCM coterie was undertaking. Combine that with its remoteness. 
  • Pillsbury: the root of its demise was the RV Clearwater (board chairman) breach with the Pillsbury President. This lead to the creation of Maranatha Baptist. This plus aging infrastructure, debt and the drain of students to Northland (1976) and Maranatha lead to its demise. The MBA itself (owner and student-feeder) shrunk from 130 or so churches to 50
  • Calvary: I'm unsure of what lead to its closure
  • Clearwater: Not that clear to me but debt was a part of it
  • BJU: Another story is that its enrollment is half of its apex
  • In general there's been a decline of college-age students
  • CDS's are in decline and this impacts Bible colleges two ways:
    • Less feeder students
    • Less jobs for teachers
  • Next? Others will fail. Not sure which

Btw, what colleges that we might consider within those circles are "surviving"? BJU, Maranatha, Faith... others I'm less familiar with?

TylerR's picture

I suspect I understand what the FBFI means when it refers to "convergents," now. Our church had a combined Good Friday service with several other like-minded churches. It was hosted at one particular church. The Pastor from the hosting church is younger, and has an MDiv from a fundamentalist institution. Here is what I witnessed:

  • There was no preaching. Did you catch that. NO PREACHING.
  • There was only singing - and it was all CCM, and it was shallow. It sounded like low-rent pop from the lesser radio stations with a Jesus gloss.
  • There was the Lord's Supper. There was no attempt whatsoever, even subtly, to "fence" the table. The service assumed everybody was a Christian.
  • There was no Gospel proclamation. Did you get that? NO GOSPEL. The closest the Pastor came was when he announced this at the end of the service: "Thanks for coming out tonight. Listen, if you want to know more about Jesus, and you're searching, talk me, talk to somebody! If someone has a suit on, they probably have it all put together. Ok, let's head over for some dessert!"

This wasn't a service. It was blasphemy. My Pastor was not happy. My children were not happy. I was not happy. This was pathetic. It was a disgrace. This church advertised the Good Friday service in the community. I am certain a few unbelievers were present. What a wasted opportunity. What blasphemy. Yet, this church labels itself as a "fundamental Baptist church" on its website. From what I saw on Friday evening:

  • They're not fundamentalists
  • They're not Baptists
  • I hope they're Christian - I really have no reason to expect they are. I didn't hear the Gospel.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Joeb's picture

Tyler I don't blame you.  You and your Pastor are spot on.  The Undercover operatives have two MOs.  The one you site above and the one where they name change and try to act like a regular Evangelical Hip Bible church.  It's all about membership even if you poach from other churches. Not going where others dare not tread for fear of failure. 

Bert Perry's picture

Still waiting for FBFI to define their terms, starting with "convergent" and/or "convergence."  Once again, the caginess with which FBFI is making a case they assert has huge Gospel implications just plain baffles me.  Out with it already!

Couple of other things; first of all, theological publications have not only the usual understanding of "fair use" (which Tyler used), but also a little bit more latitude because of the understanding that so many things in theology are age-old and it's hard to determine original thought and copyright it.

Finally, I'm going to have to suggest that while Jim's got a great point on the major causes of Bible college failure, another big deal here is the exact same thing that troubles the FBFI; a lack of precision in making arguments.  If you aren't using valid argumentation, you are going to have squabbles of the kind that resulted in the split between Pillsbury and Maranatha because what's generally left is genetic fallacies like personal attacks.

 

Jim's picture

Andrew K wrote:
Btw, what colleges that we might consider within those circles are "surviving"? BJU, Maranatha, Faith... others I'm less familiar with?

Maranatha & Faith / my take:

  • They are very different schools
  • Faith is still basically a Bible College with limited offerings
  • Maranatha has a robust offering 
  • I think both are healthy. I sense both are very well run
  • No controversies emanate from these schools (in contrast remember when Northland seemed to be a controversy a month)
  • Maranatha's campus is more pleasant than Faith's
  • Faith benefits from being a suburb of DesMoines
  • Both benefited by the demise of a "competitor". Northland was 200 m N of Maranatha. Pillsbury was 170 m N of Ankeny
  • Both impact Central Seminary. Northland was a Central feeder. Maranatha & Faith both have seminaries and protect their prospective seminary students from Central (limits on marketing on campus)
Mark_Smith's picture

Tyler, you seem to have run smack dab into what the infamous Convergents edition of Frontline magazine was all about! What is the problem again?

TylerR's picture

I emailed Don. He confirmed this kind of madness is what the "convergent" label is basically aiming at. With that understanding, I no longer have a problem at all. I still think that article from Frontline was poorly done.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Mark_Smith's picture

Spurgeon was asked to "name names." He refused, so people dismissed him. 

 

In this issue, people want more specifics than the authors of the articles were willing to give.

 

 

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:
Is any of this like the Down Grade Controversy

Spurgeon was asked to "name names." He refused, so people dismissed him. 

 

In this issue, people want more specifics than the authors of the articles were willing to give.

Doubt it because ... 

Believers in Christ's atonement are now in declared union with those who make light of it; believers in Holy Scripture are in confederacy with those who deny plenary inspiration; those who hold evangelical doctrine are in open alliance with those who call the fall a fable, who deny the personality of the Holy Ghost, who call justification by faith immoral, and hold that there is another probation after death... It is our solemn conviction that there should be no pretence of fellowship. Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin

It's nothing like :

  • "mak[ing] light of Christ's atonement"
  • "believers in Holy Scripture are in confederacy with those who deny plenary inspiration"
  • "open alliance with those who call the fall a fable"
  • "deny the personality of the Holy Ghost"
  • "call justification by faith immoral"
  • "hold that there is another probation after death"
Bert Perry's picture

Jim wrote:

<snip>

  • Both impact Central Seminary. Northland was a Central feeder. Maranatha & Faith both have seminaries and protect their prospective seminary students from Central (limits on marketing on campus)

It strikes me that Harvard doesn't prevent Yale from marketing their schools on campus, and vice versa.  They understand not only that a great program will get great applicants, but also that a bit of cross-pollination between schools is a good thing as well.  Really, this hits at a core issue we're discussing with FBFI; if you want to compete in the marketplace of ideas, there are few things that you want to avoid more than keeping the discussion restricted to the like-minded.  Inbreeding is no better in colleges than it is among European aristocrats or stereotypical hillbillies.

Had a good discussion on this very topic with my oldest last night as I drove her back to college after Easter at home--how some studies indicate that peoples' views become more extreme when they are isolated from opposing viewpoints.  Now whether that's because views are becoming more extreme, or whether it's simply because people feel "safe" to expose their more extreme viewpoints, or something else, I don't know, but the simple fact of the matter is that for iron to sharpen iron, it must be rubbed in an opposing way.  So you either need to have someone with the opposing viewpoint, or you need someone who knows how to argue opposing viewpoints even if he is not convinced of them himself.

Put gently, a couple dozen writers writing for an audience of maybe 500 people is almost a textbook definition of "echo chamber."  Watch out, FBFI!

 

dgszweda's picture

 

Jim wrote:

The FBFI? Though this magazine reaches a much larger number, we have just 444 US members and 33 international members. I counted. And precisely 26 of these members are what I’d call “young.” That’s 5%. No one my age has ever once said to me, “Hey, wanna go to the FBFI annual fellowship this year?”

 

Is this all the FBFI membership is?  444 members?

Jim's picture

dgszweda wrote:

Is this all the FBFI membership is?  444 members?

I had heard, 2 months ago, under 600 (from a seminary professor in the know)

dgszweda's picture

Jim wrote:

 

dgszweda wrote:

 

Is this all the FBFI membership is?  444 members?

 

 

I had heard, 2 months ago, under 600 (from a seminary professor in the know)

This is crazy.  Why do we put so much credence in a fringe group?

TylerR's picture

I suspect most of the FBFI members are Pastors or fundamentalist leaders, meaning the organization has a disproportional influence relative to its raw numbers. It is a significant force in Baptist fundamentalism because of who its members are, and because of inertia (e.g. its been influential for a while, so its still influential now, because that's the way it's "always" been).

I suspect its influence will continue to wane. I doubt the younger generation of fundamentalist leaders really see a reason to continue membership. Perhaps this Frontline edition will change my mind.  

There is a real disconnect between the older generation and the younger, and I've struggled to explain it - but everybody knows its there. For example:

  • When the FBFI put out it's now-infamous edition last year on "Convergence," it framed the issue as (in effect) a betrayal of fundamentalism, a betrayal of a movement.
  • When I was at the Good Friday service which I described above, "fundamentalism" never entered my mind. I wasn't upset because this church clearly wasn't fundamentalist anymore. I was upset because it was disgracing God and basically displaying blasphemy by its flippant attitude and approach to evangelism and the Resurrection. 
  • Hear this - I'm not trying to frame myself as being pious. I'm trying to point out a fundamental divide - I don't "self-identify" (for lack of a better phrase) as a fundamentalist first. It didn't cross my mind to be outraged over this church's betrayal of a fundamentalist mindset and philosophy to ministry. I was outraged by other things.
  • Later, as we walked to our car, I thought about fundamentalism. But, it wasn't my first thought, and it isn't my real objection even now.

I think this is a critical difference, and perhaps I'm not alone in seeing this. It's just not about the "movement" for me. If the FBFI had framed the issue differently, perhaps it would have received a better response. Was that a tactical mistake, or does it reveal that the FBFI really operates and thinks differently than I do? I have no idea.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Don Johnson's picture

I don't have much time for comment today, and haven't had much to say in response to this thread, but I do want to make a comment on numbers, before I dash out the door.

The FBFI is a fellowship of individuals, not of churches. Often there is only one member in a church. I suspect there is some overlap in some cases more than one member per church, but not a lot. But let's set the overlap number at 25%: 444-25%=333. If each of 333 represents churches of like mind of say 50 members each (that's probably low) then these numbers represent at least 16,650 people.

Not that it matters. We aren't counting noses, we are putting out a message: "proclaiming and defending"! (to coin a phrase!) Overall, the numbers the FBFI represents is small, it is true, especially compared to, say, the SBC. However, we are who we are and we do our best to get our message out. We think it is important. We're grateful for the folks who contributed to this particular issue and hope we hear from them again. Most of them are first-timers in FrontLine, but I'll say more about that later. For now, I'm off. Duty calls.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

Not only does FBFI have a reach into churches that is greater than their stated membership, but they also are representative of a lot of "sister" organizations which have similar (but not identical) positions.  Couple that with members in influential positions, and they're going to have influence disproportional to their size.

Now if only they'd define their terms......  :^)

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Bert Perry wrote:

Not only does FBFI have a reach into churches that is greater than their stated membership, but they also are representative of a lot of "sister" organizations which have similar (but not identical) positions.  Couple that with members in influential positions, and they're going to have influence disproportional to their size.

Now if only they'd define their terms......  :^)

Can anybody list a few of the "members in influential positions?" 

(Note: I'm not disputing this as being factual; but as someone who isn't familiar with the full list of the FBFI membership, I'm just wondering who such members are.)

josh p's picture

I notice that TOvermiller of SI is a contributor. I always find him thoughtful and engaging. Although I don't really see myself in the FBFI orbit, I will order the issue and read it. I'm interested in seeing what they have to say.

Mark_Smith's picture

What I meant was, a few posters on SI have insisted that the FBFI acted wrongly, and asked for FBFI to "name names." The FBFI has so far refused to do that.

That sounds a lot like Spurgeon in the Down Grade Controversy.

Kapiche?

Mark_Smith's picture

Please define "influential position."

Mark_Smith's picture

If BJU and Maranatha graduates who become pastors are not joining the FBFI, what organization are they joining?

Larry Nelson's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Please define "influential position."

 

Since I'm unsure of/don't know who such members in question are, I was leaving the answer up to any respondents' interpretation. 

Are we talking about seminary professors?  Certain pastors?  Leaders of parachurch organizations?  Others?  I don't know; therefore I asked the question.

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

If BJU and Maranatha graduates who become pastors are not joining the FBFI, what organization are they joining?

There's really no need to join any organization:

  • The FBFI is essentially a magazine subscription. One can probably read it without buying it
  • There are dozens (hundreds) of events a pastor may attend without joining anything 
Bert Perry's picture

Mark: I think the place I'd define the difference between what Spurgeon did with downgrade and the FBFI's position on convergence is that Spurgeon's terms were quite well understood--as a general warning, it would suffice as a way of describing who the theological liberals were.  You could spot it from old earth geology and Darwinism and the like--it was theologically very specific.

I don't see that kind of specificity in the FBFI articles, though like you I would have a hunch it has a lot to do with social issues and the like.  And that's a shame, because they just might have  a point.  

I also don't believe that naming names serves much purpose in either situation, as what is at stake here is not personalities, but rather theological and social positions--if indeed, for example, beverage alcohol or rock music is a Gospel issue, I don't need to simply be pointed at Stryper or Doug Wilson with a well-intentioned "sic 'em", but rather I need to know why all people advocating such are mistaken or even in grievous sin.

And since I was the first guy to mention "influential position", I think I ought to be on the hook to define it.  Now without totally trying to expose all 444 members, what I'm getting at here is that you're going to find a certain subset of members who are seminary professors, pastors of large churches, and the like.  In a nutshell, people who influence pastors by their example.  If you look at their site and poke around a bit, you'll see these.  

TOvermiller's picture

Jim wrote:

There's really no need to join any organization:

  • The FBFI is essentially a magazine subscription. One can probably read it without buying it
  • There are dozens (hundreds) of events a pastor may attend without joining anything 

By way of reminder, the FBFI is an important fundamental chaplaincy endorser. More on that here.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TylerR's picture

You are correct about Chaplaincy. I know the FBFI, GARBC and ACCC are chaplain endorsers. I'm sure there are more, but I'm not aware of them. They are important outlets for Baptist fundamentalists who want to serve in chaplain ministries. Where else would they go?

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

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