The result of an unplanned pregnancy, I was adopted at birth into the family of an Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) pastor. I was raised in a strictly conservative baptist home and an equally strict IFB school through 4th grade. After that we home schooled, and moved to a new church in a new state where we stayed for the rest of my formative years. After I finished high school, I spent the summer working at an IFB summer camp in Louisiana, followed as expected but rather reluctantly, by my first semester at the “best school there is” – Bob Jones University.
Since the end of high school I had been wondering if what I was hearing in church was true – if the IFB really was the only church doing it right. Of course it wasn’t, but as the pastor’s son, I was expected to be there any time the doors were open, and didn’t have the ability to explore my options as I would have liked. Once at BJU, I had the freedom to explore other options, though all churches connected to BJU reflect the school and its teachings.
My girlfriend (now wife) invited me to her church where I eventually found where I needed to be in a small group of believers called the ‘Plymouth Brethren‘ or more commonly the ‘Assemblies’. The following is borrowed from the blog of a fellow survivor.
“Primarily, assemblies seek to adhere to New Testament teaching about church order. This translates into a few distinctives. There are no pastors in the traditional sense in an assembly. It is instead governed by a group of elders, all of whom do the work of a pastor (though some do not teach, as they may not have the spiritual gift of teaching). These men are typically not paid, and are chosen from among the men already in attendance at the church who are also already doing the work of an elder (meaning they are active in teaching, hospitable, and concerned with looking after the people of God). There is also no church membership to speak of, as they believe that all Christians are the body of Christ, and no extra-Scriptural distinction of membership is required. Women are not permitted to preach (though they are encouraged to teach Sunday school, and women’s Bible studies abound). Also, women wear head coverings during church meetings. The type differs. Many wear lace (either something like a doily or a veil), others wear hats, others wear bandanas or scarves. Lastly, every Sunday assemblies observe the Lord’s Supper. Sometimes it’s in the morning, sometimes it’s in the evening. It gets its own service, typically an hour long. Several men, led by the Holy Spirit, stand and talk about Jesus – whether sharing a Scripture that speaks of Him, praying, or calling out a hymn to be sung in remembrance of Him. At the end of the service, the bread and cup (sometimes wine, sometimes grape juice) are passed around the congregation, as well as an offering. This is the only meeting in which an offering is taken.
Doctrinally, assemblies are very similar to IFB. Each assembly is autonomous, although it is highly common for assemblies to be intimately acquainted with one another. They believe in eternal security, and believer’s baptism by immersion (as opposed to infant baptism, or salvation by baptism). They tend to be dispensationalist, though moderately so. I was always taught to try to interpret the Bible literally at first read, as the literal meaning is generally the primary meaning, then search for patterns and types. If a literal meaning is not possible, then a metaphor is assumed. I don’t know if all assemblies teach this, or if this is just what I was taught.
Practically, as far as lifestyle is concerned, there is no dogma that assemblies hold to. Meaning, lifestyle of those who attend assemblies are as vast and varied as the people who attend them. Some hold to similar beliefs of many IFBs, meaning they do not drink, they do not listen to music that is not orchestral or choral, they do not watch movies over a PG-13 rating (and many of those movies are unacceptable), Christians should shield themselves from anything “worldly,” etc. Then you have people who believe that moderate drinking is acceptable, music itself is amoral and its value is dependent on its lyrical content, Christians should be able to live in the world while being apart morally also while being able to discern what is right and wrong, etc. Dress style varies just as much.”
After my first visit to an assembly, I didn’t know what to think, but knew that I had found my new church home. I don’t ever regret changing, but it was not an easy switch. My family and friends are still deeply entrenched in the IFB, and leaving caused quite a stir both at home and school. There are still times when I have to explain all over again why I did what I did and that I am happy here.
In February 2009, I was expelled from BJU for a great crime. It was handled poorly, and I know that many laws were broken by that institution in the way that they handled it. Records were changed and privacy violated, but that is all past. I returned home to my IFB family, and my IFB church and began a long period of anger and depression as I fought almost daily with my parents over one thing or another and looked for work anywhere that I could find it. I eventually found it, and moved halfway across the country in June. That job put me close to my girlfriend, and we were married in September. From there, life goes on, but there are still issues from a lifetime in the IFB. False teachings and a total lack of preparation for the real world not the least among them. Some are getting better, others not so much. I suppose that time will tell. I am posting my stories here as a way to work through them.