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Passing on Independence

As a boy our family lived in a run down apartment just off of Arcadia Court in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Most would refer to this place as a ghetto. Our school clothes were given to us by a Nuns’ clothing room of the Catholic Church from down the street. Mama would drive my two brothers and myself to church in an old 1941 flat bed Ford truck. 
Daddy had replaced the muffler in the truck with a straight pipe and we thought it made the neatest sound. It was embarrassing to Mama, but not to us boys. We felt like we were riding in a hot rod. Mama would park in the far back of the parking lot hoping no one would see the truck. We were all dressed in our best clothes and we never thought of ourselves as less privileged than anyone else. Mama made us feel as if no one was any better than us and we were no better than anyone else.  There was a humble confidence she exuded to everyone around her.
We attended an American Baptist denominational church. Each Sunday morning, after Sunday school and before preaching, the pastor and deacons would go to the front of the church and smoke cigarettes. 
After a while the older teens began to go to their cars and light up as well.  I was made fun of because I would not go with them. But, one Sunday I joined a group of them. I was sitting in the back seat and a cigarette was passed around. Eventually it was handed from the front seat back to me in the back seat.  

At the exact moment I was reaching for the cigarette my Mama opened the back door and snatched me by the hair on my head.  The next thing I knew Mama was dragging me out of the car with one hand while using the other to hit my legs with a switch. 
As we passed the front of the church building where the pastor and deacons were smoking she paused and said, “Shame on you, and you, and you, and you!” Then she took me into the church building for the preaching hour. As long as we were members of that church, we never again saw the pastor and deacons smoking in the front of the church building again. 
Mama was an independent Baptist before I knew there was such a thing. As such she was also a bit of a rebel, but she had certain Bible principles for her sons by which she wanted them to live.
Independence can be considered rebellion, but that depends on what and whom you are rebelling.  If we rebel against God we are submitting to Satan. If we rebel against Satan we are submitting to God.  

They use to call our age group of the 60’s generation  “Rebels without a cause!”  My Mama taught me to be a “Rebel with a cause!”  To rebel against wrong was right according to Mama.  I did not understand it at the time, but she was teaching me to be independent.
Because of that I learned on my own how to be independent. Through the years I have encouraged my sons, and sons in the ministry, to be independent as well. Now let me tell you what that means.

1. Every Generation Must Rediscover Truths For Themselves Without Redefining Truths. Independents are by their very nature stubborn.  The independence of independents can lead to strong opinions about everything under the sun, yet often it has produced the finest leaders in America. Most of the men of the past who stirred this nation for God were simple men, but strong independant men of faith. They were independent of “this world” which included their denominations. They discovered truth for themselves and did not fall in lockstep with others.
2. Do Not Remove Yourself From The Influence Of Those In History Who Taught You Independence.  When independents remove themselves from the influences that brought them their independence, they tend to become homogenized  Study the history of the real independents of the past. Learn about men such as J. Frank Norris, John R. Rice, Lester Roloff, Jack Hyles, Lee Roberson, Tom Malone’s, Curtis Hutson, and others who truly were independent and whose philosophies must be kept alive.  These men merit our attention and study.
They personified the independence that independents must emulate.  We cannot allow ourselves to become puppets to man-made organizations. That which is “Politically Correct” in religious circles in our nation, must not strangle the men of God. When I listen to the independents of the past and the “independents” of the present, I wonder if we are even close to being on the same page.  Thank the Lord that is not true of all current independents, but those who criticize and attack the previous generation make themselves suspect because of their criticism. Do not allow them to influence you and lead you from that for which those men stood.
3. Do Not Judge Harshly Those Who Had To Fight In Order To Be Independent.   Some criticize the “rough” sermons these men preached.  They speak of how they alienated people. Some even have labeled them as legalists or claimed they lacked grace. May I remind you, that which attracts also detracts.  The battle to be independent and stay independent often demands that a line be drawn in the sand. When independence is given instead of won there tends to be a harsh judgment on those who won it.  There was a witness of the Holy Ghost to those sermons of these men.  These were not just ramblings with no content. They were solid Bible messages that drew a line.  
Be fair to the men who articulated strong fundamentals and gave us our heritage.  Learn from those whom God used to build great soul-winning churches with great Sunday schools in spite of what bothers others about them. Please overlook their brashness, for they are nothing more than “a chip off the old block” of those who preceded them.  They fought for their freedom and that is why they were so outspoken.  Those who have never had to fight for their independance know little of what it takes to become independent.
4. Those Who Will Carry On Fundamentalism Will Of Necessity Be Independent And A Remnant.   There will be hundreds of independents who will be forced to fight for their independance. They, like the ones already mentioned, will learn there is a price to be paid for not following the crowd.  There must be a new generation of maverick preachers who will be forced to fight to maintain their independence from modern cultural influences-.  Those who succeed will not turn on their mentors, but add to what they did.
I have done what God has called me to even though deacons and others oppose what I’m doing. It cost me to start INDEPENDENT BAPTIST ONLINE COLLEGE. I have been criticized and ostracized for obeying God. I did not think that in my 70’s I would have to fight the fight I fought against the American Baptist Denomination again within independent Baptist ranks. Independence is a constant struggle. As a man of God there is not a deacon or man alive who can tell me what God’s will is for me, for that is God’s business. I refuse to let any man stand between me and my Lord.
Every generation must fight their own battles just as our mentors did. If you are wise, you will build on what you have been given.  What I have called “the greatest generation of independents” was purchased at a high price. God blessed with the church in Longview where she grew up because she was built on the previous generations’ sacrifice.  Carry on next generation and be independent from cultural influences of your day espoused by the world and the Emerging Church groups.

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