why FBF?

Scott Aniol asks:

Pastor Harding (or others),

I am honestly curious about this: what are the benefits of joining the FBF? What reason would a young, separatistic, Calvinistic (or Arminian, for that matter) brother have for joining?

If he wants to go to a FBF conference because he’s interested in the topics or speakers, he can regardless if he is a member.

If he wants to read or even write for Frontline, he can regardless if he is a member.

I’m just really, honestly wondering what value there is in joining.

Here are my reasons for being a member of the FBFI:

1. Identification – I am quite happy to be identified by the kind of Baptist Fundamentalism represented by the men listed on the FBFI board, from the executive down to the state and country representatives level. I am fortunate enough to count many of them as personal friends (one as a former roommate during seminary days), but it isn’t just the ‘old school ties’ that bind me to these men. It is their willingness to stand up as Baptist Fundamentalists who are unwilling to compromise with modernism or its sympathizers while still maintaining a healthy Christian and Baptist ministry in their local churches. That’s the kind of ministry I want to have and the kind of ministry I want to identify myself with.

2. Fellowship – where we live and minister, like-minded churches and pastors are few and far between. The men in the Northwest Regional Fellowship are such an encouragement to me and my ministry that I can’t express strongly enough how valuable this is. It may be that men in the east have more fellowship than they can handle. Perhaps they are jaded with fellowship. All I can say is, come west, young man, and you will find out how precious fellowship is.

3. Balanced Focus – some fellowships focus on “single issue theology“. In my view, single-issue fellowship breeds unhealthy churches and church life. One constantly must come back to the touchstone, whether it be the Jerusalem Chamber or Geneva, or else one is suspect. In the FBFI men have differing views on points that are not matters of fundamentalism, but agree to fellowship with one another regardless. That, I believe, is a balanced focus, even if we may be critical of each other at times if we happen to address areas of difference. I have found acceptance within the FBF fellowship even though my views may not be exactly the same as the men I fellowship with. For that I am grateful.


Of course, on that last one, everyone could just agree with me and then we’d have no worries, right??? [Just kidding!]

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3


  1. Thanks, Don.

    #3 doesn’t really seem like a reason to join; more like a justification.

    #1 and #2 are reasons. #2, however, doesn’t seem that good a reason. I can have fellowship with or without joining the FBF. In fact, I can have fellowship with FBF members with or without joining the FBF.

    #1 is where the rub is, I guess. It’s a good enough reason if one really wants to be identified with the others in the group.

    I guess that’s why young, Calvinistic guys are running for their lives away from the FBF. Sermons like Sweatt’s (and others in the past) make them feel like they would not want to be identified with people like that.

    I’m not arguing for or against joining. I’m just honestly wondering what value it would be for me. What am I lacking now that would be filled by joining the FBF?

    • You’re probably right in your analysis. When I thought of your question, #1 and #2 were what came immediately to mind. I had to think a bit on #3, so it is probably not a main reason.

      It might be that some are making the excuse that they don’t want to be identified with the men of the FBF because of the sermons etc you mention. Personally, I think that is just an excuse. There are a couple of things going on, one of which is an over-weening pride in the superiority of this new generation’s pulpiteering and especially in it’s theologizing. The other is simply a rejection of fundamentalist and especially Baptist ideas. So… if the latter is the case, it is better that they don’t join up and go elsewhere. Their goals are not the same as the FBF, as far as I can see, so why bother? I’m not particularly worried about it.

      As far as what you might be lacking, I have never really looked at it like that. I don’t particularly need the FBF, my membership has lapsed on occasion until I realize I haven’t renewed, etc. Nothing earthshaking happened when I was not a member. But I don’t join for what I can get out of it, but because I want to support it. If I can’t give anything else to the FBF and its goals, I can at least give my annual dues and buy magazines. We are independents, so we don’t have a denominational structure. The FBF seems to me to provide some of those denominational services without being a denomination, so I want to support that.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. I was faithful to the FBF for awhile after we first got started here in California. I left it because I found that I couldn’t fellowship with it. I’ll explain that story sometime on my blog. When I did leave, I wrote every FBF pastor in Northern California, telling them why I would leave. I got one letter back that was about three lines long (he said he was sorry and that he didn’t see things the same way as me—that was it) and I got a phone call from another guy who was younger than me (he wondered if I was talking about him in the letter). I thought they might be concerned with the issues I had in that letter, but they weren’t. If that really was fellowship, then why was it so easy for them to dismiss my reasons for leaving and not desire to retain my fellowship? That told me that it wasn’t much fellowship. I’ve had far greater, perhaps I could even call it real, fellowship just fellowshiping with churches that I believe and practice like. I’m happy for someone who gets genuine fellowship and gives it wherever he may be. I don’t begrudge you for enjoying the FBF, Don.

    • Hi Kent

      I understand your perspective when you say you “left fundamentalism”. You define the basis for fellowship more narrowly than the FBF or I would. That is fine and it is your prerogative. I would be delighted if you were less narrow on those points, but I don’t see it as my mission in life to convince you otherwise. I suspect the other CA pastors felt the same way.

      What I see happening right now in FBF-dom, however, is a whole lot of people on the outside (and coming from a FINO-oriented perspective, mostly) are telling the FBF how they ought to define themselves! How ironic! At least you had the integrity to say, “this is not me, it’s not working for me, see ya” and that is that. It boggles the mind what is going on now!

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. Sophia says:

    While I’m going through your posts of the past, bear with me as I must express this one other perhaps “egregious” battle front that really concerns me based on past FBFI resolutions galore.
    I’ll refrain from getting into detail about my concerns about this post/conversation (which reflects a growing chatter among the churches) that of having SBC elders in our FBF leaders’ pulpits. Again, if this is considered modus operandi now, it’s perhaps time for some amended resolutions. Up until the most recent of FBFI SBC resolutions I see no give on not separating from the SBC. I wish I were a theologian to get into the debate, but the best I can do is express my concern here and there and pray for you all. Thanks for listening!

    • I don’t know the answer on this one. Scott Aniol grew up in Mike Harding’s church. I think his parents are still members. He has a very close relationship with Mike, although when Scott signed on as prof at Southwestern, some changes were made in the relationship (Mike had been contributing financially to the support his ministry, I believe.)

      Thus, this isn’t just any SBC prof, but one with a long-term relationship with pastor and church.

      I am not sure what other FBFI men will say about it (I’ll see some of them next week and ask what they think), but I would be more concerned if it were someone other than Scott in this church. That’s not to say that I am not concerned, nor am I saying that I would open my pulpit to someone like Scott in the same circumstances. I tend to think I would not.

      I appreciate your asking and I think it is a fair question. Perhaps it might be helpful for you to write to Mike directly, you can find his contact info at the church website (First Baptist of Troy Michigan).

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Sophia says:

    I did not intend to address this again with you, only to pray. However, it is this very morning that I just discovered that he is on the board of GFA. I just have to wonder if so many of those faithfully separated missionaries are even aware of the shifting going on, and if there is a sense of betrayal after all they’ve tried to uphold in their ministries. How can this happen, and what is the end of all of this. You don’t have to answer. I only know that there are hopes of his name being well-considered for BJU president, and all things considered, I am quite concerned. You don’t have to publish this comment if you deem it “low quality”. Just needing a moment to vent to someone with influence that might understand.

    • I understand your concerns on this, but Mike hasn’t abandoned fundamentalism. He really is a solid separatist. I don’t always agree with all of his decisions, but that doesn’t mean he has gone over to the dark side!

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3