Every church has something of its own personality. There are certain ways of doing things that are distinctly preferential, geographical, or circumstantial. These elements of church life are not deeply rooted in biblical exegesis or confessional standards. As you move from church to church and see how these various things work themselves out, you realize what is and what is not truly important or lasting.
There are other things, however, that are transcultural and transgenerational. They are issues of truth in and of themselves. These things are not a matter of simply saying, this is how we do it here. Over the years, I have known many people who have transitioned through Reformed Baptist Churches. They came, they loved, they embraced, they propagated and then they left. They may have left due to job relocation, a family matter, or through personal offense. My personal tally is that virtually all of these people left off their confessional distinctives the moment they left the church. What they say they embraced as being biblical turned out to belong to community and not conviction.
I have also witnessed another group of people who have been forced to leave their church behind. The so-called pastor turned out to be a wicked man. The flock was scattered. Among that group, not one has left the visible church and virtually all of them left with distinct confessional convictions intact. Though they had been grievously abused in their so-called Reformed Baptist Church, they continued in that faith.
What makes the difference? Why do some embrace a confessional perspective on the Lord’s Day or the Regulative Principle (I know, I know, I know, I know that it is worked out differently in different places—I know that) only as long as they sit under such a ministry, and quickly throw it off once they move to another place. We do not do that with the deity of Christ or the scriptures.
In our zeal to embrace the wider body of Christ who differ from us, we must not present the truth as anything less than it is. Truth does not change with geography. Truth does not change because some Reformed Baptists are fools. Truth does not change because some pastors are immoral. May God help us to know the difference between community and conviction.Jim Savastio, Pastor Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville