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  • Writer's pictureJosiah Tester

Healthy In Church: A Former IFB 'Preacher Boy' Shares His Story

This is a guest article by Josiah Tester.

What is the IFB? 

I recently did a “poll” and asked my Facebook friends what their thoughts on the IFB were. The answers varied and here are some of my favorites: One pastor commented, “Which one?” (I thought that was clever). Another pastor commented, “Made up of good, godly saints. In some cases, however, they are seated beneath domineering pastors, who bind the minds of their congregants.” 

Another man commented, “The IFB is a culture, not a denomination. You can’t say you are independent of everyone else but only associate with IFB churches. That’s interdependent. Co-dependent if you will. Fundamentalism is an ever shrinking circle. Fundamentalists are always making new fundamentals and kicking out those to the left of them. So combine those two things and you have a mess of infighting, pride, and majoring on the minors.”

While I think these comments do a great job expressing common feelings about the IFB, allow me to share my personal story and what the IFB means to me. 

My Story 

Before I begin, I must say this is only my opinion on the IFB…but also before I begin, I must say that I am not bitter or angry. I do not claim to be a victim. Yes, I’ve been hurt, but I believe that people who have been hurt must deal with that. And, I’m thankful that I have dealt with the hurts and strive to move forward for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I also do think there are many good IFB people, but I think it’s dangerous to be associated with that culture/group. 

The IFB was a big part of the majority of my life. I grew up in it, and was called to preach in it. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and it was honestly, my world. I wanted to be a big name preacher and preach at all the conferences. I reached out to all the big name preachers and had grown relationships with them. I idolized all the Sword of the Lord guys. I would write them letters and receive them back and plaster them all over my walls in my room. I worshiped them, and blindly followed them, their books, and whatever they said. 

Well, I decided I wanted to be just like them, so I started a Facebook preaching page, called Time with God. I would preach, really just parrot, everything the big name IFB guys would say. I would yell about women in pants, KJV-only issues, and things along those lines. The page actually blew up. I was getting thousands of views and it all went to my head. 

But all while “preaching” and gaining attention from IFB preachers, in my personal life, I was living the complete opposite. I won’t go into detail about specifics, but I got in trouble with a girl, and I began to rethink all that I was doing. 

The first thing I realized was that my preaching and the idols I had, it was all a joke. 

So I took down my page and began to really think. I began to truly think about the importance of truth and grace. That is when I realized the IFB is not the best place to learn grace and truth. And, I found a whole new world of people that weren’t tied to a culture that contained the big three letters, IFB. 

Well, I was still only about 16, and I was attending an IFB church with my family. So I was stuck, but I did the best I could, and eventually, after a super long story of hurts, my family left, too. 

Now I’m writing to share that the IFB, like the one comment said, is a culture. It’s nothing more than that. 

It is a culture that is just for show. It’s a culture that is not concerned with what truly matters.

I, though, don’t want to assume that every church saying Baptist is tied to the IFB. But I do believe, again, being associated with the IFB, is very dangerous and cliquish. When you state you are IFB, you have closed doors to minister because of many people’s preconceived ideas (Whether they are true or not). The IFB I’ve been a part of has not focused on what matters. And what truly matters is grace and truth. That should be the priority…

So growing up, until this year, I was in the IFB culture, and I didn’t grow or learn from the IFB. No, I grew from truly studying myself. But the ability for that is hard in the confines of the IFB. The IFB culture is about show, but it is also about control. And the typical IFB pastor is all about control. And when you have a pastor who is about control, it’s hard to be about what matters. 

Since I left the IFB, I have now been able to grow and become who God wants me to be. I have no fear of being the person God wants me to be, without being concerned with what a church or pastor may think. 

The church I am at, now, is a church that truly values the important truths of what I shared. And I’m so grateful for that. 

After leaving my controlling IFB church, I wasn’t sure what to expect about leadership at another church. But I have learned that real pastors truly want you to live the life God wants, not the life they want. 

So how do you deal with a new pastor and new church, though? How do you deal and reconcile with the past while moving forward? You ask God for help, obviously. But I think the first step is honesty. Be honest with the church. Let them know that you have had church hurt in the past, and may have struggles with trusting leadership. The right type of pastor will respect that. But also, the right type of pastor will ask good questions, so he can help you. 

Recently my pastor approached me and asked if he could mentor me. That is a sign of a good pastor. Too many pastors assume you want their help. A sign of a good pastor is a pastor who asks before assuming. 

He clearly told me that in his ministry, he wanted to mentor young guys and help them as they begin ministry. I greatly appreciated him telling me that. I shared with him that no pastor of mine had ever told me that. I gladly told him I wanted his help as I began ministry. But he wanted to make sure it was something I wanted, not just something he did. He offered time for me to think about it, as well. 

The second thing to prioritize in having a healthy relationship with your pastor and church is gratitude. I think it’s wise to be a part of a church that thanks you for your help, and does not always expect you to help. 

One thing I have learned from the IFB churches is many pastors expect you to help, because they told you they need it and they are the “Man of God”. I think that is a very unhealthy way of leading. A healthy pastor will appreciate you and realize that you are important and needed. 

I’ve always noticed my pastors, at my church, are always thanking me and my family for what we do. Our pastor never goes a Sunday without sharing with the church, without them, the ministry couldn’t run effectively. 

The third key to healthy relationships with a new church and pastor is honesty and gratitude that goes both ways. Because you are co-laborers together. But also you are co-equals. He is no better because he is the pastor, and you are no better, either. 

I think the IFB church has created a hierarchy, and a healthy church and pastor will put that away and make you aware that you are on the same level. 

So when forging a new relationship with a local church and pastor, remember— honesty, gratitude, and two-sided relationships. 

I pray this was a blessing for you and it helps you with whatever stage you are at in life. May we always remember, that despite being hurt by a church, we remember what Jesus did when he was hurt: forgave. Yes, it is hard, but it’s necessary to advance in the faith. 

Josiah Tester currently lives in Garland, Texas and is finishing high-school. After high-school, he plans to get into full-time ministry. His desire is to travel and reach people through preaching. His goal is to live a life that beams Christ and bears character. He would love to get connected with you and be a blessing in any way he can.

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Jan 12

How telling that the first thing you declared is that you are not bitter! IBs use the "bitter card" about anyone who steps out of line, don't they? I'm glad you recognize that forgiveness does not equal reconciliation and that Ephesians 1 is still in the Bible - "expose the works of darkness". And also that "forgive and forget" are not Biblical. I'm glad you prioritize truth because Jesus said, "I am the Truth". IBs push performance, but it's not us - it's all Christ. When we fail and God looks at us, He sees Christ and His perfection. He does not see our sin and turn His face away, like IBs teach. So many many stories of hurt and crimes I…


Jan 11

Great thoughts Josiah, but let me encourage you to study Hebrews 12, especially the part about “fixing your eyes on Jesus “. You mentioned Him in the second to last sentence of your article above. If we look to pastors, denominations, or organizations of men to shape our faith, we will always be disappointed and disgruntled. Make Jesus your Hero and live like He did, and you will always know truth and grace.

Blessings, Pastor Drew Brandt

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