I live in a small subdivision in Longview, Texas. Mrs. Gray and I have lived there for over three decades. We love our home and we enjoy our neighborhood. For the most part, all of the people in our neighborhood are good people and fine neighbors. If you asked me to describe the spirit of our neighborhood, I would choose the word harmony.
Let me explain what I mean. My neighbors and our family are totally different in almost every way. We have different careers or jobs. We have different likes and dislikes. We do not share all of the same beliefs or values. We are not alike in very many ways. We are all independent homeowners. However, because we all live in the same neighborhood we have a common cause. That cause is the safety and welfare of the neighborhood in which we live. We want to keep our children safe. We want to maintain the value of our homes. We want to keep the neighborhood clean and not allow it to become dilapidated. We respect our
common cause and that brings harmony.
However, unified is not the word I would choose to define our neighborhood. We do not have unity because all of us have different ideas and values. We do not come together and decide for whom we will all vote. We do not send our children to the same colleges or even the same schools. We do not eat the same diet or follow the same standards of dress. We do not check up on each other to see if we are all raising our children the right way. Although we are not living in unity we can still live in harmony.
Unity is impossible in my neighborhood. I cannot unite with the Mormons down the street or with the guy who is a beer distributor. In matters of the neighborhood we must be in harmony, but I cannot be in unity with them. I have an independent home so I cannot unite with the other neighbors, but I can be a harmonious neighbor.
The same is true with other independent Baptist churches. I cannot unite with many other churches, but I can be in harmony with them. Some of them are not as strong as I am on the King James Bible, while others have different standards and convictions. I believe in being in harmony, but not unity.
I actually love harmony and seek to live my life with as much harmony as is possible. Unfortunately, many Independent Baptists are either too eager for unity or too stubborn and prideful for harmony. The great men of the previous generation who are my heroes were men who understood the distinction and who appreciated the value of harmony. These men had the ability to be bigger than their differences. As long as they did not unite, they were fine. The effort at unity often destroys harmony. Great causes are not perpetuated by unity but by harmony.
Weakness loves unity because it gives security. It is interesting that it is usually the weaker person who seeks unity with the stronger person. A weak position validates itself with unity. By asking us to unify with them, they are asking us to compromise our positions. However, they like to vilify us then as being divisive when we refuse. If the preacher who has weaker standards wants unity, why doesn’t he raise his standards rather than expecting others to lower theirs? I will tell you why. Unity is Satan’s tool for compromise. Harmony allows me to get along with my neighbor while maintaining my positions.
When you and I are in harmony, what I do only affects you if you chose to allow it to do so. If my neighbor decides to put a pool in his backyard, I may decide to build a taller fence. That way we won’t have to see the near-nudity. If a college changes their standards, I don’t have to send my students. If my neighbor attacks me because I protected my family from something then they started the fight. If a man attacks me because I choose to pull away since he compromised, that is his choice. I will do my best to maintain harmony, but not at the expense of my family or my position.
Now suppose my neighbor says, “Bob, you are ruining the unity in the neighborhood by not attending the drunken block party. You need to come and bring your family so we can have unity.” My answer is, “Neighbor, if you want unity then why don’t we have a block Bible study instead?” He will not do it because it is not unity he wants. It is compromise. I have separated myself from churches, preachers, and colleges because they changed their position. They accuse me of not wanting unity. It was not I who changed but them. I did not want unity in the first place. I wanted harmony. They changed and now they want me to be in unity with their changes.
They attack me for not changing with them and destroy the harmony. I respond with my position, which has not changed so therefore, I am accused of being divisive. I may like them, but liking or disliking someone or some institution is not the point of topic. I have preacher friends whose position is different from mine on certain standards. We live in harmony, but not in unity. I cannot send my teens to their activities because of the standards, but I can treat them kindly and graciously. Unfortunately, they often take my unwillingness to unify personally and attack which destroys the harmony. I have discovered that the first shot is usually fired by the one who wants to be justified for his weaker position, not the one in the stronger position.
Dr. Jack Hyles lived harmoniously with many preachers who were very different than he was. He preached with them and for them and even had some preach for him. He was not looking to unite nor were they. They lived in harmony because they did not seek to live in unity.
Sadly, there are those who classify my convictions as preferences. They demand I give up my convictions and convert them to preferences to satisfy them and be in unity with them. I refuse to do so. I will not call their convictions preferences and they should not call my convictions preferences.
I fear Satan is attempting to bring a denominationalist mindset to our Independent Baptists. For one to rebuke another as being unbalanced simply because they do not submit to another's definition of convictions is unbalanced.
Harmony says that I can choose to go to a certain conference or not. Harmony can exist without there being a demand for "unity." We have no headquarters. We are all independent of each other. We should seek to have harmony but not unity. I love old-fashioned hymn singing in church. I know some good men who use bluegrass style music.
I am not seeking unity with those men, but I plan to be in harmony with them. I seek not to unify them to me or me to them. If they step over the line and begin using rock music then my definition of harmony changes. I will still be kind to them and treat them lovingly but I will distance myself a bit further from them. If they try to influence my church with their rock philosophy, then we have a serious problem. Once they seek to influence me or mine, I must take a stand. Harmony does not live in the same house as unity.
There are different levels of harmony.
Getting along is not unity. It is harmony. The extent to which I get along can differ. I can get along with my Mormon neighbors, but I am going to keep a greater distance from them than I am with the Southern Baptist family or even the non-denominational family. The same is true with other preachers. There are some men with whom I am in closer harmony than with others. Some are drifting further and further away from the truths in which I believe, so I am less in harmony with them. They change, but call me divisive for not changing.
I struggle with the level of harmony some have today with the Rick Warrens of this world. When Rick Warren’s son committed suicide, my heart broke for him. I prayed for him and his wife. I hope souls are saved in his ministry. I am in harmony with the man but not with his philosophies. I do not...WILL NOT attend his conferences to learn his methods, NOR will I attend a conference of an Independent Baptist pastor who receives and teaches methods from Rick Warren. I will have harmony with both, but at a different level.
Our ability to maintain harmony without infringing on others' independence will create an atmosphere that will result in a flourishing Independent Baptist movement. However, when one in our ranks attempts to lead us to men like Warren, I cannot and WILL NOT be in close harmony with them.
Unity seeks acceptance of our differences.
Harmony seeks acceptance of the fact that there are differences. For example, my neighbor may paint their house a shade of green that I don’t care for. Unity says that I must paint my house the same color. Harmony says that I accept their right to do so, but paint my house with the color I choose. We struggle with this because we think we have to be the same to get along. We will not have revival in our ranks until we become harmonious independents. We will also destroy our movement if we do not stay right if we do not understand unity and harmony.
In order for this to be accomplished, we must allow pastors to have different convictions than us. Perhaps one pastor’s convictions are stricter than the other’s is. Rather than attack them and call them unbalanced, the stricter standard should be applauded. I know a pastor who will not allow anyone to join his church unless they give up their television sets. The truth is my wife would never join that church. She will never give up Barney Fife for anyone.
Satan would have our churches to be in
unity because he can get a foothold much easier if we do.
The beauty of God's plan with the Independent Baptist church is the protection of the propagation of the Gospel. Where is the church of Ephesus? Where is the church of Jerusalem? Where is the church of Corinth? Where are the churches of Asia Minor? Those local churches have ceased to exist, but God's promise of His local church prevailing
against the gates of Hell is because of independence.
This current homogenization of independent churches is not what God had in mind, but it does play into the hands of Satan. Those who push for unity of conviction and call those who refuse "unbalanced" open a crack in the door toward denominationalism and allows Satan opportunity. I watched this happen with the attack on inspiration, for soon there was a flood of young men who preached “Polly-parroting” messages of the same thing, not realizing what they were saying. If this attack on local church convictions succeeds, watch the next group of young men push even harder for "unity."
Beware of unity of ideas.
For many years, I conducted the National Soul Winning Clinic in Longview, Texas. We taught hundreds and thousands of ministry ideas in those years. The men who came to the clinic were not asked to be in a unity with me and to implement my ideas. It was open shopping or as Dr. Hyles called it, “cafeteria style.” Take what you felt could help you and leave the other. Unity of ideas creates uniformity and that is not what makes
Independent Baptist churches effective.
Two churches of like faith should be in
harmony, but never in unity.
I loved Dr. Jack Hyles. I was a member of First Baptist Church and a graduate of the first four-year class of Hyles-Anderson College. However, I never sought unity between First Baptist Church and Longview Baptist Temple, nor did Dr. Hyles want me to. We were in harmony, but not in unity. Had we been in unity, it would have done more damage to us when the First Baptist Church deviated for a season. I have great harmony with Pastor Wilkerson, but we are not seeking unity in our ministries.
Satan would have us live in disharmony
because he can weaken us easier if we constantly attack one another.
The harmony aspect of our Independent Baptist neighborhood is crucial, but when it morphs into injecting each other’s definition of what another’s convictions ought to be, it allows Satan an opportunity to destroy. We end up being critical and call our brethren "unbalanced" simply because they believe deeply about something. Independent Baptists must live in harmony while rejecting the overpowering of one over another.
I trusted Christ at age 11 because that is what I wanted to do. Such was the case in my following the Lord in baptism, joining an Independent Baptist Church, and having the personal standards I have. Basically, no one put a pistol to my head via peer pressure to cause me to trust Christ, get baptized, join an Independent Baptist Church, have standards, tithe, go soul winning, etc. Coercion was not a factor for me and neither can it be in operation in our independent Baptist neighborhood. Each church is an autonomous entity. One particular autonomous stand may not be to the liking of another autonomous ministry, but that is what makes this miracle of independence work in this neighborhood of ours.
Unity requires sameness in our positions,
but harmony allows differences.
Here is the challenge. I still believe that women ought to wear dresses. Am I wrong to preach and practice what I BELIEVE? I can be in harmony with a preacher who BELIEVES differently. However, it is dangerous to preach against what the other believes. I preach what I believe, not what he does not believe. If he believes a woman SHOULD wear pants, then he should state it, teach it, and preach it instead of being a secret disciple about it. I fear some emulate the modus operandi of Mormons by hiding what they really believe, which is dishonest. They grapple for the argumentative high ground in order to vindicate. If it is a right practice then SAY SO without hiding behind an "extra Biblical" argument. I never preached on why it is not wrong to own a television, because I was secure in not having that belief.
Those who have no conviction about man’s apparel on females attack me and then accuse me of causing disunity because I preach my belief. To preach against me for believing something creates disharmony. This is all in an effort to be a proponent of unity, which, in its lowest common denominator, is nothing more than a weak attempt to justify a weak position. The result is disharmony. The fundamental neighborhood is served better by harmony than unity.
Unity requires more compromise than
Conservatives call for harmony, while liberal mindsets cry for unity. They like nothing more than to cause us to compromise our values on the altar of unity. Unity is designed for the local church. Only liberal minds desire and cry for a union of local churches because when their people hear another preacher call for God’s people to separate from the world in specific terms, it scares the liberal. Usually it is the one without a belief that attacks the one with a belief.
Unity requires cooperation in all matters.
Harmony requires respect in all matters. I do not have the same lawn as my neighbors, but I do not drive my car over their lawn either. I may not like the shrubs they choose, but I respect their right to choose them. I would have chosen a different color paint for the outside of their home, but I respect the shade they chose. Our homes are all independent.
As a local church, you have the right to choose what you call convictions and what you may call preferences. I have a right to do the same thing. Unity cannot exist unless there is a requirement for cooperation in all matters. You have different ideas about how to administer Biblical principles and that is fine. However, when unity enters the equation you lose all independence.
Unity requires organization and policing.
Recently, as I understand what is being put into print, some leaders have decided that a few of us are unbalanced. What are the criteria for such judgments? Who is in charge of writing this lexicon for fundamentalism? How do we define this? How do we keep the unity?
In order for this unity to work, we must have an authority or a headquarters for a centralized mindset. If we do not find a way to control the thinking of the masses, these independents will continue to be unbalanced and make the rest of us look bad. These unbalanced Independent Baptists will ruin what headquarters has in mind for us as a movement. This is ridiculous. Let's all just remain independent in our convictions and be in harmony with the fundamental neighborhood.
A recently released book suggested that we change our name to “Blblical Baptists”. Historically, we have never named ourselves. Our enemies do that for us. This has an air of denominationalism to me and I rebel at subtle attempts to degrade what our forefathers lived and died for in our history.
I will cut my lawn, and trim my hedges as I so choose. I will paint my house the color I like. I will plant the trees I want. Let me live in harmony please and quit requiring unity. Unity says this is “THE” method. Harmony says here is “A” method.
Unity seeks to control position.
Harmony seeks to control disposition. Unity requires that we agree. Harmony allows us to disagree agreeably. The ability to disagree agreeably can only subsist if harmony is allowed to blossom freely without outside control. The love of the brethren is available through the Holy Spirit of God but is easily stifled through unity.
Unity seeks less while harmony accepts
There are men who are stricter than I am in certain positions. These men challenge me. Lester Roloff would have been rejected by most of our independent guys today. They think they would have liked him, but he would have rubbed their sensitive skin the wrong way and given them a rash. Brother Roloff preached against television, junk food, cooked food, coffee, homogenized milk, and even drinking water with a meal. He was rough, but he challenged us all to think. I never felt the need to undo him or to label him as unbalanced.
Thank God for the “unbalanced" on the right because they provide a bit of balance to the
unbalanced on the left.
The closer we get the more we must have
unity rather than just harmony.
This is why Mrs. Gray and I did not take vacations with other families, even Christian ones. The minute I put myself in that position I cease to be in a position of harmony and enter into a realm where there must be unity. If their standards were different from ours, I would have to either compromise or fight them. I fear we spend too much time away from our local churches in conferences and then find ourselves forced to either compromise or fight. Dr. Hyles' Pastors' School was a tremendous success because Dr. Hyles attracted thousands of men of God who believed like him. Others have to attack in order to
Harmony is kindness.
Why do we think we have to be so mean with our independent brethren? Many preachers are kinder to their Mormon neighbors than they are to some other Independent Baptist preachers. When doctrine is attacked, it is up to all of us to rise to the occasion with the doctrine being the issue. Being kind is always the call of the day. We can all disagree without being disagreeable. Unity is not an enabler of kindness. Unity places demands on others. We want to maintain harmony without destroying our independence.
Harmony is compassion.
When a neighbor has a heartbreak or tragedy, Mrs. Gray and I are there to comfort and pray for them. My neighbors know that I care even if I don’t attend their block parties or unite in other things. They respect our Christian convictions without demanding that we unite.
Compassion should never be withheld because of our differences, but should be extended for Christ’s sake. I have often disagreed with my fundamental brethren, but never was it personal. I want the harmony aspect, but I rebel at the call for unity.
Harmony is very limited cooperation.
I am not a cooperator by nature. However, I am not uncooperative either. I seek not to cooperate in most matters with other independent homeowners or most Independent Baptist churches. I will, however, cooperate on that which is common to us. I supported missionaries who were supported by churches with which I would not agree nor they with me. I did not stop supporting that missionary just because another church does.
Harmony is consideration.
I want to be a good neighbor. What does that mean? It means showing respect, but it does not mean uniting with them. I do not go to block parties, but I behave kindly to everyone on my block. I do everything I can to respect their property and their children. There are no demands made on our independence and there is no demand made on their independence. I want harmony, but I do not want unity because it would violate our independence.
Harmony is careful correction.
One day I was reading my email and I received an article from a very good pastor for whom I have the highest respect. He is a man I have preached for and with. I agree with him on most matters. However, this article was absolutely against what I believe and I felt very flawed. In fact, it was on the subject of unity. In my opinion, it was awful. Had he preached this in his church, I would have said nothing about it. However since he published it for young preachers all over America to read, I felt I must deal with the issue.
I wrote an article and posted it on my BLOG under SOLVECHURCHPROBLEMS.COM. I did not mention his name although I was aware certain people would know it was in response to his article. I hoped the readers would understand my intention was to correct what I thought was wrong in his article. Please understand, I was not attempting to correct him. I was attempting to correct those who read it and did not see the error.
I am not upset with him and still love and respect him. I even went to hear him preach a few months later. He was very cool to me, but I went up to him and shook his hand both before and after he preached. I pray for him. His sermon that night was spot on and I told him so. In fact, it was one of the best sermons I had ever heard him preach and I told him that. I did not correct him to be contrary. I tried to provide a counterbalance to his article without
Let me give you another example. I DID NOT vote for Mr. Obama for President. In fact, I was for whoever was running against him. A few of my neighbors put Obama campaign signs up in their yards. Now unity would say that I should put Obama signs up in my yard. Some would say that I should pull the Obama signs up and burn them, but harmony says I should leave others to their beliefs. If I want to counterbalance my neighbor then I should put campaign signs up in my yard that promote my candidate. However, when those with Obama signs were outside of their homes I greeted them kindly.
Harmony minds its own business, but is
protective of its own business.
I mean that literally. It is not my business if my neighbor’s dog digs holes in their own yard. However, it is my business if my neighbor’s dog starts digging holes in my yard.
Harmony is not pacifism. It stands for what affects its own.. What other pastors teach in their churches about child rearing is not my business UNTIL it begins to infiltrate my church. MANY pastors would do well to quit checking up on other pastors and what they teach. If it does not affect you, mind your own business.
Harmony allows me to choose who
influences me and mine and allows others to choose whether they allow me to influence them.
There are Christian colleges I would not recommend, but I can be in harmony with them. There are preachers I would not invite to speak with me, but I can be in harmony with them. There are places I would not go to preach, but with which I can be in harmony. Harmony allows us to be independent and choose without being hateful.
So why does the Bible say that we should dwell together in unity? The answer is in the words “dwell together.” Where we are joined, we should seek unity in our spirits. A home should be in unity. A church should be in unity. Those in the family should be in unity with the rest of the family. However, wherever we have sought unity outside of these, we have seen compromise.
Unity is a home under the leadership of the father and a church under the leadership of the pastor. These positions are not dictatorial, but they are the leadership of those institutions.
The only types of churches in the Scriptures are local churches. They are not universal or invisible. Each must strive to live in unity with the spirit of harmony in their own church. No local church should demand unity of all local churches, but they can provide harmony.
Now here is where I want to make an emphasis. I believe that many Independent Baptists are right on unity, but wrong on harmony. As an independent fundamental neighborhood, we can live together in harmony, but we cannot live together in unity. As an Independent Baptist church we can, on a local basis, live in unity, which requires being
protective of our independence.
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You can visit SOLVECHURCHPROBLEMS.COM and go to our store to look at over 33 books, free downloading of sermons, Q & A section, my Itinerary, and subscribe to my weekly BLOG.