The Compelling Desire to Be a Fundamentalist

We were sitting in the main auditorium of a Southern Baptist church in the spring of 1985. It was there where it became evident that we should be at Grace Baptist Church on Weddington Road. It was such clarity, as though it came from nowhere. I was sitting there thinking about “whatever,” and then my mind was filled with this need to attend Grace Baptist, the fundamentalist church across town. My wife agreed.

Shortly after God saved me, there was this urge to find a local church and become a member. This “prompting” was one of many things that began to happen to me. I had never had the urge to find a local church or become part of one before salvation. My life had changed, and I was led mysteriously by another power. It was a new day, an objectively different day. After redemption, we went in search of a local church. We visited a Pentecostal church, Southern Baptist churches, Independent churches, and Presbyterian churches. I had no clue about doctrine, the Bible’s teaching on the local church, or the value of the local church, but knew we had to be part of one.

Sometime in the winter or spring of 84-85, we visited Grace Baptist, a fundamentalist church. I do not remember our first visit. But I do remember some of the experiences with that church. The most notable one was walking through the foyer and observing the mem standing there, with their Bibles tucked under their arms while talking about God. This scene was so odd to me. To hear people talking about God outside the “sanctuary” was unheard of—to me. And it got “worse.”

We visited with members of Grace Baptist in their homes, and their conversation would inevitably lead toward God, Christ, and what He did for them. It was surreal; I didn’t know you could do that, but it was compelling. Some of the men of the church were Gerald Medlin (pastor), Rick Baker, Doug Webb, and a few others. Later Jim Greenburg came to our church, and it formed some of the fondest memories that I ever had in any local church then or now.

While sitting in that Southern Baptist church—a friend of mine from Delaval invited me—I knew I was supposed to be part of Grace Baptist. The next Sunday, we went and never left until we moved to Greenville, South Carolina.

These were my formative years as a new convert. I remember walking in Grace Baptist in those early days with my Living Bible, a paraphrase, not knowing that I had the wrong Bible, which was one of the hottest issues in the Independent Baptist movement. I noticed the “guys” all had Scofield Reference Bibles. So, I got one—a red-leather-covered one and carried it proudly. I soon found my place in the vestibule, making up the gauntlet that greeted folks. I was one of the boys.

Our first family fun day

Yesterday was our third Sunday church meeting. We are fitting in nicely. They had one of their family fun days later that day. Tristen and Haydn left the church meeting to help them set up the park. I took Lucia and Ansa to lunch with Fred and Pat.

We left them and did some shopping for Lucia’s birthday, though we did not find anything. Yesterday was her birthday. She ended up ordering the pants she was looking for through Kohl’s.

Deborah Ford sent her a very nice chime thing. Everybody loved it. The kids wanted it in their room. TBD. Julie Rawlings also bought her a few things, i.e., towel, popcorn, tea, and chocolate. That was nice too.

We had a wonderful time at the fun day. I went; I sat; I did not move for 2.5 hours, except to get some food. Several people came by, so I was talking non-stop. That was nice too. Lucia did the same thing by going the mobile route. She could flutter around talking to people. It was way easier on my buttock to sit, not walk.

God is kind.

I had maybe a dozen or so conversations, and all of them were beyond superficiality. That is exactly what we have been longing for for years. Parents talking about marriage failure, parental failure, kid failure, church failure—yada, yada, yada. It was so refreshing.

Lucia had the same experience.

And the children had a blast. Tristen posted this on her Instagram account, along with a bunch of other pictures: “Church picnic was tonight. I had a great time. Can’t wait for the next one. #RedeemingGraceChurch”

That was a kindness from the LORD. The kids did not want to make the church move when we talked about it at Whattaburger in Fort Worth. It was the “I don’t want to change” thing that all kids feel. They were honest with their thoughts, which I appreciated, but we believed they would be okay.

Well, that did not take long. They are loving it.

There is more interaction, more talking at a level that matters, more transparency, more vulnerability, and less “hung up on themselves” that so many people experience.

It feels good.

You can’t have everything in a church, so you have to identify what are the most valuable things to cherish. Biblical fellowship is very high on my list. I’m tired of the superficial BS.

It’s a good start.