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Australian Independent Baptist Newsletter

Pastor and Mrs. BennettMap of Australia

September 2002

Dr. David C. Bennett, Editor (DCB)

PO Box 1241 – Dubbo – NSW – 2830 – AUSTRALIA

Phone/Fax 02-6884-2846


Permission is given to forward material contained in the AIB Newsletter.

Purpose: To inform and warn God's people of religious social, and political events in today's world.


Standing unashamedly for the King James Bible

have had concern for the independent Baptist movement here and in the USA for sometime now. Two articles in this issue relate to that concern.  

Recently, I read a copy of the Auust issue of the SWORD OF THE LORD. There was an article by the editor, (Dr. Shelton Smith) titled SOUTHWIDE SLANTS ITS SLATE OF SPEAKERS.  I believe this article is also pertinent to the Independent Baptists here in Australia . In the place of Southern Baptist, insert Baptist Union. The contemporary craze of Saddleback and Willow Creek is a problem here as well. 

Dr. Shelton’s article relates to the October 2002 meeting of the Southwide Baptist Fellowship.

He writes, “In view of the Southwide’s published program for this October, let me ask a few questions and give you my take on it.”

  (1) Should the Southwide Fellowship have speakers who are in the Southern Baptist Convention? I don’t think so! It seriously compromises the integrity of the fundamental movement.

  (2) Should the Southwide Fellowship showcase speakers who are in the contemporary church classification? I don’t think so! These men who have been influenced by Saddleback and/or Hybels philosophy are not the people we want to influence our young preachers. They are not (in my view) the model for fundamental churches.

  (3) Should the Southwide Baptist Fellowship have speakers from an organization like Word of Life, which is not a fundamentalist, separatist group? I don’t think so!

  (4) Is the independent Baptist movement unable to field a lineup of speakers who are fundamentalists? I don’t think that’s a problem!

  (5) Does this mixed bag  of speakers properly reflect the history and heritage of Southwide? I don’t believe it does! Not in the least!

  (6) Does this mixed bag of speakers represent a good direction for Southwide? I don’t believe it does! No, to the contrary, it heads down the wrong path!

  (7) Does this mean that the current Southwide Baptist Fellowship leadership has a new agenda? It certainly appears that way!”

Dr. Shelton writes more but I will finish with this. “There is no way, absolutely no way, that mixing and mingling with evangelicalism, accommodating the contemporary craze, and compromising our platform will strengthen our pastors, our churches or our movement! To the contrary, it will diminish our distinctive and weaken our work and witness!”

  *Editor’s Comment: If you play in the pigpen, you are going to get dirty!  Independent Baptists need to obtain their style of worship and methods for evangelism from God’s Word rather than Rick Warren or Bill Hybels! How long will independent Baptists continue to associate with those where compromise is accepted and practiced? Amos 3:3 “Can two walk together except they be agreed.” Preacher, this is still true today! 

The following article BAPTIST BIBLE FELLOWSHIP IN THE PIT OF COMPROMISE is from THE INDEPENDENT BAPTIST: PLAINS BAPTIST CHALLENGER August 2002. Some independent Baptist brethren here in Australia may find themselves considering the implementation of  the same things mentioned in this letter. I quote only the public letter written by the pastor who hosted the September 23-26 BBFI 2002 meeting.  

Letter From Pastor Stokes


Rev. David R. Stokes <>

Senior Pastor - Bethlehem Baptist Church

July 3, 2002

I am aware that there is substantial discussion about the upcoming Baptist Bible Fellowship International meeting at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Fairfax , VA , scheduled for September 23-26, 2002 . Though I have had no more than a handful of calls or inquiries, I have heard about persistent "rumors" and "concerns." I am making this public statement and I herein grant permission for anyone - anywhere - to use this as they might see fit. I recognize that what I have to say here might, in fact, be distorted or misunderstood, but I want to shed as much light on things as I possibly can. It has been suggested that we are planning an "in your face" meeting. Quite the contrary our prayer is that the Fairfax meeting will move us all to "seek His face!"

It seems that much of the criticism and concern centers on a cluster of issues. I think much of what has been "noised about" paints a caricature of the philosophy and membership dynamics of Bethlehem Baptist Church . A caricature is, in effect, a distortion or exaggeration. We are an independent Baptist Church . We have been affiliated with the BBFI since 1961 (when the church was founded). We agree completely with the 20 articles of faith of BBFI. We faithfully support BBFI missionaries and ministries. We are also a church in a growing area. The world is moving to Fairfax County and the demographics of our community are changing. The "uttermost" that our Lord spoke of has moved in next door. Our methods have been implemented with our field of harvest in mind.

The issues "noised about" seem to be these:

  * Bethlehem Baptist might be planning to drop the name "Baptist"

  * Concerns about our music

  * Our view of the King James controversy

  * Our view about matters of dress and modesty

  * Concerns about some on the speaker schedule

I will deal as best I can with each of these in this communiquéé. Possibly, there are other "issues" I have missed, but I think my responses to these will give any objective observer a sense of our vision and mission.

I know the heartbeat of the members of our church. They are excited about hosting this meeting. They feel honored to have so many of God's servants coming into "their house." They have worked hard - they have sacrificed financially - and they are praying for a wonderful moment of revival. Our "agenda" is to be a blessing. Yes, we will "be ourselves" - anything else would be hypocrisy. But, as you come into our home our goal is to be hospitable and encouraging.

Bethlehem Baptist Church has "transitioned" from a very "traditional" approach to methodology to one somewhat more contemporary. The pendulum has swung dramatically here. This may, in fact, be an issue of concern to some of the brethren. But, please know that we do not believe everyone should be like us. There are churches in our movement using traditional methods with great success. There are churches using innovative/creative methods with success (as has been our experience). Our thinking on this is expressed in the thought "The Message NEVER changes - but the Methods do." Our purpose is not - and would never be - to tell someone they're wrong. If someone likes something we do, fine. If not, fine as well. But, we do believe that churches such as Bethlehem should be seen as legitimate and authentic BBF churches and not disparaged as being "compromising" or "liberal."

I was unable to attend the Gulfport meeting because of my mother's serious and prolonged illness. I was advised, by a leader in the BBF, that a rumor had gotten around that we were somehow - secretly - planning to change our name (dropping the nomenclature Baptist) around the time of the meeting. I answered it then as I do now. We are not planning a name change. There has been no discussion whatsoever of this in the church (and you might imagine this would need to be discussed thoroughly among the membership - that's how Baptist churches govern themselves - and our polity is unapologetically Baptist!). I have on occasion had casual conversations with young staff members or other pastor friends speculating on the value of such a move. But nothing has been initiated and nothing is planned. I will not say that it will NEVER happen, because that would be presumptuous and would ignore how the Lord might lead us.

We commonly present ourselves to the community as "Bethlehem" (in the same way many refer to "High Street Baptist Church" as simply - "High Street") and our receptionist answers the phone in our office: "Bethlehem Ministries - May I help you?" But this is a simple informality, not an "official" thing.

I have no problem with churches that have determined not to use the term "Baptist" in their name - as long as they remain true to sound doctrine and practice. And, if I were to start a church today - I probably would not use "Baptist" in the name. I would however be "Baptistic" in polity and sound doctrine. I wouldn't use "Pre-millenial" in the name, either - though I believe in that eschatological schematic. These are ideals I would teach INSIDE the church AFTER folks had been won to Christ as part of their discipleship. They have no meaning to the lost and unchurched or worse - they have a negative meaning.

Our "style" of music is probably more contemporary than some of our churches. I believe SUBSTANCE is always more important than STYLE. Our message is the full counsel of God. Please know that those leading our worship are approaching this with humility and transparency. Four young ladies are coordinating and leading the worship in our services. Two of them are graduates of Baptist Bible College in Springfield. The other two are my daughters (Jenny and Debby-our youngest daughter, Brenda - helps as well). They work as a talented team. I know their hearts. They want to be used of God to be a blessing to all of our guests. The balance of our Worship ministry includes our choir and various groups. We have a praise band with guitars, drums, brass, and woodwind instruments (my wife and I play in this).

Sure it will be a BBF "first" to have a team of young ladies leading worship. But, this is a change that God has brought to our work here and He has used this format mightily. I sincerely hope that we will all come together with open hearts to Worship the God of glory!

As to the issue of the King James Version - we voted as a church more than two years ago to remove the "King James Only" clause from our church by-laws. I preach from several translations on a regular basis (include, NKJV, NASB, and NLT). Several translations as well are used throughout the Bethlehem Family of Ministries. Various translations are available in our church bookstore as well.

We are, however, aware and sensitive about this issue as it is seen in the BBF. I am asking therefore all of the PASTORS WHO SPEAK to us to use the King James Version in the pulpit. I will not, however, ask the members of our church to do this. That would be contrary to our by-laws. Some will bring the KJV, many others will not. It's a matter of preference and liberty.

We do have at least one speaker scheduled who is NOT a pastor (he is a columnist). I will not place this stricture (KJV) on him, and would ask that he be received and heard in a respectful and friendly manner.

With regard to dress and modesty issues, we enforce no rule on our folks. Some people come to our services "dressed up," others come "dressed down." This ministry seeks to live by that Augustinian ideal: "In essentials, UNITY - in non-essentials, LIBERTY - in everything, CHARITY"

So, apparel issues are really of no concern to us. Bring several suits or your blue-jeans - whatever. But most importantly bring a heart to hear from God. And, if the ladies want to wear slacks - that's fine. Many of our ladies do - including my wife and daughters. I know this may be quite unlike other meetings but this is how we are around Bethlehem. Make yourselves at home! And, if you can't bring yourself to dress any other way than your Sunday best, that's fine too. It is a non-issue with us.

Finally, the issue of the speakers we have invited has been a point of contention to some. First, there is the matter of having Dr. Johnny Hunt, a Southern Baptist. Dr. Hunt is a powerful preacher of the Word and God is going to use Him mightily. He was not only my choice - he was the choice of the National BBF officers as well. I gave them a "short list" of outside men I had thought to invite to speak and Dr. Gillming told me that they all wanted me to invite Johnny Hunt. So I did and he has graciously arranged his schedule (canceling another engagement) to be with us. I believe the Monday night service will be awesome!

I have, yes, invited some of my friends to speak because I know them and their hearts and because - well - they're my friends. Who among us does not tend to invite friends to speak when we have the chance? All the messages will touch our hearts. One goal I had was to bring men in to speak who haven't spoken at National meetings before. This we are doing.

Then there is the case of Dr. Jerry Falwell. I have invited him for SUNDAY night - the evening BEFORE the BBF meeting actually begins. He has been our guest at Bethlehem before. Two of my daughters are graduates of Liberty University. Sure he's controversial. But, he is a man of God raised up in these unique days. I will not sit in judgment on his ministry - that's what the Bema seat is for. He is my friend, brother in Christ (sometimes we forget this aspect of personal relationships), and major figure in the country and world. I am proud to have him in my pulpit and I invite you to be here "the night before" to hear him!

Let us pray that God will move in our midst in a mighty way this September 23rd - 26th. Pray also for our local church. As pastors I'm sure you understand it when I say that I want this to be a POSITIVE experience for my church - one that will increase the respect these people have for men of God.

Join us at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Fairfax - "for such a time as this."

  (If you have any questions . . . call me . . . my cell phone # is 703-863-7025 DRS)

  *Editor’s Comment: I have plenty of questions for this man and others like him. How can a man honestly accept a church that plainly states in the by-laws that they will use only the King James Bible, then turn around, and have it removed?  This is the “way” of new evangelicalism. New evangelicalism usually entails changing from the King James Bible to one of the new versions such as the Nothing In it Version. It involves changing the “style” of music, allowing females to lead in worship in spite of what God has said, the promotion of a looser standard of dress, dropping the name Baptist, and public fellowship with men who are affiliated with non-fundamental and non--separatist organizations.  Then to top it off the officers of the BBFI wanted a Southern Baptist man as a speaker! What an indictment against the BBFI USA leadership!

What has taken place in the BBFI USA is taking place here in Australia . The new versions and the new “style” of music are accepted. I have not yet heard of any “powerful preacher of the Word and God” from a non-separatist fundamental organization speaking from an independent Baptist platform but I do not get around much anymore.

Independent fundamental Baptists used to use only one Bible, the King James Bible, sing only the old hymns and then from a hymn book and not flashed on a screen and they would select only fundamental, separated men to preach in their meetings and from their pulpits.  May we in Australia get back to our roots and provide the proper example to our young preachers so they will continue the heritage and not be drawn back into the compromise of the Baptist Union.  

  Yours against apostasy and for Biblical Truth,

  David C. Bennett, D. Min.

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Missionaries David and Pamela Bennett

The Bennetts Serving the Lord in Australia Since 1979.

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