Independent Baptist churches, sometimes called Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, are Christian churches which generally adhere to fundamentalist conservative Baptist beliefs and specifically do not join any of the Baptist denominations.
Independent Baptist churches make up a small number of the Baptist churches in the United States and a small number of people who consider themselves Baptists belong to an Independent Baptist church. They are strongest in the American South.
Key Beliefs and Practices
They generally strongly oppose Calvinism, except they hold to the doctrine of eternal security. They also generally oppose Pentecostalism and charismatic teachings.
Historically they have not hesitated to practice Biblical separation from groups and persons not holding to similar views: many churches either broke away en masse from other Baptist denominations (mainly the Southern Baptist Convention) or split off from churches which remained in the denominations. As such they tend to speak against more popular Christian teachers such as Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and Joel Osteen. However, this practice has waned in recent years among larger congregations which have, in some cases, joined or rejoined denominations (an example being Thomas Road Baptist Church, which was originally independent and a member of the quasi-denominational Baptist Bible Fellowship International, but later joined the Southern Baptist Convention and now is dually aligned with both groups). Of all the Protestant groups they have the hardest stance against Roman Catholicism; they generally hold to the view that it is the Whore of Babylon mentioned in Revelation 17-18. Even on matters where they would agree with another denomination (such as abortion) they refuse to have any association with them due to their hard stance on separation.
They tend to be highly conservative in lifestyles, shunning alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, along with movies and television. Dress is highly conservative: women are discouraged from wearing pantsuits, and it is extremely rare for the pastor not to wear a coat and tie while preaching. Homeschooling is quite prevalent among IFB's; where a family sends their children to a private school it is almost always one sponsored by an IFB congregation.
A key characteristic of IFB churches is their general adherence to the King James only position on the Bible; a significant number specifically state in their official doctrinal statements that no other translation will be used in their teaching. Others may allow the use of alternate translations but only to show how they differ from the KJV and why they consider the KJV the correct translation. Only a very few do not hold to the KJV only position. There are differences to the level of KJV only held: some (small in number, but highly vocal on internet and other social media platforms) hold to the Peter Ruckman "advanced revelation" view of KJV only but this is not the majority position.
Notable Independent Baptists
Independent Baptists include Dale Bigham, J. R. Church, Aaron Denson, Buck Hatfield, Mike Herbster and his father Carl and brothers Matthew and Mark; Bob Jones, Jr., Bob Jones, III, Kevin O'Brien, Don Ohm, John R. Rice, Peter Ruckman, Ross Spencer, and Jimmy G. Tharpe. Jerry Falwell began his ministry as an Independent Baptist, but later led his church to the Baptist Bible Fellowship International and then also to the Southern Baptist Convention. Hymn writer and composer Ron Hamilton of Greenville, South Carolina, the creator of the Patch the Pirate Adventures, geared to win children to Jesus Christ, is another noted Independent Baptist.
Notable Independent Baptist Institutions
Several colleges with comprehensive academic offerings, including Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola, Florida, are affiliated with this group. Bob Jones University is associated with the group despite its founding by a Methodist.
Many Independent Baptist Bible colleges are small institutions operated by a local church, such as Landmark Baptist College in Haines City, Florida. These colleges usually do not have comprehensive academic offerings like Pensacola Christian or Bob Jones, limiting their courses to those needed for ministerial service within IFB churches. Also they frequently eschew accreditation on the basis of wanting to maintain their independence.