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Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship

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This is a research which reviews the history of the Full Gospel Baptist Church fellowship.  The paper describes the background of the Baptist and focuses more on the areas and policies which acted against it and in favor of the formation of the fellowship. The research paper by reviewing the history of the fellowship brings out the weak points of the Baptist churches and in particular the National Baptist Convention. This research by exclusively making use of literature review, bring out the strengths of the fellowship which has seen it’s so many churches register with the fellowship. The research also examines the current position of the fellowship in terms of its potential to attract more members from the National Baptist Convention   and from else where.

This section reviews the research design which is used in carrying out the research. The research question and the objectives of the study are clearly stated with the significance of carrying out a research in this area clearly explained.

This research paper makes use of literature review as the means of collecting information on the research topic. A wide variety of literature resources were consulted in the collection of the information. The sources which are contacted include online academic libraries. Books, journals and official websites were used in gathering information on the topic. Special care was taken to pick only the peer reviewed journals, relevant books and well credentialed websites in the collection of the information. The paper also uses internal recording of minutes of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship.  

According to Jankowicz (2005), a research design is, “a structured approach to data-collection that neatly and economically addresses the research question, answering the hypothesis or resolving the argument involved”. He cites Selltiz et al., (1981) on the definition of design, “deliberately planned arrangement of conditions for analysis and collection of data in a manner that aims to combine relevance to the research purpose with economy of procedure”. Therefore, by using the above two definitions it is clear that a research design makes use of similar techniques and methods in the collection of information in order to generate qualitative findings. The design adapted in this research paper is the review of relevant literature in order to collect information.

This topic carries out a research on the history of Full Gospel Baptist Church. In carrying out this research the paper seeks to answer the following questions:

  • When was this movement/church started and who started it?
  • What prompted the formation of this church?
  • What is the current position of this movement in the world today?

The research paper examines the above resources with an aim of obtaining information on the following:

  • The reason for the popularity of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship worldwide
  • The prevailing conditions prior to the formation of Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship Vis a Vis the conditions which prompted the establishment of the fellowship
  • The difference between Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship and the mainstream Baptist church
  • The impact and significance of Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship on the lives of the Christian with respect to the conditions which prevailed before its establishment

This research is quite significant as it brings to light the doctrines of one the largest movement in the world which affects the lives of many Christians around the world. Through this research it will be possible for one to understand how a church movement can be started and established. By showing the conditions under which Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship was formed, the paper in a way shades light on why there are many “fellowships and many denominations” springing up in the world today.  

This chapter will review the history of the fellowship, the conditions which prompted the formation of the fellowship, and it’s potential. This chapter also examines the organizational structure of the fellowship and highlights its doctrines. An attempt is made to show how all these factor have acted in favor of the fellowship and thus how it has been possible for the fellowship to have grown so fast and thus posed as a threat to the national Baptist Convention.

This section will briefly introduce the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. The time it began is highlighted and its popularity outlined. Some of the criticisms directed towards it are stated. The leadership structure which is quite different from that of the traditional Baptist denominations is highlighted. The introduction also shows how it capturing phrase change came about.

The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship is not regarded as a church but rather as a fellowship of churches and individuals who represent various organizations. The fellowship assumingly draws its members from an African American Baptist background who particularly the spiritual gifts operations in the church. The fellowship grew out of National Baptist Conventions which began around 1992. The fellowship was and is based on spiritual gifts freedom. The founder of the fellowship is Bishop Paul S. Morton. The first conference for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship was held in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1994. It is headquartered inn Atlanta.

Weaver (2008) outlines the situation at the time that the fellowship was being formed. He claims that at this time the Pentecostal theology and mega-churches was becoming a common phenomenon. He writes that the first Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship conference had a huge congregation, “its first conference at the Louisiana superdome in 1994 reportedly attracted 25,000 participants.” Weaver (2008) informs that the Bishop of the fellowship was instructed to act as bridge, “God instructed him in 1994 to change generation and bridge the gap between Pentecostal and Baptist faiths.” The fellowship acknowledged charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit and autonomy of the local churches. The fellowship is reported to have gained a lot of popularity around the world at the same time. 

The leadership of the fellowship is based on an Episcopal hierarchy with the leader “International Presiding Bishop” being Morton. There are also tiers of leadership which include the, “a bishop’s council, a college of bishops, general, state, and district overseers and in the local church, senior pastors, ministers, elders, and deacons.” The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship grew rapidly with remarkable steps being seen in form of the traditional African-American Baptist denominations loosing their members to the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship mega-churches. This prompted opposition from the traditional Africa n American Baptist denominations in form criticizing remarks on the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship’s charismatic theology and the Episcopal structure as a threat to the Baptist polity. In response the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship through the presiding Bishop Morton claimed that the movement gave, “the Baptists the right to choose.” The critics of the Baptist denominations on the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship were in 2006 echoed by the president of the National Baptist Convention of USA (NBCUSA) William Shaw that gospel of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship was consumer focused and that it had a “capitalistic devotion to personal privilege.”

It has been seen how the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship was formed in 1994. Its leadership structure has been highlighted and what the fellowship stands for. Some of the criticisms which have been directed toward the fellowship have been highlighted. The next section highlights the conditions within the traditional Baptist church that prompted the formation of this movement.

This section will very briefly introduce the Baptist church highlighting the major events and its trends which resulted to the formation of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship.

According to Weaver (2008) the Baptists began in England and expanded first into America and later into the rest of Europe. With time, through missions, Baptists witnesses the Baptists denomination spread all over the globe. Weaver (2008) notes that diversity in the Baptist’s denominations have been regularly exhibited with the Baptist World Alliance uniting these denominations.  Weaver (2008) further claims that, “international Baptists have generally had smaller organizations than Baptists in America, yet many of them have survived even in the midst of persecution from established state churches.” Over the years, the Baptist denominations have been quite influential in all the spheres of public and family life. This has been true all over the world and in particular in America. The emergence of Pentecostal churches however has led to the depiction of the Baptist churches as old fashioned or rather being rigid to accepting changes.

In general there have criticism directed towards the Baptist churches claiming that they are old fashioned and that they are not willing to adapt to changes to put up with new development in the current denominational sphere. Roozen  and Nieman (2005) in arguing this out bring up the scandal of Henry Lyons. According to these authors, this scandal was quite detrimental to NBC because of its wide coverage in all aspects at all levels. Roozen  and Nieman (2005) argue that the organizational environment of NBC was central to the scandal. Despite the revealing of the scandal, the NBC’s power structure is reported not to have surrendered voluntarily to its bureaucratic institution. The NBC leaders claimed that it leadership was based on brotherhood. This attitude is clearly explained by Brackney (2006) by arguing that the Baptists have cooperated meaningfully and emphasized their common faith and heritage. He shows that the Baptist are oppose to “idiosyncratic theological and ethical positions”

Roozen  and Nieman (2005) outlines the challenges facing the NBC as: “the threat of religious alternatives, loose organizational structure and imperial presidency, its barriers to demonstrate participation, its stifling age hierarchy, its problematic environmental relationships, its relative inability to address the social conditions of the African Americans, and its gender inequality.” The authors continue to argue that these challenges put the NBC in vulnerable position of being robbed of its members. They claim that the snatching of members can especially come from the other black religious communities who have similar believes as those of black Baptists. The authors argue that some of the competitors of NBC are capable of providing real alternatives. They quote the embracing of contemporary music and attractive styles of worship as the key elements which make them real alternatives.  

Roozen  and Nieman (2005) claims that for a religious institution to survive in the current tide it needs to adapt to the current times, “competition in the religious economy forces institutions to appeal successfully to some segment of the religious  market or slide into oblivion.” Basing their argument on this claim, the authors view the cultural development in the recent time as endangering the dominant position of NBC among the African America n Christians. Williams and Shurden (2008) are of the same opinion on the issue of cultural context. They explain the cultural concept in the context of the Roman Catholic Church during the Roman Empire. There is a tremendous need for the church to change and adapt in order to be relevant in the religious circles.  Roozen  and Nieman (2005) quotes a pastor putting this point across in a clear way:

Historically, the convention had a significant role in the lives of Baptists congregates but I think that its role has not changed with time and so it is not relevant to youth and young adults and certainly not to the Baby boomer generation that I am part of. Our church historian contended that many NBC churches are locked in a traditional mid-twentieth-century church culture that impedes them from competing with a vibrant neo-Pentecostal style of worship, increasingly popular among African American Christians.   

Roozen  and Nieman (2005) claims that the challenge which is posed by the neo-Pentecostal is quite real and has to be addressed as soon as possible. The authors argue that the NBC should address this problem without, “alienating the pillars of normative tradition …and without producing a crisis of schism”  

This section in a very clear way has shown the challenge faced by the NBC mainly the adapting its organizational environmental to be more formal and importantly changing its culture to accommodate the new generation style of worship and way of service. In the next section it will be show how the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship taps into the potential which is created by this vulnerability. 

The above perfectly describes the setting of the stage for the formation of the Full Gospel Baptist Church fellowship. The confession of one NBC pastor claims, “it began because there has always existed in the Baptist communion those with an appetite for a more spiritual, demonstrative type of worship style.” This appetite is reported to have originated from the Pentecostal tradition but fortunately the members with the appetite still faithfully remained within the Baptist communion. This created a bog chance for the then Pastor of NBC Morton to tap into this potential by coming up with a fellowship which specifically catered for this congregation. It should be noted that this kind of Pentecostal movement taking away member of Baptist churches is not new at al. Weaver (2008) narrates of how in 1915 some leading key members and pastors of the English Baptists defected to join the Pentecostal churches. A point of concern is that the main issue which brought about this defection was expression of worship. 

It is reported that the Full Gospel Baptist Church fellowship has since posed as a great threat to the NBC with the convention losing almost a thousand churches to the fellowship. It should be noted that the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship seems to tap into all the challenges faced by the convention. For instance, it is reported that the fellowship has been attracting young frustrated pastors from the convention. The main source of frustration has been the age hierarchy which has blocked their full participation in the leadership as per their wishes.  Though there have been attempts to reverse the poaching of young pastors from NBC but these efforts are dependent on the old regime meaning that they might not be flexible to actual needs of the young pastors:

To thwart the profusion of young pastors defecting with their churches to Morton’s new fellowship, Lyonns formed the young Pastors and Ministers department in 1996. Pastor Steve Bland, Jr., was elected president and has led the new auxiliary as a vital force in the convention, with a current membership of almost 2,100 pastors and ministers.

However it should be noted with a lot of concern this the future of this department has been cast into much doubt. This is because the department is still controlled by the president, “however the future of the young pastors department is uncertain because it is dependent on the prerogatives of the new president”

This section has clearly indicated that the potential of the Full Gospel Baptist Church fellowship is based on exploiting the challenges which the NBC is facing. These challenges have been identified as being unable to sufficiently adapt to the changing cultural environment with respect to the new generation movements. The leadership style has also posed as a great challenge especially on the issue of age discrimination.  In the next section it is reviewed how the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship has organized itself in readiness to take advantage of this opportunity and above all the impact change among the lives many Christians all over the world.

The Full Gospel Baptist Church fellowship operates under the phrase the right to choose.  This freedom is reported to be based upon the recognition of the free expression of the gifts of the spirit. The fellowship believes that without the recognition of these gifts then the body of Christ is not complete. These gifts are said to have been manifested in its founder back in 1992. It is reported that God had made it clear to the founder that he was to be used at an international level to bridge the gap between the Pentecostal and Baptist traditions. The fellowship had 12 bishops including Morton who can be said to be the founding fathers of the fellowship.

The fellowship has its foundation in the Baptist church but also embraces more charismatic influences. The fellowship draws from both the Baptist and the Pentecostal, “Full Gospel Baptist is one of the first Christian fellowships with such an inclusive nature.  It encompasses the scope of the Pentecostal movement for its spirituality, the Baptist Church for its structure, and the Word Church for its emphasis on the Word of God.” This multi-cultural and denominational fellowship is structured with an Episcopal hierarchy with tiers if leadership.

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