I trust many have heard the news about Dr. Joseph Zichterman, a well-known man from Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) circles. On May 7, 2007 it was suddenly announced Joe Zichterman was leaving the IFB movement and would transfer his church membership to the Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC). Joe’s announcement and departure has apparently caught even his closest friends completely by surprise. Joe’s shift was announced by him at a new web site he opened to break this news. The site, which is now offline, was called Life of Faith Ministry*.
The news of Joe’s departure was broke at Sharper Iron (a pseudo- fundamentalist blog) under this title: Joe Zichterman Launches Website (JZLW)**. This article and the discussion thread was removed by then SI site publisher Jason Janz. In that deleted thread was a comment written by a student from Northland Baptist Bible College now known as Northland International University. I reference his notes below.
The JZLW article and thread which followed generated well over 25,000 hits in just four days. This is pretty much unprecedented for a single article in the Christian blogosphere. I posted several comments in the JZLW thread, which I have republished here:
I do not know Joe and I am not familiar with what I see now appears to be his former ministry in Fundamental circles. I can see many are saddened by this announcement. I sense the loss.Another article with a thread discussion was opened as a follow-up to the JZLW article. Like the first, however, this was also deleted by SI site publisher Janz. It was titled, Crossing The Bridge!! There I contributed two posts, and these did generate a good reaction. Following are my two comments from Crossing the Bridge!!
From what I have read in the first few pages of this thread it appears Joe was fairly high profile and quite influential with young people. Joe’s transition could very well become a catalyst or bridge for others to follow him over to the Willow Creek mentality/ministry.
For the sake of those who Joe had an influence with, and while keeping the spirit of Colossians 4:6 in mind, it needs to be made loud and clear that membership with the Willow Creek church is wrong and especially why it is wrong.
Was it Known?
I am going to wonder out loud for a moment. Did some in positions of leadership over and/or in fellowship with Joe have some inkling, or even a strong sense that Joe's shift was possible, and may even be on the near horizon, while he continued, what we must conclude, was a facade ministry in IFB circles?
Showing Them The WayMy chief is concern is how leadership in Fundamentalism responds in our own circles to what has transpired. I am praying for those in a position who can do so, to take this event with Joe Zichterman to heart and set out to lovingly, patiently, passionately and with power from on High, help our young people understand what has happened.
Anyone can miss something boiling under the surface. In regard to Joe, however, it seems to me that he did not go to bed one Sunday night as a Fundamentalist and roll out of bed on Monday morning in the Willow Creek community. In cases like Joe’s there is usually a gradual slide from where he was (IFB) to where he just landed (WCCC).
Joe Zichterman was relatively high-profile, and well connected with many in leadership positions in IFB circles. Did this 180 shift take everyone by surprise?
How to respond: That appears to be ramping up in regard to how some might like to address Joe personally. If some men think they can in some way recover Joe I am all for it. My chief concern, however, is how we respond to Joe’s shift back here in our IFB circles. I think a type of Damage-Control is in order.
One need only read the post by Anthonydi (from NBBC) in the Joe Zichterman thread. He wrote, “I know that my opinion as a twenty year old matters little, but there are those students here that respect Dr. Z for what he is doing. Frankly this scares me.”
That post IMO was the most significant and prolific in the entire 20 page thread. That should scare and wake all of us up! Do IFB Bible college students respect Joe’s move to Willow Creek? I would hope the NBBC administration took note of that. We had all better take note of that. Anthony’s note sounds much to me like a cry for help.
Joe Z. did and is still having an impact on college students and his impact may linger and draw some of these young people to the WCC and Emerging Church Movement. I believe Joe has become another bridge that has the potential of showing IFB young people the way to the New Evangelical and Emergent Church movements.
Men, if we pass on addressing this close to home with our young people we are going to see a lot more of what we just saw with Joe Zichterman.
These concerns I have expressed are NOT about saving a movement (Fundamentalism); it is about preserving a generation to come. A generation who will understand the necessity of being stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, (1 Cor. 15:58). That they will see fidelity to God, His Word and proclamation of the saving message of Jesus Christ, His Gospel, as a sacred duty.
Vance Havner said, “God has always been in the remnant business.” God does not need an organization or big crowd to accomplish His plan. Just a “faithful few on fire” are enough. We have a task ahead of us. If we don’t pass on to the next generation who sit in the college classrooms:“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).
Unshakeable desire for fidelity to the Scriptures,
Dedication to personal holiness, and
Heart for the evangelization of the lost;
For Related Reading:
Purpose Driven’s Compromise of Scripture
Your First Step Won’t Be Your Last: Avoiding the Path to Compromise
*The Life of Faith site Joe opened to coincide with his move to the WCCC was deleted presumably by Zichterman sometime in early 2008.
**Sharper Iron blog also deleted the article in regard to Zichterman’s move.