From all of my interactions with most Christians, especially those within the IFB, I’ve come to realize that my upbringing is both typical and vastly atypical compared to what IFB members are used to. I feel that an explanation is necessary to help in understanding my viewpoint on many of the happenings in my life that I hope to chronicle here.
I grew up in an open Plymouth Brethren church (as opposed to Exclusive Brethren), not an IFB church. A quick overview for those who are unfamiliar with Plymouth Brethren (hereafter referred to as the assemblies, a phrase widely used within the churches).
Primarily, assemblies seek to adhere to New Testament teaching about church order. This translates into a few distinctives. There are no pastors in the traditional sense in an assembly. It is instead governed by a group of elders, all of whom do the work of a pastor (though some do not teach, as they may not have the spiritual gift of teaching). These men are typically not paid, and are chosen from among the men already in attendance at the church who are also already doing the work of an elder (meaning they are active in teaching, hospitable, and concerned with looking after the people of God). There is also no church membership to speak of, as they believe that all Christians are the body of Christ, and no extra-Scriptural distinction of membership is required. Women are not permitted to preach (though they are encouraged to teach Sunday school, and women’s Bible studies abound). Also, women wear head coverings during church meetings. The type differs. Many wear lace (either something like a doily or a veil), others wear hats, others wear bandanas. I personally wear a scarf wrapped around my hair. Lastly, every Sunday assemblies observe the Lord’s Supper. Sometimes it’s in the morning, sometimes it’s in the evening. It gets its own service, typically an hour long. Several men, led by the Holy Spirit, stand and talk about Jesus — whether sharing a Scripture that speaks of Him, praying, or calling out a hymn to be sung in remembrance of Him. At the end of the service, the bread and cup (sometimes wine, sometimes grape juice) are passed around the congregation, as well as an offering. This is the only meeting in which an offering is taken.
Doctrinally, assemblies are very similar to IFB. Each assembly is autonomous, although it is highly common for assemblies to be intimately acquainted with one another. They believe in eternal security, and believer’s baptism by immersion (as opposed to infant baptism, or salvation by baptism). They tend to be dispensationalist, though moderately so. I was always taught to try to interpret the Bible literally at first read, as the literal meaning is generally the primary meaning, then search for patterns and types. If a literal meaning is not possible, then a metaphor is assumed. I don’t know if all assemblies teach this, or if this is just what I was taught.
Practically, as far as lifestyle is concerned, there is no dogma that assemblies hold to. Meaning, lifestyle of those who attend assemblies are as vast and varied as the people who attend them. Some hold to similar beliefs of many IFBs, meaning they do not drink, they do not listen to music that is not orchestral or choral, they do not watch movies over a PG-13 rating (and many of those movies are unacceptable), Christians should shield themselves from anything “worldly,” etc. Then you have people who believe that moderate drinking is acceptable, music itself is amoral and its value is dependent on its lyrical content, Christians should be able to live in the world while being apart morally also while being able to discern what is right and wrong, etc. Dress style varies just as much.
Please don’t misunderstand me, that I think that Plymouth Brethren are necessarily superior to other denominations. I spent years of my late teens/early twenties studying and coming to my own conclusions. I also typically try to overlook the faults of those I love. Assemblies can be just as controlling or unsympathetic or strict as the more strict of the IFBs. But that’s the path I’ve chosen for my life, as lead by the Lord. I love all brothers and sisters in Christ, and frankly everyone else too. Regardless of their beliefs or lifestyles.
Frankly, most IFBs would consider me personally to be a very liberal girl living in error. And just as frankly, a lot of the brethren would think the same thing at this point. But that’s okay with me.