IFB Preacher Ralph Wingate Jr Uses Me as a Cautionary Tale

ralph wingate jrWhat follows is a sermon clip by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, Ralph Wingate Jr. Wingate is the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Normal, Illinois. Wingate attended the same IFB college I did, Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, a decade before me. He attended college with my wife’s uncle, James Dennis, pastor of Newark Baptist Temple, Heath, Ohio.

I heard Ralph Wingate Jr. preach a few times over the years. For a time, he was one of the darlings of the Midwestern Baptist College big-name preacher pool. Prior to accepting the pastorate at Calvary Baptist Church in Normal, Wingate pastored Emmanuel Baptist Church in Newington, Connecticut.

In this sermon clip, Wingate is preaching a sermon on legalism. Wingate gives two illustrations of the danger of legalism, Jack Schaap and Bruce Gerencser. Yes sir, I have spies all over America listening to sermons looking for incidents of me being used as an illustration or a warning.  I have known for some time that I am being used as a cautionary tale, a warning to the faithful. One church, several years ago, even held a special prayer meeting for me, hoping that God would get ahold of me and bring me back to the fold. (their prayers failed)



http://brucegerencser.net/ralph_wingate.mp3 (right-click to download)

Several things:

Note how the pastor connects me to Jack Schaap. The same rotten fruit produced the same rotten result. The key difference between Schaap and I? I have never had sexual relations with a sixteen year old girl in a church I was pastoring. (or any other time) And, if Wingate has read my blog for any amount of time at all, he should know that I left the IFB church movement long before I left the ministry. Wingate makes the mistake of judging me and my theology at a particular point in time and does not account for the fact that my theology dramatically changed over the last twelve years in the ministry. (hey, why ruin a good sermon illustration with context)

Note how the pastor stumbles over his theology at the end of the clip. The big dilemma for pastors like Wingate is what to do with me. Wingate, the good Baptist he is, believes a person cannot fall from grace. So here is telling his congregation I was a preacher for twenty-five years, won people to Christ, and, oh wait, I can’t let them know he was a “real” Christian, so, if he was really saved, well, that’s between him and God. I remain a real problem for IFB preachers. They can’t deny my fruit over twenty-five  years in the ministry, so they must find some other  way to invalidate my conversion and devotion to Jesus.

The easiest way is to say that I never was a Christian. Of course this presents a whole other set of problems, problems like how in the world did I deceive thousands of parishioners, dozens of pastors, and even one of his fellow classmates, James Dennis? How did I deceive Dr. Tom Malone, the president of the Midwestern Baptist College? How did I deceive my father-in-law, a graduate of Midwestern, a IFB pastor himself? How did I deceive numerous preachers, evangelists, and missionaries who preached for me?

Not one person, not ONE person, ever said of Pastor Bruce Gerencser, I have questions about whether he is a Christian. Either this is a conspiracy of grand proportions and I am a master deceiver, or the truth is, doctrine be damned, I once was a Christian and now I am not. (and my wife can verify how lousy I am at lying and deception)

Keep in mind Wingate’s use of the word legalism is subterfuge. I have seen this method used time and time again. Legalism is defined as works added to salvation or a system by which works gain a person salvation. No IFB Baptist church is legalistic by this standard. Oh, they all have rules and standards,  BUT they ALL believe their rules and standards are derived from the Bible and that Christian people, people saved by the grace of God, should willingly WANT to live by these rules and standards, not to be saved but because they ARE saved. (I am of the opinion almost ALL Christian sects, except the most antinomian of them, preach a works salvation gospel)

I bear Ralph Wingate Jr. no ill will. I know his theology inside and out. I know why he must preach what he does. But, here I am, defying all attempts to be “explained.”

I know some of you are dying to know how I got this clip. Can’t tell. When people send me things confidentially, I treat their correspondence with me like a priest does the confessional. I appreciate being made aware of this sermon and I am so glad to see Christians like Ralph Wingate Jr. care.

reposted, revised, updated

Comments (14)

  1. ismellarat

    Where do they stand on the idea that you can know if you’re saved (apart from whether or not you indeed ever were)?

    If they think you can, how do they explain the years of your life you spent wearing yourself out?

    Maybe you did all that and it just never occurred to you to figure out this most basic of issues?

    Or must it have been that you were consciously toiling for Satan, knowing that one fine day there would be this payoff of blogging from a wheelchair?

    If they believe you can’t know that you’re saved, how can any of them know, either?

    I imagine in this case that the argument would be that you just have to keep asking, that it’s a matter of probability, that generally you would be guessing correctly, but that some do turn out to have been wrong, as you must have been.

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Very good questions, my friend. I suspect they don’t want to think real hard on this issue. To do so could be quite troubling. :)

      1. Erin

        “I suspect they don’t want to think real hard on this issue. To do so could be quite troubling.”

        Isn’t that true of pretty much all Christians? :)

  2. Lynn

    I don’t get it. You and Schapp are two very different stories. It’s actually quite offensive to lump you together. And you’ve explained that no longer believing the Bible to be the Word of God was your issue. He doesn’t even mention that. So your story doesn’t seem to have anything to do with legalism to me. I think you were a very hard worker because that’s simply who you are. Any task you assign yourself, you’d approach it that same way. I can see where pastors would reach burnout and disillusionment, but that’s not about salvation.

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yes, the subtle attempt to connect me with Schaap is quite offensive. I am many things…..but a sexual predator I am not.

  3. Lynn

    He could have said, “Poor Bruce, he read too many books. So, remember-be on guard lest you also become less ignorant about the Bible.”

  4. Erin

    You should be proud. You’ve touched a nerve enough for them to notice. Bravo.

    In the heyday of my blogging years as a disgruntled-but-still-Christian, I was used as an example a time or two…not in a sermon (that I know of, but I’m sure my former women’s ministry leaders had a few things to say about me), but on some prominent blogs. I always was proud of that. It meant they *heard* me.

    I love your explanation of legalism. Perfect: “BUT they ALL believe their rules and standards are derived from the Bible and that Christian people, people saved by the grace of God, should willingly WANT to live by these rules and standards, not to be saved but because they ARE saved.”

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks, Erin.

      I have long since accepted the fact that my story and writing irritates the “heaven” out of people. :) This has forced me develop a thicker skin. Still working on this. At times, I still think if I just explain myself people will understand. Delusional, naive thinking. My counselor told me that I wrongly think my critics care about what I think. They don’t, he said, and then he said, they don’t give a shit about what you think,Bruce. Harsh, but true.

  5. Chikirin

    One reason I have been reluctant to speak of my atheism to my Christian friends, some of whom are pastors, is because I don’t want them taking my words and making it into a sermon or a blog post.

  6. August

    I’m reading a really interesting book right now. It’s called “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” by Kathryn Schulz. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I mention it here because, for me, your post resonated with what the book had to say about the Millerites in the 19th century.

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I added it to my Amazon wish list.

  7. Someone

    re the photo of Ralph Wingate… it’s funny how all those fundy pastors have that scary shit-eating grin…

    Nice to know you’re loved and thought of, right? ;-)

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yes. :)

      They don’t know what to do with me. Rarely does anyone walk away after preaching for 25 years. I never made good money so it was easier for me. I always made more money outside of the church,

  8. Billy Dean Walker

    I’m new to this blog. I don’t know your story all that well. Just to get to the point, why did you leave the church?


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