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But Our Church is DIFFERENT!

ice cream flavors

I pastored my last church in 2003. Between July of 2002 and November of 2008, my wife and I, along with our children, personally visited the churches that are listed below.  These are the church names we could remember. There are others we have either forgotten or vaguely remember, so we didn’t put them on the list. Churches in bold we attended more than once. All told, from 2002-2008 we visited about 125 churches. If I added every church I have ever attended or preached in my lifetime the count would be over 200.

When Christians tell me THEIR church is different I often tell them that I have been to THEIR church. Not literally of course, but one church or another that I have visited over the past 30+ years is just like theirs. Churches are not as unique as they would like to think they are. Polly and I concluded that the name over the door may be different, but after a while, they all look and sound the same. The  congregation size, building, music, and liturgy might be different, but this is nothing more than the man behind the counter at the ice cream shop asking you, regular cone, waffle cone, or bowl.

If the church has a website, I linked to it. A handful of these churches are no longer open.

Churches We Visited 2002-2008Location
Our Father’s HouseWest Unity, Ohio
First Brethren ChurchBryan, Ohio
First Baptist ChurchBryan, Ohio
Grace Community ChurchBryan, Ohio
Lick Creek Church of the BrethrenBryan,Ohio
First Church of ChristBryan, Ohio
Eastland Baptist ChurchBryan, Ohio
Bryan Alliance ChurchBryan, Ohio
Union Chapel Church of GodBryan, Ohio
Celebrate Life Christian FellowshipBryan, Ohio
Faith United Methodist ChurchBryan, Ohio
Trinity Episcopal ChurchBryan, Ohio
Archbold Evangelical Church Archbold, Ohio
Sherwood Baptist ChurchSherwood, Ohio
Ney Church of GodNey, Ohio
Ney United Methodist ChurchNey, Ohio
Sonrise Community ChurchNey, Ohio
Farmer United Methodist ChurchFarmer, Ohio
Lost Creek Emmanuel Missionary ChurchFarmer, Ohio
Hicksville Church of the NazareneHicksville, Ohio
Community Christian CenterHicksville, Ohio
Grace Bible ChurchButler, Indiana
St John’s Lutheran ChurchDefiance, Ohio
Harvest Life FellowshipDefiance, Ohio
Community Christian CenterDefiance, Ohio
Second Baptist ChurchDefiance, Ohio
First Baptist ChurchDefiance, Ohio
Grace Episcopal ChurchDefiance, Ohio
First Assembly of GodDefiance, Ohio
Defiance Christian ChurchDefiance, Ohio
First Presbyterian ChurchDefiance, Ohio
St John’s United Church of ChristDefiance, Ohio
Peace Lutheran ChurchDefiance, Ohio
Pine Grove Mennonite ChurchStryker, Ohio
St James Lutheran ChurchBurlington, Ohio
Zion Lutheran ChurchEdgerton, Ohio
Northwest Christian ChurchEdon, Ohio
Restoration FellowshipWilliams Center, Ohio
Pioneer Bible FellowshipPioneer, Ohio
Frontier Baptist ChurchFrontier, Michigan
Salem Mennonite ChurchWaldron, Michigan
Waldron Wesleyan ChurchWaldron, Michigan
Lickley Corners Baptist ChurchWaldron, Michigan
Prattville Community ChurchPrattville, Michigan
Betzer Community ChurchPittsford, Michigan
Fayette Church of the NazareneFayette, Ohio
Fayette Bible ChurchFayette, Ohio
Fayette Christian ChurchFayette, Ohio
Morenci Bible FellowshipMorenci, Michigan
First Baptist ChurchMorenci, Michigan
Demings Lake Reformed Baptist ChurchDemings Lake, Michigan
Medina Federated ChurchMedina, Michigan
Thornhill Baptist ChurchHudson, Michigan
First Baptist ChurchHudson, Michigan
Rollins Friends ChurchAddison, Michigan
Canandaigua Community ChurchCanandaigua. Michigan
Alvordton United BrethrenAlvordton, Ohio
Pettisville Missionary ChurchPettisville, Ohio
Vineyard ChurchToledo, Ohio
Providence Reformed Baptist ChurchToledo, Ohio
Lighthouse Memorial ChurchMillersport, Ohio
Newark Baptist TempleHeath, Ohio
Church of GodHeath, Ohio
30th Street Baptist ChurchHeath, Ohio
St Francis De Sales Catholic ChurchNewark, Ohio
Bible Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Cedar Hill Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Eastland Heights Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Northside Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Newark Brethren ChurchNewark, Ohio
St John’s Lutheran ChurchNewark, Ohio
Vineyard of Licking CountyNewark, Ohio
Vineyard Grace FellowshipNewark, Ohio
Grace FellowshipNewark, Ohio
Faith Bible ChurchJersey, Ohio
Vineyard Christian ChurchPataskala, Ohio
Cornerstone Baptist ChurchNew Lexington, Ohio
St Nicolas Greek Orthodox ChurchFort Wayne, Indiana
Nondenominational ChurchAngola, Indiana
Nondenominational ChurchFremont, Indiana
Victory Baptist ChurchClare, Michigan
First Assembly of GodYuma, Arizona
Desert Grace Community ChurchYuma, Arizona
Calvary Lutheran ChurchYuma, Arizona
Bible Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Calvary ChapelYuma, Arizona
OasisYuma, Arizona
Faith Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Valley Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Calvary Assembly of GodYuma, Arizona
Foothills Assembly of GodYuma, Arizona
Morningside Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Faith Horizons Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Stone Ridge Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Old Order Mennonite ChurchYuma, Arizona
Grace Bible FellowshipYuma, Arizona
Calvary Temple of ChristYuma, Arizona
Maranatha Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Independent Lutheran ChurchYuma, Arizona
Community Christian ChurchYuma, Arizona
Church meeting in funeral chapelYuma, Arizona
Pentecostal ChurchWinterhaven, California
North Holtville Friends ChurchHoltville, California
Sierra Vista Baptist ChurchSierra Vista, Arizona
Hedgesville Baptist ChurchHedgesville, West Virginia
New Life Baptist ChurchWeston, West Virginia

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    But Bruce, all those churches you went to didn’t preach the TRUTH!!! Lemme tell ya, mine does! And our pastor is so loving and giving. He’s the REAL DEAL! It’s like he’s preaching right to you! And our congregation is full of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. And there’s no church in town that has the type of music our church has! Want to get holy-spirit filled? Come to MY church….You’ve NEVER had church like we do!!!!

  2. Avatar

    I don’t want to challenge your experience of churches. It is, after all, your experience, not mine. But looking at the list it seems that you’ve only attended churches in five states of the United States. (I may have counted incorrectly, so forgive me if it’s more.) That might be over 200 churches, but all those churches belong to one very small part of the worldwide church. Might your experience of the church have been different if you’d also worshipped at churches in Tonga or Burkina Faso or Slovakia or outback Australia?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Well, sure that can be said of any of our experiences, yes? While I have no doubt the worship, music, and preaching might be different, along with how that particular church practices its faith, these added experiences would not likely have led me to any different conclusion.

      • Avatar
        Avril Hannah-Jones

        If worship, music, preaching and faith practice are all different, what is the same – apart from the basic faith described in the ecumenical creeds? I agree that every Christian church is going to worship the triune God and believe that in Jesus God became incarnate. Is that what you mean by the ‘ice cream’? Because I can’t imagine anyone walking into a Christian church without expecting the Trinity and the Incarnation or finding that a problem.

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Sects can’t even agree on salvation, baptism, communion, three basic and important beliefs. And not every Christian sect is Trinitarian.

          The ultimate reason we deconverted is because we no longer believed the claims of Christianity to be true. While there are many other factors, but this is the primary one. If we no longer believed the central claims of Christianity, we were honest enough to say that we were no longer Christians,

          I’m not sure what you are looking for here, so if you’d be more specific it will allow me to better answer your questions,

      • Avatar

        It appears that on this list you never attended a ward or branch of the church of Jesus Christ of latter, day saints. During the period between 2003 and 2008. The church is quite different to all the church’s on this list, and cannot be compared honey crisp to red delicious, to the other church’s. It’s more like winter pears to golden delicious.

        • Avatar

          Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s any good, Michael. It’s as replete with nonsense as garden-variety Christianity, particularly its narrow view of human sexuality, “acceptable” relationships and execrable treatment of LGBTQ individuals, and its utterly laughable take on North American history and archaeology. Hard pass.

        • Avatar

          Jehovah’s Witnesses say the same thing as the Mormons.

          There are 12-15 churches in our part of the county. Each has between 150 and 800 members. But there’s one exception. The little tiny, teensy-weensy, microscopic Church of Christ has 12 members. They phoned one day and invited us to attend, saying that nobody in the county was going to heaven but them. Just 12 people out of the entire county.

          I asked, “So the remaining 40,000 people in this county are all going to hell? That’s nuts.”
          They said I was lost and hung up.

  3. Avatar
    Avril Hannah-Jones

    Ah, I thought you were suggesting that churches could do something better, that there was something missing, which was the reason you no longer attended church. But if you’re no longer Christian because you don’t believe the truth claims of Christianity then there’s nothing that any church, no matter whether or not it WAS unique, could have done to keep you.

    I just suspected that contrary to this blog post you haven’t been to my church, or the churches I’ve been part of, because you haven’t been to any churches in the Asia-Pacific. Except for those two truth claims, Trinity and Incarnation, I don’t believe that all churches are alike. Until you have worshipped with the First Peoples in outback Australia, for example, I don’t believe you can say that “one church or another that I have visited over the past 30+ years is just like theirs”. But if your issue is the essential truth claims of Christianity, then it doesn’t matter which churches you visit, because you’re right, those truth claims won’t change.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      That’s correct. Disaffection began long before we left Christianity. It was the catalyst that drove us to look far outside of rut of our own tradition. But, in doing so we began to reexamine the claims of Christianity and this ultimately led to a loss of faith.

    • Avatar
      Michael Mock

      “But if your issue is the essential truth claims of Christianity, then it doesn’t matter which churches you visit, because you’re right, those truth claims won’t change.”

      Well, and on those occasions where the truth claims really were different (e.g. “Jesus was just a great teacher!”) I find myself wondering why they insist on trying to hold on to the label of Christianity.

      I’m curious about what prompted your question. Were you hoping to find some input/advice on what churches could do to help keep people from leaving, or bring back disaffected former members, or that general sort of thing?

    • Avatar
      J.D. Matthews

      I have worshipped in several churches in the Asia-Pacific region. Different languages, same bullshit.

      Also, it’s kind of ridiculous to say “nope, five states aren’t enough! you have to travel to another continent to find the ‘right’ church!” Um… ok…

      I get it. You think you’re more enlightened because you’re a world traveler. Nice humble-brag and all. But your core beliefs are bullshit, as are your churches.

      • Avatar
        Bruce Gerencser

        For us, the sample size was large enough and broad enough — Evangelical, neo-Evangelical, mainline, liberal, Catholic, Greek Orthodox — that we could come to some reasonable conclusions.

        I wish the Christian critics of other religions/atheists/agnostics/humanists/ secularists would do the same. Before concluding that atheism is a terrible idea, how about talking to a few atheists or reading their stories. One of the most frustrating things I face on this blog is when some Christians read all of one, two, or five posts and think they now know who and what I am and are ready to pass judgment. I always appreciate Christians who will at least take the time to understand my journey.

        And that’s what Polly and I did with Christianity. We WANTED to believe. We WANTED to find a church to call home. Our failure was not from a lack of trying. On more than one Sunday we would visit one church in the morning, a different church at night, and yet another on Wednesday night. I remember one Wednesday night where the pastor and our family were the only ones who showed up. Boy, was that awkward.??

  4. Avatar

    Tell me if I’m wrong, but with 41,000 + branches of Christianity, it would seem to me that most of these Christians can easily play the “No True Scotsman” Fallacy – to give the illusion that their church has got what it takes and others don’t.

    To be given the impression that the Bible is inerrant, then to find errors, then to have people play God’s lawyer – making excuses to cover for the mistakes…was so wrong.

    Anger from aggravation popped my bubble. Now seeing things from another perspective…well one just can’t un-see that.

  5. Avatar

    I believe there may be a one true church in a small hut in Tonga. This TRUMPS all the aforementioned and means that Avril wins the set if not the game…. Bruce, you attend a hundred or two American real-estate sites and judge almighty God??? Tonga is the ticket…. What exactly is your problem with the Plan?

    • Avatar

      Further to Tonga, or further than Tonga perhaps, there is the simple reality of sensus divinitatis, the knowledge that bathes over the biped when something entirely unexplainable happens, say, the spitting image of Jesus Christ Almighty -praise his fame- appears on a piece of freshly popped toast or someone given a death sentence by a doctor, outlives that death sentence by years! These feelings create believers who have surpassed the need to attend so many churches looking for a true one because their miracle bingo introduced them to the glory of belief, their salvation!
      Your sensus divinitatis, Gerencser, is faulty and your futile efforts on behalf of the Beezle makes me laugh. Why, right this very second somebody in Kansas or Ohio, one of those two locations, is being healed of a serious and life-threatening malady. That is happening right this moment!
      They will be led to read this blog and will contact you to let you know that God is real and that he offered his only one single son because of you, sir. You have a nice day now, you hear!

  6. Avatar

    “There is no perfect church” is often what I have heard when trying to share ‘why’ something feels off about that particular church. Yet, the same people who tell you ‘there is no perfect church’ are the same who go back to the pulpit or their home ministry group or community bible studies and try and convince the rest that ‘their church is different than the rest’.

    Denial is one of the stages of grief and now you know why so many in ‘the church’ face depression; it’s likely because like everyone else they know something is wrong but they continue to deceive their mind and pretend that what they’re experiencing will get better. It does get better but often the person MUST change their location and the people they associate with. Find people who accept your ideas, beliefs and thoughts not because their Bible tells them to but because they truly love themselves and people.

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