Leaving the Ministry: Dealing with Guilt and Regret

no regrets

A friend of mine, a former devoted, committed Evangelical pastor’s wife, wrote me recently and asked:

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. re: all the wasted years, harm my kids experienced, folks I hurt as a pastor’s wife and later a (sic) homeless shelter for women, fundamentalist BS I taught and lived. I know you’ve talked about how you deal with such stuff before. If you can direct me to previous links or have any advice I would be oh so grateful! Thank you!

Over the years, I have corresponded with a number of people who were at one time an Evangelical pastor, pastor’s wife, evangelist, youth pastor, missionary, or college professor. Having walked or run away from Evangelicalism, they are left to deal with guilt and regret . For those who were true-blue, sold-out, committed, on-fire followers of Jesus, their past lives are often littered with the hurt and harm they caused not only to themselves, but to others. The more former Evangelicals were committed to Jesus and following the teachings of the Bible, the more likely it is that they caused hurt and harm.

Literalism and certainty — two hallmarks of Evangelical belief — often cause untold mental, emotional, and physical harm. It is often not until people deconvert or move on to a kinder, gentler form of religious faith, that they see how much damage they caused. I was a Christian for fifty years. Twenty five of those years were spend pastoring Evangelical churches. I think I can confidently say that Evangelicalism made me the person I am today. Every aspect of my life was touched and shaped by Evangelical beliefs. No area of my life was unaffected. Any sense of self-worth was sacrificed at the altar of self-denial. I sang with gusto, All to Jesus I surrender, All to him I freely give. I lived and breathed Jesus. Everything, including Polly, my children, my parents, my siblings, and my extended family, was secondary to Jesus and his call to follow him.

I was, in every way, a fanatic. A fanatic is one who is intensely, completely devoted to a cause. No matter how Christians try to say that I never was a real Christian, those who knew me well in my pastoring days know that I was part of the 100% club. (see You Never Were a Christian and Jose Maldonado Says I Never Was a Christian) My ministerial work ethic put most pastors to shame. While they were busy taking vacations, going to Cedar Point, or golfing, I was working night and day trying to win souls and raise up a God-fearing, Christ-honoring church. I had little tolerance for lazy preachers who gave lip service to their calling, or Christians who thought coming to church on Sunday was all that God required of them.

As I look back on the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches, I see that I caused great harm to my family and parishioners. I expected everyone to work for Jesus as hard as I did. Polly will tell you that I hounded her about reading her Bible more and spending more time in prayer. Never mind that she had six children to care for and taught in our Christian school. Never mind that I was the one paid to pray and read/study the Bible. Devotion to Jesus always came first.

Setting impossible expectations, not only for myself, but for my family and the church, resulted in a constant feeling of failure. No matter what I did, no matter what my family did, no matter what church members did, it wasn’t enough. Hell was hot and Jesus was coming soon. The Bible taught that we were to be watchman on the wall, ever warning the wicked to turn from their sinful ways. Since the Bible contained everything necessary to life and godliness, every Christian had a duty and obligation to, without hesitation, obey its teachings. Pity the person who was not as committed as I was.

Guilt and regret are the products of living life in this manner. Let me be clear, I am not saying that this was the wrong way to live life. If one believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Words of God, how can he NOT live in this manner?  If Evangelicals really believe what they say they believe, how can they NOT give every waking moment to the furtherance of the gospel and the Kingdom of God? If God is who and what the Bible says he is and judgment awaits every one of us, how can any Evangelical idly sit by and let the world go to hell?

Guilt. I had little time for Polly and the kids. No time for vacations. No time for leisure. No time for enjoying nature. No time for relaxation. No time for anything that took away from my calling. I even scheduled the one big vacation we took around preaching for a friend of mine. Road trips were to visit churches or attend conferences. The old acronym for Joy, Jesus First, Others Second, Yourself Last, had no place in my life. It was Jesus first, period. Polly and the children were along for the ride, mere appendages to my ministerial work.

Regret. As the old gospel song goes, wasted years, oh how foolish. I gave the best years of my life to Jesus and the work of the ministry. I worked night and day building churches, winning souls, and preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. While most of the people I pastored and many of my colleagues  in the ministry were living the American dream, accumulating wealth, houses, and land, and preparing for the future, I was living in the moment, busily waiting for Jesus to split the eastern sky. Thousands of hours were spent doing God’s work, God’s way, and to what end? Here I am with a broken body and most of my life in the rear view mirror. No chance for a do-over. No chance to make things right. No chance to correct the harm and hurt I caused.

Bruce, you sound bitter. I know this post might sound like the acerbic whining of an old man, but it’s not. It’s just me being honest I know I can’t undo the past. It is what it is. I am simply reflecting on how life was for my family and me. Who among us doesn’t look back on the past and wish they had the opportunity to do things differently? Unfortunately, there are no time machines. All we can do is make peace with the past and try to move forward.

A few years ago, a man who was raised in one of the churches I pastored came to visit me. This man attended our Christian school and sat under my preaching for almost a decade. He had the full Bruce Gerencser experience. This man is gay. I’ve often wondered when he decided he was gay. I preached a lot of sermons on the sin of homosexuality. Thinking about the pain I might have caused this man still grieves me to this day. As he and I talked, I apologized to him for my homophobic, harsh, judgmental preaching. I told him I had guilt and regret and wished I could go back in time and make things right.  I’ll never forget what he told me:

Bruce, everyone who sat in the church was there because they wanted to be or their parents made them. The truth is, a lot of people want someone to tell them what to do. A lot of people don’t want to think for themselves . You were that someone. If it wasn’t you it would have been someone else.

His words have greatly helped me as I continue to battle with guilt and regret. As I told someone recently, I was a victim and a victimizer. I was schooled in all things Evangelical from kindergarten to my days at Midwestern Baptist College. I was indoctrinated, much like a cult indoctrinates it members. That I turned out as I did should surprise no one. It should also be no surprise that I then took what I had been taught and taught it to others. How could it have been otherwise?

What my pastor’s-wife friend really wants to know is how to deal with the guilt and regret. If she is like me, she wants it to go away. Sadly, it doesn’t. A person can’t spend his or her life deeply immersed in something such as the ministry and not come away with scars. While I have found atheism and humanism to be transformative, I still bear the marks and scars of a life spent working for the Evangelical God.

Two things greatly helped me post-ministry and post-Jesus. The first thing that helped me was this blog (one of the many iterations of this blog, anyway). When I started blogging, I cared little if anyone read what I wrote. My friends Zoe has written about this, as have many of my other heathen friends. Putting feelings into words is therapeutic. Over time, other former Evangelicals began to read my writing and my words resonated with them. They saw that I understood, having experienced many of the things they were going through. Now, seven years later, the raw, painful emotions that filled me as I walked away from the ministry and God have faded into the background. They are still there and can quickly be resurrected in the wrong circumstance, but my focus is now on helping others who are at the same place I was a decade ago.

Second, I sought out professional, secular counseling. When I left the ministry and later left Christianity, I burned the house to the ground. Now what?  All I have is a heap of ashes, the sum of a life that no longer exists. It took seeing a counselor for me to rebuild my life and rediscover who I really am. Self had been swallowed up by Jesus and the ministry. After I deconverted, I had no idea who or what I was. My entire being was wrapped up in being a pastor. The same for Polly. She spent most of her adult life being a devoted pastor’s wife. Now all of that was gone. Bit by  bit, my counselor helped me reconstruct my life. That process continues to this day.

As I answer the emails of those who were once in the ministry, I encourage them to put their thoughts and emotions into words. Even if it is just a journal–write. I also encourage them to seek someone to talk to, someone who will listen and not judge. If nothing else, correspond with someone who will let you vent. Over the past seven years, I have entered into email discussions with hurting former Evangelicals. Some of them still believe in God, others are not sure what they believe, and still others have lost their faith. Their letters are filled with mental and emotional pain and anguish. Writing me provides them with a sounding board, a secular confessional. Sometimes all a person needs is to know someone cares and is willing to listen.

Are you a former pastor or pastor’s wife? Are you a former on-fire, sold-out follower of Jesus? How did you deal with guilt and regret? What advice would you give to my friend? Please leave your wise thoughts in the comment section.

Note

The next-to-the-last church I pastored was Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. I was there for seven years. It was at this church that I seriously began questioning how I had done things in the past. Bit by bit, I became like those lazy pastors I once condemned. I learned to take a break, go on vacation, and enjoy spending time with my family. What pushed me in this direction? Getting sick. It’s amazing what sickness will do to a person’s priorities.

021916

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28 Comments

  1. Andrew

    Hello, I don’t have much to say, just wanted to leave a comment to let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog and I find deconversion stories like yours very interesting. I’m afraid my Christian background is no where near as impressive as yours, I was raised as a Christian, homeschooled, all my “science” textbooks were creationist, ect. About 4 years ago I became an atheist, which wasn’t easy for me because I very much wanted Christianity to be true. Now I spend a lot of time reading books, watching documentaries, and reading blogs like yours because I feel like I need to catch up with all the science and philosophy I missed out on for most of my life. Anyway, I was thinking that perhaps the reason I enjoy hearing deconversion stories is because ex-Christians understand what it’s like to really believe that stuff, most of my friends don’t understand because they were not brought up religious. I hope you continue writing, and I will continue reading! Have a great day 🙂

    Reply
    1. Angiep

      Hi Andrew:
      Thank you for commenting. It sounds like you are well on your way to living a fuller, richer ex-Christian life. This blog will no doubt help you, as it has helped me and many others. And may I say that your deconversion story is actually very impressive. Unlike many of us, you were raised fundamentalist and yet somehow found the inner strength to break free of the dogma. And you show extraordinary wisdom by searching out real information to replace all the false teachings. Well done, and please keep coming back!

      Reply
  2. Karen

    This was a difficult read. To be so committed to a cause, so dedicated to the service of others, and have the primary other turn out to be a phantom and the service to the real people a dis-service… wow. I’m not surprised it left scars. Given your situation, it sounds like you are doing whatever you can to be a real service to people now, in a unique way. You are helping others with struggles you went through. Instead of saving souls for Jesus, you’re winning hearts and minds for their owners. Your own life is much constrained, which is very sad. But you’re helping other people reclaim their own lives, It may be that nobody ultimately wins the game of Life, but you’re sure scoring a lot of goals right now.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Some of my devotion can be explained by personality and character traits. I am a Type A, work-a-holic. Health problems have certainly trimmed my sails, but even now I can push myself beyond reason. As my friend Michael Mock reminds me…I am a run, run, run, crash, burn, start over kind of guy. I continue to learn what it means to slow down, stop, take a deep breath, and relax.

      I am also a perfectionist with OCPD. My kids can tell plenty of stories about their Dad and his everything must be right attitude. Pulpit? Had to be perfectly centered. I’d get a tape measure and make sure it was spot on. Good enough was not a phrase often heard at the Gerencser house.

      The question that remains unanswered for me is which came first? Did I have perfectionist tendencies and I found an outlet in the ministry or did Evangelicalism with its be ye perfect and sin not God drive me to try to be perfect in every part of my life?

      Whether it is photography, blogging, or cleaning the house, I battle with perfectionist tendencies. Polly loves it when I get in perfectionist driven clean the whole house mode. She just can’t stand to be around me when I am.

      Reply
      1. Becky Wiren

        Hey! You can clean my house anytime! 😉 I’ll even pay.

        Reply
      2. Karen

        When I was writing my Master’s thesis, a good friend gave me a refrigerator magnet that says “Perfection is the enemy of good.” She was telling me not to obsess over every detail, but get the damn thing done. It helped, I did finally finish it, and I’m still reasonably pleased with it four years later. I often still have to repeat that to myself when doing other things. Perhaps you’d like to borrow it as a mantra? 🙂

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          Good idea. 🙂

          One lesson I learned towards the end of my time in the ministry is just because I can do something better than someone else doesn’t mean I should. I bought my first computer 23 years ago. I took to the computer like a duck to water. Over the years, I broke and fixed countless computers, tinkering and learning along the way. I started using Word Perfect for DOS and then on to Microsoft Office. I became quite proficient doing anything computer related. So…I always did the church bulletin.

          At the next to last church I pastored, a woman said she’d love to do the bulletin, so I let her do it. This was hard for me to do because I knew I could do it better than she could. Shouldn’t the person who can do it the best be the one to do the bulletin? No. It is important for church members to have a sense of ownership. A common problem in many Baptist churches is that the pastor runs everything. That’s how I was for many years. Once I understood that I didn’t need to do everything and began delegating responsibility, things went much better for me. Too bad I learned this lesson late in life.

          Reply
        2. gimpi1

          “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” is one of my favorite sayings.

          It’s helped me accept organizations that do good things but aren’t perfect. It’s helped me be friends with people who are good people with flaws. It’s helped me stay married, since neither my husband or I are perfect. It’s helped me finish projects that I could have made better with a few more tweaks (and thus never finished).

          I have perfectionist tendencies, too. Not letting them control my life has made my life happier. That saying has helped.

          Reply
          1. Angiep

            gimpi1, that was one power-packed paragraph you wrote. One thing I love about this blog is that you never know what bit of wisdom you might glean from someone else. Thank you for reminding me that the people around me don’t have to be perfect; they can be “good people with flaws.” It’s not that I expect people to be perfect, but I have little tolerance for a lot of behaviors, attitudes and weaknesses that people exhibit, and I know I will be happier if I can just accept.

  3. Zoe

    One of my fav posts of yours Bruce. I’m so grateful that you are here, honest and helping others. <3

    Reply
  4. Maggie

    Bruce,

    “When you know better, you do better” Maya Angelou.

    That line has gotten me through some really dark days. Days when I’ve looked back and realized how wrong I was and how I believed everything I had been taught without question.

    Please don’t ever underestimate the people you’re reaching now! If you can make just one person begin to ask questions, you’re a success.

    We love you for who you are now…today! And who you are today is a direct result of who you were then. Now that you know better, you’re doing better and we appreciate it!!

    Light and love to you and to your family!

    Reply
  5. Brian

    Wow, dear friend, you were a total asshole in your preaching days. You were a controlling, 24 hour a day know-it-all who was so completely fucked from top to bottom that you lived to attempt to control everything in your life and the lives of those around you. Jeeeebus!
    As a survivor, let me say what a fucking bulldozer you were and how lucky I am that I was never exposed to your self-harm let loose from pulpits! (Of course, I had my own preacher dad…)
    Even now, being someone who sees what harm you did to others and yourself, you still practice Type A being because the real harm done is very early on in life, the formative years beginning in the womb…. you still live that survival mode marathon.
    Look at Janov’s Life Before Birth if you have room in that toxic library of yours… When I began to realize I was completely free to be or not, I looked back to my beginnings, the environment, the time, the very early building blocks. It was a real Bingo for me. In ways, though I was trained up through the Fellowship Baptist Church, religion was only one tool in that training. The other tools had to do with my parents, their personal histories, the time, and baggage. Type A control does not come poof from some devil. It is carefully constructed very early on for survival…. but then, as you know better than most, survival can make you sick as a dog.
    I appreciate the way you detail your way along but it still reminds me of a preacher… no surprise, right?
    The only way to rid the self of toxic cement is shit it out of every orifice possible. The depths of harm go beyond words, dear man, and are howls not unlike those of children having their spirits destroyed by paddles and sticks, by sermons and promises of eternal damnation.
    Fuck you! You were a complete fucking asshole twit fuck shit face dumbo with fucking pulpit to bash yourself and others.
    I very much respect your honest efforts here to share what is…. Keep telling me the truth as it peels away because it is part of my healing too, an anti-preaching, a glorious vomit of human mess that suffered a long and painful poisoning. (Although you do not allow the glorious spew in your own words, just your posting of others doing it… Your words are still quite controlled and fit for debate, I think. Are you ever really angry… Do you let it out? When we stuff ourselves with shit for a lifetime, it takes awhile to do…;-))
    I stand firmly beside you when you share with all of us just how much and how deeply you harmed. Do you have any real idea how much harm you have suffered yourself? I wonder if you even remember your childhood or are large parts of it gone? My Baptist dad has just lost most of his cognitive ability and has been moved from my mom to full-time care. I so dearly wish he could have been just a smidgen free of the woo-woo before he lost his mind. But he left long long ago, praise holy fucking prick God. He could never really hold us but he could preach. He never really wanted to share, to talk, you see, and preaching helped him there.
    You are brave. It is not easy to realize how terribly wrong a whole life can be and go on. You have great character, a good strong being.
    And holy shit, you were a stinker. I still see the fumes rising…

    Reply
  6. Troy

    I liked the name of your previous blog, “The Way Forward”. It is a very good outlook for anyone, but especially you, because we can’t change the past but we can change the future.
    At least in the experience with my church the pastor’s role was more than just giving a sermon and the pomp of religious services he was out doing hospital visits, funerals, ran the confirmation classes, and more I’m sure I don’t know about but he was a very busy guy. I fondly remember getting a visit in the hospital as a young kid and I chatted with the pastor about Tyranasaurus Rex and had a very nice visit. Basically he was serving people. If you were busy you were serving people, the best way you knew how, I’m sure it was appreciated and you shouldn’t regret this. (Also I should mention you didn’t molest anyone or take advantage of your position as many do) As for being a type-A personality, I suspect that no matter what you were doing you’d have been driven.
    While is is regrettable that you didn’t figure things out earlier you are a unique pathfinder for those in the ministry who want to leave theism.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      He was serving people, was he? All he did was serve others, giving and giving with no sermons about getting right with God and not burning? No effort at all to get you into the club? Oh sure, but it didn’t bother you?
      Well, you either had a very remarkable human who by some error got connected with a church, or you prefer to deny reality in favor of harboring only fond memories. Preachers want your soul for Jesus. They are not grunts but sarges or captains in God’s army.
      One door and only one and yet its sides are two…. I’m on the inside so fuck you….. (apologies for the liberty with lyric)

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Based on my experience,I think it is more complex than that. Yes, the preacher wants to see everyone put their faith in Christ. Yes, he wants them to be a part of his church. But, as Troy stated, there is much more to the ministry than these two things, things that are very much serving people. Weddings, funerals, visiting the sick, counseling, teaching Christian school students, taking people to the store/doctor, lending money, fixing cars, painting houses, mowing grass, buying clothes, buying groceries…I did all of these things, and more, because I genuinely cared about and loved the people I pastored. My service and care also extended beyond the church, helping those who I knew would never be a part of the church. We also took in foster kids, mostly teenagers referred to us by the juvenile court.

        What I am saying is that the ministry was much more than what happened on Sunday.

        Reply
        1. Brian

          I remember men we called hobos in the late fifties coming to our door to beg the preacher for this or that…. would get a sandwich and counseling from my dad. I recall one fellow lighting a cig and then flicking the ashes into his pant-cuff because he did not get offered an ashtray. (We had no ashtray and my dad did not offer a little dish or something to the man so he just smoked and flicked it into his cuff…)
          When your service was not actively to save a soul, would you say you just liked to help others, that you were built that way? And if so, then why would your own family suffer neglect while you are across the road ministering? Do you see how offering your service to others would necessarily prevent your presence with your kids? And did you sit with your kids and ask their permission to bring troubled teens into their house? Or were you serving a ‘higher’ calling?
          The families of preachers are often served up on the altar of faith. They are second place because religion and the sky-gawd demands first place. I’d kill for God if He told me too….
          You seem to suggest that ministering had to do with one guy helping another, something as simple as that…
          When a guy gives another guy some crack for free so the user can try it out, the first guy loses that crack but it is an investment for God, I mean the dealer…. When you help out with somebody else’s problem these days, as a man who does not follow woo-woo belief, how is it different for you?
          For me, there is a new peace about any kind of interaction where I can be there for somebody else. It is like I am finally there for me too. The absence of God is glory.

          Reply
      2. Troy

        Brian my previous comment was under yours but I just want to be clear I was responding to the blog post, and not your particular reply.
        I’m not saying that Bruce’s pastoring was completely harmless, but as I am an advocate of helping our fellow man any objective analysis would say he did some good in the world. Pastors do work hard serving others.
        Unlike you I’m not a surviver of IFB, while Christianity was imposed on me it was a very liberal Lutheran sect and while I never liked church it was not a particularly negative environment. My rejection of Christianity has nothing to do with a traumatic experience, rather I can not reconcile the religion (or any religion) with what I know of reality.
        Now Bruce has the unique perspective to help lead others in the clergy who want out with a sympathetic ear. Does that fix decisions made in ignorance? Of course not, but then again the past can’t be undone.

        Reply
        1. Brian

          I’m not saying that Bruce’s pastoring was completely harmless, but as I am an advocate of helping our fellow man any objective analysis would say he did some good in the world. Pastors do work hard serving others.

          My dad used to use this prelude to his statements of belief in politics or other affairs: Any sensible person agrees…..
          You see Troy, you do not mean objective but the opposite: Any number of subjective opinions might offer that Bruce helped lots of folks. But Bruce states that he did it to increase his numbers and buy more buses. Bruce tries to tell you that he was serving a higher delusion than your own in his work. Perhaps you might ask Bruce if he likes people generally or if they are a problem he has to deal with as a pastor, a mission to change them into someone acceptable to woo-woo protocols, scriptures of the IFB flavor…
          I like Bruce and part of the reason I like him is because he tells the truth that half his readers will not hear! It is a weird and wonderful spin on his preaching, that he now preaches from the other side and has to endure the same deafness as he did at the pulpit.
          You say the past cannot be undone. Why would we wish to undo the past? It is not applicable. It might be of value in showing us our own patterns but we do not believe in salvation, in undoing. I wrote a book of poems once called The Undoing. It was about my falling away and into real life. It was a layer of onion I peeled, a sort of agnostic time. After that, I faced myself and realized finally, Hey, I don’t believe all that…. I really do not believe. I am a non-believer. Then the light came in and has not dimmed. It is a normal light, the glory of dawn and blushing hills at even. Thank-you for thinking of me and explaining your words.

          Reply
          1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Let me clarify, I would never say that my only motive for doing good was “…to increase his numbers and buy more buses.” My motives were/are many. I am generally a kind, decent, helpful person, before, during, and after Jesus.

            Yes, I generally like people, some more than others. As I used to say as a Christian…I love everyone, I just love some people more than others.

            Was I guided by what I thought was a higher purpose? Sure. But, when confronted today with the same moral and ethical choices, I most often do what I would have done as a pastor.

          2. HeIsSailing

            I am personally convinced that most of the people who enter the ministry do not do so with the intention of starting a megachurch and becoming wealthy. I think the vast majority become pastors, ministers, members of the clergy, whatever, because they genuinely care about people and, however misguided they are, this is the best way they know how to do good. Perhaps I am naive – but I hope not.

          3. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            I think you are correct. The evidence for this in my own life is that I still treat people and help people like I did when I was a pastor. I may have been quite closed minded when it came to the teachings of the Bible, but I did treat people with respect and try to help in any way I could. I NEVER badgered and attacked people like some fundy preachers do. I thinking growing up poor helped me have compassion on the “least of these.”

            My mother in law got after me one time about my willingness to give stuff away and help others. She is a devout Christian…thought about it after she said it and then said that there were worse things to be known for. 🙂 “Stuff” has never mattered much to me. I like having nice things. I have no desire to live in poverty. But, I agree with Jesus on this one. My life does not consist of the abundance of things I possess.

    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yes, my Type A personality served me well in the secular world. Most of the jobs I worked outside of the church were management level jobs. I liked being in charge. If I had to pick a job that was my favorite job, it would restaurant general manager. I did non-management work too. Secular jobs were a means to an end…making money so I could continue to pastor churches.

      Reply
      1. Brian

        Type ‘A’ served you well in what sense? You made more money or were more successful? I was suggesting that perhaps it was a factor in making you sick, in your burning-out but I see that you could look at it another way. If you had not run yourself into the ground, you might have maintained your fantasy of God right to the end of life and died a true man of God who gave his entire life to minister to others….. Type A as fuel…. The bullshit could have kept you under cover for the whole of life!
        This is a poem I wrote to my Baptist preacher dad in the 80’s, when I was about college age.
        Father Time

        This is a clock./ My father built/it large enough for/ a man to walk into –/walnut skin,/ arms pointing at/the hours and minutes./ The time-piece is exact, /so I’ve heard./ I cannot tell time,/have never been able/to break the rules/and crack the glass./In dreams/I hear the shatter,/see him suffering/among springs and gears,/staring sadly/at the rubble./Father,/ I cannot talk./I cannot listen to/ the same hours and days/again and again./ Father, my dutiful brother/wants to nail you/to a wall./He looks at you,/ then turns to me:/This is a clock,/he tells me./Father built it.

        It does not work very well for me anymore but I remember being in that place so many years ago. Religious conversion is a death. It takes people away from people and woo-woo rules from then on. It is a mindfuck of untold proportion that uses terms like: gave my heart to the Lord. (This means what it says.) God might make people say that conversion opened their hearts like never before but that is also a death sentence if the heart closes to family, if there is no time or whatever.
        My uncle was a very successful salesman until in his forties he was suddenly convicted by God and had to preach on the streets. He was really beyond Type ‘A’ and could no longer do his sales work or even sleep well. He finally had to take lithium and he was never ‘normal’ again. God took him? Naw, he was ill but nobody could help him because GOD. If one cannot be at rest in one’s own body, then the whole world is crooked. Love begins and ends in human flesh, is a pragmatic glory and hurt, not some invention of a woo-woo God.

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          Type A is who I am. Always been this way. Restless, want to stay busy, want to work. Did it cause me to overwork? Sure.

          Reply
          1. Brian

            It caused you to overwork, this Type A. But what I was suggesting to you was that it was not the virus, Type A, per se, but a need to survive what was being felt in your guts… a need to cover it up with busy serving… Maybe God made you collapse, not you? Maybe it was the virus, Type A? An onion peels layer by layer. Before one layer is gone, that is all that is visible.
            Are you not astounded by the world that has opened to you since you said: No, I do not believe?
            I can hardly remember what it was like to sit as a young person and feel doomed as my mind pondered forbidden subjects, illegal greeds…. What a bear trap, belief is…. What glorious release I have been given by being able to tell the truth….

  7. Daniel Wilcox

    You ask, “Are you a former pastor? Are you a former on fire, sold out follower of Jesus? How did you deal with guilt and regret?”

    Not as sold out as you. But I was devoted and goal-oriented…getting everyone, especially my wife and kids to achieve what I thought the spiritual life in Jesus was.

    Besides, my job as youth pastor was “part-time,” (Yeah right, wrong). Then I eventually switched to teaching, but my family suffered because I always wanted (and was pushed by the administration) to do the very best job. Work, doing my best for God never ended. Sadly, it was others who suffered.

    Now, I’m living with sorrow, and regret, and guilt.

    I have no wise advice, other than I completely agree with you that sharing with others and seeking help is the way to struggle through the bad past.

    Reply
  8. Tige Gibson

    Christians have become more psychopathic though. They care less about saving/converting. God chooses his elect, no man can save another. Heaven wouldn’t be good enough if you could even worry about souls that weren’t saved. So there’s no need to bother trying to save anyone either way.

    Christians today seem to spend a lot of time enjoying themselves in their selfish pursuits: video games, sports, and shooting guns. And they devote themselves to their bigoted political causes instead of helping anyone.

    Reply
  9. John Croy

    I am a 30 year old man who grew up in the IFB movement. Hardcore. Christian school kindergarten through 12th grade. Pastor’s School. Youth Conference in Hammond. Favorite preacher, Jack Schaap. Hyles graduate. I stumbled across your blog over a year ago and read some of your posts. I happened across it again tonight and just wanted to talk to you as (I believe) part of the 1% of evangelicals. I still believe the core doctrines of the Christian faith, but I have been somewhat disenfranchised with aspects of the IFB movement. The Jack Schaap scandal was pretty shocking to one who spent 5 years in his college sitting under his preaching and growing up as an admirer of his. Watching him and other pastors of high repute fall from their position in scandal has led me to believe that the movement does tend to deify men and promote them above what they deserve. I’ve also come to recognize over my years in college and the ensuing years the arrogance and judgmental attitude I developed as a “church kid” a “pastor’s kid.” I’ve learned to be more open minded, less judgmental, looking to love, help, and accept rather than criticize and condemn. Doubtless, we disagree on our worldview, since I am undoubtedly similar in my beliefs to what yours were at my age. I am sorry for the hurt you’ve suffered from those who’ve turned on you or attacked you,and I hope you can heal and find peace with your regrets. Just wanted to give an “evangelical’s” reply that wasn’t hurtful or an attack. I’m sure you’ve had more of that nonsense than any man should have to deal with.

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