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Bruce Gerencser CLAIMS He Once Was a Christian

bruce gerencser false jesus

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

I have been blogging since 2007.  When I started blogging, I was an Emerging church, red-letter Christian who, along with his wife, was desperately seeking a church that took the teachings of Jesus Christ seriously. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT!)

Our search took us to many churches. We found that Christian churches, regardless of the name on the sign, were largely vapid, empty places, filled with good people who were more concerned with church amenities and programs than following Jesus. We came to the conclusion that, whatever Christianity might have been 2,000 years ago, it died long ago. In its place has grown up an institutionalized church more concerned with power, money, and right beliefs than following after the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ.

The last church we attended was the Ney United Methodist Church, pastored by a fine young pastor I greatly admire. By this time, we were already at the back of the church with one foot out the door, and in November of 2008 we turned around, put the other foot out the door, and walked away from Christianity.

There was nothing wrong with the Ney United Methodist Church or its pastor Ron Adkins. Great people. Kind people. Good people. And they were just like every other Christian church we visited. We came to see that churches really are social clubs, especially here in rural northwest Ohio, where churches are often filled with people with similar last names. The churches are like a family reunion every Sunday.

I pastored for the last time in 2003. After being badgered by several colleagues in the ministry about using the gifts God had given me, in 2005 I candidated at several Southern Baptist churches in West Virginia. While two churches wanted me to consider being their pastor, it became clear to both Polly and me that we no longer wanted to be in the ministry. We were burnt out, no longer willing to work for poverty wages and few benefits. Between 2003 and November 2008, various Christians who knew me labeled me as burnt out, depressed, under an attack by Satan, or a good man gone bad. I was still viewed as a Christian, but due to my changing theology, many of the Evangelicals who knew me now considered me a liberal. Those of you who began reading this blog in 2007 will remember my word battles with Pastor John Chisham, aka PastorBoy, over the gospel and salvation. (Chisham is now divorced, remarried, and no longer a pastor.)

Like many Evangelicals who become atheists, I took a long, bumpy, winding train ride to get to atheism. I started out as an Evangelical, then a Progressive Evangelical, then an Emerging Church Evangelical, then a Red-Letter Christian, then a Liberal Christian, then a Universalist, then an Agnostic, and then, finally, I arrived at the Atheist station. Polly arrived at the station not too long after I did.

All told, I was a Christian for almost fifty years. I spent three of those years in Bible college, preached for thirty-three years, and pastored churches for twenty-five years. During this time, no one ever said, I doubt Bruce is a Christian. No one ever doubted my commitment to Christ or my desire to follow Jesus.

But now it is different. Because I am now an atheist, Christians are quick to say I never was a Christian or that I was a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. How else to explain my story, right?

Some Christians take a different approach. They question my character, my truthfulness. They say things like, “IF Bruce Gerencser’s story is true” or “Bruce Gerencser CLAIMS he was a Christian.” If you search the internet, you will find claims like this on blogs and forums. Several years ago, Lee Shelton, the Contemporary Calvinist wrote:

Bruce Gerencser, an atheist who claims to have once been a Christian…

This is a classic example of the passive-aggressive approach Christians take with me when they read my story. They seem to be unable to accept my story at face value, Of course, I know why. My story doesn’t fit their neatly defined theological grid. Lee Shelton is a five-point Calvinist, and since I didn’t persevere in grace that means I never really was a Christian. I was a temporary believer, not one of the elect to whom God has extended his special, discriminate grace. Of course, I could just be on a time-out and someday I will return to Christianity and persevere to the end. Shelton doesn’t consider THAT possibility.

Here’s what I think. Many Christians find my story threatening. They wonder, if a man like Bruce Gerencser, a lifelong Christian and a pastor, can fall from grace or live a long life of deception, perhaps this could happen to me too. None of the people who called me pastor or considered me a ministerial colleague ever doubted that I was anything but a dedicated, sold-out-for-Jesus Christian. So, either I really was what I claim I was OR I am the best liar and deceiver who has ever lived. And trust me, I am a terrible liar.

Everywhere I look, I see agnostics and atheists who were once devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Pastors, youth directors, worship leaders, missionaries, deacons, evangelists, soulwinners, bus workers, and Sunday school teachers; on-fire, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost Christians. Thousands of former followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords read this blog. Were all of these washed-in-the-blood Christians deceived, never having tasted the goodness of God? Would a scientist doing a study on this group conclude that they were false Christians? Of course not. In every way, they were once numbered among those who followed the lamb wherever he went. When Jesus said “follow me,” they cast their nets aside, forsook all, and followed him. No matter what they now are, the past cannot be erased by the wave of a magic theological wand.


Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.


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    You might have addressed this before, and I don’t intend this question in a mean-spirited manner…. but, do you feel bad about using your pulpit or authority to encourage people to not think for themselves, to maybe miss out on some awesome pre-marital escapades, to seperate themselves from folks who were gay or what-not and not have good relationships with them or perhaps encouraging parents to put eternal life-related stress on young people?

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      The question is mean-spirited. Jerri, What answer is possible to give you? Yes, I am sorry that I woo-woo’d folks? I am not sorry I shared my truth with others because it was heartfelt truth to me then? Yes and no?
      You are perhaps suffering some eternal life-related stress yourself, Jerri? (I love that phrase!)
      I thought I could let the question just die but then I suffered eternal life-related stress around the whole idea of “do you feel bad?”
      Just curious, Jerri, do you think Bruce ought to feel bad now? What is your position on gays and what-nots? I won’t ask you about premarital escapades and their awesomeness because my own imagination is all I can handle just now…

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      Bruce Gerencser

      Guilt would be the word I use. Not a healthy guilt either. I have spent many hours in counseling talking about this very issue.

      I had a gay man who was a young boy in one church I pastored tell me that I am too hard on myself. He said, Bruce, no one forced anyone to come to the church. And then he added, there will always those who want or need someone to tell them what to think.

      He is right on both counts, but I do have regret over the years I spent pastoring IFB churches. That said, I spent almost ten years post-IFB and my approach was very different, particularly at the end.

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        I have felt guilty about not becoming a preacher/missionary, as was intended in my upbringing. I felt for a long time that I had failed. What has become evident to me over time is that I wanted to give up my life and act for Christ as Christ was explained/revealed to me in the Fellowship Baptist fold. After realizing that the goals for my future were futile (I was saved several times and baptized) I began to see that I was not allowing myself to be honest in the mirror and I was begging God to make me right and worthy. I do not believe any more, Bruce, that guilt regarding faith or rather lack of it, serves anyone. One day I realized that I was being honest in my own heart, that I was telling myself the truth I knew in my heart. That day I said out loud that I did not believe in God. I am no longer guilty of falling short because it was a lie from the get-go. I was lied to and I believed my liar parents. I tried like everything to believe them, played many holy roles and won some favor but finally, I wanted to be honest in the mirror. Unhealthy, and undeserved guilt is church paradigm. You have let the church go and belief too. Guilt is a crock of shame and blame you do not deserve. You are a thoughtful and welcome writer in my daily reading and I appreciate your kindness and generosity in sharing what you know. Now, that being said, if you will send me 100 dollars this week and 200 next week and so on until we have reached our goal of 1000 dollars in my bank, I will cure your guilt, absolutely guaranteed or money back within two months (less an administration fee). This offer will expire at midnight.

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        I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that the way it came out. What I really meant was is it something that torments you or is it something that you find…. nevermind. I can’t even see to type from these tears. I didn’t

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          Bruce Gerencser

          I understood what you meant…no problem. You and I have a history on Facebook others aren’t privy to, so I suspect that is why they took your words differently than I did.

          All good on my end.


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            Hi, this is Jerri’s husband Chris. She is having a complete panic attack at the thought of inadvertently offending some people. She asked me to thank you for being kind to her, and to tell you she is sorry that she wasn’t clear. She says she messed up, and she is really sorry.

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            Becky Wiren

            Chris, tell Jerri I’m sorry. I usually try to be nice but misjudged Jerri’s words. I have family members who have panic disorder and anxiety disorder, so I’m very, very sorry she’s so upset. PLEASE, please tell her that I am not angry at all. And now I feel like a heel! So I need to remember I might say the wrong thing. And since Jerri is hurting so much I feel like my words were much more wrong. Please tell her to be all right, it’s going to be okay.

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          Becky Wiren

          Aww, don’t cry! I’m glad Bruce clarified it well and now I’m sorry. Context is everything. I didn’t think you were a fundie but Bruce has gotten attacked so much…never mind. Anyone who feels this bad is definitely NOT a meanie…obviously commenting on the internet has it’s moments where communication breaks down, because tone is missing. Be well. 🙁

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            Jerri, I regret being sarcastic in my response to your comment asking Bruce for clarification. I really thought you were baiting him because of your way of expressing your question. The comment about premarital sex seemed very loaded to me, as if you were implying that Bruce perhaps should have encouraged this in the pulpit and that lots of kids could have gotten pregnant and had abortions or become teen parents… seemed like a hook to me. Also, the phrase, gays or what-nots seemed disrespectful and well, a bit like a fundy expressing themselves to another fundy. That is the way I read it. So my response was somewhat in-kind as I perceived you to be trying to harm the discussion rather than genuinely asking Bruce for his response.
            I am sorry you felt overwhelmed by this exchange and I trust you will not feel badly about sharing here. Feeling panic is a horrible thing and I do not wish it on anyone, even preachers who want to get their hands on my children! Please understand that this is a sharing and exchange of information and ideas and feelings too. We are likely to stumble a bit sometimes.

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            ^^re-reading this and it made me want to tie up some loose ends….

            Today I found the courage to come back. Bruce, ever the caring pastor, checked on me via fb without even bringing this up. He’s smart that way. I’m far too sensitive and I forgot for just a minute that I wasn’t just talking to BG. Anyhoo, let’s carry on, all the wiser, shall we?

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          Becky Wiren

          See comment above. I’m sorry! Obviously you didn’t wrong Bruce, and he knows you and understands. Forgive ME for lacking kindness. *sigh* I thought I was defending Bruce but obviously, it wasn’t needed. I also just wondered if you were being blunt, and I should have made allowances. Because my oldest is HFA (high functioning autism) and I know better. Don’t cry…I hate to make people cry.

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    Are any of those old posts still out there?

    I imagine they would do much more in the way of silencing these types of critics than they would to give anyone the impression that you still believe what you said back then, if that was your concern in taking them down.

    has become one of my favorite blogs for this reason. You can see everything Yuriy had written earlier and he explains why he used to believe what he did.

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    I think the reason they cannot wrap their minds around “being saved” and later being an atheist is because the “spirit of God” or “holy spirit” is not real. Because thinking this would deny their God, they believe anyone deconverted was never “saved” to begin with and they just lied about it all from the beginning (in your case 50 years). The problem is, no one is “saved” because we simply have nothing to be saved from.

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      Regardless of what may be on the other side, it seems that too much attention is being given to the current state of what looks like guesswork to me.

      I hope there’s another life after this one, but I don’t see myself as having any saved or unsaved status.

      I merely hold opinions which are subject to change, and don’t see why there should be anything momentous about this, unless I intend to cause others harm, but even then, I don’t see how they can warrant infinite rewards or punishment.

      It seems that such a paradigm makes people give an inordinate amount of attention to things in their lives which would otherwise be seen as trivial, and take away attention from what most definitely is not trivial.

      Tony Campolo sums it up here:

      “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

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    “Here’s what I think. Many Christians find my story threatening. They wonder, if a man like Bruce Gerencser, a lifelong Christian and a pastor, can fall from grace or live a long life of deception, perhaps this could happen to me too.”

    I’ve probably told this before. It’s hard to keep track of what I said where… But I once had a discussion with my brother about atheism (as an Evangelical) and I said that I stayed away from it, from their arguments. I think I was reading a book by Randy Alcorn-he used to be one of my favorite writers-where the main characters set out about convincing someone to become a Christian and they promise to read about the atheist argument as well, I think Bertrand Russell was mentioned. Anyway, I said that I would not so easily do that, and my brother wondered if I was afraid to be swayed by their arguments. I said: “No, of course not,” but that wasn’t what I was thinking…

    I was pertrified about being persuaded and going to hell on top of that. Really delving into that would feed my lingering doubts, and that’s, of course, what it eventually did. At some point, I just wanted real answers and so I still ended up checking out atheist arguments 🙂

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      Yep, that would explain my early resistance too, fear of the eternal burn…. I had the fear injected early and often and it closed the door and curtained the windows for many years. I knew God could get me any old time and anywhere too. The Old Testament demonstrated what that fucker was capable of….
      Thank-you for stating it so clearly, Melody. I believe that when we speak as non-believers, we trigger many fears and in the eyes of Josh Duggar types we remind them of their own private problems, their urges and feelings they bury with hymns, so to speak…. or sing.

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        Brian, I agree, because we have ‘lost’ our faith we have become the cautionary tale. However, perhaps our continued existence shows something as well: we’re still here…

        I think that fear first gets you into religion from an early age and then prevents you from getting out of it. As a child, the whole rapture threat caused me to accept Jesus as my savior quite a few times (better safe than sorry) I’ve been very afraid of God too, seeing Jesus as a sort of bodyguard against God’s wrath. After all, people get killed by God for just about anything in the Bible. At first, I expected God to punish me whenever I thought something bad or unfriendly about him, or whenever I read or listened to critical voices. It still lingers somewhat, but I know it’s just fear.

        And shouldn’t a good God wish for people to love him without fear? It’s even in the Bible I believe: perfect love casts out fear. I can’t tell you how often I’ve begged God to take my fears away when battling anxiety basing my prayers on that verse. Seems to me that non-belief works better in that regard. Without a god or demons to fear, the world has become a little safer.

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          “Without a god or demons to fear, the world has become a little safer.”
          Yes! When I finally finally said out loud to myself that I really do not believe in God, a huge relief flooded my body. I cried because I couldn’t believe that great feeling was mine, coming from me because I had just been simply honest, just plain and simple honest….. I never looked back after that day.

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    There’s something else about this that never made much sense to me.

    Maybe once upon a time pretending one was a fundamentalist was considered to be a good way to elevate one’s status in the community, but these days social climbers don’t even bother.

    So how can it be argued that you were only pretending, especially since your health and financial situation would have been so much better had you never become a preacher?

    You obviously tried much harder than the “real” fundamentalists, most of whom rarely crack open a Bible on their own and now put you down for having changed your mind.

    Maybe the thing to do is to question if they really believe what they say, since as they keep telling you, you never can know… 🙂

    And how does this square with the idea that you can know you’re saved, and the “perseverance of the saints.”

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    In case I ever have offended, am offending, or will offend anyone, I’m sorry too, and if anyone ever offends me, I accept and thank them for their apology/apologies in advance, should they decide to apologize.

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    And these days there are all the evangelicals who think Trump is a real Christian, so I wouldn’t trust them to know the real deal anymore.

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      Hugh D. Young

      The field is pretty wide open regarding what ‘real’ Christianity even is to begin with. One of the major reasons I got out, and I had quite a few, was how arbitrary it all seemed, especially in light of the ‘fact’ that our ETERNAL DESTINY was allegedly at stake.-

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    Whoa. Didn’t enjoy reading my previous comments to that poor person who got piled on.

    Bruce, I hope any guilt you feel has largely dissipated. You were sincerely following your beliefs where they took you, and you wanted to help others. Now you’re a pastor for the non-fundies. 😉 I’m very glad I started reading you 8 years ago. It helped clarify what my actual beliefs were, and how I don’t “need” to filter them through Christianity. I’m not an atheist, probably a theistic agnostic (the existence of God can not be proven), so what each and every individual person believes about that isn’t as important as being kind to our fellow man.

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      Karen the rock whisperer

      Agnostic atheist and Humanist here, and I totally agree with you about kindness to our fellow humans being waaay more important than our religious beliefs (or lack of them).

      Almost everything we understand is actually a model of how that thing works, because that’s what our brains do, they make models. As a scientist, I know that all models are wrong, but some are very useful. I translate that knowledge to everyday life in part by accepting that if living their lives in a context of religion works for some people, I’m really not justified in arguing with their model, UNLESS it justifies hurting other people. I’ve known a whole lot of people who say they’re Christians, but the focus in their lives is trying to be kind, helpful, honest, straightforward, courageous, and generous rather than exhibiting the worst behaviors of Fundagelical or Conservative Catholic believers. If that’s their idea of following Christ, more power to them! I’ll pass on the supernatural beliefs but rejoice in our shared values.

      Bruce’s story shakes the foundation of some people’s models, much as an earthquake shakes the foundation of a building. They feel the need to go patch the cracks in the foundation, and they do that by claiming that Bruce was never a True Christian. If they were being honest with themselves, they might at least have a good look at WHY their models are shaken. But that’s very scary, the equivalent of a small business owner facing the specter of expensive earthquake reinforcement for their building’s foundation. It’s much easier to push some fresh concrete and sealer into the cracks and carry on with business as usual.*

      *Oh, and yes, I am a Californian. How did you guess? 🙂

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    MJ Lisbeth

    If you are around my age, you might remember a book called “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.” It was tongue-in-cheek, of course. But I looked at it and felt secretly relieved, if only for a moment, that I was indeed a “real man.”

    Twenty years later, I began my gender-affirming process and am now a woman, if of “a certain age.”

    So does that mean I wasn’t a “real” man? Or that I’m not a “real” woman?

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away!

Bruce Gerencser