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Bruce, the Street Preacher


Here is a September 7, 1990 front-page newspaper photograph of me street preaching on the downtown streets of Zanesville, Ohio. A Zanesville Times-Recorder photographer named Jeff Cope shot this photo of me putting in a good word for Jesus on one of the hottest days of the year (in the 90s, I believe).  For several years, I preached every Thursday— spring, summer, winter, and fall — on the streets of Zanesville. I also preached on the downtown streets of other local communities such as Newark, Crooksville, New Lexington, Lancaster, and New Straitsville.

Those were the days: ironed long-sleeve pinpoint cotton, button-down oxford shirt, pressed black dress slacks, black suspenders, snazzy tie, black wing-tip shoes, leather Oxford King James Bible, and red hair on top of my head. I was quite the celebrity. Evangelicals loved me for my boldness and zeal; non-Evangelicals hated my abrasiveness and pushy message. I often brought my family, Christian school students, and church members along with me. They would hold Bible verse signs and hand out tracts while I preached.

Those were the days . . .

Please see:

My Life as a Street Preacher — Part One

My Life as a Street Preacher — Part Two

My Life as a Street Preacher — Part Three

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

    Those were the days, eh? 90+ degree weather, preaching on street corners to an indifferent, or possibly hostile, audience? I’ll bet you’re glad they’re over.

  2. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Okay, I’ll bite and this post of yours is bait in case you forgot feeding the worm to the hook… When I was a little guy, I heard about being bad because Adam and Eve… I learned that I had not a hope in hell unless this certin magic happened. I learned that what I faced no man or woman, no mother or father could help me with because they too were doomed, entirely doomed. I looked for a way around, a road I could run on so fast that no devil could catch me and I dreamed of saving my brothers too, my sister, toxic birth born half way through the century, my mom hit with narcotics that ruined Rose-Marie’s chances… I dreamed and dreamed but every Sunday I had to listen to my dad tell the old, old story and I had to realize I was a monster of a kid, dreaming instead of falling on my knees…. So, I did fall on my knees and beg and wait and pray and beg and wait and another Sunday came with the sermon telling me I was worthless and only had to admit it to have all I ever dreamed of…. more than all I ever dreamed of…. And so I gave it my all as a kid will give and dedicated my worthless life to Jesus… more Jesus, more Jesus and less me, less me, my prayer. My mom and dad liked it when I walked to the front of the church at altar call and cried. My mom and dad congratulated me… or least my dad did. My mom was not ever really comfortable with religious child abuse but had no language to express it, her dad a Baptist minister and her husband too… That was how it went, one day to the next, Sunday after Sunday… I don’t even know how I got out, how I managed to live…
    So Mr. Gerencser, when I see you preaching on the street and shouting at the lost and condemned, I only weep for the child you had to crush in your heart, the you that had to retreat far and far inside to survive what your childhood was… I do not know anything about you, sir, but I know what happened to me as a child in a fundamentalist family and I know that your story was probably worse than you care to reveal. Thank-you for being brave, Bruce. Thank-you for telling the truth. I am sorry, truly sorry for what happemed to you. The clueless Christians that come here to tell you were never a Christian or that you are still one are after all my mom and my dad, my brother and sister. I am sorry on their behalf for what they continue to heap on you. I am happy you got off the street, my friend. You are a light in my life. You bring light here and many many of us are grateful for your generous sharing.

  3. Avatar

    I remember a street preacher visiting my town square in Ohio, i wonder if it was you? It was only a short drive to Newark.

    Street preaching is just another form of entertainment, I’ve seen many performers in pubs and bars being ignored by the customer, so I see this in the same category. Most ignore the performer, a few enjoy it, and a few hate it.

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