Dan Beecher, an ex-Mormon and atheist podcaster, described Mormonism as “high intensity church” — religious practice that takes up an inordinate amount of your time and money. This is a good description of my experience attending and pastoring Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. High intensity, indeed.
IFB pastors expect congregants to be all-in. Anything less and you will be labeled as a backslider, carnal, or “worldly.” Church members are expected to attend church every time the doors are open:
- Sunday School
- Sunday morning service
- Sunday evening service
- Midweek service
True Christians® are expected to:
- Read and study the Bible every day
- Pray multiple times a day
- Daily witness to non-Christians
Further, congregants are expected to
- Give 10% of their income to the church
- Give money above the tithe to the bulding fund, missions, revival offerings, etc.
According to IFB preachers, every church member should find a ministry in which to serve. Some ministries require hours of personal time each week. Put all these things together, and what you have is a good example of “high intensity church.” Throw in listening to sermons on cassette tapes or digital media, reading Christian books, listening to Christian music, and buying Jesus junk at Hobby Lobby, and it’s hard not to conclude that many IFB pastors and church members spend virtually every waking hour serving “Jesus.” Even when taking time out for rest, relaxation, or entertainment, Jesus is lurking in the shadows.
Live long enough in such a religious environment and one can lose all sense of self and proportion. Promised mansions in Heaven after they die, IFB Christians sacrifice the present in hope of some sort of divine payoff later. That’s why many former IFB church members think they “wasted” much of their lives “serving” God/Jesus/Church. What do they have to show for giving their time, talent, and money to their churches? Wasted years that can never be regained.
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.
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