A regular reader of this blog — a former Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church member and preacher, who trained for the ministry at Clarence Sexton’s The Crown College — sent me the following response from his pastor:
Dear Harry (not his real name),
Thanks for answering the first part of my letter. I realize that you were about 17 when you allowed the devil to have you question God’s Word and that you doubt God’s Word and even deny His Word. Proverbs 23:7 says as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
Harry, I know you know enough about God’s Word that nothing I say to you will convince you if the Holy Spirit Of God doesn’t make God real to you, I can’t. I do not know if you and Louise have ever been saved. I know that a person has to be convicted of the sin of unbelief before they can be saved. It is not an emotional feeling. It is conviction of the sin of unbelief.
Time will tell because you will experience God’s chastisement if you are saved. I fear what it might take for God to get your attention. If you don’t experience God’s chastisement then you will know that you were never saved to begin with according to God’s Word.
You really don’t see the seriousness of sin. It put My Savior on the cross of Calvary for my sin. There will be no one in hell for telling a lie or stealing. If anyone goes to hell it will be because of the sin of unbelief.
Your children have to hear the truth before they can believe the truth. So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Please give them a chance to hear God’s Word like you had. If you and your wife don’t want to come to church, will you give your children a chance by allowing them to come to master club and watch God work in their tender hearts.
Harry, I encourage you to do all the research on Jesus you can find and see if he is a liar, lunatic, or He is who He says He is. Your whole family’s destiny depends on who Jesus is and what you do with Him.
I am here for you if you need me. Remember God loves you.Thanks for taking time to read this.
Pastor God’s Man
Those of you who have left the IFB church movement are quite familiar with the tactics and approach used by Harry’s pastor. This passive-aggressive approach is used any time an IFB church member thinks about leaving the church or has doubt about the teachings of the church and pastor.
The pastor appeals to their relationship, and even goes so far as to tell Harry he is still his friend. He reminds him that God loves him and that he, the pastor, is there for him if he needs him. All well and good, right? If this is all the pastor had said, few of us would have found fault with his words. But, like the true IFB pastor he is . . . with the carrot comes a big stick.
The pastor tells Harry:
- He is influenced by the Devil
- He doubts his salvation
- That God will chastise him IF he is a really is a Christian
- Everyone in Hell is there because of unbelief
- He is ignorant, having failed to do all the research on Jesus (I thought the Bible was all we needed?)
And then he plays the children card. He appeals to Harry on the familial level. After all, their eternal destiny depends on them coming to this pastor’s church. What he fails to realize and understand is that as a person raised in the IFB church, Harry would most certainly want to keep his children away from the pernicious IFB church movement and its teachings and practices. If he is breaking free, why would he want to expose his children to these things?
I hope this post illustrates for readers the challenges people face when they decide to walk away from the IFB church. By leaving, they are cutting themselves off from everything they have ever known. This young family man is to be commended for being willing to walk away. It took great courage to do so. May there be many more just like him.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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I live less than 5 miles from Crown. They were one of the first experiences with Protestant door-to-door “soul winning” shortly after we moved into a new neighborhood. I did some investigating and learned about their IFB super controlling ways. They are liberal enough to allow their unaccredited college students to date a person of another gender, provides their parents approve. (“We’re not racist, you just need to honor your father and mother.”)
I wasn’t wearing my glasses when I started reading this. And I read ‘clown college’. Which actually isn’t far off, is it?
I have to say that this pastor’s approach makes me almost physically ill.
I attended a church years and years ago. One Sunday morning, a young man about 12 came to church alone. And during the invitation, he came forward to give his heart to Gawd. His mom came to pick him up before he was able to pray that all-important sinner’s prayer (often taught in clown college). He left rather abruptly. And our pastor’s wife was really, really upset. “We almost HAD him!” she kept saying. “He was almost one of us!”
Tell ya what, if that doesn’t creep you out, nothing will.
If that doesn’t scream CULT, I don’t know what does
Classic IFB! As Carly Simon sings: “Nobody does it better”
Wow oh wow, some sick shite here, Bruce… Where to start, where to start?
The sin of unbelief….. well, beat me to a pulp with a Bible soaked in Pastor God’s shit-toilet brain!
I must believe what in honesty is completely ludicrous to me? I must state in some assured fashion that I stand behind what is to me complete and utter bullshit billboarded by batty wackos in funny suits?
Listen Preacher: I have to lie to be in your club, bullyman, and you would be happy to see me do it: You’d probably say, “Holy God will surely turn that lie around, just you wait and see…. ”
This kind of ‘love’ is spiritual rape. Wait, says the rapist. If you won’t come yourself, let me have your children… Please, please…
i cannot drag my eyes away from that tie and those gloves long enough to parse what you’re saying. Asstrocious!
It’s pretty rough this guy is wishing bad things to happen to him in his life because he left his faith. Where is the compassion in this?
If bad things don’t happen, it’s because he’s not saved (negative).
If bad things do happen, it’s his own fault and he has to repent (negative).
But this is the IFB mindset, no matter what you say or do it’s justified if it keeps people out of a literal burning Hell. For sure Matt 10:34 is true when you think about it, ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.’
I also noticed him throw in the liar, lunatic, lord argument, not realizing that for those who have walked away from the faith, the option is LEGEND.
It seems to me that the biggest hurdle to escaping the Christian bubble is to accept that the Bible is not an authoritative book. It is a collection of writings that spans something like ten centuries of evolving religious belief, But also, legends aside, people don’t write religious books without audiences in mind, and so each writer was trying to convey information about how he (or his group) thought God wanted people to live. Those thoughts were never in isolation from the political situation that existed from the time of writing.
Getting to that point of unbelief is actually hard work. We all know that Jesus supposedly said some really useful things about being excellent to each other; surely there are lots of other useful things in the Bible? Maybe, but the useful stuff–how to live a good life as a member of a social species–isn’t unique to the Bible. But, but, but, most of us were raised to believe in the authority of the Bible. The stuff we learn when we’re little is hard to let go of.
And so, if you can read that pastor’s letter from the point of view of really not believing, it’s clearly a load of superstitious crap. Oh, and the subject of the letter is cheating his kids out of being indoctrinated in a load of superstitious crap. Oh, my, can’t let that happen!
And beneath it all is the threat of spending eternity being tortured, in a place that no one can prove even exists.
I just told my husband that every time I read something from an IFB pastor in your blog, I think more and more ill of most Christians. I do have some lovely Christian friends. But the ones I meet in rural Ohio are either like this pastor, or worse: they are MAGA worshipers.
As Karen has pointed out, CS Lewis’s favourite ditty of ‘liar, lunatic, or saviour’ is ridiculous because it misses the obvious, that the stories surrounding Jesus are entirely mythical. There’s also the point that Bart Ehrman makes that Jesus didn’t consider himself the ‘Messiah’, referring to the Son of Man as someone who would come later to create God’s kingdom on earth.
As for salvation being based on belief, this has to be nonsense. However hard one may try it’s impossible to change a belief, however much one may claim to do so.
It’s just sad and frustrating that people believe this way. They’re so far in they cannot see how they are using threats and playing on people’s fears to keep members in the fold, under their control, and convincing them to empty their wallets. It takes courage to leave these high control groups.
So tell me if I’ve got this right:
People go to Hell for unbelief.
“Harry” is an unbeliever.
He is trying to do what’s best for his kids.
His pastor wants him to keep his kids in the IFB cauldron even if he won’t stay in it himself.
So…the pastor wants “Harry” to commit passive child abuse. He won’t go to Hell for that, only for his unbelief in a god who doesn’t trouble himself to reveal himself to a fellow like Harry.