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What Motivated Me to Work so Hard for Jesus

working for jesus

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected

It all started with my belief that the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I considered the Bible the road map for navigating through a Satan-dominated, sin-plagued world; a blueprint for everything from marriage to child-rearing to what clothing to wear. The Bible, along with the Holy Spirit who lived inside of me, was my God’s way of speaking to me and telling me what to do

According to how Evangelicals interpret the Protestant Bible, every person, from conception, is a vile, broken sinner under the just condemnation of God, deserving eternal punishment in Hell/Lake of Fire. Fortunately, God graciously provides a way for us to have our sins forgiven and avoid eternal punishment. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth to be the final atonement for our sins. Jesus Christ was executed on a Roman cross, and three days later rose again from the dead, conquering death and the grave. Our salvation and eternal destiny rest squarely on the merit and work of Jesus. He, and he alone, is the way, truth, and life. Through the preaching of the Word (the Bible) and the work of the Holy Spirit, God calls out to sinners, saying, repent and believe the gospel. Those who hear his voice are gloriously saved and adopted into the family of God.

The Bible taught me that as a God-called, God-ordained minister of the gospel, I had the solemn obligation to preach the good news to everyone. Work for the night is coming. Leave everything for the sake of the gospel. Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. These clichés were not mere words to me. They were clarion calls to forsake all, including my family and economic security, and follow Jesus.

Every church I attended, every youth group I was a part of, and every summer youth camp I went to, reinforced the belief that God wanted (demanded) one hundred percent of me. All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give, says the old gospel song, I Surrender All. I went to an Evangelical Bible college to train for the ministry. Every class curriculum, every professor, every chapel speaker shouted out to students:

Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.
We never will give in while souls are lost in sin
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.

My partner, Polly, went to college to get a Mrs. degree. She believed God wanted her to marry a preacher. Polly knew that she would have to make sacrifices for the sake of her husband’s call. She was taught that Jesus, the ministry, and the church came first. She was also taught that her husband was specially chosen by God to proclaim the good news of the gospel. She was encouraged to read biographies of great men and women of faith to learn how to deal with being married to a man of God. Polly and I entered marriage and the ministry knowing God had called us to a life of self-denial and devotion to the work of the ministry. Hand in hand, without complaint, we embraced the work we believed God had set before us.

I consider 1983-1994 to be the high point of my ministerial career. I pastored a growing, busy Evangelical church. Sinners were weekly being saved, baptized, and joining the church. Backsliders were being reclaimed. God was smiling on our work. Not only was this my observation, but it was the observation of my colleagues in the ministry. God was doing something special at Somerset Baptist Church.

During this time, I did a lot of preaching.  A typical week for me looked something like this:

  • Jail ministry on Tuesday
  • Nursing home ministry on Wednesday
  • Midweek service on Thursday
  • Street preaching 2-3 days a week
  • Teaching the adult Sunday school class
  • Preaching twice on Sunday

We also had a tuition-free Christian academy, open only to the children of church members. In addition to my busy church preaching schedule, I held revival services and preached at bible conferences and pastor’s fellowships. I was motivated by what I believed the Bible taught me about the work of the ministry. I looked at the life of the disciples and thought that they were a pattern to follow. Run the race, the Apostle Paul told me. I was totally committed to what I believed was God’s calling on my life.

Some Christians object and say “you are the one who worked yourself to death. Don’t blame the Church or God. OUR pastor doesn’t work this way. He takes time for his family. Blah. Blah Blah.” Even now, as an atheist, I find such objections lame. If the Bible is true, if what it says about God, sin, salvation, death, Hell, and Heaven is true, how dare any preacher, or any Christian for that matter, treat the gospel of Jesus Christ so carelessly?  How dare any preacher not burn himself out for the sake of those in need of salvation. No time for busywork. No time for golfing with your fellow preachers.

More than a few pastors are lazy hirelings who do just enough to keep from getting fired. They pastor a church for two or three years, wear out their welcome, and then move on down the road to another church. I have no respect for pastors who defend their laziness by stressing the importance of balance in their lives. Where do they find such a notion in the Bible they say they believe? Jesus doesn’t call them to balance. He calls them to forsake all and follow him.

One of the reasons I see Christianity as a bankrupt religion is the lackadaisical approach Christians and their spiritual leaders have toward matters that supposedly have eternal consequences. Most of what goes on in the average church is meaningless bullshit. Call a business meeting to decide on the color of the paint for the nursery walls and everyone shows up. Implore people to come out for church visitation and only the same three or four people show up, week after week.

Why should I take the Bible, God, Jesus, salvation, Heaven, or Hell seriously when most Christians and pastors live lives that suggest they don’t? It took me leaving the ministry in 2005 and Christianity in 2008 for me to realize that most of what I was chasing after was nothing more than a fool’s errand. Many of the ex-ministers who read this blog know what I am talking about. So much of life wasted, and for what? Too bad I had to be fifty years old before I realized what life is all about. Too bad I sacrificed my health on the altar of the eternal before I realized that there is no eternity, just the here and now.

From a psychological perspective, I understand that my type-A, workaholic personality made it easy for me to be the preacher I came to be. Whether it was pastoring churches or managing restaurants, I worked day and night, rarely taking time off for family or leisure. I still have the same tendencies, the difference now being that the list of things that matter to me is very small. Polly matters. Family matters. My neighbors matter. But matters of eternity, Heaven, and Hell? Nary a thought these days. If the Christian God exists, then I am screwed, and more than a few of the readers of this blog are too. However, I don’t think the Christian version of God exists, so I am investing all my time, money, and talent — how many times did you hear that phrase in a sermon? — on the only life I have — this one. I will leave it up to the gods and my family to do what they will with me after I am dead. Of course, depending on what happens to me after death, I could come back from the dead and write a book titled, “Heaven is for Real and Boy, Are the Atheists in Trouble.”

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
    Revival “I Lie for Jesus” Fires

    This is sad and tear jerking to read. You were quite the servant of Christ. I want to believe you were truly saved and have only thrown the last 15 years in the toilet 🚽. And lost eternal rewards.

    And prayers and hope that the Holy Spirit will draw you back to Jesus.

      • Avatar
        ... Zoe ~

        Revival reminds me of an old friend who I eventually asked to leave us alone. Being a woman, he didn’t have to abide by my wishes. So he didn’t. So, Biker Dude informed him and that was that. However, my last conversation with “old friend” ended with him backing up, walking down the step and saying: “Oh well, at least you are saved.” This was a direct comment about at least I can’t lose my salvation but I will lose rewards.

    • Avatar
      Yulya Sevelova

      Let’s say for sake of conjecture that Bruce and Polly reconvert- it WON’T happen because of nagging or insults ! Keep this in mind,RF. And it’s true, Bruce took the commands for Jesus’ followers seriously, in ways that most pastors, who only worship money and a cushy lifestyle for fops, couldn’t fathom. America would be a different,better country if they DID. Because the vast majority of pastors and ministers are jerks, and they helped to drive people away from church, and God himself!

  2. Avatar

    ” If the Bible is true, if what it says about God, sin, salvation, death, Hell, and Heaven is true, how dare any preacher, or any Christian for that matter, treat the gospel of Jesus Christ so carelessly? How dare any preacher not burn himself out for the sake of those in need of salvation. ”

    Preach it! 😉

    That’s where I was at in my days at Longview Baptist Temple. How could anything possibly matter more than keeping people from going to hell?

    The fact that many other Christians never took this seriously makes me wander if they even believe what they say. For many men, Christianity is simply a tool to gain power. Women, children, and men lower in the totem pole must submit to them. And women use Christianity as a tool to keep men faithful. It “works” and nobody dares to question it. But is it all a big game? Is it nothing more than an adult version of Santa Claus to get others to “be good”.

    If there is a god, then we have no way of knowing what he is like or what he wants. If we had to bet on a god existing that we will meet someday, then our best bet is that such a god values intellectual honesty. Such a god would put Bruce Gerencser near the top of the list.

    If a god exists who demands undying loyalty to a belief without evidence, how could we trust such a god? Perhaps such a god would be doing nothing more than many preachers do, using “facts” that they know to be baseless to gain power. Such a god could never be trusted. Our best bet is always to live with intellectual honesty, always going by what we see to be true rather than serving in fear just in case.

    • Avatar

      “For many men Christianity is simply a tool to gain Power”. You said it Merle. Demagogues shamelessly hijack religion and people’s need for relief from responsibility for their lives. Trump in front of a church waving a Bible may have been his most offensive stunt of an endless list. Now he’s doubling down on his hypocrisy by selling Bibles to his dupes. Religious scholars commentary (below) pasted in.

      Former President Donald Trump is officially selling a patriotic copy of the Christian Bible themed to Lee Greenwood’s famous song, “God Bless the USA.”

      “Happy Holy Week!” Trump announced on social media Tuesday, during the most solemn period of the Christian calendar, the last week of the Lenten season marking the suffering and death of Jesus. “As we lead into Good Friday and Easter, I encourage you to get a copy of the God Bless The USA Bible.”

      The concept of a Bible covered in the American flag, as well as a former president’s endorsement of a text Christians consider to be sacred, has raised concern among religious circles. It’s also raised questions about Trump’s motivations, as the former president finds himself in the middle of several expensive legal battles.

      ‘Sacrilege,’ theology, and the shadow of Christian nationalism
      The $59.99 Bible, which was first published in 2021, features an American flag and the words “God Bless the USA” printed on the cover. Inside, it has the words to “God Bless the USA” and the text of The Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance and other historic American documents. Promotional material for the Bible shows the former president alongside country singer Lee Greenwood.

      Responses to Trump’s social media announcement called the endorsement “sacrilege,” “heresy” and “borderline offensive” and cite lessons directly from the Bible that suggest taking advantage of people’s faith for money should be condemned.

      “It is a bankrupt Christianity that sees a demagogue co-opting our faith and even our holy scriptures for the sake of his own pursuit of power and praise him for it rather than insist that we refuse to allow our sacred faith and scriptures to become a mouthpiece for an empire,” said Rev. Benjamin Cremer on X.

      Jason Cornwall, a pastor from South Carolina, said on X that Trump’s Bible endorsement was a violation of one of the Ten Commandments of the Hebrew Testament that forbids taking God’s name in vain.

      However, the criticism doesn’t end with whether or not Trump’s endorsement is un-Christian or not. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

      Historian and author Jemar Tisby says the whole project echoes the values of Christian nationalism — the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation and the government should work to sanction Christianity on a national scale. The tenets of Christian nationalism are historically tied to prejudice, nativism and white supremacy.

      “There’s a very long tradition of what is included and what is not included in the Bible,” Tisby told CNN.

      “What has caused outrage with this Bible is that it includes the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, and even the lyrics to a Lee Greenwood song. So it’s adding to the Bible, and it’s adding specific political documents to the Bible that completely erase the separation of church and state.”

      Tisby, who holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, has written about the dangers of Christian nationalism — both for the country and the Christian faith.

      “What’s so pernicious about this is it plays on people’s devotion to God and their love of country, either of which by themselves could be innocuous or even good,” he said.

      “But in this effort, it is blending the two. And with Trump as the spokesperson, is conveying a very clear message about what kind of Christianity and what kind of love of nation (he is) promoting.”

      • Avatar
        Yulya Sevelova

        Yesterday, I heard this book Trump is promoting referred to as the ” Lee Greenwood Bible.” Makes sense,and an honest assessment. As for the kind of ” Christianity” Trump is touting, it’s similar to the version that existed in Pilgrim and Puritans villages in New England back in the day. People who wanted to avoid churches were escorted against their will to services by soldiers. Can you imagine what that would feel like ?! Christian Nationalism will boot us back into Europe during the Middle Ages. Ew yuck !

  3. Avatar

    Aw, bless Revival Fires’ little heart – he hopes Bruce is saved……. ((sarcasm))

    Bruce, I admire your dedication and hard work. If it had been all true, you would have been one of the ones to hear God say, “Well done, thou faithful servant”. You certainly were an example of what a true believer was supposed to do and be.

    I agree with what Merle said about religion being used to oppress and control people.

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