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IFB Pastor James Tester Sends Me a Message

pastor james tester

Several years ago, I received a “wonderful” comment from Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor James Tester. Tester pastors Triad Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1989, Tester moved to Hammond, Indiana to attend Hyles-Anderson College. In 1996, Tester left the Jack Hyles’ IFB mecca and moved to Longview, Texas to attend Texas Baptist College — an unaccredited college started by sycophant (ass-kisser, lackey, toady, bootlicker, fawner) Bob Gray, Sr., a Hyles-Anderson alum. After graduating from college, Tester worked for Bob Gray, Sr. at Longview Baptist Temple. In 2003, he was sent out by Longview Baptist to start a new church in Greensboro. North Carolina. (Just what Greensboro needed, another Baptist church, right?) Tester’s children both attended Texas Baptist College — now called Texas Independent Baptist Seminary and Schools.

As you will see from Tester’s comment, he’s a Bob Gray, Sr. fanboy, and much like his idol, he’s comfortable with passive-aggressive behavior and name-calling. I suspect Tester runs his church much like Gray, Sr. ran (lorded over) Longview Baptist back in the day. Today, Longview Baptist is pastored by Gray, Sr’s son. The church’s name has been changed to Emmanuel Baptist Church, and most observers believe the son has moved the church away from some of his father’s extreme behavior. It’s worth noting that Gray, Sr. no longer attends his son’s church. Make of that what you will.

With that background in mind, I give you Pastor James Tester’s comment (all spelling and grammar in the original). My commentary is indented and italicized:

Lol! Check out the author, look at his photo, read his bio and simply consider the source of this article! End of story!

What’s with IFB preachers and their obsession with my looks, weight, body shape, and penis size? Okay, maybe not that last one, but damn, these guys seem to think that if you don’t fit some sort of approved “look,” whatever you say can be dismissed out of hand.

What, in my bio, suggests that no one should listen to me? If anything, my bio reveals that I have a lot of preaching and ministerial experience; that I know what I am talking about.

What Tester is doing here is classic misdirection. Instead of actually interacting with what I have written (the message), he focuses on me personally (the messenger). All that matters is whether what I write is true or is an accurate portrayal of the IFB church movement in general and “Dr.” Bob Gray, Sr. in particular.

Tester says “end of story,” but I ain’t going anywhere. I will continue to expose the IFB church movement until I die. Just today, I had an investigative reporter from a major newspaper call me to talk about IFB churches and their pastors. I am always delighted to provide background information. Who better to get it from than a man who spent years attending and pastoring IFB churches?

Everyone that knows anything about an aggressive soul winning Independent Fundamental Baptist church knows that there are always disgruntles. You almost have as many walking out the back door as you have coming in the front door. There are always those that get offended at the preaching (truth) with many becoming bitter.

There were many times in the Bible where Jesus preached and the people were cut to the heart and drew Him to the edge of the city to stone Him and He escaped out of there hands. Conviction is powerful!

Tester admits that IFB church growth is a zero sum game; that as many people go out the back door as come in the front door. In fact, IFB churches continue to decline attendance-wise. Scores of large IFB churches are shells of what they once were or have closed their doors.

Tester would have us believe that the people leaving IFB churches are disgruntled; that when they could no longer stand getting their toes stepped on, they fled to friendlier confines.

While it is true, some congregants do become disgruntled and leave for other churches, but to suggest this is always the case is laughable. Men such as Gray, Sr., Jack Hyles, and James Tester psychologically abuse church members, bombarding them three times a week with preaching meant to inflict harm. People leave because they are tired of being abused.

Tester, true to form for IFB preachers, absolves Gray, Sr., Hyles, and I suspect, himself, from any culpability or accountability for how their preaching and behavior harms others.

I was there as a member in the most successful years of LBT through the early to late 90’s. I graduated TBC (The Bible College). I worked on staff in the early 2000’s. Sadly, I have seen people come and go. I personally know why many left. I have seen what they became after they left. It was shocking and very sad to see peoples lives totally destroyed, not by Brother gray or the preaching of truth but by sin and rebellion. The result was broken homes, divorced marriages, drug addiction, alcoholism, criminally convicted of crimes etc. Don’t blame God, the church or Bro. Gray for that.

Tester asserts that those who left Longview Baptist Temple have turned to sin and rebellion against God. Why, their departure from the IFB Mecca of Texas, led to broken homes, divorce, drug addiction, alcoholism, and criminal behavior. Can’t blame God or Gray, Sr. for how people turned out after they left Longview Baptist.

Lost on Tester is the fact that Gray, Sr. and Jack Hyles and countless other IFB pastors such as Steven Anderson and Tester himself, preach a truncated, bastardized gospel; a gospel called 1-2-3 repeat after me or decisional regeneration. Simply put, salvation is procured by assenting to a set of propositional truths and praying the sinner’s prayer. Nothing else is required or demanded from sinners. Just “believe,” and go on your merry way.

This kind of gospel, of course, makes no lasting difference, thus the constant turnover. As long-time readers know, Gray, Sr. was a consummate bean counter. All that mattered to him was the number of souls saved. Based on my calculation of the number of people “saved” at Longview Baptist, every person in Longview, Texas is now saved.

The real enemy has always been Satan, sin and people like the author of this article that is trying to sow discord among the brethren.

Ah yes, the real enemies are Satan, sin, and Evangelicals-turned-atheists such as Bruce Gerencser. Again, Tester refuses to see things as they are, blaming others for the decline numerical decline of the IFB church movement.

Tester accuses me of “sowing discord among the brethren.” In other words, my writing causes turmoil among IFB preachers and congregants. And to that charge, I gladly plead guilty. Nothing would make me happier than to see the IFB church movement implode, and church members leave for churches that preach a healthier, kinder, loving faith. Who doesn’t want to put an end to the abuse, right? If every IFB church in the United States closed overnight, it would be a good day.

As for the author having many friends from the old LBT, I can only say, that birds of a feather flock to together. If they are truly “friends” then they are the same in many ways. Think about that for a second. The Bible says in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” No one that is a so-called friend to this author (who is a self proclaimed atheist) is right with God (Let that sink in). Anyone that is feeding this author with this kind of trash is like Simon in the book of Acts 8:23 when Peter said to him, “For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”

Yes, I have “spies” everywhere; people who share with stories about the IFB (and Evangelical) churches in their communities. One such person was the late Steve Gupton. Steve attended Texas Baptist College and the Longview Baptist Temple years ago. Others have contacted me and shared their own Bob Gray, Sr. horror stories. Don’t like people talking out of school? Treat people better. Stop verbally abusing and manipulating them.

I wonder if Tester has bothered to consider the fact that, according to his soteriology, I am still a Christian. I may be a “self-proclaimed atheist,” but according to the gospel preached by Gray, Sr., Hyles, and Tester, I am still a born-again Christian. Once saved, always saved, right? Sweet baby Jesus, Heaven will be my home someday. Tester will likely be my next door neighbor. Awesome!

I’m not surprised by this kind of junk being put out there, if this author was alive in Jesus day he would be saying the same kind of trash about Jesus. He would be criticizing the way Jesus spoke to the Pharisees when He called them a generation of vipers, saying that He is mean and not compassionate in His preaching. He would have written about that fact that He spent time with the sinners and the outcasts of the day saying that He has double standards and lives like those that He choses to be around. He would write articles slamming His doctrine saying that He was teaching and preaching against Old Testament law which is contrary to the writings of Moses. Jesus had many that falsely accused Him in His day. One of His right hand men that worked with him for years, Judas Iscariot betrayed Him. They came out of the woodwork at his mock trail and lied about Him, His teachings and His ministry.

Tester is suggesting that Jesus being persecuted in his day is the same as Bob Gray, Sr. and other IFB preachers being “persecuted” today. My, oh my, what a distorted view of one’s importance.

May this article be an encouragement to those who still believe the Word of God, go soul winning, and believe in the old time tried and proven paths of the KJB. The devil doesn’t like it when we obey Scripture, preach and live truth. That is why articles like this are written. We must be doing something right!

Tester thinks that my opposition to Gray, Sr. and the IFB church movement is proof of his and their rightness; that the only reason I write about them is that they must be doing something “right.”

I will leave it the astute readers of this blog to decide who is “right.” I can say that I have been contacted by scores of current and former IFB pastors, evangelists, missionaries, professors, and church members over the years. Their stories paint a picture of a movement that can be best described as a cult. Tester, of course, will never believe that he is a cultist. Until some sort of personal or theological crisis causes a chink in his certainty, there is no way of reaching him (and others like him). Certainty breeds arrogance. And as readers can see, Tester is full of both.

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
    John S.

    Ah yes- Easy Believism, I think it’s also called. Just say what I say (“1, 2, 3 repeat after me”) and you can be counted as a statistic in our church bulletin, er … I really meant your name will be written in the Lamb’s book of Life.
    Of course these folks go right out the back door. No time for discernment, no education in the religion, no opportunity to ask the difficult questions. The important thing is you make a decision right now, because you might choke to death on that donut you eat after the service is over. Then you’ll end up in H-E-double hockey sticks, where there’s weeping and gnashing (the “g” is silent) of teeth!
    I heard this same message over..and over..and over again at most Pentecostal services growing up..along with the mournful piano music in the background.
    I have experienced the phenomenon of what Christians would call “falling under conviction”, but it was not the emotional in the moment event I just described. It happened over time, through my life experiences. The decision of whether to follow a religion or not is deeply personal and a major life commitment. It’s not something that should be done because of an emotional response to the right kind of Yay-Jesus! music, light show or psychologically manipulative preaching, but rather through education in the tenets of the religion and having the chance to ask the hard questions, and having the ability to walk away if the decision doesn’t seem right.

  2. Avatar

    Small world – I stayed in an Airbnb in Greensboro literally down the road from this church last week for my son’s college graduation – I went out running past it, one of many I passed on my run because, you know, Bible Belt where you can’t throw a stick without hitting a church.

    By IFB and Southern Baptist soteriology, many of your readers (myself included) would still technically be “saved” because we prayed the “sinner’s prayer” and really meant it. We’re “backslidden” now but still own our fire insurance policy and ticket for the heaven-boubd express. Won’t that be fun – atheists in heaven with IFB folks! (I know, it’s all fake, but wouldn’t that make a fun short story!)

  3. Avatar
    John the Unbaptist

    I think given IFB’s history of sex scandals and deceit that cleaning his own denominational house would be a better investment of Pastor Tester’s time.

  4. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    Pastor Tester: “The real enemy has always been Satan, sin and people like the author of this article that is trying to sow discord among the brethren.”

    Zoe: Why didn’t he just say this and move on? No need for the rest of the diatribe. 🙂 Blah blah blah and, Satan.

    I wonder why God created Satan? I wonder why Satan always gets blamed? I mean, shouldn’t Pastor Tester take it up with God instead of Bruce. Me thinks Pastor Tester ought to test is God. The beginner and the finisher of the “discord among the bretheren.”

    • Avatar
      Yulya Sevelova

      ” Dr. ” Tester, the sad fact is, Bruce never had to bother with trying to ” sew discord with the brethren,” as you call it. Southern Anglo culture dominates American Christianity,has for way too long. Unfortunately, it’s the best known ” face” of Christianity these days! As for you saying that Bruce would hate Jesus here on Earth, that’s pretty silly of you. Bruce has a problem with Jesus as an American trope, hijacked by European settlers and later America itself. That much is true. The American Jesus doesn’t have a problem with child predators, or the KKK, or robber baron- style capitalism, wiping out Indeginous communities,ad nauseum. Since the IFB promotes legalism in dress,along with most of the above, it makes sense to sneak out the back door of the church after you observed how the church is run ! It isn’t the truth that’s the issue, it’s the personality cult pretending to be ” truth.” So many cults and larger than life leaders ! How can this be a good thing for Christians new,and older ?? How do churches as a group justify taking the side of abusers over survivors, and still claim moral high ground? Lastly, if you are actually harping about Bruce’s weight, have YOU looked in the full- length mirror lately?🙃🇺🇸🥞🍔🍩🍦🍰

  5. Avatar

    As you will see from Tester’s comment, he’s a Bob Gray, Sr. fanboy, and much like his idol, he’s comfortable with passive-aggressive behavior and name-calling.

    I’ve yet to see an IFB pastor who wasn’t an asshole. Decades ago, when I still thought searching for a “good” church was wise, and before I realized that ALL churches were cults, I sauntered into an IFB church and sat on the back pew. The preacher was yelling the announcements and said that if the parents in his church couldn’t get their kids to obey all of the church’s dress and behavior requirements, he would skin those parents alive.

    Good thing I was on the back pew. I’d heard enough and left before the sermon even started.

  6. Avatar

    Anyone that is feeding this author with this kind of trash is like Simon in the book of Acts 8:23.

    Yes, but anybody who butchers the English language like that is worthy of the hell they preach. It’s one thing to scream like an uneducated redneck. But there’s no excuse for using bad grammar and punctuation when they do it.

  7. Avatar
    Danny (the ex-Baptist) Plumber

    As someone who grew up around fundimentalist preachers, since my father was one, I always thought that the majority of them were controlling buttholes. Yeah, there were a few nice people but we would hang out with the other preacher kids and they were usually as fucked up as we were. Guilt, guilt, guilt! The sexual repression was unreal! Heaven forbid if you were caught masturbating. Even more Heaven forbid if you got caught with someone helping you masturbate! Preachers kids and especially missionary kids were so screwed. And everything was so based on vengeance and retribution, man that”s tough for a 15 year old boy to deal with. Plus I always thought that these ministers would really hate the biblical Jesus if they actually met him. “Freakin’ liberal hippy, commie peace loving douche”. Gee, you can tell that my evangelical upbringing didn’t scar me a bit(LOL)! Anyways, I’m much happier now since I don’t have to put on my “armour of God” anymore. Kinda sad though when I think of all the years that I threw away because I lived in this evangelical wasteland where I constantly thought that I had to do something “for the Lord”. Thanks Bruce for keepin’ on giving it to these buggers!

    • Avatar
      ... Zoe ~

      Danny: ” Anyways, I’m much happier now since I don’t have to put on my “armour of God” anymore.”

      Zoe: Hi Danny. This part here stood out to me. Putting the so-called “armour of God” on every single moment of every single day. For myself as I reflect, it felt like an obsession, built on fear. It became habitual. So exhausting.

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