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Questions: Bruce, Could You Still Preach a Sermon Today?

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Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

Charles asked:

Could you still preach a sermon today?

As an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years, I preached lots of sermons — three to seven times a week, 4,000 sermons, in all. I am a seasoned public speaker, and according to the approbation of others, pretty good at it. Preaching never came hard for me. I was a consummate outliner, rarely saying anything I didn’t intend to say.

I am confident that I could still preach a sermon if asked to do so. Preaching is a learned skill, so I didn’t lose my ability to preach just because I deconverted. Evangelicals assert that preaching requires the filling of the Holy Spirit, but this is a faith claim, not one rooted in fact. Scores of Evangelical zealots have told me that I never was a Christian. If this is so, and effective preaching requires being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, why was I able to preach 4,000 sermons as an unsaved, apostate child of Satan? It seems to me, that effectual preaching requires skill, dedication, passion, and commitment, none of which requires the Holy Spirit.

Over my lifetime, I have heard many phenomenal preachers; men gifted with the ability to passionately and effectively preach. I have also heard over the years, many preachers who couldn’t preach their way out of a wet paper bag. Men who lack basic preaching skills, these men of God have no business preaching. They might be good with people, but these preachers can’t preach sermons that challenge and move people. My father-in-law was one such preacher. His sermons were awful. Often, they are rabbit chasers who think “getting up there and winging it” is a sound strategy. It’s not, and just because people praise your sermon after the service doesn’t mean they aren’t lying. (I stopped shaking hands at the door after the service for this very reason.)

Could I still preach an effective, passionate, call to action? Absolutely. Now if I can only find a church that would let me put my words to the test. 🙂

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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4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    NearlyDeconstructed

    When I was attending the Christian liberal arts college where I got my first BA, I had a professor who was something of an anomaly; one might have described him as a rare, 4-point “Calminian” in a Pentecostal denomination. He said a lot of things that stuck with me, even after walking away from the faith altogether in recent years.

    One such observation was how common it was for Pentecostal preachers to reject sermon preparation in favor of winging it from the pulpit in the name of being led by the Holy Spirit. From a certain perspective, especially within the context of a church culture dedicated to practicing “spiritual gifts,” this seemed very spiritual. But my professor popped that balloon by asking, “Do you mean the Holy Spirit can’t lead you during your sermon preparation?”

    If it’s ever really God’s anointing that makes the sermon compelling, then God isn’t limited to extemporaneous preaching. Blaming God for being unprepared only reveals the preacher’s laziness.

  2. Avatar
    Matilda

    ‘….Could I still preach an effective, passionate, call to action?’ Sorry, am I being dense here but does the questioner mean could you preach a come-to-jesus-or-burn sermon? Or one which deconstructs your hearers beliefs and affirms your atheism? You were obviously a good public speaker, a skilled orator when in the pulpit. I was a children’s evangelist for many years, I was told I had the god-given gift of story-telling. I go into my g/kids playgroup sometimes and tell or read a story – they invite g/parents to do that. It’s based in a church and the workers are x-tian – but if they were ever to ask me to tell a bible story – I’d run out of the door. Anything to do with the bible triggers me now and makes me shudder to recall my former passionate devotion to that book of fiction.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Yeah, I could still preach a come-to-Jesus sermon. It’s a learned skill. However, I would be uncomfortable doing so if the people I was speaking to didn’t know I was an atheist. It would be easy to fake it, but not moral or ethical.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I have no doubt you could preach dozens of sermons now, especially if you were allowed a more liberal, progressive slant!

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