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Category: Church Signs

Two Local Evangelical Churches Clueless About “Black Lives Matter”

Rural northwest Ohio is white, conservative Christian, and Republican. It is home to scores of bigots and racists. While the city of Defiance has a sizeable black (and Hispanic) population, most black Christians attend predominately black churches. Segregation — whether culturally enforced or willingly chosen — is alive and well in Defiance and the larger rural area.

I have been pleasantly surprised to see protests rise-up in Defiance. One group seems to be quite Evangelical in nature. Their protests have more of a praise-and-worship vibe. One local mainline pastor — yes, local pastors still speak to me — told me that he could do without the altar call vibe of this group. Another protest group seems focused on the issue of race, without the Jesus vibe. Why is it that local Evangelicals can’t check Jesus at the door and focus on the issues that matter to local people of color and those of us who presently support their battle against racism and police brutality?

Last Sunday, the latter group held a small protest surrounding the Defiance County courthouse. I stopped to shoot a few photographs. Here’s one of them:

black-lives-matter-protester-defiance-ohio

Two blocks away is The Gathering Place, an Evangelical church pastored by Steve Buttermore. The church is known for putting stupid, inane, downright ignorant clichés on its billboards. Well, stupid, inane, and downright ignorant clichés to people of reason, anyway. I am sure more than a few local Evangelicals love what The Gathering Place puts on their billboards.

Here’s what The Gathering Place had on their billboards:

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Talk about tone deaf and clueless. Imagine how much better this church might have been received if its billboards said Black Lives Matter. I suspect that such a bold statement would have been met within the church with outrage from some whites. So, let’s go with a riff on “All Lives Matter” — a racist trope.

Today, I was in Bryan for a medical procedure. While driving home, I stopped to photograph the front of Dad’s Place — an Evangelical congregation pastored by Christopher Avell. Avell used to comment on this site, hoping to win me back to Jesus. He, of course, failed.

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“Lost Souls Matter.” Yet another riff off of the racist “all lives matter” line.

I have no doubt that pastors Buttermore and Avell will object to my characterizations of their signs. However, we live in moment when what we say and do matters. These churches have, at the very least, shown that they are not paying attention.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon in recent weeks.

auglaize bible church harrod

Auglaize Bible Church, Harrod, Ohio, Ben Buzhardt, Pastor. Buzhardt is a graduate of Bob Jones University, so I assume Auglaize Bible is a Fundamentalist church. The church does not have a website, but it does have a Facebook page. I did find another website that had this to say about Auglaize Bible Church:

Auglaize Bible Church exists to glorify God in Harrod, Ohio. The men and women of this fellowship desire to encourage each other to grow in each person’s relationship with Jesus. We exist to show the gospel in word and in deed to people in West Central Ohio.

fayette christian church

Fayette Christian Church — Disciples of Christ, Fayette, Ohio. Fayette Christian does not have a web presence.

fayette united methodist church

Fayette United Methodist Church, Fayette, Ohio, Andrea Cheeseman, Pastor. According to the church’s website, “Fayette UMC is a Break Through Prayer Church. We believe in praying bold prayers to our awesome God.” So, there are other churches that do not “break through” with their prayers? Fayette United Methodist’s website explains “break through prayer” this way:

Break Through prayer is prayer that believes God is capable of making big bold changes in our lives, in the lives of our friends and family, and in life of our community. Since October, 2015 Fayette UMC has been a part of the West Ohio Annual Conference Break Through Prayer Lab. A training event for pastors and lay people, that teaches new prayer disciplines like prayer walking, praying circles, and specific prayer.

As a part of this prayer lab our Break Through Prayer Team developed our 9:11 prayer card. Our church has been praying for God’s break through since October and we have seen many answers. God is at work in our church, healing brokenness, bringing new life, and renewing our spirits.

What is this “pets unleashed” Vacation Bible School? So many one liners are going though my head right now!  Did the pets turn into atheists and now they are unleashed and free to roam? Inquiring minds want to know.  You can read Fayette United Methodist’s latest newsletter here.
jesus is lord ministries adrian michigan

Jesus is Lord Ministries World Outreach Center Inc., Adrian, Michigan, Pedro and Shirley Valdez, Pastors. Shirley Valdez is also a Prophetess and her husband is an Apostle. According to the church’s website, Jesus is Lord Ministries is a place where:

the unlovable are loved, the bound are set free, and no one is judged. Come as you are. Come to find out what it is that you have been missing in your life. Our church is here for you. It’s where God is worshiped in Spirit and Truth. Come worship with us and find what you have been looking for!

the church of jesus christ adrian michigan

The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ (The Church on Bent Oak, Adrian, Michigan, Rick Strawcutter, Pastor. According to a comment on the church’s unofficial Facebook page, The Church of the Lord is “the one and only true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The best fellowship I’ve ever experienced. Come and join us, you’ll keep coming back for more!”  I am always amused when a congregation uses a definite article — which is THE in the English language — to describe itself. Seems quite arrogant, don’t you think, for a church to consider itself THE Church of the Lord Jesus Christ?

According to the church’s website, certain people will find themselves right at home at The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ:

People who are tired of establishment approved, politically correct, dry dead and often silly approaches to churchianity. People who have the mental and spiritual wherewithal to handle the truth and know it when they hear it.  People who know in their hearts that there is more to Christ and a relationship with him that mere ritual and mental ascent.  Over the years many have  said, they were looking for “truth and not tradition”, and found it at the Church on Bent Oak.

A old wise farmer was once quoted as saying,  “The problem is not that we know too much. The problem is that so much of what we know, ain’t so.”

In the opinion of Pastor Strawcutter, nothing could more clearly describe the dilemma of the typical church goer today.   Tradition and at times outright shear ignorance blocks the free flow of truth and understanding of the Bible.  Too many churches and ministers today are more dedicated to the perpetuation of their past and traditions than they are to walking in true vision, interpretation and enlightenment.

One area that ministries afflicted with stunted spiritual growth balk at is the area of science.   Because they find certain scientific holdings to be inconsistent with their ridged and sacrosanct beliefs they arrogantly denounce and dismiss out of hand many things that if viewed in a more correct Biblical light would actually make perfect sense.

The following are a few of the primary areas that have historically stunted biblical understanding and have actually caused many to become committed unbelievers instead of believers.  Would it surprise you to know that among other things, the Bible  teaches that:

The Creative days in Genesis are eras of time and not literal 24 hr. days?
Adam was not the first man created on earth?
The Serpent was symbolic and not a literal slithering snake?
Noah’s flood was one of many such upheavals and was local and not global?
The word rapture appears no where in scripture, nor does the word trinity?

Rick Strawcutter has been the pastor of The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ for forty years. His bio page describes him this way:

His talents and experience is varied and extensive. Pastor Strawcutter has a broad based educational backround including a Naturopathic degree and pilot’s license.  He is  the author of several books including “Bankers Lawyers and Judges – the Unholy Trinity”,  “Without Controversy ”  and  “Ten Minute Bible Study.”

Here’s a link to an older article about Strawcutter and his controversial beliefs and practices. In 1979, Strawcutter held a controversial book burning. You can read about it here. In 2014, Strawcutter stirred up controversy over a public sculpture he considered erotic. You can read about it here.

raisin valley evangelical friends church adrian michigan

Raisin Valley Evangelical Friends Church, Adrian, Michigan, Doug Chandler, Pastor. On its website,  Raisin Valley describes itself this way:

Powerful and familiar hymns alongside many of the best new worship songs and choruses sung in a traditional worship style
Bible-based preaching and teaching with a focus on impacting our daily lives
A welcoming atmosphere where strong friendships are nurtured
Many opportunities to serve in the church and the community
A heart for sharing God’s message and love, both locally and worldwide

second baptist church adrian michigan

second baptist church adrian michigan

Second Baptist Church, Adrian, Michigan, Russell Henagan,Pastor. Second Baptist has no web presence.

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon in recent weeks.

alvordton united brethren church alvordton

Alvordton United Brethren Church, Alvordton, Ohio, Dan VanArsdalen, pastor. According to the church’s website, (link no longer active) their mission is to “reach the hurting, the lost, and the broken of all ages with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We will use today’s tools to share yesterday’s story. We will teach, train, and worship our wonderful Savior.” There are several drug rehab centers located in Alvordton (population 300).

bridgewater community church bridgewater

Bridgewater Community Church, Montpelier, Ohio, Mark Pitman, Pastor. Bridgewater Community is an Independent Fundamentalist community church. Churches such as this one are Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches without the Baptist label. Bridgewater Community has a website, but it is broke (returning a database error). (Facebook page) Mark Pitman is the executive director of Community Pregnancy Center Women’s Health Resource (CPC). CPC, with locations in nearby Bryan, Defiance, and Napoleon, provides pro-life services to pregnant women. CPC is stridently anti-abortion. Several years ago, CPC changed its name to hide its overt anti-abortion stance. The closest Planned Parenthood clinics are an hour away in Toledo and Fort Wayne.

calvary church of benton ridge

Calvary Church of Benton Ridge, Benton Ridge, Ohio, Brett Kelly, pastor. Calvary Church is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. 300 people live in Benton Ridge. There are TWO Methodist churches in Benton Ridge. I would love to hear the backstory as to why there are two Methodist churches in such a small community. Calvary Church does not a website, but they do have a Facebook page.

domus angelorum cloverdale

domus angelorum cloverdale

Domus Angelorum Retreat Center, Cloverdale, Ohio. Domus Angelorum is affiliated with the Catholic Diocese of Toledo. Local Catholic churches use its facilities for retreats. The trailer is for some sort of traveling Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit.

frontier baptist church frontier michigan

Frontier Baptist Church, Frontier, Michigan, Terry Farwell, Pastor.Frontier Baptist is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Lord, my eyes ARE open. Where, oh where are all these God-sent blessings Christians speak of?

olive branch christian union church alvordton

Olive Branch Christian Union Church, Fayette, Ohio. Olive Branch is affiliated with the Christian Union denomination. Neither the church or its denomination have a website. (Facebook page) I pastored Olive Branch for seven months in 1995. There’s a story to be told…some day!

gomer congregational church gomer

gomer congregational church gomer

Gomer Congregational Church, Gomer, Ohio, James Wilder, pastor. According to the church’s website, “no matter who you are…or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here! ”  Gomer Congregational’s website has a page titled D&D’s. I thought, Dungeons & Dragons? Nope, deacons and deaconesses. I always find it interesting to dig into church newsletters and websites. Wilder was recently called to be the pastor of Gomer Congregational. Church attendance the Sunday before his trial sermon? 39. Sunday of the trial sermon? 93. Two weeks later? 42. This is typical church member behavior. Members come out of the woodwork to hear the candidate and, if called upon, to vote for or against his hire. Once their voting job is finished, these members retreat to their homes, ready to be called upon again in the future. Most churches have substantially more members on their membership rolls than they do sitting in the pews. These non-attending members can be a big pain in the ass for pastors. Let a church clique get upset at the pastor and call for a meeting, why these non-attending members will show up in droves, ready to pass  judgment upon the matter. You can read Gomer Congregational’s latest newsletter here.

 

 

Signs of Religious Persecution in Defiance County, Ohio

war against christianity

The overwhelming majority of Americans self identify as Christian. Here in rural NW Ohio, I suspect  there are few non-Christians. The number of public atheists I know number three. That’s right, three.  Christianity is on full display everywhere one looks. Churches on every street corner, Christian radio and TV stations, Christian book stores, Christian coffee houses, and business signs with the ichthys (fish) symbol, all testify to the fact that America is a Christian nation and rural NW Ohio is God’s Country.

Christians are free to start new churches and worship anyway they please. No matter how crazy their beliefs and practices are, there is no government or private agency  keeping them from practicing their form of crazy. From strict liturgical churches to snake handling Baptists, there is a flavor of Christianity for everyone. Christian sects, churches, religious institutions, and pastors are given special tax benefits, from real estate and sales tax exemption to the clergy housing allowance. Christian churches are considered by many to be dispensers of morality, and when bad things like a school shooting, tornado, flood, or hurricane hits a community, local Christian clergy are called in to calm fears and let everyone know God is still on the throne.

Someone visiting from another country would likely be amazed at the religiosity of Americans. I doubt they would see any signs of religious persecution, especially if they hail from a country where there’s real persecution. Thanks to fear mongering and lying  by Evangelical preachers, Catholic prelates and priests, Mormon bishops, Christian parachurch leaders, Christian college presidents and professors, Christian TV and radio programmers, and Fox News hosts, many Christians believe they are being persecuted by liberals, secularists, socialists,communists, abortionists, homosexuals, and atheists. The annual War on Christmas® has now morphed into the War on Christianity®.

There is not one shred of evidence to back up the claim that there is a concerted effort to persecute American Christians and keep them from worshiping their God. From my seat in the pew, I see government at every level bending over backwards to accommodate Christians. As a nation, we value religious freedom so highly that we grant sects, churches, and each Christian special privileges. There is no other nation on earth that has more religious freedom, yet many Christians still think they are being persecuted. Why is this?

Here’s my take. When people live in a country that values personal rights and freedom, especially religious freedom, they tend to see small accommodations or denials as frontal assaults on their rights and freedom. When groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), American Humanist Association (AHA), American Atheists (AA), or the ACLU demand that Christians abide by the Constitution and the separation of church and state, Christians see this as personal attack on their faith.

Let me give a local example of this. Recently, the ACLU of Ohio sent nearby Edon Northwest School District a letter about the school district’s core values statement found in the front of the student handbook:

core values edon northwest school district

Graphic from The Friendly Atheist

Here’s what the Toledo Blade had to say:

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a request today to a Williams County school district to stop what it calls its “sectarian policies and practices that violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The letter to the Edon Northwest Local School district, which is near the Ohio-Indiana border, cites the school system’s student handbook, which references “Christian values,” and what the ACLU says is a practice of inviting ministers to pray at mandatory school assemblies. John Granger, interim superintendent who joined the district in January, said he has not witnessed some of the incidents referenced by the ACLU, but that if the allegations are true, the district should make changes.

”This has already been settled by the United States Supreme Court,“ Mr. Granger said. “I would make a recommendation to the board of education that if we are in violation of the law, we should stop.”

The district’s website includes a copy of the student handbook, and the first page lists the district’s “Core Values.”

As we strive to achieve our Vision and accomplish our Mission, we value…” the handbook states, with “Honesty and Christian values” as the second entry.

The ACLU letter claims ministers attended assemblies before the Thanksgiving and winter holidays, and that students need parent approval to opt out of the events.

“These reports also allege that the ministers pray aloud, ask the students to join in the prayer and recite homilies concerning upcoming holidays,” the letter states.

The ACLU in its letter, signed by ACLU of Ohio’s Legal Director Freda Levenson and staff attorney Drew Dennis, recognizes that Mr. Granger is new to the position and the started before his arrival in the district.

“We now take this opportunity to make you aware of the unconstitutionality of the described practices, and request that you investigate them and bring an end to them immediately,“ the letter states…

I have no doubt that local Christians are outraged over the ACLU’s demand that the Edon Northwest School District abide by the establishment clause and the separation of church and state.I am sure they see this as a sign of religious persecution. It’s not. This kind of stuff has been going on in rural schools since the days I roamed the halls of Farmer Elementary in the 1960’s. The difference now is that groups like  FFRF, ACLU, AHA, AA, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) are paying attention to what is going on in the schools and government and are willing to litigate any violation of the Constitution.

Today, Polly took me on a short nineteen mile drive on Route 18 between Defiance and Hicksville. The following pictures succinctly illustrate the religious climate in rural NW Ohio. They tell the story far better than I could.

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The Faith4Freedom signs litter the rural NW Ohio landscape. According to their defunct Facebook page, 20,000 of these signs were printed and distributed in Ohio and Michigan. This is primarily a Catholic endeavor. Based on the lack of activity on their Facebook page, Twitter account, and a no longer available website, I assume that local Catholics have lost their religious freedom and are living in nearby catacombs. Once the black anti-Christ, Barack Hussein Obama, is divinely removed from office, they will no longer fear persecution and return to the safety of Facebook, Twitter, and the internet.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser