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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.

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On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of northwest Ohio, southern Michigan, and northeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

cambria baptist church cambria michigan

Cambria Baptist Church, Cambria (Hillsdale), Michigan, Dave Locke, pastor Cambria Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. (Church Website)

allen baptist church allen michigan

Allen Baptist Church, Allen, Michigan, David Wruck, pastor. Allen Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.  Its pastor is a graduate of Jack Hyles’ college, Hyles-Anderson College.  (Church Website)

Allen Baptist wants passersby to know that it is independent, fundamental, soul-winning, and only uses the King James version of the Bible. These words are nonsensical to unbelievers, but to IFB adherents looking for a new church, they speak volumes. These words also say to some Christians: you aren’t welcome here!

grace baptist church angola indiana

Grace Baptist Church, Angola, Indiana, Bob Koenig, pastor (No Web Presence)

Grace Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. Koenig has pastored Grace Baptist for thirty-two years. He is a graduate of Bob Jones University. He earned his doctorate through post-graduate work done at Bob Jones. Earned doctorates are rare among IFB preachers. (See IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor)

For many years, Grace Baptist operated Grace Baptist Academy. The school has since closed its doors.

word of life outreach center quincy michigan

Word of Life Outreach Center, Quincy, Michigan, Bob and Carol Montgomery, pastors (Church Website) The Montgomerys have pastored Word of Life for thirty-one years.

Word of Life is a generic Pentecostal/Charismatic/Evangelical church. According to an article written by one of the pastor’s daughters, Word of Life is different from other churches because:

People often ask me, “What does your church believe?”

They are wondering what we believe that may make us different from other churches.

So, my short answer – we believe in tongues, the power of God’s Word, and that God is ALWAYS good.

So, here is my long answer (short answer with details).

1. Well, if you check our Statement of Faith, then you will notice that it is not much different than others you have seen. However, the first thing that might stick out to you or may be different from what you have seen is that we believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

Word of Life believes that the only reason people are sick is because of their lack of faith. Churches are filled with sick and dying people. If they would only have f-a-i-t-h, the God who is ALWAYS good would heal them. Talk about a delirious fantasy. I wonder how many sick people presently attend Word of Life, and how many congregants have died despite leaning on the everlasting arms of Jesus? Something tells me that the folks at Word of Life get sick and die at the same levels as the rest of us.

sonlight community church angola indiana (1)

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SonLight Community Church, Angola, Indiana, John Mueller, pastor

SonLight is an Evangelical Mennonite church, affiliated with the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches. It believes the following about the Bible:

We believe the Scriptures, errorless in the original documents, are divine authority in all matters which they address. Their truthfulness is not negated by the occurrences of such things as irregularities of grammar or spelling, intended and conventional generalizations or approximations, various literary devices, observational descriptions of nature, or reports of false statements made by evil persons. Since God the Holy Spirit is the source of the message as well as the mover and supervisor of those who recorded it, the Bible is reliable in what it communicates and is the supreme authority for faith and practice. Nothing may be taken from it and nothing may be added.

The church’s website says that newcomers can expect:

Our services are casual and modern. We embrace a come as you are philosophy. You’ll find most people in jeans, but feel free to dress however you feel comfortable.
When you arrive, be sure to grab a cup of coffee or cocoa from the coffee bar. We’ve got all the fixings! Don’t forget to get a couple of donut holes before you head into the auditorium. Have a seat wherever you’d like. We have a floor level and balcony.

Worship is typically songs you’ll hear on the radio from Bethel Music, Chris Tomlin, or maybe even our very own Aaron Scantlen. Join in if you know the words, or just enjoy the music and let the lyrics talk if you’d rather.

Next is the message delivered by one of our pastors or elders. Each message is crafted by a sermon prep team who ensures it is applicable, relatable, and biblically sound.

All in all, service usually lasts about an hour and 15 minutes.

How to be a wise guy, says SonLight’s sign. My first thought was this: what, the pastor is teaching congregants how to be mafia members?  The sign also says, SEE God move through you. Pray tell, how can anyone “see” God move through them? Or see God at all, for that matter? I am a heathen, an apostate, a denier of the existence of God.  Yet, if good works are a sign of God flowing through a person, I know a lot of atheists who are full of the Big Kahuna. Perhaps what Sonlight calls evidence of God moving through a person is just them being a kind, decent, loving human being — no deity needed.

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of northwest Ohio, southern Michigan, and northeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

union church quincy michigan (1)

union church quincy michigan (2)

union church quincy michigan (3)

Union Church, Quincy, Michigan, Brad Parrish, pastor  (Church Website)

Union Church is what is called in this area a “federated” church — the merging of separate denominational churches into one congregation. In the early twentieth century, the Presbyterian and Baptist congregations in Quincy joined together to form Union Church.

Based on a quick perusal of its beliefs, I’d say Union Church is a generic Evangelical congregation. I do give them credit for posting online their complete financial records for 2016 (nothing since then). Most Evangelical churches either offer scantily-clad public financial summaries or tell nosy people such as myself to mind their own business. You can tell a lot about a church by looking at its financial records, and that’s why most Evangelical churches refuse to make their annual reports publicly available.  They don’t want people to know how little of their money actually goes to ministering to people outside of their clubhouses.

Union Church wants passersby to know they are: acceptable, valuable, capable, and forgivable. Go ahead, figure that one out.  As an unwashed, uncircumcised Philistine,  am I not the enemy of God and a child of Satan? How does that square with acceptable, valuable, capable, and forgivable?  As an atheist and a humanist, I have value without God. The same goes for being acceptable and capable. All of these things rest on SELF, and not some sort of deity. As far as being forgivable, it’s up to those I have harmed to forgive me. God can’t forgive me, of course, because he doesn’t exist.  Forgiveness starts and stops at the human level. I have no want, desire, or need to be forgiven by a mythical God.

pleasant view church of christ angola indiana

Pleasant View Church of Christ, Angola, Indiana, Michael Booher, pastor (Church Website)

The church’s ABOUT page states:

Pleasant View Church of Christ is a non-denominational New Testament congregation, part of a worldwide movement to restore the essentials of apostolic Christianity. We endeavor to lead lives of faithfulness and devotion guided by Christ as the divine Son of God and the Bible as the inspired record of God’s revelation. Pleasant View Church of Christ has no headquarters or rule from any outside human source. We are locally self-governing and our own Elders lead in spiritual matters.

Being neither fundamentalists nor modernists, we call ourselves Christians. We realize we are not the only Christians but we have no other name.

Our authority is God’s Word. We have no man-made creeds. The Scriptures are our only rule of faith and practice. We allow liberty in opinion in matters where Scriptural revelation does not legislate. And we accept the fullest conformity to the clear and uncontested revelation of the Word.

I find it interesting that Pleasant View says that it is not Fundamentalist, when in fact its doctrine and practice says it is. If it walks, talks, and acts like a Fundamentalist, it IS a Fundamentalist.

melbern united methodist church melbern ohio

Melbern United Methodist Church, Melbern, Ohio, Diane Schaffner, pastor (No Web Presence)

The folks at Melbern United Methodist Church wants passersby to know that the Christian God loves them more than they will ever know. Really? What evidence is there for the claim that this God loves us at all? Look around. If this is love, I sure as hell don’t want to upset Ms. God. Yes, the Bible says that the Christian God loves everyone — well, not everyone says the Calvinists, just the elect — and has a super-duper plan for their lives. Again, outside of the Bible, where’s the evidence for this claim? Just because you say something doesn’t make it so.

 

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of northwest Ohio, southern Michigan, and northeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

first church of amboy amboy michigan

First Church of Amboy, Amboy, Michigan, Alan Fenstermaker, pastor. Formerly Amboy Baptist Church — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation (No Web Presence)

reading church of the nazarene reading michigan

Reading Church of the Nazarene, Reading, Michigan, Pastor Phil and Sabine Rigden (Facebook Page)

Reading Church of the Nazarene wants passersby to know that only through weakness can you become strong.  I choose, instead, to stand on my own two feet — no deity needed.

missionary church of allen allen michigan

Missionary Church of Allen, Allen, Michigan, Ray Hicks, pastor (No Web Presence)

quincy united methodist church quincy michigan

Quincy United Methodist Church, Quincy, Michigan,  Richard Wilson, pastor

A banner on the church’s website says RETHINK CHURCH. That’s exactly what many of us did, and that’s why we are now atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other flavors of unbelievers.

What, exactly, does it mean to spring into action for Jesus?  How does one “spring” and what “action” is expected after “springing?”

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of northwest Ohio, southern Michigan, and northeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

salem cass united methodist church findlay 2019

Salem Cass United Methodist Church, Findlay, Ohio, no pastor listed.  (Facebook page) The church’s website is hacked.

good hope lutheran church arlington ohio 2019

Good Hope Lutheran Church, Arlington, Ohio, Steve Ramsey, pastor.

I assume Good Hope is trying to reach age 60 and older farmers with their 7:30 a.m. worship service? That’s the earliest service time I’ve ever seen.

williamstown first brethren church williamstown ohio 2019

Williamstown First Brethren Church, Williamstown, Ohio, no pastor listed. (Facebook page)

Williamstown First Brethren wants passersby to know that the message preached at their church doesn’t change. In fact, it has transformative power. This church is over 125 years old. Does anyone really believe their message has never changed? Even Fundamentalist churches can’t claim their message never changes. It does. The problem, of course, is that when you are in a religious bubble, everything seems static, and change is often hard to see.

grace united methodist church dunkirk ohio 2019

Grace United Methodist Church, Dunkirk, Ohio, David Roy, pastor. (No Web Presence) According to the Kenton Times, Pastor Roy is 22 years old. My first thought after I read Grace UMC’s sign was “premature ejaculation?”  What’s too soon? Don ‘t make us come to your church . . . just tell us.

walnut grove united methodist church kenton ohio 2019

Walnut Grove United Methodist Church, Kenton, Ohio, Douglas Flinn, Sr, pastor.

The church’s website states:

Our mission is to Invite all people to become disciples of Jesus Christ, grow in their faith and commitment and to serve our communities  and beyond.

Our vision is for Walnut Grove to be a lighthouse showing people God’s unconditional love. We will do this by helping them meet needs and improve their life skills. As people recognize God’s love for them, they will find a safe harbor in a relationship with Jesus Christ

WGUMC understands a disciple of Jesus Christ to be a person who is committed to following Jesus in their heads; is continually being changed by Jesus in their hearts; and is committed to living out the mission of Jesus with their hands.  Being a disciple is a process that never ends!

Lots of religious gobbledygook. What I want to know is this: does WGUMC’s unconditional love extend to LGBTQ people?  The United Methodist denomination is divided on social hot button issues such as GBTQ people as pastors/members and same-sex marriage.  How I interpret WGUMC’s sign message, “Build Others Up, Don’t Tear Them Down,” depends on whether LGBTQ people are really unconditionally accepted as they are. If not, then the Bible and the church tears people down. The Bible is littered with negative, anti-human commands. These teachings do nothing to affirm or build-up people. The Bible is a powerful weapon that can be used for good or bad. Sadly, far too often, the Bible is used as a tool to bludgeon and harm.

Bruce Gerencser