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Category: Evangelicalism

The Bible Says Obey Those Who Have the Rule Over You and That Includes Your Pastor

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Have you ever wondered why many Evangelicals blindly believe and submit to whatever their pastors utter from the pulpit? Faithful church members bow in reverence to self-appointed men of God; men who say they are called by God to preach and lead churches — yet their calling comes not from a deity, but from their own wants, needs, desires, and that of the churches they pastor. Skeptics wonder why these people don’t see through the con and think for themselves. All any of us needs to do is listen to what these preachers are saying to conclude that they are spouting harmful nonsense. Yet, otherwise intelligent people check their minds at the church door and give themselves over to men who will purportedly teach them truth and provide a blueprint for living. No need to think, just believe. No need to wrestle with questions and doubts, just have faith. belief and faith, not just in the Christian God and the Protestant Bible, but also the words of pastors and evangelists who are given almost absolute power over congregants.

Evangelical churches are typically pastored by one man. This is especially true in Southern Baptist and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. Some churches have a plurality of pastors (elders), but I have found that despite this plurality, there is almost always one man who has the final say. Most Evangelical churches have a congregational form of government. This means that the church membership has the final say on how the church is run, including who its pastor will be. The thinking goes, then, that if congregants want a new pastor, all they have to do is vote the present one out of office. However, rarely is getting rid of a pastor so simple, especially in churches that aren’t part of a denomination. If a church is a member of a particular denomination, congregants can, if need be, call on denominational leaders to help remove a pastor from office. In independent churches, the congregation has the final say; that is, if the church hasn’t ceded its control to a board of elders or, as is the case in many megachurches, an outside board of directors (much like the corporations such churches are patterned after).

Churches have governing documents, one of which is a constitution. The constitution details who is a voting member and how/when votes can be called. If a church wants to dismiss its pastor, it must follow the process detailed in its constitution. Many constitutions state that removing a pastor requires a two-thirds or three-fourths vote of the membership. This high standard makes it hard for congregations to fire their pastor. Even worse, pastors — if they are at a particular church for a long time — will attract loyal church members who will oppose attempts to remove him. The longer a man pastors a church, the harder it is to get rid of him. Over time, he becomes the hub around which everything turns. The pastor is viewed as God’s mouthpiece; a man called by God to pastor that particular church. Is it any surprise then, that long-tenured pastors tend to become authoritarians?

Baptist pastors, in particular, are fond of talking about pastoral authority — the power by which they control the church. Bruce, I thought Evangelicals were people of the Book; that the Bible was the sole rule for faith and practice? It is, and the Bible does indeed grant pastors authoritarian control over their churches.

The Bible says:

And he [God] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11,12)

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Romans 13:1)

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:7, 17)

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. (1 Corinthians 16:15, 16)

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12,13)

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be ….One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (1 Timothy 3:1,2,4,5)

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. (1 Timothy 5:17-19)

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (1 Peter 5:1.2)

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

(And yes, I realize these verses can be interpreted many different ways. But this is my sermon, so I decide what these verses mean!) 🙂

These verses and others are interpreted to mean that God-called pastors have rule over the churches they pastor. Church members are obligated to submit to their pastor’s authority. Not doing so is considered rebellion and could bring judgment from God or excommunication. Most often, rebellious congregants are shown the door and told to find a church that meets their “needs.” It is not uncommon to find Evangelical churches that have high membership churn rates. Members who become tired of eating McDonald’s quarter-pounders leave and hit the drive-thru at Wendy’s. And on and on it goes. I pastored people who had been members of numerous churches before they came to one of the churches I pastored. These church-hoppers rarely stay for long. Initially, they will find their new churches to be delightful, but given enough time, they will find faults with their pastors and move on to greener pastures. The one thing that church hoppers never do is consider that they might be the problem. They place blame on the pastor or the congregation, often couching their objections in theological verbiage, but more often than not, they are difficult people or they bore easily.

Most Evangelical churches are a mix of new and old members. The longer someone stays in the church, the more they become conditioned to their pastor’s preaching, teaching, and leadership. This conditioning allows pastors to gain authority over congregants that in any other setting would be considered cultic. They are taught their entire lives that the man standing behind the pulpit is called by God to deliver divine messages to them, so it should come as no surprise that, bit by bit, they surrender their will and critical thinking skills to the man behind the pulpit. In time, pastors amass great power and control, and once this happens these leaders can and do muddle the minds of their charges, rendering them powerless to resist.

Worse, many Evangelicals want to be told what to believe and how to live their day-to-day lives. They come to church on Sundays to be inspired and taught the ways of God. This is why, when Evangelicals are quizzed about their beliefs, more often than not they either can’t give an answer or they simply regurgitate the beliefs of their pastor. As a pastor, I was often asked, what does your church believe? I would respond, I don’t know what the “church” believes. This is what I believe, and it is these beliefs that are the foundation of my preaching and teaching. Most congregants are not going to spend significant time studying the Bible. This does not make them bad Christians. The truth is, pastors have the freedom and luxury to read and study the Bible. Church members have full-time jobs, families, and countless responsibilities that limit the amount time they can devote to theological learning. Thus, most Evangelicals have a theology they have borrowed from their pastors. They know what their pastor knows, and, unfortunately, many Evangelical pastors are poorly educated. When a pastor believes God speaks through him, why should he study? When he believes that God puts His words in the pastor’s mouth and all he has to do is utter them, why bother with the words of mere humans? And if members dare to think for themselves and challenge something their pastor has said, they can expect to be reminded that Pastor So-and-So has authority over what is taught and members are expected to believe as he does or leave.

Church aisles are littered with the bodies of those who dared to challenge the man of God’s authority. Their deaths are their own fault. Don’t they remember their pastor quoting 1 Chronicles 16:22: Saying, Touch not mine anointed [Hebrew for pastor], and do my prophets [Hebrew for pastor] no harm? Surely they have heard the Bible story about some children who mocked the prophet Elisha?  2 Kings 2:23, 24 says:

And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Mess with the man of God, rebellious church members, and God might send bears to eat you alive, just like he did to the children who mocked Elisha. Simply put, mess with the pastor and he will have God fuck you up!

Is it any wonder that many people need therapy and counseling after extricating themselves from Evangelical churches? Those of us who spent most of our lives under the thumbs of authoritarian religious figures often spend years regaining a sense of self-worth. What’s worse for someone such as myself is that I not only was victimized by my pastors and teachers, I was also a victimizer. I taught and practiced what my pastors and professors taught me. I passed on to a new generation the dysfunction of my generation. The only good news in this sordid story, at least for me, is that I got off the crazy train and abandoned the damaging religious nonsense that controlled my mind for almost fifty years. Better late than never, I suppose, but I still lament the fact that I lovingly and sincerely caused untold harm to my family and the churches I pastored. By owning my past, I am in a better position to help people avoid a similar path. While I grudgingly and doubtfully admit that some religious expressions are less harmful than others, I can’t help but think that until the world reaches a place where it no longer has a need for deities, religion will continue to cause harm. This is especially true of Evangelical Christianity. It will be a good day when Fundamentalist Christianity draws its last breath. I will long be dead, but perhaps one of my grandchildren will have the privilege to hold a pillow over the Evangelical God’s face as it struggles to breathe. Good riddance, I say.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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Black Collar Crime: Salvation Army Youth Pastor Jeffery Williams Accused of Sending Sexually Explicit Materials to a Minor

jeffery-williams

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Jeffery Williams, formerly a youth pastor with the Salvation Army in Fountain, Colorado, stands accused of sending sexually explicit materials to a minor in the church’s youth group. Williams is a married father of three. The Salvation Army is an Evangelical sect.

Church Leaders reports:

A former Salvation Army youth pastor has been arrested and charged with sending sexually explicit materials to a minor. Jeffery Williams, 38, turned himself in to police in Fountain, Colorado, on Nov. 10. He was booked on charges of obscenity and unlawful sexual communication by a person in a position of trust.

According to Salvation Army officials, Williams served in Fountain from 2013 to 2017. After that, he served in Chandler, Arizona, until being suspended and then terminated last month. The church says it took immediate action when it learned of the allegations against Williams and is cooperating with authorities.

Before being commissioned as a Salvation Army officer in 2013, Jeffery Williams completed a two-year church training program in California. Then he was stationed for four years in Fountain, where the alleged incident occurred.

Fountain police say they began investigating Williams last month, and that investigation led to his arrest this week.

Although Fountain police didn’t indicate a timeline for the alleged incident, the church’s statement notes: “The Salvation Army understands that the charges at issue involve conduct that occurred about seven years ago in Colorado, but the charges are serious.” The church also says it had not received any previous complaints about Williams’ conduct with minors.

In its statement, the Salvation Army emphasizes that it “does not tolerate sexual misconduct or improprieties of any kind.” It adds, “In accordance with our policy, once we learned of the allegations last month, [Jeffery Williams] was immediately suspended and we reported these allegations to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. Since making this report, we have been cooperating with Fountain Police and Williams has been terminated. We have also attempted to contact the victim in the case to extend any assistance she may require.”

….

According to social media posts, Williams has been married for almost 20 years and is the father of three children. His wife also serves in the Salvation Army. Church Leaders has reached out to the couple for comment and will update this article with any reply.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Official Hymn of the IFB Church Movement: I Shall Not be Moved

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Jesus Is My Saviour, I Shall Not Be Moved;
In His Love And Favour, I Shall Not Be Moved;
Just Like A Tree That’s Planted By The Waters,
I Shall Not Be Moved.

I Shall Not Be, I Shall Not Be Moved,
I Shall Not Be, I Shall Not Be Moved;
Just Like A Tree That’s Planted By The Waters,
I Shall Not Be Moved.

In My Christ Abiding, I Shall Not Be Moved;
In His Love I’m Hiding, I Shall Not Be Moved;
Just Like A Tree That’s Planted By The Waters,
I Shall Not Be Moved.

If I Trust Him Ever, I Shall Not Be Moved:
He Will Fail Me Never, I Shall Not Be Moved;
Just Like A Tree That’s Planted By The Waters,
I Shall Not Be Moved.

On His Word I’m Feeding, I Shall Not Be Moved,
He’s The One That’s Leading, I Shall Not Be Moved,
Just Like A Tree That’s Planted By The Waters,
I Shall Not Be Moved.

Glory Hallelujah, I Shall Not Be Moved;
Anchored In Jehovah, I Shall Not Be Moved;
Just Like A Tree That’s Planted By The Waters,
I Shall Not Be Moved.

In His Love Abiding, I Shall Not Be Moved;
And In Him Confiding, I Shall Not Be Moved:
Just Like A Tree That’s Planted By The Waters,
I Shall Not Be Moved.

Though All Hell Assail Me, I Shall Not Be Moved;
Jesus Will Not Fail Me, I Shall Not Be Moved;
Just Like A Tree That’s Planted By The Waters,
I Shall Not Be Moved.

Though The Tempest Rages, I Shall Not Be Moved,
On The Rock Of Ages, I Shall Not Be Moved;
Just Like A Tree That’s Planted By The Waters,
I Shall Not Be Moved.

Video Link

I Shall Not be Moved is the official hymn of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement. IFB churches, pastors, and colleges believe that they are protectors and defenders of “old fashioned’ Christianity; “old fashioned” meaning the Evangelical Christianity that was common in the 1950s. IFB adherents consider themselves anti-culture, prone to withdrawing from society, taking up residence in bubbles where every aspect of life is strictly and completely controlled. IFB churches are known for being fighting Baptists, willing to fight and divide over even trivial matters. In their world “trivial” doesn’t exist. Much like the song quoted above, IFB Christians put down deep roots, and no matter what comes their way they will not move.

Let me give you a good example of this from Bob Jones University, a fiercely Fundamentalist and separatist school. Some Bob Jones graduates, students, and board members are calling for the head of college president Steve Pettit. Even former president Bob Jones III is alarmed at what Pettit has done:

Over the last year some embarrassing, antithetical things, historically uncharacteristic things, which would have never happened in the past have occurred. From all over the country the Board received pleas from graduates, and others, to look into these matters fearing that the University had veered in its direction, and unique distinctives without which it would become irrelevant. Naturally, the Board was obligated, by reason of its existence, to step in. (Ministry Watch)

What, you ask, did Pettit do? Are you ready? Drum roll, please:

The opposition to Pettit has nothing to do with morality or doctrine, but with “preferences of Christian practice,” according to one alumnus. The alumnus, who talked to board members, said Pettit had been criticized for the style of worship music played at student chapel services, “immodest clothing” worn by female athletes, questionable performances and musical selections from the fine arts program, and even Pettit’s participation in a bluegrass music band. (Ministry Watch)

That’s right; alums, students, board members, and Jones III are outraged over music styles and women’s dress.

BJUgrass

This is a recent photo of BJUgrass, a college-affiliated bluegrass band started by BJU college president Steve Pettit. OMG! Look at these slutty women wearing blue jeans. Why, two of them have naked feet! Run, men, run, your virginity is at risk.

These are the kind of things IFB preachers get their panties in a bunch over. Pettit recognizes that the strict, legalistic standards of the days when the Jones clan rules the college with a rod of iron will no longer work. Despite their claims that they never change their beliefs and practices, IFB adherents do, over time, change. Oh, the change is slow, but it does happen. Pettit knows that the only fix for declining enrollment is to drag Bob Jones kicking and screaming into the 1990s. Pettit’s core theological beliefs are as abominable as they ever were, but he risks losing his job because he ran afoul of the morality police.

It will be interesting to see if Pettit’s contract is renewed. My money is on “no.” Here’s one thing I know about Fundamentalists: they eat their own. They have no room in their worldview for differences of belief, practice, or opinion. Truly, they shall NOT be moved.

For the record, BJUgrass is a talented group. I love bluegrass music, even though I can do without the religious lyrics. 🙂 After watching the video below, I can see why some Bob Jones folks are upset! OMG, uptempo, foot tapping, body moving music. Definitely not the BJU music from yesteryear. Bob Jones music has a style, and this ain’t it.

Video Link

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor David Walther Charged with Possession of Child Pornography

pastor david walther

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

David Walther, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Round Rock, Texas, stands accused of distribution, receipt, transportation, and possession of child pornography. Faith Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship.

The Austin American-Statesman reports:

David Lloyd Walther, 56, of Georgetown, was arrested on Thursday and charged with distribution, receipt, transportation and possession of child pornography, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Walther told an FBI agent that “he had a pornography addiction and would often go through cycles ofdownloading and viewing pornography depicting both adults and minors,” the complaint said.

He also said that he would download child pornography files, “but would often feel guilty and go through a ‘purging’ of files, i.e., deleting the images and associated files, because he knew it was wrong, and that he last purged files on November 08, 2022, the night before the search warrants were served,” according to the complaint.

Walther was a pastor at the Faith Baptist Church in Round Rock for the past 18 years, said David Clawson, a deacon at the church.

“We regret anything along these lines that has happened,” Clawson said on Friday about the charges against Walther. “The church will continue to move forward as God has led,” Clawson said. He declined further comment.

“The criminal complaint alleges that Walther downloaded and made available child pornography using BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing network,” the release said. It said this happened when Walther, who is a Georgetown resident, was still a pastor.

When authorities searched Walther’s home and vehicle on Thursday, they found two large computer hard drives that contained child pornography, the release said.

Walther told authorities that he didn’t know he was sharing child pornography through the BitTorrent network and also apologized “for his actions,” the complaint said.

He said when he viewed the child pornography the children in it were between 8 and 17 years old, according to the complaint.

Law and Crime adds:

According to the affidavit, which Law&Crime is not sharing in this instance because of how detailed it is, the pastor had a “BDSM” folder containing an image of a nude boy with a collar on his neck and being sexually abused, a similar image of a female toddler, and images of nude young boys and girls being restrained by ropes and tools. A “Zoo” folder allegedly contained a bestiality video involving a dog and a female toddler “likely less than three years old.”

The feds allege that the defendant also downloaded several videos through BitTorrent showing young girls being sexually abused by adult men.

Walther has been scrubbed from his church’s website.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Dr. David Tee Refuses to Own His Unethical (Sinful) Behavior

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Dr. David Tee is the tall white man in the back row

Another day, more drama emanating from a dark, musty basement somewhere in the Philippines. Dr. David Tee, whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, is upset that yours truly and Ben Berwick called him out on his unethical behavior. It is troubling that Thiessen refuses to use our legal names when writing about us. There’s no reason for him not to do so.

Thiessen explained his boorish behavior this way:

But one thing that has bothered us is that both MM and BG make everything we write personal to them. They continue to use our wrong name as if to get a rise out of us. But their disrespect undermines their points of view.

If they had stopped to think about it, our use of initials was not personal. MM stands for Meerkat Musings which indicates that we are not addressing the person writing the content. Instead, we are addressing the content only and have left all personal aspects out of our own content.

The same for BG. His website is titled ‘The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser’ So our use of initials again only refer to the website content, not the man behind it. But they do not think about these details in their haste to try and do everything they accuse us of doing to them.

But expecting rational and polite behavior from unbelievers is an unrealistic hope. As we read their content and responses, they are the ones making it personal, not us. But we will try to ignore their badly written responses and focus on the content we can use here.

Unbelievers have nothing to offer the believer except destruction. The believer needs to be warned about them and their views.

Does any of that ring true to you? Of course not. Instead of admitting his childish behavior and amending his ways, Thiessen concocts a ludicrous justification for his refusal to use proper form by typing out our names.

Of greater concern is Thiessen’s refusal to link to our articles when he mentions them, even when he is excerpting large amounts of text. Thiessen’s behavior not only goes against proper blogging conventions, but it is also unethical. Both Ben and I have called him out on his unethical behavior.

Thiessen, of course, responded:

Leave it to the unbelievers to make false accusations and ignore the reality of what took place. We are not techno experts and sometimes when we use technology, things mess up. But leave it to MM to make false accusations because he can:

“has written a couple of posts that relate to my material, but has decided against providing direct links, and even giving credit where it’s due. So, he’s gone from not even being capable of using my name, to not even linking to my site when he quotes me, to not even acknowledging that he’s quoting me!”

It turns out after checking, that we can’t link to his website using the technological aid we have been using. It is a simple mistake but leave it to MM to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Instead of telling us, there was a problem with the links, he leaps to a faulty conclusion and points a finger where a finger should not be pointed. We read his post and we checked so that is how we found out. Having people make such false accusations makes us go slowly to repair the links.

Maybe MM should learn how to give the benefit of the doubt until he hears the truth.

According to Thiessen, Ben and I are acting uncharitably towards him; that the missing links are just a technological snafu. Why, then, if that is the case, has Thiessen not fixed the posts that are missing attribution? How hard can it be, right? Thiessen uses the WordPress platform. He has been blogging since 2012. Does anyone believe that he suddenly doesn’t know how to make an HTML link or that there is some sort of bug in WordPress keeping him from hyperlinking? Not a chance. Thiessen has a minimalist blog and uses the latest WordPress install. I use WordPress, as does Ben. We have been using the software for years. I started using WordPress back in the wild, wild blogging days of 2007. I have never had a problem making a hyperlink, and I doubt Ben has either.

Two years ago, I called out Thiessen on his refusal to give proper attribution and provide proper HTML links. For a time, he was trying to obscure the links by making them the same color as the body text. Cute, right? On both occasions, he said problems with WordPress were to blame. I didn’t believe him then, and I don’t believe him now.

Thiessen later added an addendum to his post:

This just in

MM replied to our comment above and like a true unbeliever, he condemns without knowing any or all of the facts. The owner of MM should know better than to do that as he demands that Christians do better when he makes mistakes.

At best both MM and BG website owners are hypcorites [sic].

Sorry, Derrick, all the “facts” are in. You are behaving unethically. We can’t — well, we could file takedown requests if we had the time — stop you from continuing to do what you do. All we can do is continue to point out your unethical behavior. Thoughtful readers will see your behavior for what it is.

Ben had this to say:

Recently, Derrick Thiessen (aka David Thiessen, aka David Tee) has written a couple of posts that relate to my material, but has decided against providing direct links, and even giving credit where it’s due. So, he’s gone from not even being capable of using my name, to not even linking to my site when he quotes me, to not even acknowledging that he’s quoting me! Derrick, that’s pretty poor form.

Can I be bothered with his lengthy diatribe? No. Suffice to say, he is misconstruing Biblical references and occasional references from external sources, with the idea that the Bible is to be taken 100% literally, which isn’t logical and isn’t an observation-based form of reasoning. I will however reference one particular line from his latest post, which is hilarious!

[Thiessen wrote] The words in the title are found on a website we have visited from time to time.

From time to time? Derrick has routinely tracked my site, posted comments (often unpleasant and unreasonable ones), and made numerous posts out of what I’ve had to say, even when I haven’t referenced him in any way. I have no doubt he will spin something out of this too, and I have no doubt he will continue to make posts about me, and Bruce too, as he won’t be able to help himself.

All quotations were properly linked. See, Derrick? You can do it (think the movie The Waterboy)! If you truly need help figuring your “technical” problems out, please email me and I will be glad to help you “fix” your WordPress software. I’ve been building my own sites for years. Using the scientific method, I am sure I can help you figure out why you can’t properly hyperlink. Maybe I can even show you that evolution is true. Or, you can admit your “malfunctioning” software excuse is Grade-A bovine excrement. May the Holy Spirit lead you to do what is right.

Update

Thiessen used more content from this site today without attribution.

Here is his justification for doing so:

1. BG’s website- we are not linking to the BG or MM websites anymore. We will just acknowledge their words as they have shown they can do nothing but insult., attack, and cause harm to those they disagree with.

We have nothing more to say to them but we will keep looking at their websites to find material we can use here

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why It’s Hard for Evangelicals to Change Their Beliefs

goodbye hello

Have you ever wondered why so few Evangelicals walk away from the faith? Have you ever wondered why many Evangelicals leave one toxic, harmful church, only to join another pestiferous church that continues the psychological damage and harm of the previous church? Have you ever wondered why, no matter how much evidence skeptics and atheists provide to the contrary, Evangelicals will still hang on to the belief that the Bible is a supernatural book written by a supernatural God; and that no matter how many Bart Ehrman book recommendations former believers make to them, Evangelicals will still cling to Jesus, the old rugged cross, and the empty tomb?

Nellie Smith, a writer for Religion Dispatches and a former Evangelical, wrote about why it is almost impossible to argue Evangelicals out of their faith:

And here’s the thing: it was the dissolution of a world. People who didn’t grow up in the American evangelical bubble often don’t realize what they’re demanding when they ask an evangelical to accept a fact that is contradicted by their church’s interpretation of the Bible. To those bought in—excepting, perhaps, that small demographic of Christians who identify as evangelical and are truly progressive—evangelicalism is not a collection of facts. It is an entire reality, based not on logic but on a web of ideas, all of which must be wholeheartedly accepted for any of it to work. It is complete unto itself, self-contained, self-justifying, self-sustaining. It’s your community, your life, your entire way of thinking, and your gauge for what is true in the world. Evangelicalism feels so right from the inside.

And, for an evangelical, there are no small doubts: growing up in many evangelical churches means to be told, repeatedly, that the devil will always seek a foothold, and once you give him one you’re well on the road to hell, to losing your faith, to destroying your witness. That’s scary stuff. To begin to doubt evangelicalism is not simply a mental exercise. For many like me, it’s to feel a void opening, the earth dropping out from beneath you. It’s to face the prospect of invalidating your entire existence.

So know this when you talk to an evangelical: in attempting to persuade them to your point of view—even on a topic that seems minor to you—you’re not asking for them to change their mind, you’re asking them to punch a hole in the fabric of their reality, to begin the process of destroying their world. And, as anyone who has had the experience knows, world-destroying is not fun. It is, frankly, terrifying.

That’s not to say that realities can’t change. Mine did. But few individuals can be argued out of an entire worldview. Realities shift when ideas bloom and ideas are slow and patient, creeping in through unguarded portals and establishing themselves without much fanfare. However well-intentioned you are, bludgeoning people with fact after argument after fact will only entrench them in their position and reinforce a perception of being persecuted by the world.

As Smith said, realities can and do change, but change is hard and the older people become the harder it is for them to abandon their faith. (My wife and I are exceptions to the rule.)

Many of the readers of this blog were once devoted followers of Jesus, members of sin-hating, Bible-believing, soul-saving Evangelical churches. Scores of you were once pastors, elders, deacons, evangelists, missionaries, Christian college professors, or Christian school teachers, yet there came a time when you renounced your faith and walked away from Jesus and the church. While some church-going Evangelicals deconvert in their teens and twenties, by the time people reach their forties and fifties, it is less likely that they will abandon their faith. I have corresponded with numerous unbelievers in their forties and fifties who still attend church every Sunday. In some instances, these unbelievers are still in the ministry. They no longer believe the Christian narrative, yet they give the appearance that they are tight with Jesus. Why do these faux-saints believe one thing, but say another? I know of several Evangelical churches that are currently pastored by unbelievers. How can these men, week after week, lie and pretend?

Years ago, the secular counselor I see told me that someone walking away from not only Christianity, but their life’s vocation, as I did at the age of fifty is almost unheard of. Why is that? What makes it almost impossible for older Evangelicals to make a one-hundred-eighty-degree turn and walk out of the church, never to return?

Imagine, for a moment, how much of my life I invested in Evangelical Christianity. Imagine how many thousands of hours I spent in worship, devotion, and service for the Christian God. Imagine spending thousands of hours studying the Bible and reading Christian tomes. Imagine preaching thousands of sermons and leading numerous souls to Christ. Imagine a life consumed by the things of God. For most of my adult life, I tried my best to follow the teaching of Christ and to lead others to do the same. Yet, fourteen years ago, I abandoned everything I held dear and started what essentially amounted to a new life sans Jesus, the church, and the ministry. Why would anyone blow up his life as I did?

I know that my story is an outlier, that most fifty-year-old preachers stay the course until Jesus takes them home to glory. Most older doubting Thomases bury their doubts and motor on, giving the appearance that they are still one of the faithful. Why? Why not proclaim your unbelief far and wide as I did with a letter titled, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners?

Smith, as do I and other former Evangelicals, views Evangelicalism as a self-contained bubble:

It is an entire reality, based not on logic but on a web of ideas, all of which must be wholeheartedly accepted for any of it to work. It is complete unto itself, self-contained, self-justifying, self-sustaining. It’s your community, your life, your entire way of thinking, and your gauge for what is true in the world. Evangelicalism feels so right from the inside.

Everything makes perfect sense when you are in the bubble. Attacks from the outside are viewed as Satan’s attempt to destroy your faith. I spent almost fifty years in this bubble. My life had design, structure, and order. My calling gave my life purpose and meaning. All of my friends and many family members lived in this bubble too. I was married to a woman who was a lifelong bubble-dweller. Together, we brought six children into the world, and the only life they knew was within the bubble. Life, from a holistic point of view, was grand, exactly as God wanted it to be. And yet, one day, after days, weeks, and months of anguish and heartache, I walked out of the bubble and said, I no longer believe. A short time later, my wife left the bubble too. Over time, our children made their own peace with the past, with each of them going their own way. The good news is that none of them is an Evangelical. The curse has been broken.

In a matter of months, I lost almost everything I held dear: my career, my ministerial connections, and my purpose and direction. Most of all, I lost friendships decades in the making. The losses I suffered were great, and even today I lament all that was lost; not because I want back that which was lost, but because there’s now a huge hole in my life that was once filled by God, Jesus, the church, and the ministry. At my advanced age, I don’t know if I will ever fill this hole. Perhaps the best I can do is shovel in some backfill and construct a bridge that carries me to the other side.

The next time you find yourself frustrated by an Evangelical who refuses to see the “light,” just remember what you are asking him or her to give up. Consider, for a moment, the great price he (or she) will pay if his doubts or loss of faith are publicized. I know what divorcing Jesus cost me, and I would never say to anyone, follow in my steps. While I am convinced that Christianity cannot be rationally and intellectually sustained, I understand why people hang on despite their doubts or loss of faith. Ask yourself, are you willing to lose everything you hold dear? I know I am fortunate in that my wife deconverted when I did and that my children accepted and embraced my abandonment of Christianity. I have corresponded with numerous ex-Evangelicals who lost their marriages and families when they deconverted. When their spouses were asked to choose between them and Jesus, they chose the latter. I know of children who have abandoned an unbelieving mother or father, choosing instead to follow after Jesus. And the same can be said of children who abandon their family’s faith, only to then find themselves excommunicated from their parent’s homes. Evangelicals love to talk about the high cost of being a Christian, but the same can be said for those of us who were once saved and now are lost.

How old were you when you left Christianity? Did you find it hard to leave the bubble? If your family is still believers, how is your relationship with them? If you had to do it all over again, would you have still left the faith? Or would you have “played the game,” choosing instead to hang on to family and societal connections? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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The Nondenominational — Evangelical Connection

nondenominational lakewood church
“Nondenominational” Lakewood Church, pastored by Joel Osteen

Evangelical churches, pastors, colleges, and parachurch organizations are using sleight of hand to distance themselves from the toxicity associated with labels such as Evangelical and Evangelicalism. Instead of using the E word, Evangelicals say they are “nondenominational.” This implies they are detached from Christianity proper, when, in fact, they are explicitly Evangelical.

Lifewise Academy advertises itself as nondenominational, hoping unaware people won’t pay attention to its Evangelical theology and practice. One of my goals as a writer is to pull back the nondenominational facade so people can see that a church, pastor, or parachurch organization is actually an Evangelical in nondenominational clothing.

Southern Baptists have been playing this game for years. Realizing that Southern Baptist (or Baptist, in general) is an increasingly toxic label, churches change their names, dropping the Baptist identifier. These churches are in every way Baptist, yet people unaware of the scam think such churches are nondenominational. Take Saddleback Church, formerly pastored by Rick Warren. Saddleback’s name has a nondenominational vibe, when, in fact, the church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Numerous megachurches play this game, hoping people will be attracted to them by their generic, nondenominational name.

Evangelicalism is a sect. I have battled with newspaper editors for many years over my insistence that Evangelical and Evangelicalism be capitalized. These proper nouns are no different from Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Christian. To be Evangelical means holding certain beliefs. While there is diversity within Evangelicalism, there are core beliefs and practices one must hold to be considered Evangelical. I am aware that there are numerous people who self-identify as Evangelical, who are not actually Evangelicals. This is especially true on the far-left end of the Evangelical spectrum. These people are liberals who, for a variety of reasons, refuse to leave Evangelicalism. Some of them think Evangelicalism can be “saved” or their personal and familial connections are such that they can’t or won’t leave their tribe. I suspect part of the problem is that they look over the fence at mainline churches and find themselves saying, “why bother?” Mainline churches are, for the most part, dying. Aging members and clerics don’t make attractive stops for younger adults or families with children. So, liberal-minded Evangelicals stay where they are, despite their increased dissatisfaction with their churches and pastors.

With rare exceptions, when you see a nondenominational church, know that it is Evangelical in doctrine and practice. Evangelicalism is the largest sect in the United States. Even among denominational churches, many of them are affiliated with Evangelical sects. Add to this mainline churches that are Evangelical or pastored by Evangelical-trained men, I can safely say that the United States is largely an Evangelical nation. Oh, the labels are legion, and many churches/pastors will try to hide their Evangelical bona fides, but when you take a close look at their theology and practice, they are decidedly Evangelical.

The mainstream media needs to stop allowing Evangelicals to hide behind the nondenominational facade. One news report I recently read said that a particular church was nondenominational, but its beliefs were Evangelical. That’s the right approach to take. Many Americans think the term nondenominational denotes a church or pastor that is inclusive or non-threatening. This is patently untrue. Just today I read an article by Evangelical zealot Mike Brown where he was trying to distance the January 6th Insurrection from the fact that many of the insurrectionists were Evangelicals or Evangelical adjacent. Brown even went so far as to use the No True Scotsman Fallacy to suggest that the violent, lawbreaking insurrectionists weren’t “real” Evangelicals. Most of the insurrectionists were Christians; not just any Christians, but Evangelicals. Many of them were members of nondenominational churches. Some of the most dangerous ideology in America is coming out of nondenominational churches. We must not allow the media to misidentify whom these people are and what they believe. We must learn to distinguish between these various labels. Some Christians are my allies. We hold similar political and social beliefs. We may disagree on the God question, but we have common ground on a broad array of issues. Evangelicals are Christians too, but their political and social beliefs are diametrically opposed to mine. The media owes it to the American people to make sure we understand the difference between the two.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why I Hate Talking on the Telephone

talking on the telephone

People who know me well think of me as a conundrum of sorts; a mixture of behaviors that don’t normally fit together. For example, I was a preacher for twenty-five years. I preached thousands of sermons to thousands of people. You would think, then, that I love crowds. Actually, I don’t. I prefer small groups of people, and I usually try to blend in instead of being the life of the party. I would much rather spend a quiet evening with the love of my life than attend a concert or sporting event where I feel as if I am a sardine. Some of my children love Black Friday and other people-crammed shopping events. Not me. I am quite temperamental, and repeatedly being assaulted while shopping usually ends with me having homicidal thoughts. Amazon, then, was created for someone just like me. I can sit in my recliner wearing shorts and a robe, and shop to my heart’s content. No muss, no fuss; no bumps, no thumps. Click, click, click, done; all without having to resort to using mindfulness techniques to calm myself down.

I love the privacy my home affords me. Friends and family know that I do not like unannounced visitors. Want to stop by? Make an appointment. My children know that I don’t like them stopping in as they are passing through town. By all means, mow the grass, rake the leaves, or shovel the walks. Just don’t knock on the door. I see many of my children and grandchildren weekly, but it is always at pre-planned events such as dinner, parties, or ballgames. Rarely does a week go by that at least one of them isn’t at our home to visit and eat their mother’s cooking. Again, these lunch or dinner appointments are scheduled ahead of time. It’s not that I can’t do things spontaneously, I can. However, I much prefer living life by the calendar. I am a big Google Calendar fan. Every upcoming appointment, party, and event has an entry.

This brings me to the telephone. I HATE talking on the telephone. Over the past decade, countless readers of this blog have asked if they could call me. Unlike yours truly, they prefer to communicate via phone. I always decline. The greatest inventions of the internet era are email and text messaging. They are perfect for someone with my aversion to talking on the phone. Tell me what you want and I will then answer in as few words as possible. I will, on occasion, engage in longer discussions via text with close friends of mine, but I prefer short and sweet; yes or no; on time or late; Moose Tracks or Neapolitan, to War and Peace-sized text conversations.

My hatred for talking on the phone finds its nexus in my preaching days. Long before email and texting, there were rotary (and later push button) dial telephones. For a pastor, having a phone meant that he was on-call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There were days when I would be gone until late in the evening, only to arrive home and be greeted with numerous phone calls I had to return. Rarely were these calls of any great importance. Most calls were from congregants who either wanted advice or just wanted someone to talk to. I preferred they make an appointment to see me at the office, but, hey, I’m sure the preacher won’t mind if I call him at 10:00 P.M. after he has worked a twelve-hour day, is how many church members thought of the matter.

As thoughtful pastors are wont to do, I chose to put the wants and needs of congregants before my own. No matter how tired I was or what I had planned, if Sister Billy Jo or Brother Billy Bob called, I accepted their calls and politely listened to whatever it was they had to say. Some of these conversations would go on for an hour or more, and on more than one occasion my wife had to nudge me because I was starting to fall asleep.

You might be wondering, Bruce, why didn’t you just tell them you had to go? Good question. The short answer is that I never could bring myself to inconvenience people or make them feel as if they were a bother. I had colleagues in the ministry who refused to accept calls at home from church members. I had other pastor friends who had no problem with cutting off long-winded callers, even going so far as to lie if needed to get off the phone. Unfortunately, I never could do so. Thus, decades of listening to droning phone calls have developed into a hatred for telephone conversation And I suspect my desire to be left alone stems from the constant stream of church members stopping by my home and office unannounced so they could share with me their latest greatest burden, complaint, or prayer request.

If I had to trace all of this back to its source, I imagine the blame would lie at the feet of my obsessive-compulsive personality. Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) plays a prominent part in the day-to-day rhythm of my life. I desire and crave order. I like to be in control. My children heard me say to them countless times growing up: everything has a place. Forty-four years of marriage and a hell of a lot of marital squabbles have taught me that not everyone can or wants to live their lives as I do. I had to learn that it is okay for people to be different from me; that it is okay for people to be disordered and cluttery; that it is okay for people to fly by the seat of their pants. I also had to learn that it is okay for me to be the way I am as long as I don’t demand others conform to my way of life.  My relationships with family and friends are much better now that I have stopped trying to straighten everyone’s crooked pictures. All of us are who we are. For me, that means not liking to talk on the telephone. If I didn’t need a cell phone for medical emergencies, I wouldn’t have one. Send me a text or an email, if you must, but please don’t call; that is unless you want to give me a large sum of cash.  Why, for money I’ll do almost anything, including talking on the phone. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser