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Category: Evangelicalism

Questions From an Evangelical Pastor

i have a question

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, Joel Yoon, the Covenant Theological Seminary-trained pastor of Gospel City Church in Seoul, South Korea, sent me a thoughtful email containing several questions. Since Joel was polite, I thought I would take a stab at his questions. Joel wrote:

I find your blog fascinating! I am a pastor and I stumbled across your website through a random google search. I would like to ask you a question and I believe it doesn’t fall in the category of any questions you wouldn’t want to discuss.

I read that your walk away from Evangelical Christianity was largely based on you understanding of Scripture. In addition, it seems that not only did your faith unravel due to your view of Scripture, but your blog also seems to reveal that you now have resentment towards Christianity. My question to you is twofold:

Are there parts of Evangelical Christianity that you still appreciate? If so, could you share why?

As an agnostic and practical atheist, is there any part of life that makes you question your views or at least makes you curious about a deity? If so, what would that be?

In order to better understand where I’m coming from, let me share why I ask this: Granted, my theological beliefs give me a bias, I’ve always found it hard to believe the world we have now was created simply by chance. I’m not even arguing against The Big Bang theory or evolution. I’ve just saying that in some sense, I’ve found it harder to be an atheist when I see and experience this world. For example, learning more about the complexities and the beauties of this world, or thinking about and experiencing love, or just even the whole idea of pregnancy, birth and life, these areas of life have made me feel like one needs more faith to not believe in God than to believe in him. So I was wondering, with your journey from being so deeply embedded in a Judeo-Christian worldview — and now a staunch agnostic/atheist —  is there anything that makes you even a little bit curious?

My abandonment of Christianity primarily rests on my rejection of the Bible as an inspired, authoritative text. I think it is impossible to be a Christian and not, to some degree, believe the Bible is God’s Word. Since I came to understand that the Bible was an errant, fallible, contradictory text, there was no possible way I could continue to call myself a Christian. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically reject all the beliefs that are the foundation of Christian orthodoxy.  I realize that some people are able to reduce the Bible to God is love and Jesus love me too, but I was unable to do so. Christianity is a text-based religion. I can’t imagine a Christianity without some sort of fidelity to the written Biblical text.

That said, my deconversion certainly had an emotional component. This was not clear to me at first, but I now can see that my loss of faith started when I began looking for a Christianity that mattered. Over time, I became disaffected, realizing that regardless of what name might be over the door, churches are all pretty much the same — social clubs focused on meeting the needs of their members and improving club enrollment. Does this mean, as Joel suggests, that I have resentment towards Christianity? Not in the least.

Not all Christianities are created equal. I generally think that liberal and progressive Christianity is benign, doing little to no harm to others. While I have a different set of problems with liberal Christianity, I don’t think being part of such churches harms people. I cannot say the same for Evangelicalism. Evangelical Christianity is inherently Fundamentalist, and Fundamentalism is a cancer that must be excised wherever it is found. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)  I am well aware of the fact that Evangelicalism is a broad tent, but I am of the opinion that Evangelical belief and practice can and does cause psychological harm and results in intellectual stagnation. Does this mean I am resentful? I don’t think so. It does mean, however, that I do have strong opinions about Evangelicalism. When doubting Evangelicals ask for my advice I usually encourage them to seek kinder, gentler forms of faith. There are sects and churches that promote diversity and tolerance. These sects often encourage unencumbered intellectual inquiry. Evangelical churches cannot do so because they are bound by their interpretations of the Bible. Since I place great value on reason and intellectual pursuit, I could never in good conscience recommend people attend Evangelical churches. Both McDonald’s and the local gastropub serve hamburgers, but that’s where the similarity ends. I view Evangelicalism as McDonald’s. If you have never eaten any other hamburger but a Big Mac, you will never know how good the burgers are down at the gastropub. Once people eat a real hamburger, they will never want to eat a Big Mac again. So it is for Evangelicals. Until they venture outside of the safe confines of their little box, they have no idea about the wonders (and dangers) that await them. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it  and What I Found When I Left the Box.) Once free of the constraints of their Bible box, people rarely return. They don’t necessarily become atheists, but they also don’t return, to use a bit of Biblical imagery, to Egypt — the land of onions and bondage. Once freed, Evangelicals realize that the potential paths to freedom, happiness, and fulfillment are many, so they rarely return to their former beliefs.

Joel asks “Are there parts of Evangelical Christianity that you still appreciate?”  I think what he means to ask is, are there aspects of Christianity that I miss? Professionally, I miss preaching and teaching. Personally, I miss the communal aspects of being part of a church —  things such as dinners, banquets, and social activities. As atheists, my wife and I are, at times, lonely. We are two pebbles in the Evangelical Sea. While my wife is quiet about her lack of faith, I am not. I regularly write letters to the editor of the local newspaper, challenging Evangelicals who write letters about evolution and creationism, homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Christian nationalism, or whatever “sin” is stuck in their craw. I am a public figure who is widely known as THE atheist. Local Evangelical outrage over my letters has proved to be quite an eye-opener, a reminder of the fact that Christian food, fun, and fellowship are predicated on right beliefs. Because we are unwilling to bow to Jesus, my wife and I must live with the fact that we are not going to have very many local friends. We are, however, grateful for the countless people we have met and befriended through this blog and social media.

I will assume that Joel is using the word “God” to signify the Christian God or the Evangelical God. Do I have any doubts or questions about my rejection of THIS God? No, not in the least. I have weighed this God in the balances and found him/her/it wanting (Daniel 5:27). I have been an atheist for almost fourteen years. During this time, scores of Evangelicals have tried and failed to show me the error of my way. I think I can safely say that I have heard every Christian argument there is for the existence of God and the veracity of Christianity and its supposedly supernatural religious text. None of these arguments has proved to be compelling. I have concluded that the Christian God is a human fiction, brought to life centuries ago by men attempting to explain their understanding of the world. Science has reduced the Bible to a Cliff Notes-sized book of interesting ancient stories and spiritual sayings. It has very little to say regarding life in the twenty-first century. I certainly would not use the Bible as some sort of road map or blueprint. Does the Bible have value? Sure, but having spent most of my life reading and studying the Bible, I can’t imagine what more I could possibly glean from its pages. Unlike Evangelicals, I do not think the Bible is an inexhaustible well of wisdom and truth. Having read the Bible from cover to cover more times than I can count, I think I can safely move on to other books. Evangelical Rousas Rushdoony once said, most books aren’t worth reading once let alone twice. So it is with the Bible.

I have numerous acquaintances and friends who are liberal Christians, universalists, and deists. I readily admit that I think someone can look at the biological world and the wonders of the cosmos and conclude that some sort of deistic God set things into motion. However, I fail to see any possible way to get from there being A GOD to that deity being the God revealed in the Christian Bible. Any attempts made to bridge these two only raise more questions. Why the Christian God and not any of the other Gods humans worship?  Perhaps some unknown God created everything. Maybe, just maybe, earth is some sort of lab experiment for an unknown advanced alien race. Why do Evangelicals so quickly shut off their minds to any possible explanations but the ones they hear Sunday after Sunday at their houses of worship? (Please see Why Most Americans are Christian.) As atheists such as myself point out, Evangelicals are every bit as godless as atheists when it comes to other religions. I will assume that Joel thinks certain religious beliefs are false — say Mormonism, Islam, or Buddhism. If so, doesn’t this mean that he is atheistic towards these no-God religions? The only difference between Joel and me is that I am atheistic towards one God more than he is.

Neither Christians nor atheists can give a satisfactory answer to the various questions that have plagued man from the first moment he looked skyward and pondered the question, where did THAT come from? Evangelicals believe that their God is the first cause of everything. They can provide no empirical data for this claim. Either you believe it or you don’t. Evangelicals, by faith (Hebrews 11), believe their God is everything. Atheists look to science to give them answers about the universe and human existence. As the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate made clear, science is willing to say, we don’t know, but we keep looking for answers. Evangelicals, on the other hand, appeal to the Bible. God said _______________, end of discussion. Ham repeatedly appealed to the Bible, a book that he believes teaches the universe was created in six twenty-four-hour days, 6,024 years ago. Science says the universe is billions of years old and that it likely came into existence through what we call the Big Bang. This, of course, is not a definitive, final answer. That’s what is so great about science: questions continue to be asked and theories are constantly being rejected or modified as scientific knowledge grows. I know of no better way to understand our world. Saying, God says or the Bible says no longer works. We now know too much to return to the ignorance found within the pages of the Bible. That Evangelicals continue to reject what science tells us about our world is troublesome and a hindrance to human progress.

I have often wondered how differently things might have turned out for me had I been raised in another manner. Suppose I had been raised a Presbyterian and went to Harvard instead of an Evangelical Bible college? What if I had been taught to value the sciences and rigorous intellectual inquiry? Would I still have ended up where I am today? I don’t know. Alas, little is to be gained from pondering what might have been. I am where I am and I am comfortable with the path that has led me to this point in time. I have many fond memories from the fifty years I spent in the Christian church and the twenty-five years I spent pastoring Evangelical churches. I am grateful for the many opportunities I had to help other people. In many ways, I am still a pastor, doing what I can to help others. The difference, of course, is that there are no threats of Hell or promises of Heaven. The humanist ideal now motivates me to help all living things. No longer concerned with what lies beyond the grave, my focus is on helping fellow travelers make the best of this life. As a father of six children and grandfather to thirteen munchkins, I want to use the time I have left to make this world a better place in which to live. Things such as global warming, climate change, war, and Donald Trump threaten my progeny’s future. I owe it to them to do what I can to leave to them a better world, one not ravaged by religious ignorance, hubris, and greed. I also want to leave for them a testimony of sorts; of a man who lived a good life without God; a man who was loving, respectful, and kind. If I accomplish these things, it will be said of me, he did what he could.

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 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 Fear of Losing Face: Why Many Evangelical Pastors Refuse to Change Their Minds

i am right

Evangelical preachers are known for being obstinate, bullheaded, arrogant creatures. Rare is the preacher who changes his mind or admits he is wrong. My wife’s uncle, the late James Dennis (The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis), pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple in Newark, Ohio, stated more than once that his beliefs had never changed; that the beliefs he had when entering the ministry were the same beliefs he had fifty years later. Polly’s mom, a member of the Baptist Temple, was proud of the fact that her pastor was resolute in his beliefs. In her mind, certainty of belief is a desired trait — well, as long as the beliefs were the “right” ones.

I entered the ministry in the 1970s as an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. My beliefs were almost identical to those of James Dennis. While Jim’s beliefs remained static over the years, mine did not. Over time, many of my beliefs changed — sometimes dramatically. This, of course, should be the norm. Every preacher leaves college with a borrowed theology — that which was taught to them by their pastors and professors. We all have to start somewhere, right? However, over time studious reading habits should lead to careful examination of borrowed theological beliefs. I know it did for me. I spent thousands and thousands of hours reading and studying the Bible, along with voraciously reading theological tomes. As time went along my beliefs evolved. By the late 1980s, I abandoned my IFB beliefs and embraced Calvinism, and in the early 2000s, I shelved Calvinism for a liberal Mennonite view of theology and practice. The same can be said for my eschatological beliefs. I entered the ministry as a pretribulational, premillennial dispensationalist (borrowed theology). In the mid-1980s, I embraced Marv Rosenthal’s midtribulational position, and by the 1990s, I had abandoned my former eschatological beliefs for posttribulational, amillennial beliefs (a common eschatological position among Calvinists). Over the years, virtually every one of my beliefs changed to one degree or the other. I shared with my counselor today how my beliefs about family and children had evolved over the years. Polly and I planned to have three children. By 1984 we had accomplished our goal. Five years later, firmly Calvinists who believed in the absolute sovereignty of God, we stumbled upon the Quiverfull movement. This led to us having three more children before we finally saw the light (out of medical necessity) and rediscovered rubbers. 🙂

Several years after I deconverted, I received a scathing email from Keith Troyer, an IFB preacher who was my best friend back in my days pastoring in southeast Ohio. I hadn’t heard from Keith in years. He made no attempt to reconnect or find out how we were doing. No, in classic IFB-fashion, Keith laid into me, saying I was mentally unstable and under the influence of Satan. In Keith’s mind, my history of changing beliefs was proof that I had a screw loose. Keith, on the other hand, is still preaching the same stuff he was preaching in the late 1980s. I have listened to a number of Keith’s sermons on Youtube. I was struck by how little his beliefs and preaching have evolved.

In most professions, intellectual growth and maturity are encouraged. Not in Evangelicalism (and I speak broadly). Why is this? Why do so many Evangelical preachers refuse to change their minds about their beliefs and practices? Let me posit several reasons why this is so.

First, Evangelical preachers believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Its words are perfect, without error. This leads preachers to believe that their interpretations of the Bible are perfect, without error too. They pass this certainty on to their congregants through their preaching and teaching. This is why it is almost impossible to have thoughtful discussions with Evangelicals. There is no room in their worldview for being wrong. In their minds, if they are wrong, God is wrong, and since God is never, ever wrong about anything — including slavery, genocide, treating women as chattel, and drowning children for their parent’s sin — they can’t be wrong either. If this blog has done anything over the past fourteen years, it has provided rich documentation for the fact that many Evangelicals are intractable, unable to consider any belief or worldview but God’s, I mean their own. I promised not to talk about TEWSNBN in 2022, but I can’t miss this opportunity to present him as the poster child for Evangelical intractability and arrogance. He is not, in any way, special or unique. Countless TEWSNBNs have commented on this blog or sent me emails over the years. All of them have one key character trait: certainty. They are absolutely certain that their beliefs are right, and anyone who believes differently from them is wrong and could end up in Hell for their wrong beliefs.

Second, Evangelical preachers are viewed as men of God, oracles and dispensers of divine truth. Their churches expect them to be certain about their beliefs. No one wants a pastor who isn’t confident in his beliefs. Why? Most church members have borrowed theologies — their pastors. Most church members believe whatever their pastors believe. In the late 1980s, I embraced Calvinism. The church I was pastoring at the time had nary a problem with my radical change of beliefs. One family left the church, but everyone else went along for the ride. You see, my church implicitly, and without reservation, trusted me. “Preacher would never lead us astray,” church members thought. Little did they know that, according to my critics, I was a godless false prophet the whole time.

Third, standing in the pulpit and saying to the church “I was wrong” is viewed as a sign of weakness and lack of faith. Evangelical church members want preachers who are “winners,” men who know what they believe and stand firm on those beliefs. I can’t remember a time when I ever heard an Evangelical preacher admit from the pulpit that he was wrong about something. Imagine a preacher telling his church that the voice in his head that he said was “God” was actually his own. Imagine him abandoning all the “spiritual” language about the Holy Spirit’s leading and admitting that the reason he wants to do X is that he wants to. “God is leading us to put blue carpet in the auditorium,” the preacher tells his church. Imagine him being honest: “We are putting blue carpet in the auditorium because blue is my favorite color.” Why, this preacher would be run out of town on a rail!

Fourth, the Bible says in James 1:8 a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. According to my former friend Keith Troyer, I am a double-minded man. My double-mindedness has made me unstable in all my ways. How else can he explain how I went from being a sold-out follower of Jesus to an atheist? There must be something wrong with me. Not the religion, not the beliefs, me. If I could ever get Keith to honestly and openly and with intellectual rigor examine the central claims of Evangelical Christianity, I know he would see he is wrong about many things — especially King James-onlyism. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that will happen. Sunk costs keep my former friend tethered to the Old Ship of Zion. Years ago, after learning I was no longer King James-only, Keith told me that even if I could show him an error in the King James Bible he wouldn’t believe it (and I provided him a list of errors in the KJV). Keith went on to tell me that by faith he believes the KJV is the perfect words of God. Imagine what would happen if Keith finally admitted that KJV-onlyism cannot be rationally and intellectually sustained. Why admitting this out loud would destroy his career. This is why many Evangelical preachers do have doubts and questions about their belief, yet never say they do to anyone.

In Evangelical churches, perception is everything. Preachers are expected to portray strength and certainty. Church members want to see confidence, not doubt. Preachers who display these character traits do well, and those who don’t end up working at Radio Shack or selling used cars. Evangelical churches continue to thrive and grow because they present themselves as dispensers of absolute truth. Greg Locke, a bat-shit crazy Evangelical preacher in Tennessee, attracts hundreds of people to his church. Why? He preaches the gospel according to QAnon and Donald Trump. In a world that is ever-evolving, Christians want certainty, and Locke and others like him give them the certainty they crave.

Of course, an increasing number of Evangelical preachers do have questions and doubts. Unable to reconcile their evolving beliefs with those carved in stone, these men (and women) have three choices: openly share their changed beliefs with their churches and get fired; say nothing, hiding their changing beliefs, hoping to make it to retirement age; or quietly resign. I chose the latter of these. When I could no longer rationalize the central claims of Christianity, I walked away. I make no judgment of preachers who chose a different path. For me personally, I found it impossible to keep my mouth shut and fake it.

Please share your thoughts on this subject in the comment section. Are you an ex-Evangelical preacher? I would especially love to hear from you.

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 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.

Ken Ham Proves Yet Again That He Doesn’t Believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture

ken ham

Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and stand-in for Captain Noah on the Kentucky Ark of Ignorance, is well-known for pointing to the Bible — God’s science textbook — as THE (only/final) authority when it comes to understanding how the universe came to be. Ham is noted for telling Bill Nye that the Bible was all-sufficient, that it alone explains how everything came to be. But here’s the thing, Ham doesn’t really believe this. Here’s proof of my contention:

ken ham tweet

Ken, I ask you, why do we need to read your materials? I thought all we needed to do is read Genesis 1-3. Now you are saying that the Bible is NOT sufficient for our understanding of how the universe and biological life came to be. What’s up with that?

Of course, Evangelicals don’t really believe that the Bible is a one-stop knowledge store. If this was really the case, there would be no need for the thousands of Christian books that are published every year. There would also be no need for “ministries” such as Answers in Genesis. Ham and his cadre of professional dispensers of ignorance have published over ten thousand articles that are meant to help Evangelicals understand what God said in Genesis 1-3. If God has spoken, why would Christians have any reason to read any of Ham’s articles? The answer, of course, is that Ham needs 10,000 loads of bullshit to cover up his irrational, anti-scientific, literalistic interpretation of the Bible.

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 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 Never Used the Word “Religious” When I Was a Christian

born again or religious

Several years ago, I participated in a two-and-half-hour phone interview on the subject of the labels we use to identify ourselves. The man doing the interview was working on his master’s thesis. One label he asked me about was the label religious. Focusing on my days as an Evangelical pastor, he asked if I ever considered myself religious. I told him, absolutely not. The “religious” label was reserved for Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and other mainline groups. THEY were religious, WE were Christians. This was especially true back in my Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) days.

I viewed most other Christian sects with a good bit of skepticism. Catholics were immediately dismissed as fish-eating, beer-drinking believers in works salvation. Catholics were prime evangelistic targets, even though I found them almost impossible to evangelize. Protestants such as Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians were far easier to lead to saving faith in Christ. I considered such people, as a whole, to be religious, but lost. I found these kinds of people to be ignorant of what the Bible taught concerning salvation. Using the soulwinning (salesmanship) techniques I was taught in college, I would show them what the Bible “really” said about life, sin, God, Jesus, salvation, and life after death. Often astounded by what I showed them in the Bible, these prospects for Heaven would pray the sinner’s prayer and become born-again Christians. These new converts went from being religious to new life in Jesus Christ. Or so I thought, anyway.

Of course, I now know that the only difference between Bruce, the Baptist preacher and those I targeted for evangelization was our religious beliefs. I was every bit as religious as Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. My refusal to use the word “religious” allowed me to view myself as superior to others. I was a True Christian®, a devoted follower of Jesus. Christian people outside of my cult lacked the right beliefs and commitment to God. It took me a number of years to realize how arrogant I was, thinking that my God, my beliefs, and my way of living were the right/only way, truth, and life. When modern-day Bruce Gerencsers stop by this blog to regale us with their infinite and absolute understanding of truth, I am reminded of the fact that I once was just as they are. I remember when “absolute truth” fit within the confines of whatever Baptist church I was pastoring at the time. Like the prophets and apostles of the Bible, I was a man of God who was given a message by God to share with saints and sinners. My goal was to turn religious people into Christians/Baptists/people who thought just as I did.

Over the years, scores of Christian commenters have attempted to show readers of this blog how exalted their reasoning is compared to that of ignorant atheists, agnostics, and, well, anyone who doesn’t think as they do. These men have even self-described themselves as brilliant. These preachers of TRUTH are certain that their interpretations and beliefs are right. As I read their words, I say to myself, Bruce, you said the very same thing years ago. Thinking I was a True Christian®, I considered everyone else outside of my little corner of Christianity to be religious, but lost. I had such a small view of the world, with every person fitting into one of two categories: saved or lost. True Christians® were saved, everyone else, including billions of people who worshiped some other sort of God, was lost. As a younger pastor, thanks to my IFB training, I even viewed many Evangelicals as religious, but lost. Calvinism later did the same for me, allowing me to cast aspersions and doubts upon those dirty Arminians who believed in salvation by works.

I still have moments when I think that I have an exalted intellect and understanding of the world, but tripping over the cat or a misplaced Lego (Goddammit, Ezra!) quickly brings me back to earth. I am not suggesting that all worldviews and beliefs are the same or equally valid. I reject attempts to smooth out the edges of the public space. But, at the end of the day, all of us are feeble, frail people who will soon find ourselves six feet under or the smoke wafting up from a crematorium smokestack. Knowing this should teach us humility, a reminder that none of us is an all-knowing deity.

How about you? Did you consider yourself “religious?” How did you view people who were not a part of your sect?  Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

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 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.

Evangelical Pastor Questions Whether I Preached the “Real” Jesus

bruce gerencser false jesus

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Regardless of what I do to ward off bloodsucking Evangelical vampires, they continue to send me emails detailing their opinions about my past and present life. The notice on the Contact page makes it clear that I am not interested in receiving such messages. I even wrote posts titled Dear Evangelical and Simple Contact Form for Evangelicals in an attempt to reduce the flow of preachy and judgmental emails. I also added a page titled WHY?, hoping that Evangelical zealots would read the posts listed on this page and as a result have no need to email questions that have already been answered. Despite doing all these things, Evangelicals STILL feel duty-bound to contact me. I suspect many of them think God is “leading” them to email me or they feel it is important to put in a good word for the Man Upstairs. Wayne from California is one such man. I think Wayne is an Evangelical pastor — based on his email address, IP address, and Google name search — but since he didn’t call himself a pastor, I won’t either.

What follows is the complete text of Wayne’s email. My response is indented and italicized. Enjoy!

Bruce, thanks for sharing your heartfelt sentiments, etc. I do want to ask you a very pertinent question however as it relates to your defection from Christianity. What “JESUS” did you preach when you were pastoring churches for over 25 years? Was it the Jesus of the Holy Scriptures? Or the Jesus of your own theology?

First, you really should have spent some time reading more than four of my posts. If you had, you would never have asked such silly questions. That said, I want you to be fully educated concerning Bruce Almighty, so I will answer your questions.

I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. Thousands of people heard me preach. I also held special meetings in churches affiliated with the Nazarene, Christian Union, Free Will Baptist, Assembly of God, Charismatic, Southern Baptist, Reformed Baptist, Sovereign Grace Baptist, General Association of Regular Baptist denominations/groups, along with numerous meetings held for Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches (IFB). Not one person ever questioned the Jesus or the gospel I was preaching. Not one time, ever!  You will search high and low to find one person who would say to you, Bruce preached a false gospel. Dozens of colleagues in the ministry will tell you that my gospel preaching was Evangelical and orthodox in every way.

I ask because if you really knew JESUS as Savior and Redeemer, how is it that you can walk away from HIM? Wasn’t HE real in your life? Didn’t HE minister to you as you ministered to others? Did you believe anything that you preached? Or was it all a lie…or a show?

Yes, I really knew Jesus, and yes he was real in my life. Yes, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, led me, spoke to me, and ministered to my spiritual needs. However, I now know that just because I had experiences such as these, they in no way “prove” the existence of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.

I preached the Jesus of orthodox Christianity. I preached the Jesus found within the pages of the Christian Bible. And yes, I preached the Jesus who saved me from my sins.

If you would like, Wayne, we both can unzip our pants and have a Jesus-measuring contest. Unlike that of Donald Trump, my Jesus was pretty big. I was an expositional preacher. Preaching in this manner afforded me the opportunity to make much of Jesus each and every Lord’s Day.

Any suggestion that I preached some sort of defective or false Jesus is ludicrous. I understand WHY you think this might be so. You can’t square my story with your theology, so you must find a way to dismiss my life: I was an unsaved false teacher who preached a truncated gospel and a false Jesus. Here’s the problem. You will search in vain for even ONE person who would agree with you. Having never heard me preach, you are in no way qualified to judge the quality of my preaching.

I took my calling seriously, spending countless hours evangelizing the lost, ministering to those in need, and studying for my sermons. My faith was the essence of my life, as it was for my wife and children. Again, you will search in vain for even one person who will tell you that I was anything but who I say I was during the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry.

Were you ever really a TRUE Believer in Christ from day one? I know you said that your life had been inundated with the “Church,” but not a lot was said with what you did with JESUS! That is perhaps where your problem arised [sic]. The Bible does speaks [sic] very clearly of “APOSTATES,” those that merely “professed” faith in Christ…but they never ever “possessed” real faith in Christ? Could that have been you?

No, I was not, at that time, an apostate. Your inability to comprehend my life comes from your superficial reading of my story. No need to dig in and try to understand. You picked out of my story those things that said to you I was unsaved or an apostate and that is all you needed to know.

Again, I “possessed” Jesus every bit as much as you do.

Biblically speaking, no true believer/follower of Christ could ever walk away from HIM as believers are “SEALED” by the HOLY SPIRIT until the day of Redemption. So my friend, perhaps you were hurt and that caused you to turn away, but the JESUS of the Scriptures would ALWAYS be there for you if you really had a genuine faith in Him. I pray that the God of the Scriptures will bring you to a place of true repentance and faith, and that the hurt/wounds that have caused you bitterness in your soul, will be healed and you can really begin living for Christ!

Ah, now we get to the crux of the matter. You can’t square your once-saved-always-saved theology with my life, so it is evident to you that I was never a true Christian. What an easy way to dismiss my story. With one wave of your hand, you say, Bruce, you never were a Christian! This one thing I know: I once was saved and now I am not. I defy you to find one chink in my Evangelical armor. I checked all the boxes, Wayne, and if I wasn’t a Christian neither are you.

I spent most of my life following, serving, and living for Jesus and his Church. Quite frankly, I find inquiries such as yours to be patently offensive. I suspect you would feel the same way if I “doubted” the sincerity of your faith.

Many Evangelicals have come before you. Armed with Cracker Jack armchair psychology degrees, they determine that I am an angry, hurt, and bitter man. Here’s the problem with this line of inquiry: let’s assume I am now angry, hurt, or bitter. How is this relevant to the veracity of my past religious faith? When I was a Christian I was not angry, hurt, or bitter. And believe me, I know what anger and bitterness look like. I spent twenty-five years wading through the Evangelical sewer, coming in contact with countless angry and bitter “followers” of Jesus.  Again, I defy you to find one person who would say that I was an angry, hurt, or bitter Christian.

Now, if you are asking me if I am NOW angry or bitter? Sure, sometimes. These are normal human emotions, emotions that were buried under teachings about the fruit of the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. If I am angry about anything it is that I continue to receive emails such as yours from Evangelicals who refuse to listen and allow me to tell my own story. I know that as long as I am willing to publicly talk about my life as an Evangelical Christian and pastor that I will have to deal with people like you — people who show me little to no respect because they think they have me all figured out.

Years ago, I told my counselor that I was miffed over people not allowing me to tell my own story. I naively thought that if I explained myself, people such as yourself would understand. My counselor chuckled and told me that my mistake was thinking that Evangelicals cared one whit about what I think. He said, they don’t give a shit about what you think!

I now know my counselor was right. And here’s the good thing . . . I no longer give a shit about what Evangelicals think about my past or present life. My goal is to help Christians who have doubts about Christianity or who have recently left the faith. Over the past eight years, I have corresponded with scores of people who had doubts or questions about their faith. I am pleased that I have been able to lend a small measure of support. In some instances, I was able to help people gently unhitch their lives from Evangelicalism — a belief system that often causes untold psychological damage. I am, in many ways, still a pastor. I sincerely want to help people. The difference now, of course, is that my focus is on helping people walk the path of life with honesty and integrity. While I have been instrumental in helping numerous people — including pastors — embrace atheism, chalking up deconversions is not my goal. This blog is my pulpit and the world is my parish. Thousands of people regularly read my writing. I must be doing something right, yes? I still have a hard time accepting that people actually WANT to read what I write, but they do, and I appreciate their support.

By all means pray. It won’t do any good, but praying surely will make you feel like you are doing something anything to silence my voice and bring me to Jesus.

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 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.

Christian Apologetics: Eight Failed Methods Evangelicals Have Used to Evangelize Me

atheists read the bible

Evangelicals believe they are commanded by God to go into all the world preach the gospel to everyone. Pastors encourage church members to seek out prospective candidates for evangelization everywhere they go. Hell is hot, death is certain, and the return of Jesus to earth is imminent, preachers say, so winning souls for Jesus is their top priority. (Fortunately, most Evangelicals fail to evangelize even one sinner.)

I studied for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution, was founded by Tom Malone, a graduate of Bob Jones College and the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. Every day students were required to attend chapel — a 45 minute or so church service. One song that was frequently sung went like this:

“Souls for Jesus!” is our battle cry!

“Souls for Jesus!” We’ll fight until we die!

We never will give in while souls are lost in sin!

“Souls for Jesus!” is our battle cry!

Students lustily sang the words, believing that their highest calling in life was winning souls for Jesus. Students were required to share the gospel weekly with at least three people. Some students, all jacked up on Mountain Dew, would spend hours each week evangelizing “sinners” in the Pontiac area. Others, such as Polly and I, had a life, which included full-time jobs, full-time class schedules, attending church three times a week, going on visitation/bus calling, working in a church ministry, and then, in the few waking hours we had left, have some sort of social life. We “wanted” to win souls. We wanted to be as zealous as other students, but we simply didn’t have enough hours in the day to do so. And we were not alone. Countless students, when called on to give an account of how many people they shared the gospel with, lied or played loose with what it meant to verbalize the gospel to sinners. All told, I won a handful of people to Christ during the three years I spent at Midwestern. I was, by Midwestern’s standard, a soulwinning failure.

As a pastor, I found that most of the people saved under my ministry came to saving faith through my preaching (over 600 people at one church in Southeast Ohio). I continued to knock on doors, hand out tracts, and preach on the streets, but I quickly learned that my most effective evangelization tool was my preaching.

I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. During this time, I came in contact with thousands of people. Two of the churches I pastored had attendances around 200. These two churches, in particular, had lots of visitors. Yet, in all my years in the ministry, I didn’t meet one person who said they were an atheist. Not one. I can’t remember ever preaching a whole sermon on “atheism.” When the text I was preaching from was applicable to atheists, I would mention it in passing, but I never dwelled on the people God called “fools.”

Now that I am a non-Christian, I realize everything I have learned about evangelizing atheists has come from Evangelicals who have tried to evangelize me. What follows is a list of methods Evangelicals have used in their attempts “save” me:

  1. The God question
  2. Philosophical arguments
  3. Creation
  4. Law of God written on my heart
  5. Questioning/doubting my story
  6. Quoting Bible verses
  7. Sharing personal testimony with me
  8. Attacking my character and motives

Scores of Evangelicals have tried to reclaim me (or claim me for the first time, depending on their soteriology) for Jesus using one or more of the methods listed above. All of them have failed spectacularly. Of course, Evangelicals never accept blame for their failed efforts, nor do they blame God for his inability to “save” me. No, I am to blame. I have a hard heart. I am a reprobate. I secretly want to sin. I am a closeted homosexual. I refuse to accept the “truth.” However, Evangelicals might want to reconsider their methodology, or better yet, realize that most atheists are not good prospects for evangelization — especially those who were Evangelicals before they deconverted. Atheists are not low-hanging fruit. We are at places in life where we are almost impossible to reach. Yet, Evangelicals continue to try to evangelize me, each thinking he or she is going to be the one who wins the Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist back to Jesus. What a prize, right?

I know I will never dissuade Evangelicals from trying to “save” me. All I can do is suggest that they come up with better methods than generic God arguments, fuzzy philosophical arguments, presuppositional arguments, quoting Bible verses I have heard and preached on countless times before, calling me a liar, discounting/dismissing my story, besmirching my character, or shitting on my doorstep.

Why not just pray and ask God to save me? Why not leave the state of my nonexistent soul up to the nonexistent creator of the universe? If God is the sovereign Lord of all and knows everything, surely he alone knows if and when I will be saved and what means will best do the job. Why leave my salvation in the hands of people who can’t even agree amongst themselves about “how” a person is saved, whether I need saving, or whether I have committed the unpardonable sin and crossed the line of no return?

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 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.

Ken Ham Needs Atheists So He Can Fund His Monuments to Ignorance

lying ken ham

Ken Ham, known as the ayatollah and grand poohbah of Kentucky and a purveyor of Fundamentalist ignorance, frequently writes articles about atheism. Several years ago, Ham asked and then answered the question, Why Do Atheists Care? Here is some of what this noted intellectual genius of young-earth creationism had to say:

 Atheists get very passionate when it comes to fighting biblical Christianity. If God doesn’t exist—and life has no ultimate meaning—why do they even care?

Why do atheists get so emotional and aggressive in opposing biblical Christianity? Why does it bother them? Why does it matter at all to them?

When Answers in Genesis announced plans to build the Creation Museum, a local atheist group began attacking the ministry of Answers in Genesis and campaigning against the museum. When the museum was opened, the atheists gathered outside the museum to protest the opening of this facility. But why did they do this?

At the time of this issue’s publication, atheists are aggressively opposing a new project involving the building of a life-size Noah’s Ark, the Ark Encounter. But what is it to atheists if Christians build such a facility to proclaim the Christian message? After all, thousands of secular museums across the USA and other countries around the world are already proclaiming an atheistic evolutionary message to the public. Government schools throughout the world by and large indoctrinate hundreds of millions of the coming generations in naturalism—really atheism.

So why do atheists get so upset with a minority that stands for biblical Christianity?

During my debate with Bill Nye “the Science Guy” on February 4, 2014, Bill was asked where matter came from. In his answer he said it was a great mystery, but he loved the “joy of discovery” as he pursued such questions. In my responses to Bill’s answers, I asked him why the joy of discovery mattered to him. I explained that from Bill’s perspective, life is the result of natural processes and there is no biblical God, so when he dies, he won’t even know he ever existed or knew anything. Then, when others who knew him die, they won’t know they ever knew him, either. Eventually, from his perspective of naturalism, the whole universe will die and no one will ever know they ever existed. So what is the purpose of this “joy of discovery”? Really, the naturalistic view of life is ultimately purposeless and meaningless!

Think about the well-known atheist Richard Dawkins. Why does he spend so much time writing and speaking against Someone (God) he doesn’t believe exists? Why is he so aggressive against biblical Christianity? In an ultimately purposeless and meaningless existence, why does it matter to him if people believe in the God of the Bible and the account of creation as outlined in Genesis? Why bother fighting against such people when, from his perspective, eventually no one will even know they ever existed?

No matter how many times atheists point out to Ham that they don’t live purposeless and meaningless lives, he continues to recite these lies as a six-year-old would when reciting his memory verse in Sunday school. Ham seems to think that if he repeats the same lie over and over, it will magically become true. Later in the same article, Ham continues his lying ways by telling readers that atheists “aren’t fighting for the truth, but suppressing it” — “truth” being Ham’s literalistic interpretation of the Christian Bible. According to Ham:

Really then, when Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins, and others so aggressively oppose biblical Christianity, what they are doing is this. They are covering their ears and closing their eyes and saying, “I refuse to submit to the God who created me. I refuse to acknowledge that God is the creator. I refuse to accept that I’m a sinner in need of salvation. I want to write my own rules! Therefore I must oppose anything that pricks my conscience and aggressively suppress [sic] the truth to justify my rebellion.”

…..

So why do these who so aggressively oppose Christianity care? They care because they are desperately trying to justify their rebellion against the truth. They don’t want to admit that they are sinners in need of salvation and thus need to submit to the God who created them and owns them.

Again, Ham continues to lie, refusing to accept the reasons atheists give for not believing in his peculiar version of God. Our objection to Christianity, its God, and the Bible is not one of deliberate denial of truth. Far from it. Many atheists such as myself spent most of our lives reading and studying the Bible. We know the Bible from cover to cover. It is not that we have some sort of intellectual deficiency or have some secret desire to eat babies or star in porn movies. Our rejection of Christianity is based on our careful examination of its claims. Are the claims Christians make for God, Jesus, and the Bible true? The atheist says no. Rather than accept this, Ham lies and tells his followers that the real reason atheists aren’t Christians is that they suppress the truth and are in rebellion to God.

At one time I was willing to give Ham the benefit of the doubt. I thought, Ham is sincere. He genuinely wants atheists to be saved. I no longer believe this. Since Ham refuses to accurately report the atheistic/agnostic/humanistic/secularist worldview, I can only conclude that he has some sort of ulterior motive that requires him to lie about his adversaries. What could that motive be? you ask. I think Ken Ham needs atheists. He needs an enemy to fight, a war to wage. Ham believes that True Christians® are called on to wage war against Satan and his earthly emissaries. Atheists are an easy target because most Evangelicals equate atheism with Satanism (and Ham does nothing to dispel this notion). Ham knows that Evangelicals — his primary target audience — live lives that are indistinguishable from those of non-Christians. In order to stir up the passions of these passive Christians, Ham uses hyperbolic language when speaking of his three great enemies: secularism, atheism, and liberalism. Ham knows that stirred passions mean more donations, so this is THE reason Ham continues to misrepresent what atheists and secularists really believe. Ham lies because lying is good for business. Evangelicals, thanks to rapturist eschatology, are conditioned to believe the “world” is an awful place and should be avoided at all costs. And what better way to avoid the world than to visit Ham’s monuments to ignorance — the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.

Ham knows that his Museum and Ark theme park won’t bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I don’t know of one atheist who has become a Christian as a result of visiting Ham’s entertainment facilities. Ham’s goal has never been to save souls. The Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter are meant to reinforce Evangelical young-earth creationist beliefs. Why does Ham encourage Christian parents to bring their children to the Museum and Ark Encounter (by giving children free admission)? Why are most of the things in these facilities geared towards teenagers and young children (i.e., zip line, petting zoo)? Ham’s objective is to indoctrinate another generation in the creationist way of thinking. By focusing on children, Ham ensures that when these children grow up and marry that they too will bring their children for a visit, thus providing continued income for his empire.

As with much that goes on in the name of the Christian God, it is all about money. Ham knows that the key to his future prosperity rests on his ability to generate income. That was the real reason for building the Ark Encounter. Creation Museum visit numbers and income were in decline, and Ham needed something that would stir the passions of his fellow Evangelicals, resulting in them paying his ministries a visit. By building a wood replica of a fictional boat and throwing in a few amenities homeschoolers and children will be sure to love, Ham ensured that the next few years will have increased revenues. Knowing that revenues will later decline, Ham is already planning to build a new attraction, a monument to speaking in tongues, the Tower of Babel. What’s next? A water park where children can watch God drowning men, women, children, and unborn children while Noah and his clan float by in a wood boat?

Ham knows that fighting the atheist horde increases the bottom line, and it is for this reason he really doesn’t want to see any of us saved. If all the secularists and atheists got saved, Ham wouldn’t have anyone to rail against. And with no enemy, revenues would decline and Ham’s monuments to ignorance would fall into disrepair. Ham will continue to lie about atheism because, in his mind, the end justifies the means. He cares more about money than he does honesty. For those creationists who object to my portrayal of Ham as a money-grubbing liar, the easy way to repudiate my claims is for Ken Ham and his ministries to publicly release their financial reports. Of course, it will be a cold day in Kentucky before Ham ever releases his financials.

Twenty years from now, Ham’s ministries will be in decline, facing increasing financial pressures. Ham surely knows that Evangelicals won’t treat the Creationist Museum and the Ark Encounter as they do nearby King’s Island. Once Evangelicals have visited the Museum and Ark Encounter, they are unlikely to return. Been there, done that, Evangelicals say to themselves. Imagine children being forced to repeatedly visit a museum. Doing so is not their idea of summer fun. When asked what they would rather do: visit Bro Ham’s ministry or go to King’s Island/Cedar Point, I suspect most children will quickly opt to ride roller coasters. And since the Museum/Ark Encounter combo ticket is more expensive than that of the amusement parks, many Evangelical parents will decide to take their families to one of the theme parks instead. Facing financial decline, Ham will be forced to scale back his empire. As science continues to draw future creationists away from his pernicious teachings, Ham will be forced to rely on fund-raising appeals or large estate donations from dead supporters. These too will dry up as older supporters die off. By then Ham will likely be dead, leaving others with the responsibility to manage the Creationist Titanic. Eventually, Ham’s monuments to ignorance will close their doors and become decaying testimonies to the dying breaths of a thoroughly discredited system of belief. I will likely be dead when this happens, so I will leave it to my grandchildren to say good riddance.

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 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.

Short Stories: The Day a Yard Sale Cost the Church a Member

jesus cleanses temple

In the fall of 1995, I started a new church in West Unity, Ohio named Grace Baptist Church. Several years later, we changed the name of the church to Our Father’s House to better reflect our non-denominational approach. Prior to starting this church, I pastored Olive Branch Christian Union Church — located five miles north of West Unity. Several families from Olive Branch joined with us in our new church endeavor. This post is about one of the families who made the move to the new church.

John and Betty (not their real names) lived in Michigan, just north of the Ohio line. Betty was quite talkative, the type of person who, if you saw her at the grocery, you headed in the opposite direction. While I certainly enjoy talking myself, Betty rarely let anyone get in a word edgewise. I am sure she meant well, but fifteen minutes of having to listen to Betty was as tiring as a strenuous workout at the gym. I listened, she talked. And when she was done telling all and more than everything she knew, she would walk away, looking for someone else to regale with her stories and world observations. I was always glad when she sought out others to talk to.

John was very different from his wife. Quiet and reserved, John was content to let his Betty do all the talking and decision-making. There was never a question about who wore the pants in the family. Even when John was specifically asked about his opinion, he would slightly tilt his head to the side and defer to his wife. I don’t remember a time when John made a decision without checking with Betty first. I suspect it was just his personality. John liked to please others and detested conflict. He was in his 40s before he married Betty. Prior to that, he lived with his parents.

Survey my children and you will learn that one of the Bruce Gerencser laws drilled into their heads had to do with being on time. I thought then, and still do today, that it is important to be punctual. If I say I am going to be somewhere at 5:00 pm, people can expect me to be there on time. And on time means at least thirty minutes early. Yes, I am one of THOSE guys. One of my sons asked me why I was so insistent about punctuality and being early if at all possible. I laughed and told him that there were two reasons why I always arrived early at scheduled events. First, when the kids were young, we drove junk cars with tires that had very little tread. These tires were more prone to flats, and I always left early so I would have enough time to change a tire and still make it to wherever I was headed without being late. I also hated walking into a place late. Despite the fact I spent most of my adult life preaching and teaching, I was quite self-conscious, and walking into a place late often made me feel like everyone was staring at me. Arriving late for a church service was even worse. Baptists are notorious for sitting at the back of the church. The front pews are rarely filled, and those arriving late often have to sit toward the front of the church. If we were late, that meant we — all eight of us — would have to traipse to the front of the church to find seats. I was quite embarrassed when this happened, and on a few occasions, I turned around and went home rather than do what I — in my mind — thought of as a perp walk. Silly, I know, but to this day I go out of my way to be early. I am too old to change.

Now I have told you this so you can better understand the next part of the story. John and Betty were notorious for being late. Sunday morning service began at 11:00 am and it was not uncommon for John and Betty to be 30 minutes to an hour late. They lived a half-hour from the church, so this meant on most Sundays they hadn’t even left home before the service started. One week, they were so late that they arrived just as we were getting ready for the benediction. Being late never seemed to bother them, but it sure as heaven bothered me. More than once I stopped preaching, hoping that my impatient pause would let them know that I was not happy with their tardiness. I think they likely thought I was just being polite, allowing them time to get settled before I preached the last ten minutes of my sermon.

One week the church decided to hold a yard sale at its building. The women of the church put tables outside of the building, stacked with clothing and knickknacks they hoped to sell. They also put items for sale inside the church. The proceeds of the sale would go towards some sort of church project. On the morning after the first day of the sale the phone rang at the church. It was Betty and she was quite upset with me for allowing the women to have a sale in God’s house. Quoting the Jesus cleansing the Temple of money changers Bible passage, Betty couldn’t believe that I would ever permit such a thing. She then informed me that she and her husband would no longer be attending the church. I made no effort to talk her out of leaving the church. Quite frankly, their entire contribution to the church was disrupting the services every time they were late. As far as I know, they never financially contributed to the church, even though both of them had full-time jobs at a nearby factory. They never volunteered to help clean the church, visit shut-ins, man the clothing room/food pantry, or any of the other opportunities they had to help others. Betty couldn’t even be bothered to help her invalid sister, who was a member of the church. Well, she would help IF her sister would pay Betty for the privilege. Of all the things Betty did, this infuriated me the most. I thought, this is your sister, and you won’t help her unless she gives you money? How Christian is that? The church, of course, stepped in and helped Betty’s sister, often taking her to doctor’s appointments in Toledo — 50 miles away. Needless to say, when Betty said they were leaving the church, I thought, good riddance!

One time, Betty made a deep financial sacrifice and bought — at Goodwill — a $2 wall plaque of Jesus for the church nursery. Several years after John and Betty left the church, I resigned and the congregation decided to disband. As we were gathering up things to donate to Goodwill and other churches, I came upon Betty’s plaque. As I turned Jesus over, I noticed that Betty had written her name and the words PLEASE RETURN on the back of the plaque. I snickered as I read it, and then, with great pleasure and delight, tossed the plaque in the trash. For the first time, I had the last word.

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 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