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Category: Evangelicalism

Dear Evangelicals, Your Personal Testimony is NOT Evidence for the Existence of God or the Veracity of Christianity

my testimony

I am hopelessly behind on answering emails readers send me. I have emails dating back six months that I still need to answer. As I was quickly leafing through these emails, I noticed that many of them are from Evangelicals who wanted to share their personal testimony of saving faith with me, suggesting that if I met their God, their Jesus, interpreted the Bible as they did, or had the experiences they did, I, too, could become a Christian. With a quick wave of their hands, these believers dismiss my past and present experiences. You see, I have a personal testimony too. We all do. We all have stories that explain our lives. These stories may or may not be true. More often than not, they are an admixture of facts, misunderstandings, distortions, delusions, fading memories, and lies.

Generally, I take at face value the testimonies of others. If someone says that he is a Christian or that Jesus saved her, I believe them. I believe that they think they have a real, personal relationship with Jesus. That, however, doesn’t mean that I think their testimonies are factual. If Christians want me to, based on their personal experiences, become like them, then they must provide evidence for their claims. I cannot and will not take their word for it.

No matter how detailed a testimony you share with me — and believe me, I have had Evangelicals send me emails thousands of words long that go into minute detail about their experiences with God — I am going to have a lot of questions for you, starting with what evidence do you have for the existence of your peculiar God or the particular claims you made from the Bible? Quoting Bible verses is not enough. Verses are claims, not evidence. The Bible may be enough for you, but for atheists, agnostics, and other unbelievers, quoting words from a religious text will likely be unpersuasive.

If God, Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible give you purpose and meaning — fine. Awesome, Go with God. If you find personal peace and satisfaction through these beliefs, who am I to object? However, when you want me to abandon my worldview and beliefs for yours, you are going to have to do better than just telling me a subjective story. You say Jesus delivered you from ______________, but how can I possibly know that he did? Countless behavioral changes are attributed to the supernatural actions of a supernatural deity, yet when asked for evidence for such claims, Evangelicals often run to faith or say, “I know what I know . . .” And that’s fine — for you. But if you want me to join your merry band of Christians, it is going to take more than a personal story for which you have no evidence other than you believe it to be true. But, Bruce, look at what Jesus supernaturally did for me. Again, these are claims, not evidence. I have found that most supernatural claims can be easily explained away, and the few that can’t are not enough for me to abandon atheism/humanism for your peculiar version of God and Christianity. I will politely listen to your testimony, but I cannot and will not become a Christian just because you tell a good story.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Songs of Sacrilege: Gimme A Ride To Heaven, Boy by Terry Allen

terry allen

This is the latest installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Gimme A Ride To Heaven, Boy by Terry Allen.

Video Link

Lyrics

Well I was caught up with myself
On the highway at night
Drivin like a bat outta hell
When I beheld an amazing sight
It was a lonely apparition
By the roadside standing there
With his thumb out in the wilderness
And a halo in his hair

He said “Gimme a ride to heaven boy
I’ll Show you paradise
Yeah gimme a ride to heaven boy
My name is Jesus Christ”
So I come screeching to a halt
I said “Hop on in”
He said “thanks a lot for the lift
I forgive you of your sins
Yeah I just come from Jerusalem
Where things are going bad
Ahhh gimme a ride to heaven boy
I need to talk to my dad”

Well I didn’t know what to do
So I jammed her down in gear
Kind a kicked my feet beneath the seat
I was trying to hide the beer
Ahhh but he just grinned and said “My friend,
I know you must think it’s odd
But you got nothin to fear about drinkin a beer
If you share it with the son of God”

He said “Gimme a ride to heaven boy
I’ll Show you paradise
Yeah gimme a ride to heaven boy
My name is Jesus Christ”

Well I saw good news in his baby blues
So I stomped it on the floor
I said you have to show me how to get there
I ain’t been before
“Well it’s a hard place to find” he said
“But I’ll give you a little clue
It ain’t somewhere up in the air
Its sittin right here inside with you”
Then right in the middle of that perfect smile
From his robes he pulled a gun
An stuck it up beside my head and said
“How’s this for Kingdom Come?”
Well I pulled off scared but I heard him say
As he left me beneath the stars
“The Lord moves in mysterious ways
and tonight, my son … He’s gonna use your car”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Ohio Republicans Spending Almost $1 Billion a Year to Fund Private Christian Schools

By Marilou Johanek, Ohio Capital Journal, Used with Permission

ohio school vouchers

If your local school district had a levy on the ballot last month, chances are it lost. Most did. That means losing districts may cut courses, counseling services, staff, busing, building. It means increasing budget deficits. It also means increasing class sizes, pay-to-participate fees, and public school students making do with less.

Imagine what a billion dollar windfall from the state legislature would mean to school districts struggling to balance their budgets with less? Now imagine that billion dollar bonanza from the General Assembly going instead to private, mostly religious schools. Spoiler alert: the private school money train is real and your tax dollars are driving it. What’s wrong with that picture? 

Ohio taxpayers didn’t get a vote on paying for the private school decisions of mainly white, often affluent parents who can afford the parochial schools and pricey college prep institutions their kids already attend. But, thanks chiefly to Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, the premier advocate of state-funded Catholic education, unknowing voters were roped into subsidizing the non-public school selections of thousands of Ohio families — including many who make north of $250,000 a year. 

Never mind that your school district can hardly keep up with inflation and rising operating costs to maintain or renovate 60-year-old buildings, let alone construct new ones. School administrators have to come to you, hat-in-hand, to beg repeatedly for funding the state won’t provide. But the gerrymandered GOP supermajority in the Statehouse doesn’t care about the fiscal distress at your district or how the latest levy defeat will adversely impact students. 

ohio school vouchers

Ohio Republicans care about diverting a ton of taxpayer money (desperately needed by cash-strapped, levy-dependent districts) to benefit private school families, regardless of income or need, who choose to send their darlings to diocesan grade schools and religious high schools. That is certainly their right. Plenty of parents decide private school is the preferred option for their progeny. Good for them.

But that individual choice is a private value, a private good being wrongly underwritten by hundreds of millions of limited public funds not going to advance the common good of a public school system that accepts all and serves nearly 90% of Ohio students. Those finite funds for education in the state budget are flying out the door to serve the few — just over 8% of students in the state go to private schools — who freely chose a tuition-based education over the free public instruction we collectively support with our taxes.

But GOP lawmakers, who made funding private education a priority years ago, have been starving public schools of adequate and equitable state aid for a long time. With Huffman at the helm, Republicans unleashed a flood of tax revenue to boost the fortunes of private schools and swell enrollment at parish grade schools and religious high schools. GOP legislators continued inflating their massive giveaway of taxpayer dollars to private schools while remedies to fix the unconstitutional funding formula for public schools languished for decades.

State handouts to private education exploded from over $69 million in 2008 to over $360 million in fiscal year 2019, a 416% jump! But that’s nothing compared to the 2023-2024 school year when state-funded tuition coupons (aka vouchers) to private school parents went through the roof. Again, thanks to Huffman’s singular zealotry to privatize public education out of business, expanded state vouchers — paid from the same line item in the budget that funds public schools — are on track to hit $1 billion by June. 

Your tax dollars at work, but not for you or your public schools or the vast majority of students in Ohio.  

This unprecedented government largesse to church-related private schools in the state is on an alarming trajectory that has no cap or public accountability. It’s a boatload of easy money from the state with zero strings attached. How great is that for families with the means to send their kids to private schools but can now do it on the taxpayer’s dime??  

Of course, Catholic dioceses in Ohio and elite private high schools are aggressively encouraging their families to exploit the state’s voucher gimmes to the fullest. The government spigot for private education is wide open and there’s lots more where that came from if Huffman has his way. He quickly scrapped the passé requirement that state-paid tuition checks only go to low-income recipients burdened with failing area schools. 

With passage of universal vouchers last year for anyone attending private schools, Huffman dropped the pretense previously used to justify public financing of religious teaching and dissolved pre-conditions to qualify for free state bucks to bankroll private choices. The 2024-2025 school year could well surpass the anticipated $1 billion mark this year as more private school families take advantage of the voucher gravy train that doesn’t stop at public schools. 

Huffman wants to go further. Publicly-funded construction of private schools. Other Republicans expect taxpayers to foot the bill for private, non-chartered schools whose deeply held religious beliefs put them beyond the state’s educational grid. Where does it end? Ask any public school district eying harsh cutbacks after last month’s levy defeat.

Better yet, ask levy-fatigued taxpayers in Ohio, who never agreed to subsidize private education at the expense of their local schools, for their vote on the matter.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: Will Touching Fentanyl Kill You?

liar liar pants on fire

By Claire Zagorski, MSc, LP, Salon

A dangerous myth about illicit fentanyl, the opioid largely behind the surge in overdose deaths, simply will not die. While addiction and drug policy experts have repeatedly refuted the idea that touching fentanyl alone can cause an overdose, like a stubborn weed, the lie keeps coming back. And now the myth has drifted upward to policymakers, who are ignoring the lack of evidence that mere exposure to fentanyl can be deadly.

At this moment, three bills — one in Florida (SB 718), one in West Virginia (HB 5319), and the other in Tennessee (SB 1754) — are making their way through their respective state legislatures.  All three will allow for a felony charge to be levied against people who expose a first responder to fentanyl or a fentanyl analog, such as carfentanil or remifentanil. But HB 5319 casts an even wider net, encompassing any opioid regardless of potency. 

….

While fentanyl is easily absorbed through injection, pyrolyzing and inhaling its vapor, snorting it, or swallowing it, it isn’t good at passing through skin. When it hit the market in the 1990s, Duragesic, the trade name for the fentanyl skin patch, was a minor marvel of drug delivery innovation precisely for this reason. It took many years of effort to develop and refine a way to move fentanyl across the skin, much less in a controlled and predictable way. And even then, reaching a steady, pain-relieving blood concentration of fentanyl with the patch takes several hours, even with sustained contact. Fentanyl also does not aerosolize on its own, which is why people have to either snort (i.e., insufflate rather than inhale) or intentionally vaporize it.

If the science here is so straightforward, why is there still confusion? This myth of passive fentanyl overdose was first put forth in a 2016 bulletin from the Drug Enforcement Agency, which has since been updated, and the language softened. Other authoritative bodies like the CDC have repeated the myth, and despite changing their warnings to reflect the fact that there is no evidence this can happen or has ever happened, the agency still maintains a rather misleading guide under NIOSH’s website, which largely deals in hypothetical situations that are very unlikely to ever happen.

But if you’ve been following headlines, this all may be a surprise to you. Over the years, we’ve seen a steady drip of pieces on police encounters with fentanyl resulting in alleged overdoses. The more peripheral details vary, but the core remains strikingly consistent — an officer saw something that looked like a drug, or perhaps dusted some powdery grains off of their uniform. Someone mentions fentanyl. Suddenly they feel something — heart pounding, chest tightening, fingers tingling, light-headedness. Often, these officers are able to give themselves naloxone, the antidote to an opioid overdose. And while these experiences are certainly frightening, they aren’t opioid overdoses, which cause slow or absent breathing and a loss of consciousness.

Despite their viral spread in media and online, the smallest amount of scrutiny is able to disprove every single instance. The more likely explanation is an anxiety reaction or a similar psychosomatic response, like the “nocebo effect” (essentially the opposite of the placebo effect), where simply believing something can harm you will cause very real symptoms. We can, indeed, convince ourselves that boogeymen are real. Who among us hasn’t jumped at every small noise after watching a scary movie alone at night? But ultimately, we must separate myth from fact. Especially when, as is the case here, the myth actively harms others.

….

Rampant and stubborn mythologies about the contact risks of fentanyl have already created confusion and anxiety in the American public. People need fact-based education about real risks, rather than worrying about fantastical narratives which only stir up panic. At the very least, we can choose not to codify this fiction into laws that will further harm people who use drugs, while protecting no one. 

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

I Owe It ALL to Jesus! Does Anyone Have God-Given Talent?

without me ye can do nothing

Originally posted in 2020. Edited, updated, and revised.

A boy dreams of being a major league baseball player someday. His parents were both athletes in their younger years, having had some success at the high school and college levels.

As a youth, he grows quickly, seemingly always a head taller than everyone else. He seems more agile than others his age. He is fast on his feet, quick with his mind, and excels at baseball.

Tee-Ball. Little League. Pony League. High School Baseball. College Baseball.

At every level, he excels.

Finally, his big day comes.

A Major League baseball team makes him their number-one draft pick.

It’s not long before he works his way through the minor leagues, and two years after being drafted he makes his major league début.

He is an instant sensation, quickly showing everyone that he is an all-star in the making.

One night, during a game where he went 4-4, hit a home run, drove in 3 runs, and stole a base, the TV broadcaster explains the greatness of this talented baseball player: He has a God-given talent to play like he does.

Nary a person will question such an utterance.

It seems if people excel in life, it is because God has blessed them or God has given them a special dose of talent.

Few are the people who excel in life. Most of us have a few things we are good at, and we try to nurture those things the best we can. We know we will not be remembered for any great feat, nor will the record books make any mention of us. We live, we love, we die, and then we are forgotten.

It would seem that God doesn’t want most of us to be standouts or superstars. God only has a chosen few he blesses with God-given talent.

How does the nontheist explain the baseball player mentioned above? If it is not God-given talent, what is it?

Genetics.

Home environment.

Passion.

Hard work.

Training.

Coaches.

Scouts.

Luck.

All of these are better explanations than God-given talent.

We demean people when we reduce their hard work to something a God allegedly gives them. Here’s what I know: the few things I am good at in life are the result of my diligence, commitment, and hard work. Granted, these things come easily for me, BUT I still work hard to cultivate and improve the talents I have. I suspect it is the same for you too.

I am all for giving credit to whom credit is due. However, God is not on the credit list.

The all-star baseball player helps propel the home team to the World Series. The team handily wins the series and the little boy, now a grown-up all-star player, is voted the series’ most valuable player.

As he is interviewed after the last game of the series, he says “I want to thank God . . .”

And I say to myself or the TV, No, I want to thank YOU. Thank you for playing hard. Thank you for hustling on every play. Thank you for working hard every day to be the very best player you could be.

Video Link

This subject reminds me of my all-time favorite TV prayer. In the movie Shenandoah, Jimmy Stewart uttered the following prayer at the dinner table:

Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked Dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel. But we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food were about to eat. Amen.

And all the atheists said AMEN.

all things made by god

Many Christians have been taught that without God/Jesus they can do nothing. Their very breath and motor skills come from God. God feeds them, clothes them, gives them a job, gives them a spouse, gives them children, and gives them, well, gives them everything. Jesus said in John 15:5, without me ye can do nothing. Many Christians take this verse to mean that without Jesus they can do absolutely NOTHING. Technically, they don’t really believe this. After all, they do sin. Does God give them the power and ability to sin? Well, that’s different, Bruce. Sin comes from Satan or the flesh. God, who created everything and gives us the breath of life and the ability to exist, gets the credit for the good, but not the bad, right? Good=God, Bad=Satan and the Flesh. But, if God is sovereign, if he is the creator of everything, isn’t he also responsible for sin and the bad things that happen? I thought God has the whole world in his hands and the universe exists because of him?

I am all for giving credit to whom credit is due. If someone can show me God did this or that or God gave so-and-so talent, then I will gladly give God the credit. One question, though. Which God? How do we know it is the Christian God handing out the talent? Does the Christian God put a Made by Jesus label on those he gives talent to? So many questions . . .

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Count the Cost Before You Say “I am an Atheist”

god made me an atheist

Originally posted in 2015. Edited, updated, and expanded.

The Bible gives some pretty good advice about counting the cost in Luke 14:28-30:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

Who starts a building project without first counting the cost? The key phrase here is counting the cost. Every choice we make has a consequence. I think a loose definition of Newton’s Third Law of Motion applies here: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Foolish is the person who does not consider the consequences of saying for the first time to family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, I AM AN ATHEIST.

When I left Christianity and the ministry in 2008, my wife came along with me. Polly was a few steps behind, but close enough that we could hold hands. We spent many hours reading books and having long discussions about the past, the Bible, and Christianity in general. Dr. Bart Ehrman was nightly pillow talk for many months. When we finally came to the place where we said to one another “We are no longer Christians,” we knew that telling our family, friends, and acquaintances would cause a huge uproar. What should we do?

Polly decided to take the quiet approach, keeping her thoughts to herself. When asked, she would answer and try to explain, but if people didn’t ask, she felt no obligation to out herself. She still operates by that principle. There are people she works with who likely think she still goes to church on Sunday and is a fine Christian woman. Several years ago, a woman Polly had worked with for 20 years asked her if she was going to church on Easter. Polly replied, no. Her co-worker then asked, So do you go to church? Polly replied, No. And that was that. I am sure the gossip grapevine was buzzing. Did you know Polly doesn’t go to church? Why, her husband was a pastor! And they don’t go to church? Never mind that the woman asking the questions hadn’t been to church in over a decade. She stays home, watches “Christian” TV, and sends money to the TV preachers she likes.

I took the nuclear approach. I wrote an open letter to my friends, family, and former parishioners. This was totally in character for me. I am an all-in kind of guy. In Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, I wrote:

I have come to a place in life where I can no longer put off writing this letter. I have dreaded this day because I know what is likely to follow after certain people receive it. I have decided I can’t control how others will react to this letter, so it is far more important to clear the air and make sure everyone knows the facts about Bruce Gerencser.

I won’t bore you with a long, drawn-out history of my life. I am sure each of you has an opinion about how I have lived my life and the decisions I have made. I also have an opinion about how I have lived my life and the decisions I made. I am my own worst critic.

Religion, in particular Baptist Evangelical and Fundamentalist religion, has been the essence of my life from my youth up. My being is so intertwined with religion that the two are quite inseparable. My life has been shaped and molded by religion and religion touches virtually every fiber of my being.

I spent most of my adult life pastoring churches, preaching, and being involved in religious work to some degree or another. I pastored thousands of people over the years, preached thousands of sermons, and participated in, and led, thousands of worship services.

To say that the church was my life would be an understatement. As I have come to see, the Church was actually my mistress, and my adulterous affair with her was at the expense of my wife, children, and my own self-worth.

Today, I am publicly announcing that the affair is over. My wife and children have known this for a long time, but now everyone will know.

The church robbed me of so much of my life and I have no intention of allowing her to have one more moment of my time. Life is too short. I am dying. We all are. I don’t want to waste what is left of my life chasing after things I now see to be vain and empty.

I have always been known as a reader, a student of the Bible. I have read thousands of books in my lifetime and the knowledge gained from my reading and studies has led me to some conclusions about religion, particularly the Fundamentalist, Evangelical religion that played such a prominent part in my life.

I can no longer wholeheartedly embrace the doctrines of the Evangelical, Fundamentalist faith. Particularly, I do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture nor do I accept as fact the common Evangelical belief of the inspiration of Scripture.

Coming to this conclusion has forced me to reevaluate many of the doctrines I have held as true over these many years. I have concluded that I have been misinformed, poorly taught, and sometimes lied to. I can no longer accept as true many of the doctrines I once believed.

I point the finger of blame at no one. I sincerely believed and taught the things that I did and many of the men who taught me were honorable teachers. I don’t blame those who have influenced me over the years, nor do I blame the authors of the many books I have read. Simply, it is what it is…

The backlash from my letter was immediate and severe. Keep in mind I was not yet an atheist. All I said was that I could no longer embrace the teachings of Christianity. I was agnostic when it came to the God question. I still had lots of doubts and questions.

The reaction of my family and Polly’s family was the hardest to bear. For the most part, they said nothing. To this day, some family members, including Polly’s late parents, have not said one word to us about our defection from Christianity. It’s like there’s a huge elephant in the room that no one can see but us. Sixteen years of silence.

My friends and fellow pastors took to writing me letters, sending me emails, visiting me, preaching about me, and having prayer meetings focused on praying me back into the fold. The level of nastiness and judgmentalism was overwhelming. During this time, a long-time friend and parishioner turned pastor came to see me. I wrote about his visit in A Letter to a Friend. In the letter I wrote:

You got my letter.

I am certain that my letter troubled you and caused you to wonder what in the world was going on with Bruce.

You have been my friend since 1983. When I met you for the first time, I was a young man pastoring a new Church in Somerset, Ohio. I remember you and your dear wife vividly because you put a $100 bill in the offering plate. Up to that point we had never seen a $100 bill in the offering plate.

And so our friendship began. You helped us buy our first Church bus. . .You helped us buy our Church building. . . In later years you gave my wife and me a generous gift to buy a mobile home. It was old, but we were grateful to have our own place to live in. You were a good friend.

Yet, our common bond was the Christianity we both held dear. I doubt you would have done any of the above for the local Methodist minister, whom we both thought was an apostate.

I baptized you and was privileged to be your pastor on and off over my 11 years in Somerset. You left several times because our doctrinal beliefs conflicted, you being an Arminian and I being a Calvinist.

One day you came to place where you believed God was leading you to abandon your life work, farming, and enter the ministry. I was thrilled for you. I also said to myself, “now Bill can really see what the ministry is all about!”

So you entered the ministry and you are now a pastor of a thriving fundamentalist Church. I am quite glad you found your place in life and are endeavoring to do what you believe is right. Of course, I would think the same of you if you were still farming.

You have often told me that much of what you know about the ministry I taught you. I suppose, to some degree or another, I must take credit for what you have become. (whether I view it as good or bad)

Yesterday, you got into your Lincoln and drove three plus hours to see me. I wish you had called first. I had made up my mind to make up some excuse why I couldn’t see you, but since you came unannounced, I had no other option but to open and the door and warmly welcome you. Just like always . . .

I have never wanted to hurt you or cause you to lose your faith. I would rather you not know the truth about me than be hurt in any way.

But your visit forced the issue. I had no choice.

Why did you come to my home? I know you came as my friend, but it seemed by the time our three-hour discussion ended, our friendship had died and I was someone you needed to pray for, that I might be saved. After all, in your Arminian theology there can be no question that a person with beliefs such as mine has fallen from grace. . .

During the first few months after my initial letter, I heard from Laura Hardman, the wife of Evangelist Don Hardman. She bared her fangs and let me know that it was quite evident to her that I NEVER was a Christian.

About two years after the Dear  Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners letter I wrote:

Almost two years ago I sent my friends, family and former parishioners a letter concerning my decision to deconvert from Christianity. I wish I could say my letter was well received.  I wish I could say that people told me they supported my decision. I wish I could say I have been treated in a kind and respectful manner.

But I can’t.

A longtime friend of mine, Bill Beard, pastor of Lighthouse Memorial Church, drove over three hours to my home to talk (argue) with me about my deconversion. He and I had been friends for over 25 years.

Laura Hardman, wife of Evangelist Don Hardman, wrote me a scathing letter telling me that I never was a real Christian, I had been friends with the Hardmans for over 20 years. I wrote them back and I have not heard from them since.

Friends of mine for over 40 years, missionaries with Child Evangelism Fellowship, wrote to me and told me I was under the influence of Satan. They sent me literature to read. I returned it with a letter of my own. They never wrote back.

I stumbled upon a forum discussion about me. They were discussing what to do about Bruce.

I have received numerous emails from former parishioners telling me of the error of my ways.  Some of them are deeply troubled about how this could happen. How could their pastor now be an agnostic who doesn’t believe in the Bible or God?

A few former parishioners took it upon themselves to tell me their conclusions about me. Many of them mentioned my reading habits. They told me I read too many books and they suggested I just read the Bible.

Two former parishioners wrote to tell me that though they disagreed with me, they loved me and were my friend. I really appreciated their love and friendship.

I hear bits and pieces of the gossip about me that is floating around Bryan and Defiance — people questioning whether or not I was ever a Christian. Some raise issues about my mental stability. One thing they never do? Talk to me personally.

My adult children have to field questions at work and college about their apostate father. Once again, the questioners never talk to me personally.

It is not much better on the family front.

Silence is how family has decided to deal with me. It’s like I never wrote the letter about deconverting from Christianity. Behind the scenes there is a lot of gossip about me and what to do about the Bruce matter. Last Christmas, the patriarch of the family, a pastor of 40 plus years, was intent on confronting me about my apostasy. I am grateful my mother-in-law quashed his plan to confront me. It would have been ugly. I mean ugly.

Polly decided that we could no longer do Christmas at her parent’s home. The stress and undercurrent are such that it is impossible to “enjoy” time with the family during the Christmas holiday (we do go to visit when the extended family is not there).

I wish I could tell you that I came through all of this unscathed, but I can’t. I decided to seek out a counselor two years ago. I knew I needed to talk to someone about the pain and deep wound I was carrying as a result of my defection from Christianity. I still see a counselor every few weeks. His work with me has been extremely helpful and has enabled me to move forward and away from the past. The scars remain. The viciousness of people who say they are followers of the man who said turn the other cheek and love your enemy has scarred me. Every time a Fundamentalist spews his bile on this blog, I am reminded of the deep wound I carry. I am also reminded that I am glad to be free from such an ugly, vile, and vicious belief system and way of life.

So how are things now?

Some family members are still silent. Perhaps they will never ask, inquire, or attempt to engage me in a discussion. I think some people are intimidated by me, so they avoid the elephant in the room. Others fear I might cause them to doubt or lose their faith, so they avoid all contact with me. I have come to accept this. I wish they would talk to me, but I know I can’t force the issue.

All of my Christian friends have abandoned me. I don’t blame them. I have come to see that our friendship was held together by fidelity to certain beliefs. Remove the beliefs and the friendship dissolves. If I came back to the Christian faith, I would instantly have dozens of friends. I would be lauded as the Preacher reclaimed From the Devil’s Clutches. Hmm . . . there is money to be made . . .

If I had to do it all over again, would I do it the same way? Would I write THE letter? Probably. My experiences have given me knowledge that is helpful to people who contact me about their own doubts about Christianity. I am often asked, what should I do? Should I tell my spouse? Should I tell my family, friends, or coworkers?

My standard advice is this: Count the cost. Weigh carefully the consequences. Once you utter or write the words I AM AN ATHEIST, you are no longer in control of what happens next.  Are you willing to lose your friends, destroy your marriage, or lose your job? Only you can decide what cost you are willing to pay.

I know there is this notion that “Dammit, I should be able to freely declare what I am,” and I agree with the sentiment. We should be able to freely be who and what we are. If we lived on a deserted island, I suppose we could do so. However, we are surrounded by people. People we love. People we want and need in our life. Because of this, it behooves (shout out to the KJV) us to tread carefully.

I hope some of you will find this post helpful. My deepest desire is to help you on your journey. I am hoping that my walking before you can be of help to you as you decide how best to deal with and embrace your loss of faith.

This blog is here to remind those struggling with leaving Christianity or who have already left Christianity, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Sin and the Myth of the Slippery Slope

slippery slope

According to the Bible, sin is transgression of the law of God. (1 John 3:4) Evangelicals, as a general principle, believe this to be true. However, when it comes to what, exactly, is the law of God — well, let the battle begin. Every sect and every pastor has their own idea about what constitutes God’s law. None of them actually follows and practices ALL the laws found in the Bible. Every follower of Jesus picks and chooses, cafeteria-style, which laws to obey and which to ignore.

Several years ago, a local group posted on Facebook that they were having a Black Lives Matter/Pride rally. An Evangelical woman responded by posting comments about the evil of homosexuality, complete with Bible verses. I responded, so, you believe LGBTQ people, adulterers, fornicators, non-virgins, and Mormons should be executed? After all, that’s what God commands in the Bible. Of course, she ignored my challenge to her hypocritical use of the Bible to condemn behaviors she doesn’t like, choosing, instead, to attack me personally.

This woman is not unique in any way. I don’t know of one Evangelical who believes and practices every law in the Bible. Granted, Evangelicals have all sorts of lame explanations for their duplicity, but the fact remains that Evangelicals practice pick-and-choose Christianity. (Please see Should Christians Keep the Old Testament Law?)

For the sake of this post, I am going to assume that every Evangelical extracts from the Bible certain laws, commands, and precepts to govern their lives; that transgressing these edicts are sins.

I grew up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, attended an IFB college, and pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years. Over the 50 years I spent in the Christian church, I heard lots of preaching against sin — generally and specifically. I preached hundreds of sermons myself against this or that sin. Convincing people that they are sinners is the precursor to salvation. Without sin, there’s no need for salvation. Remove sin, fear, and guilt from the equation, and Evangelical churches will empty out overnight.

Once saved, Evangelicals continue to battle against what they call “indwelling sin.” Surprisingly, having God as your Father, Jesus as your BFF, the Holy Ghost living inside of you, and having at your fingertips the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God is not enough to keep Evangelicals from sinning daily in thought, word, and deed. It seems that Evangelicals sin just like their counterparts in the evil, Satan-controlled world. That’s why Evangelical preachers spend an inordinate amount of time preaching against sin to mostly Christian crowds.

Supposedly, Evangelicals are to grow and mature in their faith. One would think that sin would become less of a problem as Evangelicals became more intimate with Jesus. However, as any honest Evangelical pastor will tell you, worldliness, carnality, and sinfulness are common among God’s chosen ones. Jesus is no cure for the human condition.

Evangelical preachers often warn congregants of the danger of the slippery slope. These so-called men of God believe that a behavior deemed sinful, if unconfessed and not forsaken, leads to more serious sinful behaviors. Let me give readers several examples.

Evangelicals believe that it is sinful to use street drugs. Marijuana is considered a gateway drug that opens people up to using harder, more addictive drugs. I came of age in the 1970s. I heard numerous sermons about the evils of drug use — especially marijuana. Numerous church teens were dope smokers. So were my classmates at Findlay High School. It was not uncommon to see people smoking marijuana in the restrooms. Anti-drug preachers posited that marijuana use led to more serious drug use. Start smoking marijuana, and down the slippery slope you will go, ending up a heroin addict. Don’t want to be a heroin addict? the thinking went. Don’t smoke marijuana. Of course, few of my fellow youth group members or school classmates became mainline heroin users. I am sure more than a few of them tried LSD or other psychedelics, but hardcore heroin users? It didn’t happen.

The IFB preachers of my youth loved to preach against sexual sin. I, of course, continued in their footsteps, spending significant time over the years condemning illicit, sinful sexual behavior. I embarrassingly told church teens in one sermon (1980s) that I never knew of a girl who got pregnant who didn’t hold hands with a boy first. The slippery slope . . .

slippery slope fallacy

When it came to sexual sin, the slippery slope argument went something like this. Couples who hold hands will tire of it and want more intimacy. Thus hand-holding leads to kissing, and kissing leads to petting, which leads to fornication. Want to avoid committing fornication? Never hold hands. (Never asked was WHY should we want to avoid sexual intercourse?) This thinking led the churches I grew up in and the college I attended to develop bizarre anti-human rules. I would later pass on those same rules to churches I pastored. (Please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule.)

A similar argument is used for pornography. People who view porn grow tired of it, seeking out more explicit content, ultimately leading to sexual assault and rape. That’s right. It is just a hop, skip, and jump from YouPorn to becoming a serial rapist.

The slippery slope is a tool used by Evangelical preachers to scare people into conformity. Remember, the goal is always obedience and conformity. Whatever a preacher thinks the law of God is, his goal is lock-step compliance from congregants with his interpretations of the Bible.

Of course, this approach does not work. Outwardly, it does, but when Evangelicals are on their own, safe in the privacy of their homes and automobiles, no regard is paid to the slippery slope. Sure, sinning Evangelicals have to deal with fear and guilt, but these things are not enough to keep them from behaving in normal, healthy human ways. Any preacher is deluded who thinks that by railing against marijuana and hand-holding he is going to keep church teens and young adults from partying and fornication. Human want, need, and desire win every time.

But, Bruce, for some people, the slippery slope is a real problem. Yep, any of us can and do give in to excess. Most people can drink alcohol without becoming alcoholics. That some people become alcoholics is regrettable, but should we ban the sale and use of alcohol? The same can be said for illicit drugs. Anything can be abused and misused. For example, Polly makes me an angel food cake every year for my birthday. I LOVE angel food cake. I mean I really, really, really love it. I can, I kid you not, eat a whole cake by myself. And it is for that reason that Polly only makes me an angel food cake once a year.

We all have habits and desires that seem excessive to others not so inclined. When sin and the slippery slope are removed from the discussion, it becomes easier for us to understand why we do the things we do. Our three oldest sons grew up poor. Rarely, did they get new clothes or shoes. To this day, they talk of the ugly colored Converse tennis shoes I bought them on close-out at Big Lots. Virtually every bit of their clothing either came from their grandparents at Christmas, Goodwill, or hand-me-downs. The boys owned plenty of jeans adorned with iron-on patches. Such was life in the Appalachian hills of southeast Ohio. Fast forward to when the boys were older and had good jobs. Their closets were filled with expensive clothing and shoes. Why, they even had more than one pair of shoes! It’s not hard to draw a line from their upbringing to their extravagance as young adults. One of my sons refuses to let his children wear cast-off shoes to school. His ex-wife is fine with the children wearing $5 shoes from Goodwill. Not my son. It ain’t going to happen! Why? I suspect he remembers his days attending a private Christian school; how his shoes were old, cheap, and shabby compared to those worn by his classmates.

We have a new 2020 Ford Edge, by far the most expensive car we have ever owned. As I reflect on our evolving car-buying habits over the past decade or so, it is evident that decades of driving rust-buckets deeply affected our view of automobiles. We want, dare I say “need” newer cars. I can give all sorts of reasons for buying newer cars, but the real reason is that we enjoy owning a new car. I suspect all of us have similar “needs” in our lives.

My point is this, once we are free of guilt- and fear-inducing sin, we are free to live life on our own terms. Each to his or her own, right? While I think the slippery slope argument has merit in some circumstances, for the most part it is little more than an attempt to control human behavior. Smart are those who recognize where in their life the slippery slope lurks. I am a retired professional photographer. Due to my inability to properly hold my cameras due to loss of strength, I was forced to liquidate my equipment. Photographers must be aware of the slippery slope — also known as gear acquisition syndrome (GAS). Photography is not a cheap hobby. I invested thousands of dollars in camera bodies, lenses, flashes, studio equipment, and miscellaneous equipment. It was really easy for me to want (need) new equipment. Every couple of years, Sony came out with new camera bodies, always with higher resolution sensors and new bells and whistles. GAS really kicked in for me when they did. But I eventually learned to not give in to my wants, knowing that doing so would send me careening down the slippery slope that leads to a pile of debt. I knew that it was the photographer, and not the equipment (generally), that made the picture. Sometimes, I failed to reign in my desires. I suspect most of you know what I am talking about. We all have things we are passionate about, things we are willing to spend money on. Don’t get me started on my hats. God, I’m addicted.

For those of you who are ex-Evangelicals, did your pastors use the slippery slope analogy to demand obedience and conformity? Do you still have a problem with guilt and fear over human behaviors you know aren’t sinful, yet you can’t shake the voice of your pulpit-thumping preacher in your head? If you no longer buy into the Christian concept of “sin,” how do you order your life and make decisions these days? Please share your stories in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Kate Middleton’s Cancer: Either God Gave It To Her Or He Didn’t

kate-middleton

Recently, Catherine “Kate” Middleton, the Princess of Wales and a member of the British royal family, recently divulged that she has cancer. This has led to all sorts of speculation among Evangelicals about Middleton’s diagnosis. Specifically, Evangelicals want to know if God gave Middleton cancer.

Recently, Troy Black, a Christian YouTuber, author, and prophetic voice, prophecied about Middleton’s cancer diagnosis. Forty-one minutes long, the prophecy is one long word salad about why God is in control; except when he’s not; why Satan is in control; except when he’s not. Throw a bunch of Bible verses and theological verbiage in a bender, blend it up and what you end up with is Black’s prophecy.

Video Link

Black said, in part:

Some people say ‘this is what they [Middleton and King Charles] get.’ They’re saying ‘this is what God put on their family.’

Then I heard the Lord say this. He said, ‘But that’s not the way I work. I didn’t give her cancer, and I don’t give that to people. That’s not the way I work.’

There also exists an enemy of God and of God’s people, and of the entire world, and his name is Satan.

[Black likens this to the book of Job where Satan is allowed to do things to Job, however, it was not God who was the one actively doing the things that caused great pain to Job.] He allowed Satan to have a certain authority over Job for a time for a certain reason.

Either God gave Middleton cancer or he didn’t. If, as Evangelicals allege, God is sovereign, the creator, king, ruler, and potentate over Heaven and Earth and all who live therein, then God is responsible for what happens to us. Either God is God, or he isn’t. Either he is in control of everything, or he isn’t. If God knows, sees, and hears everything, and is actively involved in our lives right down to knowing how many hairs are on our heads and the exact moment when we will die, then he alone controls the universe.

When “good” things happen, Evangelicals love to trumpet the sovereignty of God. However, when “bad” things happen, God is suddenly weak, powerless, and indifferent. Satan is to blame for the bad shit that happens in life. However, Satan is a fallen angel; a being created by God himself. Can Satan do ANYTHING that God does not permit him to do? If God is sovereign, then the answer is no. All of Job’s suffering was ultimately at God’s hands. Satan was just a tool God used to teach Job a lesson.

If God is everything Evangelicals say he is, then there is no question or doubt about how Middleton got cancer. God gave it to her. But, Bruce, this means God is a monster. How dare you question God’s divine will. Shut the fuck up! His ways are not your ways, and his thoughts are not your thoughts. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 9:

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

As an atheist, I don’t believe in the existence of God. People get cancer for all sorts of reasons, including DNA and environmental exposure. I have been surgically treated for basal cell and squamous cell cancer three times. Every six months, I go to the dermatologist to have pre-cancers removed via freezing. I am scheduled to have a biopsy of a growth on my nose next month. Why? I am a light-skinned, blue-eyed redhead. I have Scandinavian blood. These factors I had no control over. That said, I have had more serious sunburns — blistering, skin-peeling burns — than I can count. I never used sunscreen until I was in my 30s. I thought getting sunburns was just a part of being a redhead. Boy, do I regret my negligence (and that of my parents for not insisting I wear proper clothing). God has nothing to do with my skin cancer or anything else for that matter. And neither does Satan. Life happens, and all we can do is embrace what comes our way and do what we can to make things better.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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The Fine Art of Church Hopping

church hopping

Several years ago, my friend Zoe used the phrase “church hopping” in a comment. People raised in Evangelical churches know all about church hopping, but non-Evangelicals might not understand the phrase, so I thought I would explain the fine art of church hopping.

A church hopper is a person who “hops” (moves) from one Evangelical church to another. Sometimes, groups of people hop from one church to another. In the mid-1980s, more than 25 people from an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in New Lexington, Ohio hopped to the church I was pastoring at the time, Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry. Around this same time, 15 or so people left their IFB church in Fultonham and joined Somerset Baptist. Forty new members, most of them “mature” tithing Christians eager to take over — I mean get involved with — my church. Within two years, all these hoppers hopped right back to the churches they left or joined up with new IFB churches.

Why do people hop from one church to another?

Some people hop because they have run afoul of their pastor and/or the church’s power brokers. Every church has a clique that controls the church. This clique often consists of the pastor’s enforcers, people who make sure others are playing by the rules, and believing the right things. 

Evangelical churches thrive on conformity. Independent or contrary thinkers are often marginalized, if not run out of the church. Sometimes, people hop before they are shot and left for dead.

Some people hop because they can’t get their way. Pastoring a church is a difficult proposition. No two people think alike. While everyone is allegedly indwelt by the Holy Spirit who supposedly teaches them the truth, churches are rife with differences of opinion. Sometimes, those differences turn into internecine wars, leading those defeated in battle to leave. I lost countless congregants over theological and practical differences. Oh, the stories I could tell . . .

Some people hop from one church to another because they don’t like their church’s new pastor. Bruce, I thought church was all about JESUS? Silly boy, church is all about the pastor, his beliefs, his practices, and his personality, not Jesus. Churches revolve around their pastors. Bringing in a new pastor invariably brings change, especially if a man is replacing a pastor who has been there for years. Attendance decline is common when churches change pastors. Megachurches can lose thousands of members when changing brands — yes, at this level, pastors are brands. (Please see The Evangelical Cult of Personality.) 

Some church members hop to new congregations because they perceive their churches to be “dead.” In the 1970s, new charismatic churches pillaged countless Baptist churches of members who were looking for churches that were alive, filled with the Holy Ghost. Here in rural northwest Ohio, numerous charismatic churches sprung to life, filled with hundreds and hundreds of members who had hopped their way from “dead” churches. Today, every one of these churches is in numerical decline, each a shell of what it once was in the 1970s and 1980s. Their members have been poached by newer, more exciting churches. The churches once deemed “alive” are now considered “dead.” 

What drives this thinking? Simple, Evangelicals are always on the lookout for a good show, for the new and exciting. People are attracted to new churches by the preacher’s personality and preaching style, whether prospective churches have certain programs — say a youth program or the quality of the church’s band. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence is certainly a false notion embraced by many Evangelical Christians,

Some people don’t like change, so they will hop to churches that practice the “old ways.” Most Evangelical churches have bands or use praise and worship music. Some congregants don’t like any kind of music except hymns. The same goes for tinkering with service times, changing dress standards, using non-KJV translations, etc. There’s no end to the reasons people use to justify hopping.

My all-time favorite reason for church-hopping is this: “I am not being ‘fed’ anymore.” What, did the church cancel the monthly church dinner or stop having potlucks? No, “not being fed” means that the pastor’s preaching no longer meets their intellectual or felt needs. Truth be told, listening to the same man year in and year out can be boring. Instead of admitting this, many congregants blame their pastors for not meeting their needs. 

Honesty, in general, is lacking in many Evangelical churches. Instead of being honest about their reasons for hopping away, disgruntled church members blame their pastors. Much like marriages, not every pastor/church/congregant relationship is meant to last for life. Sometimes, it’s time for a change of scenery — new church/pastor.

It is not uncommon to hear Evangelical preachers rail against church hopping. Much like former President Trump’s relationship with people who left his cabinet, to pastors, church hoppers look great coming in the front door, but when they leave out the back door, all of a sudden they are terrible people. I know of pastors who eviscerate anyone who dares to leave their cult – uh, I mean church. Such pastors believe their church/preaching/ministry is far superior to that of any other pastor/church in town. In their minds, it makes no sense to go anywhere except their church. 

Early in the ministry, I could be quite harsh towards people who left my church. Sometimes, my criticisms were justified, but all too often I was just being an asshole towards people who disagreed with me. I later learned to be more magnanimous towards people who left. On more than a few occasions, people who hopped away from my church returned months or years later. 

Many Evangelical pastors think people should attend their churches until death. They expect lifelong commitments from their congregants. However, pastors hop from one church to another all the time. Pastors change churches on an average of every 4 to 10 years. (Please see How Long Do Pastors Stay in One Church?) Why is it that Evangelical pastors preach against congregants who church hop, yet when they do it, it’s God “leading” them? Anytime you have a group of people with varied personalities and backgrounds, conflict and change are inevitable. Leave it to Evangelicals to find all sorts of justifications for hopping instead of telling the truth. Why did you leave your church or pastorate? Drumroll, please. Because I wanted to.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You Can Do It: How to Start an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church

start ifb church

Warning! Lots of snark and sarcasm ahead!

John “Jesus Lover” Baptiste recently graduated from an unaccredited Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college. After three or four years of superficially studying the Bible, John received his degree in Jesus-Loving, Devil-Chasing, Sin-Hating Pastoral Ministry. Now what?

Graduates are encouraged to go into all the world — well mainly the United States, preferably where White people live — and win souls for Jesus. The best way to do this is to start a new church.

Here is what John “Jesus Lover” Baptiste needs to do to start a brand spanking new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church.

First, find a town where there are churches on every corner and convince yourself that ALL of those churches are liberal, apostate, using the wrong Bible translation, or using worldly music.

Second, conflate your own desire and ambition with the Holy Spirit leading you and God calling you to start a new church.

Third, rent a meeting place or building. Make sure you get the building as cheaply as possible. If the building owner is a Christian, lay a spiritual guilt trip on him to get him to lower the rent and then invite him and his family to the first service.

Fourth, put a puff piece in the newspaper telling locals why you are starting a new church in their community. DON’T tell them that you think ALL the other churches in town are liberal, apostate, using the wrong Bible translation, or using worldly music. You want to be able to poach members from other churches later, so no one must know what you really think of every other church in town.

Fifth, every day pray that God will bless your endeavor. Convince yourself that God put you in the community to win everyone to Jesus, and that without you they will all go to Hell.

Sixth, tell your wife and children that you love them, but they are going to have to understand that Jesus comes first, and you will have to neglect them for a GREAT church to be built. Also, tell them that they will have to mow the churchyard, clean the church, play the piano, work in the nursery, teach Sunday School, and do anything else you ask them to do. Try to explain to them that, yes, God called YOU, but he expects you to bring luggage.

Seventh, much like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, knock on every door in town and witness to everyone who dares to answer. Lie to them by saying, I am not here to take you from your church home. All that is important is that you know Jesus as your Savior. Don’t let them know that if they get saved you will expect them to come to the church that cared enough to lead them to Jesus. And get baptized. And attend services every time the church doors are open. And tithe. And obey every edict uttered by you from the pulpit.

Eighth, run some ads in the local newspaper and put up flyers on every public bulletin board. Church-hopping members (please see The Fine Art of Church Hopping) from nearby IFB churches will notice the ads and see this as “God leading them” to leave their churches. This is the quickest way to start a new church. And just remember, when they leave your new church a few years later for a newer church, you were willing to sacrifice your integrity for numerical gain. You are now ready for your first service. Remember one thing: most new church plants fail, especially IFB churches. Perhaps, it would be better if you join up with one of the other churches in town and help them. Silly me, you will never do that. You are a God-called, Holy-Spirit-powered, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor, and such a calling deserves its own church, and a BIG sign that says, in BIG type, JOHN BAPTISTE, PASTOR.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser