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Category: Evangelicalism

Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait

curiosity

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Why is it that so many Evangelicals have no desire to be curious? Yes, I know many are, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if you are a curiouser-than-a-cat Evangelical. I frequently get emails or blog comments from Evangelical Christians wanting to “help” me find my way back to Jesus. Such people are certain that they possess the requisite knowledge and skill necessary to reclaim the famous Evangelical-turned-atheist Bruce Gerencser for Jesus. They are sure that if they just befriend me, quote the right Bible verses, soothe my hurts, or understand my pain, I will fall on my knees and call on the name of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I was a pastor for twenty-five of those years. I have a Bible college education. Surely they understand that I am not an atheist out of ignorance, right? Of course not, and here is where their lack of curiosity gets them in trouble. They often don’t know anything about me or this blog. Why? Because they did a Google/Bing/Yahoo search for _________________ and their search brought them to a single blog post of mine. They read that one post and immediately decide that I am a poor wayfaring waif in need of their peculiar brand of God/Jesus/Christianity.

When I get comments such as these, I go to the logs and see what pages they read. Usually, they have read only the page their search brought them to. Their lack of curiosity (or laziness) is astounding, and leads them to make wild judgments about me, and come to rash, ill-informed conclusions. If these people would just read the About page, the WHY? page, or the Dear Evangelical page, they would be better informed about me and this blog. But they don’t. Why is that? 

I suspect part of the reason Evangelicals are not, in general, known for their curiosity is that they are 100% certain they are absolutely right. In their minds, they worship the one, true God and this God lives inside of them in the person of the Holy Spirit. This God walks with them, talks with them, and tell them that they are his own (from the hymn In the Garden). They have an inerrant, infallible supernatural book given to them by this supernatural God. This book contains all the answers about life that they will ever need.

When you are filled with certainty, there is no need to think, reason, investigate, or doubt. When the man upstairs is on your team, no need to consider any other team. Why be a lowly Reds fan when you can be a Yankees fan? When your church has declared that Moose Tracks ice cream is the one true ice cream, no need to try any other ice cream.

Simply put, there’s no need to know anything else when you already know all you need to know. God said it, I believe it and that settles it for me, the Christian ditty goes. One true God, one true religious text, one way of salvation. The earth is 6,023 years old, created in six literal 24 hour days. The Bible gives the blueprint for having a Christ-honoring family, a happy marriage, obedient kids, and awesome missionary position sex — but only for the purpose of trying to catch up with the Duggars. When the answer to every question is “God” or “the Bible says,” it’s not surprising to find that Evangelicals are not, by nature, curious.

The good news is that more and more Evangelicals are discovering the curiosity that lies dormant beneath the surface of their lives. Once they make this discovery, they are on their way out of the closed-mindedness and senses-dulling prison of Evangelicalism. They will find out that science can and does explain the world they live in. Science doesn’t have all the answers, but it is asking the right questions.

Still want/need to believe in a transcendent deity or some sort of spirituality? Once free of the heaven/hell, saved/lost, in/out, good/bad paradigm of Evangelicalism, people are free to wander at will. When the fear of hell and judgment is gone, they are free to experience those things that are meaningful to them. Once the question is no longer “will you go to heaven when you die?” the journey, rather than the destination, becomes what matters.

Curiosity may kill the cat, but trust me Evangelicals, it won’t kill you.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

2006: It’s Time to Leave the Christian Ghetto and Become “Worldly” for Jesus

christian ghetto

What follows is a post I wrote fourteen years ago. I thought readers might appreciate reading something I wrote back before I became an atheist; back when I was slowly exiting Christianity stage left. 

Enjoy!

My comments concerning HisHolySpace have elicited some interesting comments (both public and private), In almost every case, the writer disagreed with me. In one case, I think the writer, intentionally or not I do not know, questioned my relationship with God:

I do not know much about you, but it is like you are searching for the truth. search sincerely and diligently, you will find Him.

I didn’t know God was lost, and certainly didn’t know that I was the one who lost him. Yes, I am a seeker, as all Christians are to be. I just happen to look in other places than many Evangelicals do. I refuse to divide my world into secular and Christian. I reject all such dualistic views of the world. There is one God, and Jehovah is His Name. That God created one world, and He called it Good. Adam and Eve corrupted that Good creation, and every human been since has walked in their footsteps.

We live a sin-corrupted, sin-darkened world. It has been this way since the beginning. Because of sin, we die. The newspaper lists the casualties of sin every day. All of us are doomed to become a casualty someday. All of us will face the ugly specter of death someday, probably sooner than later.

Since death is an ever-present reality, what are we to do with our lives? As Christians, we are called on to press the claims of the Kingdom of Christ in every facet of human life. No area of life is exempt. We will search the Scriptures in vain for any command to build a separate Christian society that operates as a sub-culture of the prevailing culture. The Scriptures must be read in their Jewish historical context. If we read them with American Evangelical eyes, the result will be a corrupt world view.

As Christians, we are to be “in the world but not of the world.” What does that mean? Well, Christian Ghetto builders contend that Christians are to build a Christian world that exists alongside the secular world. They venture out into that secular world to work, shop, and eat, but the rest of the time they retire to the safe haven of their Christian ghetto. If only they could work for a Christian employer, buy their gas at a Christian owned gas station, eat at Christian owned restaurants, and shop at Christian owned grocery stores, then their world would be perfect.

Some object when I call this escapism, but that is exactly what it is. Christians like this have hunkered down in their spiritual bomb shelters, waiting for the Rapture. While they are waiting for Jesus to come again, they busy themselves playing Christian games, watching Christian TV, playing Christian music, and contacting the Christian underground at places like HisHolySpace.

A person’s eschatology does matter. For Rapturists, this all makes sense. The return of Jesus is imminent. I remember when the book “88 Reasons Jesus will Return in 1988″ came out. The church I was pastoring at the time was quite stirred up about it. People were getting copies of the book and handing it out. I took the opposite stance. I preached a message titled “Why Jesus WON’T come back in 1988″ As the calendar clearly proves, I was right.

Rapturism is pretty much a new-fangled theological position. Historically, the church has NOT believed in Rapturism. Instead, the church has primarily held to amillennial or postmillennial eschatological views. Both views reject escapism, and instead require Christians to actively engage the culture they live in. No imminent check-out for Christians. We are here for the duration. Until Jesus comes again, we have work to do.

Every Christian has the mandate to engage and change the culture they live in. We are to be counter-cultural, not absent-cultural. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are called on to wade into the muck and the filth of the world and make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with.

Christian Ghetto builders do just the opposite. They build fences to keep the world out. They put Christian pit bulls in the yard to keep those dirty, filthy worldlings out. They elect Pseudo-Christian politicians to do their bidding. They clamor for laws against abortion, homosexuals, and same-sex marriage. God forbid they ever have to come in contact with someone who has had an abortion or who is a homosexual. The front doors of their houses are papered with magazines from Focus on the Family. They hope all peddlers of the secular world will be warded off by the magazines. If that doesn’t work, they will sic the Christian Ghetto Godhead of Dobson, Falwell, and Robertson, on them.

All the while, our culture is dying, sinners are going to hell, and most Christians don’t give a damn. As long as they can maintain their membership in the Christian Ghetto they will live under the delusion that they are serving Jesus. They will forget that Christians are to love the Lord their God with all their being and to love their neighbor (not fellow Church member) as they love themselves. Pretty simple. Love God. Love your Neighbor.

How many non-Christian friends or acquaintances do you have? When is the last time you shared a beer with your fellow workmates? When is the last time you talked to your non-Christian neighbors? When is the last time non-Christians were invited to your house for dinner? How do you treat that dyed-hair, many-times-pierced, cashier at the grocery? And the list goes on and on . . . And I don’t mean inviting them to church. Stop inviting people to church and instead BE THE CHURCH. Go to an AIDS hospice and volunteer to be a helper. Go to the nursing home and love some old people. Seek out a single mother and buy her some formula, diapers, or offer to babysit for her. And the list goes on and on . . .

Buy some secular CDs and try and hear the voice of the culture you live in. Stop listening to escapist Christian music that has you so hopped up about Heaven that you neglect the world you live in. Stop leaving tracts at restaurants. Instead leave a gracious tip and be a nice customer. Call up the local bar and offer to drive any person home that is too drunk to drive. Be a friend to a prisoner. Adopt their family. Love them. And the list goes on and on . . .

Live the Gospel.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Don’t tell people the Gospel, SHOW people the Gospel; then, and only then, will you find a receptive audience. Get out there in the dirty, old world and show them that Jesus is worth loving and that Christianity is worth living.

Stop trying to get them to come to your Christian Ghetto. Go to Them. Jesus Did.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

My Previous Blogs

blogging

Long time readers, all three of you, know that I had a plethora of blogs over the past fourteen years. I would write for a while, burn my blog to the ground, only to resurrect again months later. Welcome to the mind of a depressive. The good news is this: The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser will celebrate its sixth anniversary come November. Can I get an AMEN! Or dare I not mention this milestone lest I find the gasoline and matches again?

Several readers have asked me about the names of my former blogs. Here ya go:

  • Fallen From Grace
  • The Way Forward
  • Rethinking Church Life
  • Bruce Droppings (my favorite name)
  • World of Bruce
  • A Restless Mind in a Restless World
  • The Hungarian Luddite
  • The World According to Bruce
  • The Emergent Church
  • Northwest Ohio Skeptics
  • Restless Wanderings

Crazy, huh? Hey, I have never claimed to be sane.

I want to thank readers who jumped on Bruce’s crazy train in the early days and continue to ride today. Your love and support are appreciated.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Dear Pastor, Thou Shalt Not Steal

thou shalt not steal

Note: I originally wrote this post fourteen years ago. It has been updated, corrected, and expanded.

Many Christians are surprised to learn that their pastors use the material, outlines, and sermons of others when preaching. Years ago, Polly and I, along with our children, visited over 100 Christian churches. (Please see But, Our Church is Different!) We heard a variety of preaching, ranging from atrocious to outstanding. We also heard a number of stolen or adapted sermons. In our experience, Rick Warren was the favorite preacher to steal from. I find such behavior scandalous.

In 2005, we attended a church for about three months led by a pastor who morphed into Rick Warren every Sunday. The dead giveaway was his liberal use of numerous Bible translations — a classic Warren trait. I suspect I was the only one who knew the source of this preacher’s sermon. One man gave a glowing testimony one Sunday regarding the pastor’s wonderful sermons. I wanted to stand up and shout, “AMEN, thank God for Rick Warren.”

Why is there such a problem with preachers stealing the material of others? I believe the problem is threefold.

  • First, many pastors are lazy. The ministry provided great cover for men with poor work habits.
  • Second, a number of pastors feel threatened by the smooth, well-produced sermons of megachurch/TV preachers. They know their church members listen to these slick communicators, and they are afraid of falling short in comparison.
  • Third, there are a number of pastors who should not be in the ministry. God equips whom He calls, and it seems that a number of men and women lack basic speaking/preaching skills. They try to cover it up by stealing the material of others. I have heard far too many sermons that lacked in any semblance of order or content.
    I was the assistant pastor of one church where the pastor’s thrice-weekly sermons were downright awful. This man couldn’t even make a basic sermon outline. He attended the same college as I did, but evidently he wasn’t paying attention in speech/homiletics class. Either that, or he simply didn’t have the requisite skills necessary to be a competent public speaker. I tried to teach him how to make an outline, but “learning” from a 20-something greenhorn (he was in his 40s) proved impossible for him.

I preached a few sermons out of a book of outlines when I first started preaching, but since that time, the 4,000 sermons I preached were my own. Good, bad, or indifferent, the sermons I preached were the result of my own work. I read the work of others. I profited from commentaries. But, at the end of the day, my sermons were mine. I believed then and still do today, that it is unethical to use the work of others; to preach sermons or give speeches that belong to someone else.

In July 1983, I started the Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset, Ohio. I was 26 years old. The church began with 16 people — four of whom were my family — in an old, dilapidated storefront. Our rent was $100 a month. A few months later, we moved to the Landmark Building — a huge two-story building that used to house a farm co-op. We rented the upstairs of the building for $200 a month. We would remain here until we bought an abandoned Methodist church building for $5,000, five miles east of Somerset.

In the fall of 1983, I had my sister’s pastor from Montpelier, Ohio come to our church to hold a revival meeting. This man was the new pastor of the first church I worked for after I left college, Montpelier Baptist Church.

As was my custom, I asked this man of God what his plans were for the week. He said to me, “what would you like me to preach? I have numerous sermons of other people I have memorized. How about Greg Dixon’s sermon, The Sinking of the Titanic?” I was shocked by his question. I told him, “that’s okay. Just preach what the Lord lays on your heart.”

I knew preachers used the materials of others, often without attribution, but to preach another man’s sermon verbatim? How lazy can you one be? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.

I realize that I am an atheist, and have little credibility among preachers these days, but I still believe that so-called spokesmen for God should use their own work. (And yes, I have seen similar laziness in mainline churches. We heard numerous sermons in mainline churches that were nothing more than pastors reading word-for-word from the lectionary.)

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

2006: Two Op-Eds I Wrote, Warning of the Dangers of Nationalism

american nationalism
Cartoon by Nath Paresh

In 2006, I was still a Christian, I self-identified as an emerging/emergent pastor. As you will see, my liberal/progressive political views were quite developed by this time. I was far from the ranch, so to speak. For my Evangelical critics at the time, it came as no surprise to them that I embraced atheism two years later.

May 2006 Op-Ed for the Bryan Times (slightly edited):

Throughout the history of the Christian church, it has been commonly believed that state and church, both ordained by God, operate on separate, yet equal planes of authority. This is commonly called the “separation of church and state.” History painfully reminds us of what happens when state and church are joined together. This union always results in the death of many people and the authority of both the state and the church being compromised. Adolph Hitler would not have been successful during World War II without the joining of church and state together. The church lost her moral authority when she became complicit in the Aryan teachings and programs of the Nazi regime. Yes, there were those who stood against Hitler and his murderous minions, but, for the most part, the German church remained silent. As a result, the world was plunged into war and millions of people suffered and died. This is but one example of many that could be pulled from the pages of history. I am using it because it is “current” history and one that can readily be researched.

The world owes a great debt to the United States for her willingness to stand against Germany and her attempt to rule the world. The United States stood on solid moral footing and she is to be commended for her courage and sacrifice. With such a great moral stand also comes a great challenge; to remain humble in the light of great victory. Coming out of World War II, the United States had the approval and appreciation of the world. Sixty years later the United States is now viewed as an imperialistic superpower that is intent on dominating and taking over the world one nation at a time. How did this happen?

Pride! One-word answer. Pride! Reinhold Niebuhr, shortly after the end of World War II said this:

We are indeed the execution of God’s judgment yesterday. But we might remember the prophetic warnings to the nations of old, that nations which become proud because they were divine instruments must, in turn, stand under the divine judgment and be destroyed……If ever a nation needed to be reminded of the perils of vainglory, we are that nation in the pride of our power and our victory.

As the post-September 11, 2001 era continues, there is an increasingly ugly, nationalistic pride that is rising up in the United States. This errant pride is seen in our nation’s actions in Iraq and in the continued saber-rattling against Iran. Strong traces of it can be viewed in the current debate going on in the United States over Mexican immigration.

A clear distinction needs to be made between patriotism and nationalism. According to Michael Dyson in his book titled Pride, “Patriotism is the critical affirmation of one’s country in light of its best values, including the attempt to correct it when it is in error. Nationalism is the uncritical support of one’s nation regardless of its moral or political bearing.” Sadly, much of what is called patriotism in the United States is actually prideful, sinful, nationalism.

As in Germany during World War II, this errant nationalism is graphically on display in churches everywhere. Christian theology has been wedded with political ideology and given a healthy baptism of flag-waving nationalism and the result is that the church in the United States has abandoned her call to follow Jesus. Far too many churches, including an unhealthy number of churches in this area, have become pawns in a political chess game. Such churches have lost their prophetic voice. Where is the voice calling out for justice and mercy? Where is the voice calling out for peace in the name of the Prince of Peace?

The flag-waving nationalism on display in many churches needs to stop. Ties with liberal or conservative political agendas need to be broken. The war in Iraq and Mexican immigration need to be viewed through the teaching of Jesus instead of a political party’s platform. It is time to repent.

Over the past 36 months, I have visited a good number of churches in the northwest Ohio area, including churches in Indiana and Michigan. I have yet to hear one critical word concerning the War in Iraq. I did hear numerous words promoting the war, and sometimes I was almost certain that I was hearing a public service announcement from the defense department. Why are the pulpits of so many churches silent on this crucial issue? Even churches that come from the “peace” denominations are strangely silent or even go so far as to promote war, in direct contradiction to their church doctrine. I realize I can not make absolute judgments when I only visit a church once or a few times, but overall the silence is deafening.

It seems that many churches are requiring allegiance to the State and her war policy as a test of fidelity to Jesus. If one dare raise a voice of objection, immediate questions of salvation and love for country are raised. Coward, un-American, unsaved, liberal, and military hater are some of the kinder words hurled at those who, in Jesus’ name, oppose war. In spite of the name-calling, lovers of peace must continue to stand for peace. It is the LEAST we can do. Churches and ministers must be prodded and cajoled, and if need be, shamed into returning to being prophetic voices in the world. Instead of allowing political agendas to control the voice of the church, the clear and emphatic teachings of Jesus must set the agenda. It is time to stop the debates about “just war” (which is nothing more than political ideology wearing theological clothes) and return to doing what Jesus commands us to do; love our enemies and be a people who actively promote peace.

May 2006 Op-Ed for the Defiance Crescent-News (slightly edited):

Every time Christians gather together for communion, it is for the purpose of memorializing the death of Jesus. The death of Jesus on the cross has many theological implications: redemption and sanctification among many others. The death of Jesus also has political implications. His death, along with his resurrection from the dead, proclaimed a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Who, and all that Jesus did, challenges the politics and agendas of every generation. There is a new King in the world, and Jesus is his name.

Last Sunday, many churches took time to briefly mention Memorial Day. Some churches had full-blown patriotic rallies, complete with the presenting of the colors and taps. Others sang a few patriotic songs and said a quick prayer for those who have died in our nation’s wars. Some took time to honor church members who are serving or had served in the Military.

I always prepare myself for what “may” happen in church on our nation’s various national holidays. I would prefer that churches not meld worship of God and nationalism together, but I have come to the place where I can tolerate it in short doses. Interjecting nationalism into our worship of God diminishes the focus of our worship, and can, if we are not careful, suggest that Christianity and American nationalism are one and the same.

In many sermons, we will hear that Christians need to view the sacrifice of war in and of itself, separated from its theological and political implications. An attempt is made to link the sacrifice of war with the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus laid down his life for others and in war we are called on to do the same.

It is unwise to connect the sacrifice of Jesus and the sacrifice of war. Jesus was the guiltless dying for the guilty. In war, there are no guiltless parties. It is also impossible to divorce the sacrifice of war from its theological and political implications. War ALWAYS has such implications.

My prayer is that churches will stop being agents for the political agendas of the Republican and Democratic parties. Instead of giving public service announcements for the defense department, churches would be truer to their calling if they proclaimed what Jesus said about peace and loving our enemies. I am still waiting to hear a sermon anywhere that takes seriously the claims and teachings of Jesus concerning peace and as a result, declares the war in Iraq to be contrary to Christian teaching. Instead of wrangling about “just war” I hope and pray churches will wrangle with the implications of “thou shalt not kill,” “love your enemies,” and “blessed are the peacemakers.”It is certainly proper and right to quietly remember those who have died during our nation’s wars. Some died defending freedom, others died for a political agenda, but all died as Americans and we should remember them. We should also take time to reflect on the awfulness of war and the danger of a nation with unchecked arrogance waging war against all who cross her path.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Beware of Evangelicals Who Ask You Questions About Your Tattoos

cant we be friends
Cartoon by Paco

I have written numerous times about how Evangelicals use fake friendships to evangelize non-Christians:

My Evangelical critics might argue that I have it out for Evangelicals; that I can’t see the “good” Evangelicals do; that Evangelicals sincerely care about people. Believe what you will, but one thing I know for sure: Evangelical zealots are notorious for using disingenuous methods and subterfuge to achieve their God-ordained goal: winning lost souls to Jesus. No other group of Christians — Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses excepted — is willing to use fake friendships to achieve a religious objective. I am friends with several mainline Christian pastors. Not one time have these men and women attempted to evangelize me. We are friends for friendship’s sake.

I am convinced that Evangelicals have a pathological need to make other people to be just like them; to seek, force, and demand conformity to their peculiar religious beliefs. Evangelical zealots see every non-Christian as an evangelization target, a prospect for Heaven, a prospective (tithing) church member. The goal remains what it has always been: to recruit new club members.

Lest readers think that I have developed this opinion post-Jesus, people who were following me back in 2007 know that I was quite vocal about Evangelicals and their nefarious evangelism methods. Readers from that time likely remember my interaction with an emergent church pastor named Iggy. Iggy was bragging about what he and his church were doing for the local community. If I remember right, they were handing out free flower pots to people. I asked if the pots had the church’s name on them and if locals were given church advertising brochures along with the pots. After Iggy admitted that yes, the pots had the church’s name on them, and yes, people were given church advertising brochures, he attempted to defend his actions by saying they were genuinely trying to make friends with people in their community.

Then, as now, I objected to what I considered less-the-honest methods to evangelize people; that the goal wasn’t friendship, but saving the lost and gaining new church members. This led to Iggy and me having an epic war of words, one in which I had a profanity-laced meltdown (for which I later apologized).

I share this story to emphasize the fact that I objected to Evangelicals using fake friendships to evangelize then, and I still object today. Whether I was a Christian or an atheist, it matters not. I despise people who attempt to befriend others for ulterior reasons. All I ask is that Evangelicals be upfront about why they are doing what they are doing. In other words, stop the Trojan horse evangelism practices. Have the “soldiers” get out of the wooden horse and declare themselves: we are here to ravage you in the name of the one true Lord and King, Jesus.

This brings me to the latest Gospel Coalition post about yet another way to evangelize non-Christians. Written by Erin Wheeler, wife of Brad Wheeler, the pastor of University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Wheeler writes:

“I like your ink,” I say casually as I walk past the woman in my exercise class. “Thanks,” she mumbles, eyeing me with that look.

It’s the look people give when someone notices their tattoo. They wonder if the person really means the compliment, or if they just happened to notice their purposely and permanently pigmented skin.

At the gym, our conversation continues for a bit. She tells me her tattoo reminds her of a family member she lost a few years ago. I tell her I got my tattoo to remember how God saved my marriage at a time when I thought we might not make it. I have interactions like these frequently: at the gym, at the coffee shop, at the community pool. As a Christian, I’m hoping these tattoo conversations might lead to a more important conversation. A conversation about the gospel.  

As we go through our days, looking to speak to others about Christ, maybe it’s time we considered how asking about someone’s tattoo could be intentionally evangelistic

….

Tattoos present a marvelous gospel opportunity for us. As my coworker, a former tattoo artist, said, “99 percent of people get a tattoo for a reason. There’s a story behind the artwork.” And that, my Christian friend, is an open door! Why not walk through it?

….

Why not ask the barista you order coffee from each morning (whose name I hope you know by now), “Hey Sam, I’ve noticed that tattoo on your arm and have been thinking about it. What is it exactly?” Depending on how he responds, follow up with, “What made you decide on that design?”  

Or how about a coworker or neighbor you’ve gotten to know a bit? Why not take the risk of possibly sounding nosy or weirdly curious: “Hey Laura, I’ve seen those words on your wrist. What made you choose those? I’m curious.” And then shut your mouth and listen. There’s a story behind that tattoo. 

Even if they don’t share their story with you right then and there, it might be the thing God uses to open a door and give you an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s amazing what you can learn about somebody with that simple prompt. 

In response to my questions, I’ve heard people’s whole life stories. I’ve had a man tell me about his tattoo in memoriam for the infant daughter he tragically lost. Others have shared their love of nature—or “Mother Earth” as they called it. I even had a fellow nurse explain her love for Dr. Who because of how he cared for others, particularly the innocent. According to her, that’s what led her into nursing. Even if someone doesn’t remember getting their tattoo, that drunken night or wild weekend is part of their story. 

We can respond to each of these stories with gospel truth. Jesus, the ultimate caregiver, has made a way for the dead to come to life through his own death and resurrection. He knows what suffering is like. He can identify with the broken. He’s the Creator and Sustainer of this amazing world. All we see, he has made. He’s the master storyteller, and he’s at the center of it all. 

Why not use a tattoo story as a bridge to invite others to become a part of God’s larger story?

Do you have tattoos? If you do, remember this post the next time an Evangelical strikes up a conversation with you about your body art. (Especially if it is Jerry Falwell, Jr. asking about your tats that aren’t visible.) Evangelical zealots want to evangelize you so they can put another notch of the handle of their gospel six-shooter. Yet another sinner slain for Jesus. Perhaps unbelievers need to get tattoos that say “Fuck Off” or “No, I am Not Interested in What You Are Selling” or Born-Again Atheist.” Or maybe just wear garlic around your neck to ward off the Evangelical vampires who want to drain the life out of you.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Willie Forrest Accused of Sexually Molesting Children

pastor willie forrest

Willie Forrest, pastor of Springhill Pope Missionary Baptist Church in Pope, Mississippi, stands accused of sexually molesting several children on his church’s property.

WLBT-3 reports:

Willie Forrest is pastor of Springhill Pope Missionary Baptist in Panola County.

Church members tell us they are shocked by the allegations. They say they haven’t heard any rumors or talk about sexual impropriety at the church.

“It’s very shocking,” said Minnie Doyle, church member.

Forrest has served as pastor at the church for 14 years.

“He had a great church,” said Doyle. “You’d never think anything like that was going on.”

Forrest is charged with three counts of molesting children under the age of 15.

District Attorney John Champion said the alleged crimes happened at the church and Forrest’s home in Coldwater where he was arrested Monday.

….

Springhill Pope Missionary Baptist Church is on a hill in the main part of the community of Pope, which has a population of about 200 people.

The church is close to an elementary school.

“I don’t like it,” said Pope resident Caroline Reddick. “It is too close to the school, and how long has it been going on? How long has he been there? That’s what I’m saying. That’s very bad.”

Word of Forrest’s arrest has spread around Pope. One woman in a convenience store said she was shocked. She said she didn’t know the pastor personally but he would visit the store occasionally and he seemed nice.

“He seemed nice.” “He had a great church.” People are shocked when they hear that a local pastor — perhaps their pastor — is accused of sex crimes. It’s as if pastors are morally superior to everyone else, pillars of moral virtue. This naivety is what allows predatory preachers to commit heinous crimes, often for years. If the Black Collar Crime series teaches us anything, it is this: pastors are not, in any way, more or less moral than the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Blind trust in church leaders by congregants and community members allows predators to cause incalculable harm to others. Until congregants start paying close attention to the behavior of church leaders, this kind of stuff will continue to happen. Forrest may be a “nice” man, a wonderful pastor of a “great” church, but according to news stories, he is also a sexual predator.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland Charged with Sex Crimes

Pastor Stricjavvar Strick Strickland

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

Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, pastor of Second Baptist Church (website not active) in Kalamazoo, Michigan stands accused of sexually assaulting four teenboys, paying them to have sex with his wife while he watched.

Strickland faces two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct on a student, another on a person age 13-15 and another by force or coercion. The good pastor also faces four counts of human trafficking of a minor for commercial sexual activity and three counts of child sexually abusive activity.

MLive reports:

A Kalamazoo pastor accused of sexually assaulting four male victims between the ages of 15 and 17 is said to have paid the children to have sex with his wife while he watched.

The Rev. Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, of Kalamazoo’s Second Baptist Church, has been charged with 11 felonies connected to alleged incidents spanning from Aug. 1, 2015- Aug. 31, 2018, according to a probable cause affidavit filed last week in Kalamazoo County District Court.

….

A warrant for Strickland’s arrest was issued Aug. 21. As of Tuesday, Aug. 25, the pastor was yet to turn himself in. His attorney, Michael Hills, told MLive early Tuesday, that the two were making arrangements for the pastor to turn himself in.

….

“It has been two years since these allegations first came forward and Pastor Strickland has remained in contact and available. He is not running from this,” Hills said. “Pastor Strickland remains ready to turn himself in and deal with these charges accordingly.”

….

If convicted, the pastor faces a potential penalty of 15 years in prison on each of the first four charges, and 20 years on each of the other seven charges, according to his warrant.

….

In a bond recommendation, filed with the court along with the arrest affidavit, Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Christin J. Mehrtens-Carlin recommends the court not allow the pastor to have any contact with the four alleged victims, his wife Jazmonique Strickland, or anyone under the age of 18.

“Per the reports, the defendant and his wife would use their employment at Phoenix High School (in Kalamazoo) and to some extent, the defendant would use his work as a pastor, to find male teens to engage in sexual activity with the wife, while the defendant watched and masturbated,” Mehrtens-Carlin writes in her bond recommendation.

Pastor Strickland calls the charges against him “absolutely preposterous.” Strickland added, “All I can say for now is that we are prepared for this fight. God will prevail.”

It is doubtful that God will show up on the scene to deliver Pastor Strickland from his predicament. Hopefully, justice will prevail. Kudos to Michigan state police and prosecutors for not letting Strickland’s notoriety stand in the way of seeking criminal charges against him.

According to an archived bio page for Strickland:

Pastor Strick Strickland succeeds Rev. Matthew W. Wright as pastor of Second Baptist Church and was elected January 22, 2012. Strickland has been preaching since age 19, a year after he got saved. He says that although he grew up in the church in Warren Hill, Mississippi, he didn’t really accept Christ until age 18. Apart of what helped him make his decision in the end was seeing his peers struggle on the streets where he grew up. In fact, he mentions that he had strayed away from church for a while. He got into trouble and landed in an alternative school. However, even there he excelled academically and tested in the top 5 percentile of students across the nation. He was in a gang and was labeled “Expected to fail”. Thus, Pastor Strickland’s story is one of how God is still a God of miracles, even today.

When asked how he knew he was called to preach, he replied, “Because it was the last thing I wanted to do”. He says that it was not only that he didn’t want to preach, but it was also that he didn’t relish the lifestyle of a preacher.

Prior to accepting the position as Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Pastor Strickland pastored at Pen Oak Missionary Baptist Church from 2005-2008, then went on to lead Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Collins, Mississippi. Second Baptist Church and the city of Kalamazoo hopes this is the beginning of a long stay at Second Baptist. Prior to accepting the position as Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Pastor Strickland pastored at Pen Oak Missionary Baptist Church from 2005-2008, then went on to lead Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Collins, Mississippi. Second Baptist Church and the city of Kalamazoo hopes this is the beginning of a long stay at Second Baptist.

Pastor Strickland is also a national recording artist and the lead singer for a group called the True Believers. We hope that through his preaching and singing many souls will be won for the Kingdom of God. Since his election at Second Baptist Church, he has been involved in the Spiritual Awakening Services at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the Jump Start Revival at his church, and spoke on 95.5 FM radio. As a young pastor, this is an example other young people that want to become pastors, ministers, singers or entrepreneurs can learn from.

Pastor Strickland relocated to Michigan, while most of his family lives in Mississippi where he was raised by his grandmother as an only child. His grandmother was a spiritually-oriented woman who helped him with his homework every night. He was in junior high school when he found out that his grandmother could not read or write. The way Strickland learned, however was heeding her advice to “sound out the words”. His mother Ida M. Turner resides in Joliet, Illinois along with his uncle, aunt, and a host of other relatives. Strickland says he is excited to be closer to his mother as he is her only child and she is his biggest fan.

An August 2018 WWMT-3 news report alleged that Strickland had a sexual relationship Aniya Mack. Mack was later murdered by her boyfriend, Donnovan Lewis. Strickland released the following statement, denying the allegations against him:

All of the things that I am being Accused of are ministry related!

1. Second Baptist under my leadership has helped more than 30 families with transportation barriers Aniya’s situation was no different.

2. We have shared thousands of dollars of resources to help members with rent, utilities, food…

3. The All Expenses Paid trip was a choir trip with 50 other people. This trip was also all expenses paid for all College Students of which there was 6-8 more! Who all shared rooms together. My family wife and kids where with us…

lastly, this is an attempt to discredit the church, the NAACP, and the black leader. However, I’m not running from this story. I am rather trying to be sensitive to the source of your information (A young man I don’t know at all. Who has killed his ex-girlfriend and is declaring himself insane!) his family deserves peace and my response to the propaganda will only disrupt their peace!

Ultimately and finally, I have no control over people’s dreams and feel that it is extremely unfair that I be held accountable for was a person thinks or imagines is happening!

In this particular case we have a young man who has confessed to murder and I’m sure that had I been a white leader here in Kalamazoo that would be no story especially based solely upon the word of a confessed killer and self-proclaimed insane suspect.

Aniya Mack’s memory deserves to be left in tack! Here is a young lady that has already lost her life and future and now she is being denigrated to nothing more than her pastor’s mistress! That’s the biggest injustice of all!

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Leader John Sapp Jr. Charged with Sex Crimes

john c sapp jr

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

John C. Sapp Jr. a youth leader at Maranatha Fellowship in Dover, Delaware, stands accused of sexually abusing two teen girls under his care.

Delaware Online reports:

A 34-year-old Hartly man has been indicted on 89 charges he was involved in sexual relationships with two teenage girls who were members of a church youth group he’d been leading for the past three years. 

Word of the sexual liaison came to light when John C. Sapp Jr. contacted Maranatha Fellowship church’s lead pastor in February requesting to “immediately meet with him,” according to court documents. It was during this meeting, at Sapp’s house with his wife there, that the youth leader confessed to “inappropriately touching” a girl.

….

Delaware State Police investigators questioned the girl Sapp had mentioned.

The girl told investigators that she and Sapp began a “secret relationship” in October 2017, when she was 15, according to court records. 

The two would perform sexual acts, usually inside Sapp’s truck, but there were times the contact occurred at his house, church premises and even on a youth group camping trip, according to court records. 

….

The pastor told investigators that after the Feb. 13 meeting with Sapp, he became aware of an additional member of the youth group “who may have had similar relations” with Sapp.

….

When investigators spoke to the second girl, court records state she told officers she and Sapp started a “secret sexual relationship” when she was 16. That relationship went from January 2019 to January of this year.

Like the other relationship, court documents said Sapp and the girl had their encounters in the man’s truck, sometimes at his or her house and at times in the parking lot of Delaware Technical Community College’s Dover Campus. These encounters occurred at least twice a month. 

….

Sapp has been indicted on multiple charges, including continuous sexual abuse of a child, sexual abuse of a child by a person of trust, fourth-degree rape with a victim under the age of 18 and unlawful sexual contact.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Dear Unmarried Woman: Are You an Appetizer or a Dessert?

bethany jett
Bethany Jett

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Just when I think I’ve heard all there is to hear from Evangelicals about sex, purity, and the like, someone will write or say something that I have not heard before. In other words, not all the nuts have fallen from the tree.

In 2015, Bethany Jett, a then thirty-something married Evangelical woman who writes on girly topics from a godly perspective, wrote a blog article about two reasons why a woman should save herself for marriage. Here’s what Jett had to say:

I remembered why I decided to wait to have sex as I listened to a podcast from Andy Stanley this morning on my way home from dropping off children at school.

“I’m not the appetizer, I’m the dessert.”

If we start off loaning our bodies, who is going to wait around for the main meal?

We ordered Olive Garden to-go last night and I had one of my favorite cheat meals—chicken alfredo and breadsticks with alfredo dipping sauce and an extra tub of alfredo sauce to heat up the leftovers the next day. Mmmmm … I was full and stuffed and happy. Deliriously-food-coma happy.

But I wasn’t completely satisfied. All the savory goodness was amazing, but I needed something sweet to finish it off. A bit of dark chocolate would have taken the cake … but there was NONE.

Justin ate it.

My marriage is like that. Dating Justin was the appetizer … good for a short amount of time, but I was excited to have the main meal with him. I wanted an entire lifetime. We’ve been married for almost 11 years, together for 13, and that man still gives me butterflies. He makes me strive to a better person and he is my teammate, partner, best friend and so much more.

But God knew that wasn’t enough.

So He throws a little dessert into the mix.

The dessert is exceptional.

It completes the meal…

…I’ve always believed that God means what He says. He said to wait, so I did. I always figured that if sex was as great as the students in my high school and my college roommate thought it was, that it would be even better if I waited. That God had a blessing in store if you did things His way.

There are many reasons to wait until you’re married to have sex, but here’s two at the top of the list:

1. God said to wait.

2. You’re worth waiting for…

Jett has been married for sixteen years. She is an advocate of purity rings, having worn one until her wedding night.  In 2013, Jett wrote a book titled, The Cinderella Rule: A Young Woman’s Guide to Happily Ever After.

While Jett tries to dress up her blog post with a bit of wispy, feel-good self-esteem, there really is only one reason a woman should wait until marriage to have sex: God said to wait. That’s the bottom line for Evangelicals: God said don’t do it, so don’t.

In 2015, I shared with readers Melanie Pritchard’s puritanical view of spaghetti straps. Jett has a similar view. Here’s what she had to say in The Cinderella Rule about spaghetti straps and a few other things:

Apparently, shoulders are sexy. I know that sounds crazy, but guys are wired differently than we are. That’s how God created them, and Justin (her husband) didn’t want to be tempted physically. He wanted to do things right.

Bottom line: it’s not our place to put impure thoughts into guys’ heads. We don’t understand that the male mind replays images days after seeing a girl in a short skirt or catching a glimpse down a plunging neckline.

A guy friend told me that he was minding his own business at a gas station, pumping gas, when he saw a girl at the opposite station. She wore an extremely short skirt, and he couldn’t get the image of her legs and the idea of what was under her skirt out of his head. He thought about it for a couple of days. “Those images don’t just leave your mind,” he said. “I wasn’t even trying to look at the girl either–“I was merely glancing around. “He ended up masturbating to remove the building tension.

While guys are responsible for their thoughts, we can’t allow Satan to use us as a tool to lead guys down a path toward lust, pornography, and sexually impure behaviors. Even wearing spaghetti straps during a church service can throw guys off. Another guy confessed that one Sunday, he had trouble concentrating on communion and the sermon that followed because the girl next to him had bare shoulders. He was wracked with guilt for not being able to concentrate, unable to push his thoughts away since she was right next to him.

Ladies, we may never fully comprehend how guys think, but if they’re telling us they can’t concentrate, let’s help them out. Grab a cardigan for church or work, or anywhere, and let’s keep our skirts and shorts an appropriate length…

…a godly guy wants to date a girl who shares his values.  If you want to be pursued properly, you must dress appropriately–just enough skin to be cute,  but not enough to reveal the goods. Dressing modestly helps keep his mind from going into fantasy overdrive.

Remember, a guys pursuit is with an end goal in mind; and girlfriend, we are taking a pursuit to the altar…

…Honestly,  chasing a guy is exhausting. Most guys will do anything with anyone, and high school and college guys, in particular, are not known for their exclusivity. Raging hormones dictate many a guy’s decisions; and if you pursue him, you won’t ever be sure whether it’s his heart or his hormones that loves you more.

When a man sees a girl he wants, he goes after her…Similar to a lion stalking his prey, a man will overcome any obstacle to get the woman he wants. I’m not talking about creepy stalker behavior. I’m talking about romantic, I can’t get her out of my head intensity. When a worthy guy desires you like that, girl, watch out!

But you’ll be ready.

You’ll know how to look.

How to dress.

How to act..

…when the right man starts the pursuit, let him.

I’m gonna to show you how…

What’s up with spaghetti straps? Am I out of the lust loop here? I’ve seen more than a few spaghetti-strapped women — my wife included — and I don’t think I ever had the thought, oh my, I need to have her right now. If I don’t have sex with her RIGHT now, I am going to have to spank the monkey to release all the built-up sexual tension.

Pritchard wrote about not revealing the “mystery.” Jett, taking a similar approach, writes about a woman not giving away all her “secrets.” What’s with all the code for genitalia and sex? Are Evangelicals so prudish that the correct words for genitalia and sex can’t be used?

modest dress
Little House on the Prairie, Preferred Dress for Fundamentalists

Maybe Pritchard’s and Jett’s problem is that they have spent their life around the weak, pathetic, forbidden-sex-on-the-brain men found in Evangelical and Catholic churches. Perhaps they need to get out more and spend time with real men, men who know how to control their sexual desires and know how to treat a woman appropriately.

Think for a moment about the pathetic, weak boys mentioned in the excerpts from Jett’s book. A man is pumping gas, he sees a woman with a short skirt, and he is so driven with lust that he later has to masturbate. The other man couldn’t focus on communion and the sermon because a woman near him had bare shoulders. Can there be any better examples of weak, sexually immature church boys? Not men, adolescent boys. 

Boys like these have been conditioned to think that they are helpless, that it is not within their power to sexually control themselves. Perhaps every church boy is like the stupid young man in Proverbs 7:

…I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart… Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves…With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks . . .

What I want to know is this: was the harlot wearing spaghetti straps?

It’s time for church boys to grow into men and own their sexuality. If they can’t keep from lusting, the problem is theirs, and not that of the women who dare to bare a leg, shoulder, or show some cleavage. If they are so sexually charged up that they are reaching in their pants as soon as they see an attractive woman, perhaps they need to spend more time looking at porn and self-pleasuring themselves until they get their “sexual tension” under control.

But Bruce, some women DO dress provocatively. Shouldn’t they be called out on their deliberate attempt to make men lust? First, how do you know that is what they are trying to do? Second, perhaps you need to learn to enjoy God’s creation. Yes, women are attractive, and yes, they can arouse sexual feelings in men. Duh, biology, right? Would you rather women dressed like they just walked off the set of Little House on the Prairie? Learn to control your thoughts and desires. It really is that simple. No God needed.

Sadly, far too many churches are nurseries filled with infantile men who can’t control themselves. I don’t know of any other way to change their behavior than to say to them, STOP IT!

People such as Bethany Jett and Melanie Pritchard are shooting at the wrong target. As often occurs in many Muslim countries, American Christians with puritanical ideas about dress and sexuality put the blame on women who dare to dress in ways that show their femininity and sexuality. Jett wants young women to show just enough skin to catch a man, but then the free show is over until the man puts a ring on her finger. In other words, she wants women to be flashers, showing just enough flesh to get the attention of suitable prospects for marriage.

Every day or so it seems there is a news report of an Evangelical pastor, evangelist, college professor, church leader, or Sunday school teacher getting into trouble because he can’t keep his hands to himself or keep his pants zipped up. (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.) This should not surprise us because many of these “fallen” leaders — Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his wife, for example — were raised in churches that preach the puritanical sexuality found in Jett’s book, blog, and other writing. It’s the whole blind-leading-the-blind thing. Generation after generation of Evangelical boys have been taught that they are impotent when it comes to controlling their sexual thoughts, urges, and desires. After a few generations of this, you end up with churches filled with hapless men who get boners as soon a woman shows more flesh than one of the young women on Little House on the Prairie. Instead of being taught to be accountable for their actions, these men are instead taught to flee from the Jezebels that roam the halls of the church; women who will rob them of their virtue.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Honest Reflections From an Evangelical Pastor: It Was Never About Saving Souls

bruce-gerencser-street-preaching-september-7-1990

Let me share a dirty little secret with readers about Evangelicals who are actively involved in what is commonly called “public evangelism.” Door-to-door evangelism, street preaching, handing out tracts, standing on street corners with Bible verse signs — why do some Evangelicals do these things? Is the grand goal to win as many souls as possible before Jesus returns to earth? Is the notion that Hell is hot and death is sure what drives these evangelizers to make a public spectacle of themselves? Is everything they do driven by a love for the lost souls? Surely, these people are True Christians, right? The overwhelming majority of Evangelicals never verbalize their faith to someone else. Yet, these zealots go out of their way to confront non-Christians with their peculiar version of the Christian gospel. Surely, they are the “real” Christians of our day, right? 

I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 years. I spent my formative years in churches that were quite aggressive evangelistically. I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in the 1970s. Midwestern was known for producing soulwinning pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. As a pastor, I certainly followed my training, using the techniques I was taught to harass as many people as possible for Jesus. Yet, despite my on-fire, aggressive soulwinning efforts, few people asked Jesus to save them as a direct result of my efforts. Yes, hundreds of people were saved after listening to me preach, but the number of people saved outside of church services was few. You see, the goal of such efforts was not to win souls, as much as it was:

  • To been seen as a prophet by the community; to be seen as one willing to publicly take a stand for Jesus
  • To been seen as a preacher different from and superior to the other preachers in town; I was the one who cared for their souls, not their pastors
  • To been seen in the same light as the Apostle Paul and other first-century Christians; to say to the communities where I pastored that my churches were the real deal, cut from the fabric of the churches found in the Bible
  • To be seen as being “right,” right about God, Jesus, salvation, the Bible, and New Testament Christianity

Most Americans don’t want to be bothered by Fundamentalist evangelizers. Let me share a soulwinning story from years ago that I think aptly illustrates this fact. One Saturday, Greg Carpenter (Please see Dear Greg.) and I were knocking on doors in Junction City, Ohio. At the time I was the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry. It was a bitterly cold Ohio winter day, but warm on the inside with love for souls, we started out going door-to-door, looking for people who would let us share the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) gospel with them. We finally came upon a young woman who was willing to “listen” to us. She wouldn’t invite us inside, so we stood on her porch as Greg attempted to win her to Jesus. I still can picture in my mind this woman today. She had no coat on, yet there she stood freezing her ass off as Greg took her through whatever evangelism plan we were using that day. When Greg asked her if she would like to ask Jesus to save her, she said yes! Greg led her in the sinner’s prayer, and the woman was wonderfully and gloriously saved. We heard the angels in Heaven rejoicing over another lost soul being rescued from the clutches of Satan. 

After praying the sinner’s prayer, the newly-saved woman closed the door and we went on our way looking for more victims, er, I mean, lost souls. She was the only soul that was saved that day. Later attempts to get the woman to be baptized and attend church proved futile. You see, the only thing she got saved from on the cold winter day was Greg and Bruce. She just wanted to shut her door and be left alone. 

Winning this woman to Jesus fueled our pride, reminding us that we were doing a great work for the Lord of Lord and Kings and Kings. We were, in fact, bugging people who didn’t want to be bothered. But, since when have Evangelical zealots cared about what non-Christians thought? I didn’t. I was a God-called preacher of the gospel. I was determined to tell others the “truth” even if they didn’t want to hear it. 

“I told them, Lord! The results are up to you,” I told myself. Yep, I sure told them. Part of the deconversion process for me was coming to terms with why I did what I did as an Evangelical pastor. I concluded that I deep down really didn’t care of souls were saved. “That was God’s business,” I thought. This was especially the case after I became a five-point Calvinist. What was most important to me was looking the part; being perceived as a man of God who loved sinners and would go to great lengths to win them to Jesus. 

During the eleven years I was the pastor of Somerset Baptist, over 600 hundred people made profession of faith in Christ. Some Sundays, the altar was lined with people getting saved and getting right with God. Success was measured by altar response. Yet, few of these “converts” became active, long-term church members. 600+ conversions, yet attendance was, at its highest, a little over 200. 

Why were so many people saved under my preaching, yet I failed so miserably in my soulwinning efforts outside of the church? I was passionate both inside and outside of the church. Why the disparate numbers? First, people were attracted to my preaching. By all accounts — just ask former congregants — I was a skilled, winsome preacher. Sunday after Sunday, my sermons were well received. Well, there was that mess of a sermon from Hosea. Hell, I didn’t even know what I was talking about. People drove for miles to hear me preach. I believe this affection for me personally drove the high number of conversions. Once outside of the church, I took on the traits mentioned above. I was more concerned about being a prophet, a beacon of rightness than I was helping others. The good news is that over time I lost my zeal for winning souls, choosing instead to engage people relationally. I suspect Calvinism played a big part in how I viewed the eternal destiny of other people. I left the soul-saving up to God. I just expositionally preached the Bible and left the results up to God. I can count on one hand the people who were saved during the seven years I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. Congregants — most of them, anyway — loved me, I loved them back, and we all were quite content to let the world go to Hell. This post is me being brutally, openly honest about my life as an Evangelical pastor. I am sure that my critics will see what I have written here as more proof that I wasn’t really a Christian; that I was a false prophet. To that I say, whatever. I suspect what I have written here will resonate with a lot of Evangelical preachers. They know, deep down, that I am telling the truth.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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