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In Light of Eternity . . .

living in light of eternity

“The surest thing in the world is not death and taxes, it’s death and eternity. Yet, we’re so unconcerned.”

“This life is a dressing room for eternity – THAT’S ALL IT IS!”

“Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?”

“The surest thing in the world is not death and taxes, it’s death and eternity. Yet, we’re so unconcerned. What are you going to do when you get to eternity, if you can’t stick in an hour with God down here?”

Leonard Ravenhill, 20th Century Evangelical Revivalist

On Sunday, my wife, Polly, and I, along with our oldest daughter, went to Defiance to buy supplies for upcoming home improvement projects. Afterward, we ate lunch at Sweetwater Chophouse and then drove out to Independence Dam to watch the eagles. From there, we drove along the north side of the Maumee River, crossed the river, and then drove along the south side of the river back to Defiance. We then stopped at Lowe’s to buy an electrical cord for the new freezer we would have delivered on Tuesday. Polly also bought some flower bulbs.

As we returned to our automobile, the following discussion took place:

Polly: Are you ready to go home, old man?

Bruce: I didn’t even want to get out of bed today. (I’ve had a string of bad days, I mean really, really, really bad days.)

Polly: But look at all you did today!

Bruce: In light of eternity . . .

Polly: Pfft, laugh . . .

Bruce: laugh . . .

I am sure some readers are trying to figure out what was so funny about what I said, “in light of eternity.” Those who were raised in Evangelical churches and were pastors, evangelists, missionaries, college professors, youth pastors, youth leaders, and devout, committed church members see the humor in what I said. You see, our Sunday jaunt was of no consequence. Just a short road trip to get Bruce out of the house; a nice meal with family. There was nothing that happened that had eternal import. Just another moment in time with the love of my life and my daughter.

Back in our Evangelical days, we were driven to live our lives “in light of eternity.” We devoted our lives to the ministry; to winning souls; to teaching and building up the people of God; to homeschooling our children, preparing them to be warriors for Jesus. We had little time for the mundane things of life. We would go to dirt track races in the summer and take road trips on occasion, but the rest of our time was spent with our shoulders to the plow, working the fields of the world for God. We had no time for date nights or vacations. How could we? “Life is short, Hell is real, and death is certain,” we told ourselves. “Work for the night is coming when no man can work” and “prepare to meet the Lord thy God,” the Bible told us, words that motivated us to devotedly and selflessly work day and night for Jesus.

I was particularly taken with the Apostle Paul’s devotion to the gospel. He lived for the “sake of the gospel.” I thought it was my duty and obligation to do the same. That’s why I lived in beautiful southeast Ohio and never saw the sites. That’s why I lived in San Antonio and never visited the Alamo or walked the River Walk. Oh, I preached in front of the Alamo and stood above the River Walk raining words from the Bible down upon people’s heads, but no leisurely visits with family or friends. And that’s why I lived in Arizona and never saw the Grand Canyon. How could I bother with such trivial things when souls were dying and Jesus was coming soon. Even on the rare occasions we took “vacations,” we never took a vacation just for the sake of relaxation. In the 1980s, we took a trip to Cape Cod/Boston. Sure, we visited a few sites, but I was there to preach. We took numerous trips so I could preach at a church or conference. We saw wonderful scenery and sites along the way, but our goal was always the same: to preach the gospel and challenge the saints.

Hopefully, that explains to readers why we laughed when I said, “in light of eternity.”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why Are So Many Evangelical Preachers Arrogant and Full of Themselves? — Part Two

humble pastor

Part One

Part Two

Why are so many Evangelical preachers arrogant and full of themselves? While it would be easy to answer this question simply by saying that these so-called “men of God” are narcissistic Assholes for Jesus®, the correct answer is more complex and nuanced. In both yesterday’s and today’s posts, I will use the fifty years I spent in Christianity and the twenty-five years I pastored churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan as a backdrop in an attempt to answer this question. While no two life stories are exactly the same, I am confident that I can pick things out of my own story that can also be found in the life stories of many Evangelical preachers.

In the 1960s, my parents moved to San Diego, California hoping to improve their lives financially. Unfortunately, their California dream proved to be an illusion. Two years later, Mom and Dad packed up our earthly belongings and moved back to Ohio. The Robert and Barbara Gerencser who left Ohio for the promised land of California were very different people when they returned to Bryan, Ohio. While in California, my parents and I were saved at an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church — Scott Memorial Baptist Church. Overnight, Mom and Dad became devout followers of Jesus. Not long after I asked Jesus into my heart, I told Mom that I wanted to be a preacher when I grew up. I was six years old.

At the age of fifteen, during an Al Lacy revival meeting at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio, I made another public profession of faith in Christ. I remember feeling a deep sense of conviction over my sin, and once I prayed to Jesus to forgive me of my sins and save me, the shame and guilt I felt over my sins was gone. Several weeks later, feeling, yet again, a deep sense of God working in my heart, I went forward during an invitation — a time at the end of church services where people are asked to come forward to the altar to do business with God — and publicly confessed to the church that I believed God was calling me to preach. At that moment, I became the latest member of a special group called “preacher boys.”

Preacher boys, called by God to do the most important job on earth, are viewed by pastors and churches as the future of Christianity. Without a steady supply of preacher boys, churches wouldn’t have pastors, new churches wouldn’t be started, and the lost would go unsaved. Thus, preacher boys are treated in ways that make them feel unique and special. Pastors love to brag about how many preacher boys were called to preach under their ministry. Similar to gunslingers putting notches on their six-shooters’ wooden grips every time they killed someone, pastors see preacher boys as notches on their ministerial guns.

After announcing my call to the ministry, I spent the next four years being handled by pastors who took it on themselves to prepare me for the work of the ministry. In the fall of 1976, at the age of nineteen, I packed my meager belongings into the back of my rust-bucket of a car and moved from my Mom’s trailer three hours northeast to Pontiac, Michigan. Pontiac was the home of Midwestern Baptist College — an IFB institution started in the 1950s by Dr. Tom Malone (who pastored a nearby megachurch, Emmanuel Baptist Church). Midwestern was established specifically for training preacher boys for the ministry. Midwestern was an unaccredited school, so students received no financial aid. Most of the preacher boys had to work full-time jobs while attending classes. These future pastors were also required to work in one or more of the ministries at Emmanuel, along with being in attendance for Sunday school, two worship services, and midweek prayer meetings. Students were busy seven days a week, with little time for relaxation. It should come as no surprise, then, that many students washed out after their freshman year. Men who endured until the end were viewed as battle-tested preachers ready to enter the hard work of the ministry. Filled with pride and given the approval of IFB titan Tom Malone, these newly minted men of God fanned out over the world establishing new churches and pumping new life into older, established IFB churches. Forty years later, most of the men from my class are still plucking grapes in God’s vineyard. I am, as far as I know, the only person who attended Midwestern and later pastored churches who is now an atheist. (Please read The Midwestern Baptist College Preacher Who Became an Atheist.)

Evangelical young men who enter the ministry most often spend their entire lives in what I call “the Evangelical Bubble.” Within this bubble, pastors are sheltered from the world; within the bubble, Evangelical theology and practices make perfect sense; within the bubble, pastors are rarely challenged concerning their beliefs; within the bubble, pastors are viewed as God-called authority figures; within the bubble, pastors receive the praise and adulation of congregants; within the bubble, pastors are revered and treated as demigods; within the bubble, pastors answer only to God; within the bubble, pastors have no equal; within the bubble, pastors put into motion their agendas, their God-given visions for their churches; within the bubble pastors’ birthdays and ministerial anniversaries are celebrated; and within the bubble, God allegedly uses pastors in unique ways to supernaturally advance His kingdom.

Pastors who remain in this bubble are surrounded by like-minded people who believe the same things, sing the same songs, and generally live cookie-cutter lives (at least outwardly). Exposure to the outside world is limited, especially for those who are full-time pastors. I have long advocated for churches forcing pastors to be bi-vocational. Doing so exposes pastors to a world far different from that of the Evangelical bubble. Unfortunately, few churches see the value of having part-time pastors. Churches which, out of economic necessity, pay their pastors part-time wages often demand their pastors give them full-time attention.

Safely ensconced within the Evangelical bubble, pastors go about doing the work of the ministry. These sheltered men frequent pastors’ fellowships and conferences — meetings where pastors get together to whine about how evil the world is and how hard it is to be a pastor. These meetings provide pastors yet another opportunity to have their right beliefs and right practices reinforced and approved by fellow clergymen. Such meetings are pep rallies meant to rally and energize the generals of God’s army.

On Sundays, pastors mount the pulpit and preach sermons they believe God has laid upon their “hearts.” Congregants gather to hear the Word of God from the man of God, showing their approval by shouting “amen,” nodding their heads, and raising their hands. After services, pastors stand at the back of their churches, shaking hands and listening to members tell them how wonderful their sermons were. In the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches, I never had a church member shake my hand and say, Preacher, that sermon sucked or Pastor Bruce, are you sure God told you to preach that sermon?  I preached plenty of bad sermons over the years, but congregants still praised me for giving to them the Word of the Lord. Imagine being in an environment where no matter what you do, everyone tells you what a great job you are doing. Spend enough time being praised and never criticized, and you will begin to think — to speak bluntly — your shit don’t stink.

Taking what I have written above, is it any wonder that many Evangelical pastors become arrogant and full of themselves, especially when their churches grow numerically? Outwardly, these men of God are (sometimes) humble, but inwardly they think, Wow! Look at what God is doing through me — ME! ME! ME! being the operative word. Praised by congregants and peers alike, preachers find it is easy for them to lose touch with reality.

Rare is the man who can withstand a lifetime of praise and adoration without negatively being affected. Over time, pastors start to believe their press clippings, thinking that they have arrived. Sunday after Sunday, congregants file into services to hear THEIR pastor preach. It is not too much of a stretch for me to say that many pastors begin to develop bigger-than-life personalities, thinking that congregants are there to see them perform. Credence is given to this when pastors leave their churches for new ministries. What happens?  Many congregants stop attending services. If Pastor Ain’t He Awesome isn’t preaching, I’m not going, they say. Let pastors take a sabbatical or vacation and what happens? Church attendance declines. Evidently, while the proverbial cat is away, the mice play.

Throw in certain personality and psychological traits pastors tend to have, and it should come as no surprise that many Evangelical pastors are insufferable, arrogant, full-of-themselves assholes — especially in the view of those who live outside of the Evangelical bubble. Does this mean that Evangelical pastors are inherently bad people? Of course not. But years spent in the Evangelical bubble can change pastors, often for the worse. I have no doubt that some pastors will whine, complain, and howl over what I have written here, saying I AM NOT LIKE THIS!  Others, however, will admit that what I have written here hits too close to where they live.

Pastors can become so immersed in the work of the ministry that they lose all sight of reality. The solution, of course, is for pastors to leave the ministry and devote themselves to reconnecting with humanity by wallowing in the pigsty of the world. As long as they remain in the Evangelical bubble, pastors will not see things as they are. Of course, pastors aren’t going to listen to me. The calling of God is irrevocable, they will tell me, God has CALLED me, and I must not disappoint or disobey Him!  And therein lies the problem. Evangelical pastors believe that God is behind their call into the ministry, and that every sermon preached and every decision made is done by the mighty power of the Spirit of God. Until these Gods become men, I fear there is little that can be done to deliver them from the other-world, rarefied air of the Evangelical bubble.

For me, once I finally admitted that I was not what I claimed to be, that the wizard behind the curtain of Bruce Gerencser’s life was not the Evangelical God, but Bruce himself — then, and only then, could I make sense of a lifetime spent in the ministry. Every decision I claimed was made according to God’s leading was, in fact, influenced not by God, but by my parents, pastors, peers, and my own wants, needs, and desires. I now know that I genuinely want to help other people; that I love trying to fix things that are broken; that I love the thrill of building things from scratch. And yes, I now know that I loved receiving the praise and adoration heaped on me by congregants. I loved being the center of attention, the decision-maker, the man with all the answers. Does this mean I was a bad person? I will leave that to others to decide. All I can do is give an honest accounting of my life. In doing so, I hope ex-Evangelicals and those trying to extricate themselves from the Evangelical bubble will gain a bit of understanding about what they have experienced at the hands of God’s men. While I did many good works as a pastor, things that I am proud of, I must also admit that I was not always a good person; that I was, at times, filled with pride and arrogance. Am I better man today than I was as a pastor? Most certainly. I now know what it means to be human. And in reconnecting with my humanity, I have found that I still have much to offer, without, of course, the baggage of Christianity.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Shocking News! Southern Baptist Convention Leaders Ignored, Dismissed, and Marginalized Sex Abuse Victims

southern baptist sex abuse scandal
Cartoon by Clay Jones, my favorite cartoonist

An alternate headline would go something like this: OMG! The Southern Baptist Convention Has a Sex Abuse Problem — Who’d a Thunk It?

The media, much like a hog finding an acorn, breathlessly reports that notable Southern Baptist leaders knew that sexual predators were roaming the halls of SBC churches, colleges, seminaries, and youth camps. The media acts like the recently released Guidepost report on sexual abuse in the SBC (read full report here) is new information; that no one knew the depth of the depravity until the report was released. To that, I say, bullshit. Some of us have been writing about sexual abuse in Evangelicalism, in general, and the SBC and the IFB church movement, in particular, for decades. I know I have. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.) Our voices, for the most part, were ignored. I was routinely dismissed because I’m an atheist, a bitter, jaded ex-Evangelical with an ax to grind. Even if such claims are true, and they are not, this question remains: is what I write about sexual abuse, pastors abusing their positions of authority for sexual gain, and sundry other crimes committed by so-call men of God, true?

Countless Evangelicals have self-righteously told me: yes, preachers can and do commit crimes, but they are just a few rotten apples among a bushel of Red Delicious apples. As the latest report reveals, there are a lot more rotten apples in that bushel than Evangelical sects, churches, and colleges would have us believe. We are not talking about a few isolated incidences here. I suspect that there are thousands of preachers, evangelists, missionaries, college professors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, youth directors, bus workers, and church janitors who are sexual predators; men (and a few women) who prey on vulnerable children, teenagers, and adults — most of whom have never been prosecuted for their crimes (though this is changing thanks to the Internet and increasing pressure on law enforcement and prosecutors to aggressively investigate and prosecute preachers and other church leaders). We know that these predators will not stop until they are caught; until they are arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned.

For years, SBC and IFB preachers gleefully pointed out the Catholic church’s sex abuse scandal. “We preach the true gospel and personal holiness, so we don’t have such problems in our churches,” many preachers self-righteously said.

Here’s what William Reeves, pastor of North Platte Baptist Church in North Platte, Nebraska, had to say:

Reeves knows this is a bald-faced lie; a denial of the facts on the ground. As IFB and Southern Baptist preachers are wont to do, all that matters to Reeves is protecting the “good” name of the sect and its churches. That’s why the SBC executive committee, pastors, college presidents, and attorneys covered up sex crimes. All that matters is outward appearance, victims be damned.

Much like a mob family, SBC leaders buried countless sex abuse victims in non-descript, out-of-the-way plots of ground, never to be heard from again. The good news is that a true miracle is taking place. Those buried victims, long thought dead, are very much alive, shouting their stories from rooftops to all who will listen. And they will not be silenced. And as a small, insignificant voice in this battle against predatory preachers, I will continue to leverage this site’s traffic to continue to expose their crimes. As far as the SBC is concerned, several things need to happen

  • The FBI needs to begin an immediate investigation of the SBC Executive Committee and other denominational leaders. It’s evident that some SBC leaders engaged in organized criminal behavior, and, if warranted, should be prosecuted for their crimes.
  • The SBC should establish an accessible database of people accused of sex crimes. Not just those who have been prosecuted. Yes, there is a small — a very, very very small — chance someone could be wrongfully accused. That’s unfortunate, but the overwhelming majority of preachers and other church leaders accused of sex crimes are as guilty as Judas Iscariot. Often, guilty preachers escape punishment due to statutory limitations, so a lack of prosecution is not a statement of innocence.
  • Churches must enact policies that put the safety and welfare of children, teenagers, and church members first. Background checks on an annual basis (state and federal) must be required for a church to remain in the SBC. Churches must use outside investigators to thoroughly investigate new hires. Word of mouth is not good enough. Contacting a pastoral candidate’s previous church is not good enough. I candidated at a number of churches over the years. I still find it astounding what churches DIDN’T ask me. Not one church performed a background check or investigated my past. All that seemed to matter is that I was winsome, an excellent public speaker, and had a wife who could play the piano.
  • Churches should immediately shutter their youth programs and fire their youth pastors. The sheer number of youth pastors accused of sex crimes is such that the risk far outweighs the benefit. Young youth pastors have raging hormones, yet churches think it is a good idea to put them in ministries that afford them close, intimate interaction with teens and college students who also have raging hormones. What could possibly go wrong? According to the Black Collar Crime Series — a lot.
  • Accusations of sexual misconduct should be IMMEDIATELY reported to law enforcement. Don’t investigate, call for a church meeting, or interrogate the victim. It is up to law enforcement, not the church, to determine if a crime has been committed. If churches don’t do this, their leaders should be prosecuted for “failing to report.” Start throwing in jail preachers, deacons, and other church leaders for not reporting allegations of sexual abuse, and I suspect they might start taking the matter seriously.

And let me conclude by saying, Christa Brown was right.

For further information on predatory Baptist preachers, please check out the Baptist Accountability site and Abuse of Faith database.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor John Lowe II Sexually Assaulted Church Teen, Calls His Criminal Behavior “Adultery”

pastor john lowe II

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 Lowe II, the pastor of New Life Christian Church & World Outreach in Warsaw, Indiana, recently stood before his church and admitted that he committed adultery twenty years ago. After Lowe’s “confession,” his victim, Bobi Gephart, and her husband stood before the church and told them the truth about what happened between Gephart and Lowe. First, Gephart was SIXTEEN when Lowe had sex with her. Sex with a minor is sexual abuse, not “adultery.” Lowe used his position of authority to take advantage of a vulnerable church teenager and did so on multiple occasions.

The Daily Mail reports:

Pastor John Lowe II stepped down from the New Life Christian Church after being confronted on stage by Bobi Gephart, a 43-year-old woman who came forward with a microphone to tell their church in Warsaw, Indiana, how he’d groomed her as a teen, starting when she was 16 – the legal age of consent in the state.

Pastor Lowe II had just told the church that he ‘sinned’ 20 years ago by committing adultery, without mentioning how old the woman or girl was at the time. 

He begged for the church’s forgiveness, then received a standing ovation. 

Bobi then stormed towards the stage with her husband, Nate, to say it ‘was not just adultery’ because she was so young at the time. 

‘For 27 years I lived in a prison… I lived in a prison of lies and shame. Lying to protect the Lowe family. For years I thought I was a horrible person, having suicidal thoughts and not realizing what had been truly done to me.

‘I would still be in a prison if my brother had not just approached me two weeks ago with what he had seen as a teenager that bothered him all these years: his pastor in bed with his younger sister.’ 

Turning to Lowe, she continued: ‘I was just 16 when you took my virginity on your office floor. Do you remember that? I know you do.

‘You did things to my teenage body that should have never been done. If you can’t admit the truth, you have to answer to God. You are not the victim here.’ 

Bobi’s husband Nate then added: ‘This is a lie. This is not just adultery. 

‘It’s another level. It happened for nine years. When she was 15, 16, the grooming started.’ 

He presented a pearl necklace that his wife had been given by the church and a ‘purity ring’ that he said the pastor gave her during their affair. 

Nate returned both items and said the pair ‘were not stretching the truth’, but encouraged other women who had been these ‘gifts of the ministry’ to return them too.  

As the couple left the stage, the pastor then faced angry calls from the congregation. 

‘If you did it you need to admit it!’ said one angry church-goer. 

Another yelled: ‘We need to hear from our pastor!’ A third then cried out: ‘Give him the microphone!’ 

Lowe returned to the stage. 

At first he said: ‘I told you I committed adultery and that it went on far too long.’ 

A member of the congregation then shouted out: ‘You didn’t tell us she was 16!’ 

He then relented: ‘It was wrong. I can’t make it right. I can’t make it better. That’s just the way it is. 

‘It’s not all true but it did happen, yes.’ 

Because the legal age of consent in Indiana is 16, Lowe is not likely to face criminal charges for the relationship. 

He has stepped down from the church and has been scrubbed from its website. 

In a statement, the church said: ‘This long-held secret first came to light when a woman in the church came forward and disclosed the relationship to various people within the church. 

‘When confronted by others in church leadership concerning that report, Pastor Lowe confessed privately that the adultery did, in fact, occur.

Please watch the video below to see Lowe’s “confession,” and Gephart’s brave confrontation of the man who robbed her of her innocence.

Video Link

New Life released a statement. That’s what churches do. Make of it what you will. Note the statement does not use the term “sexual assault.” Also note how it paints Lowe as a “good man, gone wrong.” And does anyone seriously believe that no one over the past twenty years knew about Lowe’s assault of Bobi Gephart? Not one person? I see a lot of whitewashing and ass protecting going on in the church’s statement, couched in religious words meant to hide the fact that they had a sexual predator in their midst. Further, it is incumbent on the church to make clear exactly what Lowe’s wife knew, and when. And finally, New Life should immediately discipline Lowe, kicking him out of the church. His criminal behavior, prosecuted or not, should be widely publicized so Lowe never has another opportunity to pastor. And it should go without saying, the church must, without delay, make a confession of its own to law enforcement.

On Sunday, May 22, 2022, Pastor John B. Lowe II addressed the congregation of New Life Christian Church & World Outreach (“New Life”) at the conclusion of morning worship service and confessed that he had committed adultery on several occasions and over the course of time many years ago. When Pastor Lowe offered his confession, he also announced that he would be stepping down from his ministerial role and responsibilities with New Life.

This long-held secret first came to light when a woman in the church came forward and disclosed the relationship to various people within the church. When confronted by others in church leadership concerning that report, Pastor Lowe confessed privately that the adultery did, in fact, occur. The woman in question and her family did attend together and addressed the congregation, indicating that improper sexual conduct first occurred when she was 16 years of age and continued into her twenties. She tearfully described living with deep shame and pain over the ensuing years.

In the wake of what has now been revealed, we are hurting and broken for a woman who has lovingly attended and served in the church for many years, as well as for her husband and family. It is our deepest prayer and commitment to love, support, encourage and help her through a process of healing in any way in which we are able. New Life is likewise devoted to ministering to and with all of our members through this difficult season, that we might not only survive this, but experience together abundant grace, unity healing – all for the glory of God, and the preservation of His church.

Our brokenness extends to Pastor John B. Lowe II, his wife and family as well. For 42 years, New Life has taught and preached a Cross-driven message of repentance, forgiveness and restoration; a ministry of reconciliation which has been both led and modeled by Pastors John and Debbie Lowe. As healing occurs in their hearts, their marriage and family, we are committed to demonstrating the same support, encouragement, counsel and forgiveness that has come to define the collective heart and ministry of this body. As of Monday, May 23, 2022, Pastor John B. Lowe II tendered His resignation with New Life Christian Church and World Outreach.

To all concerned, please be assured that, until now, none of this was disclosed to or known by any of the staff, ministers or personnel of New Life. As with the church in general and the public at large, we too are responding to this without anticipation; praying and striving only to see that the Lord’s good, perfect and eternal plans will ultimately and visibly prevail. Life is messy. Believers are messy. Church is messy. God is not.

Pay particular attention to the end of the video, as the victim walks away from the platform to the back of the church. Notice what many of the congregants did. Rally around Bobi Gephart? Hell no. They gathered around the true victims in this story, Pastor Lowe and his wife. Gaze on the visage of “Christian love,” which on this night, complete with prayers and shouts of praise, gave the appearance of victim shaming. What mattered in their eyes was poor Pastor Lowe, a good man, deserving of love and forgiveness. Yes, he made a mistake, but LOOK! at all the good he has done over the years. And no doubt there will be members who will say to themselves, “well, Bobi was sixteen!” Let the victim-blaming and shaming begin. What’s next? She seduced him (as defenders IFB pastor Jack Schaap’s said about his teen victim)?

To the church members who did express their outrage over Lowe’s “confession,” thank you for speaking truth to power. It’s troubling that you are a minority at New Life, but your willingness to challenge Lowe’s “adultery” claim hasn’t gone unnoticed here in the “world.”

Lowe’s church bio states:

Pastor John B. Lowe II has been faithful in full time ministry for over 35 years. He carries a heart for the local church, yet has reached a world wide audience with an Apostolic calling. His ministry has taken him from the local church to many nations of the world where he mentors lead pastors, conducts faith conferences, marriage and family conferences and more.

Marriage and family ministry, are of high value to Pastor and his wife Debbie. They desire to impart the truth that, God is good His word is true, and it works in our lives.

Pastor John and Debbie Lowe have ministered together for many years and they emphasize living a life empowered by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.

Through New Life Christian Church they have started ministry to the homeless, community marriage seminars, private Christian education for 21 years, the gift of warmth program to offset heating cost in the winter to the needy, prison ministry, local jail ministry and Celebrate Recovery.

Lowe’s wife, Debra is New Life’s co-pastor. Lowe’s son, Bryan, is the associate pastor, and his daughter Brittney is the community pastor — truly, a family-run business. This alone speaks volumes.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Quote of the Day: Exposing Evangelical Christianity’s White Supremacist, Christian Nationalist Roots

christian nationalism
Cartoon by Trygve Olson

In the wake of the massacre in Buffalo, we have all, naturally, tried to understand what could have caused someone to commit such a horrific act of violence. This young white man linked his motivations to fears about demographic and cultural changes in the U.S., dynamics that he believed were resulting in the replacement of “the white race.”

The shooting has spurred a national discussion about the mainstreaming of these concerns, often summarized under the term “replacement theory.” Most of the attention has been given to the demographic component of this theory, while the cultural aspects have been overlooked.

But the fear of cultural replacement has an unambiguous lineage that gives it specific content. At the center of the “great replacement” logic, there is—and has always been—a desperate desire to preserve some version of western European Christendom. Far too many contemporary analysts, and even the Department of Justice, have not seen clearly that the prize being protected is not just the racial composition of the country but the dominance of a racial and religious identity. If we fail to grasp the power of this ethno-religious appeal, we will misconstrue the nature of, and underestimate the power of, the threat before us.

….

In the U.S., this drive to preserve white Christian dominance undergirded the worldview of the Ku Klux Klan when it reemerged in the early part of the 20th century. We rightly remember the terrorism aimed at Black Americans, but the KKK was also explicitly anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic; it existed to protect the dominance of a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant America.

In 1960, in my home state of Mississippi, Governor Ross Barnett regularly blended his Christian identity with talk about the threat of “white genocide.” Off the campaign trail, Barnett also served as head of the large men’s Sunday school program at the most influential church in the state, First Baptist Church. After his successful segregationist campaign, FBC blessed him with a consecration service and a gift of a pulpit Bible in recognition of his protection of their white and Christian supremacist worldview.

Why are we seeing the rise in white supremacist violence over the last decade? In short, in the U.S. context, the election, and re-election, of our first Black President coincided with the sea change of no longer being a majority white Christian nation (as I noted in my book The End of White Christian America, white Christians went from 54% to 47% in that period, down to 44% today). These twin shocks to centuries of white Christian dominance set the stage for Donald Trump.

Trump’s “Make American Great Again” formula—the stoking of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-Black sentiment while making nativist appeals to the Christian right—contains all the tropes of the old replacement theory. The nostalgic appeal of “again” harkens back to a 1950s America, when white Christian churches were full and white Christians comprised a supermajority of the U.S. population; a period when we added “under God” to the pledge of allegiance and “In God We Trust” to our currency.

These fears about the “great replacement” are not fringe among conservative subgroups today, according to recent data from PRRI. While only 29% of Americans agree, for example, that “Immigrants are invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background,” that number rises to dangerous levels among a range of groups comprising the conservative base in U.S. politics: 67% among those who say they most trust Fox News; 65% among QAnon believers; 60% among Republicans; 50% among white evangelical Protestants, and 43% among white American without a college degree.

Moreover, among white Americans, there is high (two-thirds) overlap between beliefs in Christian nationalism and replacement theory. And both views are associated with higher support for political violence among whites

….

The Department of Homeland Security has declared that white supremacists “remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland.” President Joe Biden, importantly, became the first U.S. President to use the words “white supremacy” in his inaugural address; and in the wake of the massacre in Buffalo last weekend, he called white supremacy a “poison…running through our body politic.” But while each identified white supremacy and dangerous “ideologies,” there is no acknowledgment of the documented ways right-wing Christianity has nourished these views.

There is a troubling religious double standard in the U.S.—one which threatens our safety and our democracy. If these same kinds of appeals and violent actions were being made and committed by Muslims, for example, most white Americans would be demanding actions to eradicate a domestic threat from “radical Islamic terrorism,” a term we heard relentlessly during the Trump era. But because Christianity is the dominant religion in this country, its role in supporting domestic terrorism has been literally unspeakable.

The clear historical record, and contemporary attitudinal data, merit an urgent discussion of white Christian nationalism as a serious and growing threat to our democracy. if we are to understand the danger in which we find ourselves today, we will have to be able to use the words white Christian nationalism and domestic terrorism in the same sentence.

— Robert P. Jones, Time, It’s Time to Stop Giving Christianity a Pass on White Supremacy and Violence, May 23, 2022

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Lori Alexander Sees Herself as a Misunderstood Prophet

lori and ken alexander

Corrupt minds. Reprobate. Wax (Grow) worse and worse. Deceiving and being deceived. Defiled. Unbelieving. This explains it all, doesn’t it, women. Those who choose to not believe in Jesus Christ are blinded by truth. They don’t understand it. (Read Romans 1.) They can’t comprehend what I teach. What I teach is cruel and unreasonable to them. They falsely believe that what I teach is dangerous. They follow Satan, the father of lies rather than God, the Father of Truth.

Nothing should surprise us in our culture. God tells us that those who reject Him and His truth will grow worse and worse. I love how John MacArthur taught that we should have no expectations on this earth. Satan is the prince of the power of the air. His wickedness is unending. He has many slaves. We serve the God of Truth. His ways are higher than our ways. Sometimes we don’t understand what He commands of us, but we obey Him because we know He is good and His ways are good.

— Lori Alexander, The Transformed Life, Trying to Understand Our Culture, May 22, 2022

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why Are So Many Evangelical Preachers Arrogant and Full of Themselves? — Part One

humble pastor

Part One

Part Two

Why are so many Evangelical preachers arrogant and full of themselves? While it would be easy to answer this question simply by saying that these so-called “men of God” are narcissistic Assholes for Jesus®, the correct answer is more complex and nuanced. In what follows, I will use the fifty years I spent in Christianity and the twenty-five years I pastored Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan as a backdrop as I attempt to answer this question. While no two life stories are exactly the same, I am confident that I can pick things out of my own story that can also be found in the life stories of many Evangelical preachers. Readers who were long-time members of Evangelical churches or once in the ministry themselves will likely agree with much of what I have written here. Try as we humans might — thinking we are special, unique snowflakes — to frame our stories as different from the rest, certain sociological, psychological, biological, and tribal influences directly affect how we live our lives, revealing that none of us is as radically distinctive as we think we are.

In the 1960s, my parents moved to California, hoping to find a pot filled with gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. While they never found great wealth, my parents did embrace certain religious and political beliefs that would dramatically change not only their lives, but mine. Mom and Dad both found Jesus at Tim LaHaye’s church — Scott Memorial Baptist Church — and while attending Scott Memorial, were exposed to the uber-right-wing anti-communist group The John Birch Society. My parents, overnight, became Fundamentalist Christian zealots and defenders of right-wing political extremism. While in California, Mom campaigned for Barry Goldwater, hoping that he would unseat incumbent Democratic president Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential election. Goldwater lost the election, garnering only thirty-eight percent of the popular vote.

Not long after my parents became born-again Christians, I too gave my heart to Jesus. This youthful, uninformed, manipulated-by-children’s-church-workers decision was the first step of many I would take as I followed after and served the Evangelical Jesus. Not long after asking Jesus into my heart, I told Mom that I wanted to be a preacher when I grew up. A decade later, as is common among Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB), I made another public profession of faith, and a few weeks later I informed the church that I believed God was calling me to preach. This one moment, publicly saying that Jesus wanted me to be a “man of God,” would color and affect virtually every important decision I would make for the rest of my life.

A week or so after I let the church know I was called to preach, I preached my first sermon. I was fifteen. I would preach my last sermon thirty-three years later. All told I preached 4,000+ sermons. During this span of time, I attended an IFB college to study for the ministry, married an IFB pastor’s daughter who was looking to marry a preacher, was the assistant pastor of two churches, and pastored five churches. I also started four new churches, two Christian schools, and a multi-church youth fellowship. While at the various churches I pastored, I started street preaching ministries, nursing home ministries, and youth groups, along with preaching numerous special meetings (revivals, conferences, etc). I also attended pastors’ fellowship meetings, and supported fellow pastors when their churches had revivals and conferences.

In the mid-1970s, I spent three years at Midwestern Baptist College training for the ministry. I met Polly there, and during the summer between our sophomore and junior year years, we married, excited that God had called both of us to into full-time service — me to a life of praise and adulation and Polly to a life of watching the nursery and dutifully modeling the patriarchal way of life. It should come as no surprise then, that Polly’s view of the twenty-five years we spent in the ministry is very different from mine.

During the three years I spent training for the ministry, I taught Sunday school, worked in the bus ministry, helped with the youth group, and held services at a drug rehab/halfway house in Detroit. Unlike many of the men who attended Midwestern, I actually gained a lot of preaching experience by the time I left Midwestern in the spring of 1979. It was not uncommon for men to graduate from Midwestern having only preached sermons in their homiletics class and infrequent services at their home churches.

While attending Midwestern, it was drilled into my head that it was GOD, not MAN, who had called me to preach; that no one but God could tell me what to preach. I was also taught the importance of following the leading of the Holy Spirit, not only in my preaching, but also in determining whether I should start a new church or become the pastor of an established church. As a preacher, according to what was modeled to me by my pastors and what I was taught in college, I answered to no one but God. Jesus may have been head of the church, but on earth I was the final authority on spiritual and theological matters.

Baptists love to attack the Roman Catholic Church with its Pope and his infallible pronouncements, yet they seem blind to the fact that in their churches, every church has its own little pope — the pastor. Saved by God, called by God, filled with the Spirit of God, led by God, and given absolute authority, these Evangelical chosen ones rule their churches as kings and potentates. Pastors, commanded by God to “humbly” sit at the head of the table, expected congregants to submit to their God-given authority, obeying those that have the rule over them (Hebrews 13:17).

Some Evangelical churches, hoping to correct the excesses of single-pastor church rule, have a plurality of pastors (elders) or have governing boards.  All these polity changes do is increase the number of bwanas. The end result is the same: a man or small group of men rule over the church. And more often than not, in churches with governing boards, there is one man, the senior/preaching pastor, who is the hub around which the church turns. As is clear to anyone who is paying attention, Evangelical churches are all about the man who stands at the front of the church and preaches and teaches the Bible. Whether intentional or not, Evangelical churches become Pastor So-and-So’s church. His name is on the sign, bulletin, and every piece of advertising put out by the church. It is not uncommon for congregants to say when asked where they attend church, I go to Pastor Ain’t He Awesome’s church. Churches pastored by men with John Holmes-sized oratorical prowess take great pride in having a pastor who is a great pulpiteer.

I preached thousands of sermons during my time as a pastor, and, hopefully without coming off as braggadocios, was considered by the people I pastored and my peers to be an excellent public speaker. My sermons were well-crafted, steeped in study and prayer, and delivered with passion and animation. I expected every sermon I preached to be used by God to save the lost and motivate the saints. I expected to see visible human responses — be it nodding heads, shouts of “amen,” raised hands, or tears — during my sermons, and at the end, I expected to see movement towards the front during altar calls. I was of the opinion then, and am still of this persuasion today, that public speakers should always bring audiences to a place of acting on that which they have heard — be it getting saved, getting right with God, or advancing this or that political cause.

Evangelical preachers believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. Every word is straight from the mouth of God, and with rare exception, these God-breathed words are meant to be understood literally. This way of reading the Bible forces Evangelical preachers to defend all sorts of absurd beliefs; things such as the idea that the universe was created in six twenty-four-hour days and is six-thousand and twenty-four years old. Ministries such as Answers in Genesis and Creation Research Institute were established to give literalism a veneer of respectability, and countless apologetical books are published in the hope that pastors will read them so they are better equipped to defend Evangelicalism’s literalistic view of the Bible.

Let me conclude this post by tying everything together, setting the foundation for what I will write in Part Two. Evangelical preachers are saved and called into the ministry by God. They are viewed as people uniquely qualified to teach and preach the Bible. From the moment Evangelical preachers are called into the ministry until they preach their last sermon, they are treated as special and placed in positions of honor, power, and authority few Christians ever experience. Evangelical pastors who go off to college to be trained for the ministry are reminded by their professors and chapel speakers that God has given them the greatest job on earth; that becoming president of the United States would be a step down for them; that God will greatly reward them in heaven if they give their hearts, souls, and minds to the work of the ministry; that if God so chooses, they might even see Him use them to reap harvests of souls and build large churches.

Trace the life of the typical Evangelical preacher and you will find a lifetime of adulation, praise, and being in the spotlight. Even in small country churches deep in back-woods hollers, preachers are honored and revered. Is it any wonder, taking all that I have said in this post, that many Evangelical preachers become arrogant and full of themselves? Rare is the man who can handle a lifetime of praise and adoration, coupled with absolute power, control, and authority, and not be adversely affected, particularly when you factor in the Type-A, narcissistic, workaholic, driven personalities many preachers have. And rarer still is the man who is willing to admit these things.

I am sure some Evangelical preachers will self-righteously and indignantly say that they were NOT like me, but with their protestations they will only prove my point. I hope, at the very least, Evangelical pastors, evangelists, and missionaries will shut up and listen to what this old curmudgeon has to say. I may now be an atheist, but my leaving the ministry and Christianity has allowed me to have a unique view of Evangelical preachers and the work of the ministry. Perhaps I yet have a sermon to preach to those who claim by their words and actions to be know-it-alls for God.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Dear Frank, Is Bruce Backslidden or Was He Never Saved To Begin With?

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Rick, 1996, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio

Several years ago, I received a Facebook notification about approving something Rick, a friend of mine, wanted to post to my wall. Rick is a long-time friend, former parishioner, and frequent reader of this blog. What’s interesting about his request is that he meant his message to be a private one sent to a friend of his by the name of Frank. The reason I got the notification is that he inadvertently tagged me. Here’s the message Rick sent to Frank — also a man I have known for many years.message to frank

Don’t be put off by Rick’s poor language skills. Several years ago, Rick had a major stroke. This affected his ability to write sentences. Best I can tell, the stroke has not affected his ability to study and read the Bible, nor has it affected his ability to read religious materials.

I met Rick in the late 1990s. At the time, I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. Rick, a Calvinist, was looking for a Calvinistic church to attend and someone recommended that he check out Somerset Baptist. Rick joined the church, happy in knowing that he had found a man who was conversant in the doctrines of grace (the five points of Calvinism). For the next five years, I would drive two times a week — thirty miles round trip — to New Lexington to pick Rick up for church.

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Frank and Rick, 1993, Somerset Baptist Church, Sunday Dinner

One Sunday night, while on our way to the church, Rick was waxing eloquently about double predestination and whether children who die in infancy and developmentally disabled people are automatically a part of the elect — those whom God, from before the foundation of the world, has chosen to save. I told Rick, with a slight irritation in my voice, that Calvinistic Baptist great Charles Spurgeon believed such people were numbered among the elect. Rick, not the sharpest tool in the shed when it came to social cues, continued to defend God having the absolute right to eternally torture anyone, including infants and developmentally disabled people, in the Lake of Fire. I could feel anger welling. I thought to myself, has Rick forgotten that I have a developmentally disabled two-year-old daughter with Down syndrome? Doesn’t he care how hurtful his words are? I slammed on the brakes and told Rick to get out of the car. He could walk to church, I told him. I quickly cooled down, telling him, I didn’t want to hear another word from him about whether infants and developmentally disabled people are elect. Rick complied, moving on to other hot button Calvinistic issues.

Let me share another Rick memory, one that I think readers will find funny. Rick worked third shift at a residential home for the developmentally disabled — Mount Aloysius. Unsurprisingly, Rick was quite tired by the time he arrived for Sunday morning church. Try as he might to stay awake, Rick would often fall asleep. Rick snored, so the entire congregation knew when Rick was sleeping. Sunday after Sunday I watched Rick fight sleep, his head bobbing back and forth during my hour-long sermons. One Sunday, Rick bobbed his head back and then forward just as he did Sunday after Sunday. This time, however, Rick’s head traveled forward farther than he intended, smacking the pew in front of him. I stopped preaching and went to Rick to make sure he was okay. Fortunately, the only thing harmed was his pride. After the service, I told Rick that perhaps he should skip the Sunday morning service when he worked the night before. That way he could be rested and mentally fresh for the Sunday evening service. By the way, this was the only time in twenty-five years of pastoring churches that I told someone, please don’t come to church.

I haven’t been Rick’s pastor for over twenty-seven years, and the last time I saw him was in 1996 when he and Frank drove to West Unity, Ohio to attend services at a new church I had planted. Since then, I have traded a few emails with Rick, but nothing of substance.

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Rick, Bruce, Greg, and boy, 1993 , Somerset Baptist Church, Sunday Dinner

Rick’s message is a reminder to me that people still talk about my deconversion. People who knew me well — as Rick and Frank once did — are still trying to square the pastor they once knew with the atheist named Bruce Gerencser. In Rick’s case, he wonders if am just backslidden, or is it possible that I never was saved. I am sure Rick prefers the backslidden explanation. I am sure trying to wrap his mind around the possibility of me never being saved is too much for him to emotionally and intellectually handle. If I was never saved, this means that Rick was taught for five years by an unsaved pastor, a man he heard expositionally preach hundreds of times; preaching that he believed was empowered by the Holy Spirit. I am sure he remembers the countless hours we spent after church talking theology. I am sure he remembers my love, kindness, and compassion, and my willingness to, week after week, drive to New Lexington and pick him up so he could attend church. I am sure he asks himself, how is it possible that the Bruce I knew was never a true Christian.

The easy out for Rick is for him to embrace Arminianism with its belief that saved people can and do fall from grace. Doing so would mean that I once was saved, but now I am not. Of course, Rick’s Calvinism keeps him from believing I have lost my salvation, so he is forced to psychologically torture himself with thoughts about whether I am backslidden or was never a Christian to start with.

I wish Rick nothing but the best. I hope he will, in time, come to terms with my current godless state. I chose to be exactly where I am today. Or did I? Perhaps all of this has been decreed by God, and the person ultimately responsible for my lost condition is the divine puppet master, John Calvin’s God.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser