When he [Billy Graham] died, that was something very strategic from heaven’s point of view. I know that before the foundations of the world were laid, Feb. 21, 2018 was the date that God chose to take my father home. Why?
Moses was the great liberator. He brought millions of people out of bondage, slavery, got them to the edge of the promised land, and God took him to heaven.
My father was also a great liberator. He brought millions of people out of bondage to sin, and gets us to the edge of heaven, the edge of the promised land, and God has called him home. And could it be that God is going to bring Joshua [Jesus] into the promised land, lead us into heaven?”
I believe this is a shot across the bow of heaven, and I believe God is saying, ‘Wake up, church! Wake up, world! Wake up, Anne! Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming.
Jesus said that when the gospel is preached to the whole world as it is today in this service, as it is through churches, missionaries, ministries, Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, When the gospel is preached, then the end will come.
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.
Why do Evangelical churches, pastors, and parents use scare tactics and methodologies to elicit salvation decisions from their young children and teenagers? Why are high pressure tactics used to get children to ask Jesus to save them and forgive their sins? Why can’t Evangelical parents wait until their children are older — say late teens — before pressuring them to repent of their sins and ask Jesus to become their Lord and Savior?
In what follows, I will attempt to explain the theological beliefs that drive Evangelicals to treat their children like prospects for buying new vacuüm cleaners or Florida timeshares. Week after week, Evangelical pastors preach the gospel, imploring non-Christians to admit they are sinners and in need of salvation and forgiveness. As I shall discuss at the conclusion of this post, many Evangelical preachers and churches go to extreme lengths to scare children into becoming Christians.
According to Evangelicals, thanks to Adam and Eve sinning against God in the Garden of Eden, all humans come into this world with sin natures. This means that humans are born sinners, and not that they become sinners. Humans have no choice in the matter. Adam and Eve as the first humans are the father and mother of the human race. Because they were sinners, so are we.
God’s punishment for human sin is that every human must die physically and spiritually (first and second death). Eternal punishment in a burning lake of fire and brimstone — Hell and the Lake of Fire — awaits all humans after death.
Sometime in the future, Jesus Christ (God) will come back to earth on a white horse. Once he arrives he will defeat Satan and his followers, vanquishing sin from the earth. Jesus will then resurrect the dead and judge them, along with those who are still alive when He returns. Those who are Christians will be rewarded with a room in the eternal Kingdom of God. Everyone else will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Once this final judgment is completed, God will make a new heaven and a new earth. (I am well aware of the various eschatological schemes. I am trying to paint a general picture without getting caught up with all the various end-times interpretations.)
Since hell awaits all humans, the only way to escape the eternal pain, suffering, and darkness of the Lake of Fire is for humans to admit that they are sinners and that Jesus — thanks to his death on the cross, paying for our sins and satisfying God’s wrath — is their only hope for salvation and forgiveness. Only those who put their faith in Jesus will go to heaven when they die. (Again, I know that there are various soteriological schemes. I am trying to give the reader a broad picture without going into all the details concerning the order of salvation, Calvinism, Arminianism, etc.)
It should come as no surprise, then, based on the aforementioned core beliefs, that Evangelical churches, pastors, and parents are worried about their children going to hell when they die. Most Evangelicals believe that, while all humans are born into world with sin natures, children aren’t accountable for their sin until they reach a certain age or a certain intellectual capability. Some Evangelicals believe that the age of accountability is age twelve, whereas other Evangelicals believe that children are accountable for their sin the moment they understand the difference between right and wrong. All Evangelicals believe it is vitally important for their children to get saved as soon as possible — the younger, the better. It is not uncommon for Evangelical children to become Christians before they enter elementary school. In many Evangelical sects, formerly saved children, make new commitments to Christ — rededications — as teenagers. It is also not uncommon to hear of adults who have repeatedly rededicated their lives to Christ. As one old preacher said, just keep praying and asking Jesus to save you until it sticks.
Many Evangelical churches have what are called revivals. Hired guns called evangelists hold days- and weeks-long meetings at churches with the express purpose of “reviving” Christians and saving the lost. These evangelists are known for their fire and brimstone preaching, complete with stories about people who died without becoming Christians. These stories are key to evangelizing the lost. The unsaved, according to evangelists, need to know that every breath they breathe is a gift from God, and since the appointed time of death could happen at any moment, it is vital that sinners get saved today.
Evangelists held numerous meetings for me during my pastoring days. Two come to mind, both of whom went to great lengths to scare children and teenagers (and adults) into getting saved. One man was Dennis Corle. Corle preached several meetings for me in the 1980s. During one meeting, Corle asked if he could meet for a short time every night with the church’s children. I said yes, not bothering to ask why Corle wanted to do so. Imagine my surprise when I read a Sword of the Lord report of the Corle revival meeting at our church which stated that dozens of children were saved. Evidently, Corle spent his time with the children scaring the living hell out of them. And it worked. Previously saved children even made new professions of faith.
Another evangelist who comes to mind is Don Hardman. (Please see The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman, A Book Review and Laura’s Light by Laura Hardman, A Book Review .) Hardman held numerous meetings for me at two different churches. Some of the meetings were two weeks long — every weeknight, Saturday, and twice on Sunday. Hardman would often come out of the pulpit and address attendees personally, calling them by name if he knew them. At one such meeting, Hardman zeroed in on teenagers, going down the pews pointing his finger and reminding them that God saw everything they did. Needless to say, this scared a number of attendees — most of whom were church members — and come invitation time, numerous people came forward to get saved or get “right” with God.
Corle and Hardman were hardly unique as far as evangelists go. I sat in a number of revival meetings during my days as a Christian and a pastor, and I heard evangelist after evangelist attempt to psychologically manipulate people into making a decision for Christ.
Evangelists rely on love offerings to fund their ministries. These hired guns know that good love offerings and future engagements rely on them producing decisions. Sinners and backsliders walking the sawdust trail (a reference to yesteryear when evangelists held tent meetings and covered the aisles with sawdust) to the front of the church so they can do business with God, are visible demonstrations not only of God’s power, but the evangelist’s ability to goad, manipulate, shame, and scare people into making decisions.
Some evangelists, using the Billy Graham model, ‘prime the pump’ by having trained Christian altar workers come forward during invitation time. These altar workers give the unaware the illusion that God is moving and people are being saved. Contrary to Donald Trump saying today that he invented the phrase ‘priming the pump,’ Evangelical evangelists have been talking about and using this practice since the 1920s. While many evangelists don’t use such a crass phrase as ‘priming the pump,’ and instead use less offensive phrases such as ‘helping sinners take the first step’, I have heard several notable evangelists utter the phrase. The late Joe Boyd is one evangelist who comes to mind.
In the 1970s, I attended Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. It was there that I was, at the age of fifteen, saved and called to preach. As was typical of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches during the church growth heyday, Trinity held two services on Sunday and one on Wednesday, along with Sunday school before the morning service and youth group before/after the evening service. The goal of every service was the same: the salvation of sinners and the reclamation of backsliders. Added to the weekly schedule of services were revival meetings. These revival meetings were special events geared towards reaching non-Christians. Church members were encouraged (commanded) to invite their friends, neighbors, and everyone they came in contact with to the revival. Get them to the revival, the thinking went, and let the evangelist, uh I mean God, do the rest.
These revival meetings were high pressure events. During the invitation, church members were encouraged to speak to their visitors about the condition of their soul. Countless prospects for heaven were badgered into coming to the front where altar workers would take them through the plan of salvation. Those who prayed the sinner’s prayer and answered the correct questions were deemed saved. At the conclusion of the service, the newly saved were mentioned by name to congregants who then showed their approval by saying AMEN! Afterwards, these newly minted Christians stood at the front so their new brothers and sisters in Christ could shake their hands, hug them, and give them spiritual advice.
One Wednesday night, a friend of mine by the name of Deke Roberts came with me to Wednesday night service. During the invitation, one of the high-pressure saleswomen of the church came to Deke and started asking him questions about his spiritual condition. After being sufficiently badgered, my friend went forward and prayed the sinner’s prayer. Several days later I asked Deke about his salvation decision. He told that he got “saved” just so that lady would leave him alone!
Some Evangelical churches use movies and drama events to lure people into getting saved. Teenagers, in particular, are the focus of these events. During my teen years, Trinity showed movies such as The Burning Hell and A Thief in the Night. These movies were quite scary, warning sinners of the danger of waiting until tomorrow to be saved. During my pastoring years, drama presentations became a popular way to get people saved. Hell Houses and dramas such as Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames were (and still are) used as evangelistic tools to reach the lost. Thousands and thousands of people have made professions of faith though these manipulative tools.
Let me conclude this post with an honest reflection on my own use of psychological manipulation. At the time, I wouldn’t have considered my actions as manipulation, but I now know they were. At the time, believing that life is short and hell is real, I felt burdened to use any means necessary to reach people with the gospel. For many years, Sunday after Sunday, service after service, I preached the gospel, using poignant stories and passages of Scripture to remind sinners of the danger of waiting to get saved. Hundreds and hundreds of people made professions of faith and got right with God during my time pastoring churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. While I deeply regret manipulating people, in my defense I was only modeling that which I had experienced growing up in Evangelical churches and attending an IFB college. I did the only thing I knew to do. Fortunately, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I began moving away from using such tactics. Embracing Calvinism put an end to my use of altar calls. While I still passionately chased after the souls of men, I left it up to “God” to save sinners. Needless to say, once I embraced Calvinism, the number of people saved under my ministry greatly decreased.
Did you grow up in an Evangelical church? Did the church hold revival meetings? What techniques did the church use during church services to “reach the lost”? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
Leave it to Fundamentalist Franklin Graham to use several of the recent celebrity deaths as evangelistic props for warning sinners of the certainty of death and eternal torture in hell by God if they fail to make a decision for Christ. You might be the nicest person in the world, but without Jesus you are headed for hell when you die. But, you can be a pussy-grabbing, misogynistic billionaire and still make it to heaven IF you pray the sinner’s prayer and really, really, really mean it. (Graham will be one of five clergymen at Donald Trump’s coronation.)
Since Graham does not mention whether any of these celebrities knew Jesus in the saving sort of way, I suspect he has doubts about their eternal destiny. George Michael was gay, so it is certain — according to Graham’s theology — that he went to hell when he died. Carrie Fisher described herself as an agnostic, so she’s in hell too. Richard Adams? His books have allusions to animal deities and false Gods, so it is doubtful he escaped the flames of hell. Graham loves to profit from the salvation of others. If he thought that Michael, Fisher, or Adams were believers, he most certainly would have used their faith to further his agenda. That he didn’t suggests that Graham thinks they are in hell.
Imagine if everyone goes to heaven after they die. Without hell, Graham’s coffers run dry. Threatening and scaring “sinners” with hell — putting the fear of God into people — is the fuel that fires the Evangelical machine. Without fear the Evangelical church would cease to exist. Franklin Graham and his fellow fearmongers are parasites that suck the love, decency, and kindness out of people, turning them into judges of their fellow humans.
Graham’s Facebook post has been shared almost 80,000 times. Scores of Evangelicals commenters have voiced their approval of Graham’s post, taking the opportunity to let Franklin know that these celebrities might be roasting in hell, but they are on their way to heaven thanks to wonderful grace of the Evangelical God.
When major disasters and tragedies occur, it is not uncommon for Franklin Graham’s Billy Graham Rapid Response Teams to be dispatched to the scene. While these teams certainly do a great job helping with the temporal needs of those who are suffering, make no mistake about it, their goal is to preach the Evangelical gospel, evangelize, and save lost sinners.
I view Franklin Graham’s Billy Graham Rapid Response Teams in the same light as I do Adolph Hitler and his love for dogs. Yes, Hitler loved dogs. Yea, Hitler! But, he also was a murderous psychopath who systematically killed six million Jews, gypsies, and others deemed inferior. So then, Hitler’s love of dogs doesn’t negate his genocidal behavior.
Yes, Franklin Graham’s Billy Graham Rapid Response Teams do — in very small ways — provide help to people who are affected by disasters and tragedies. But, these teams are operated by Franklin Graham, a man noted for his racist, homophobic bigotry. Their primary goal is evangelization, not meeting the needs of those who are hurting and suffering.
From the ashes of 9/11, the Rapid Response Team ministry was developed to share Christ in the midst of crisis and disasters. BGEA currently has chaplains in the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. These volunteer chaplains are carefully selected and trained to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ and appropriately share God’s hope through the One who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
The suffering and heartache of others is just a means to an end — the salvation of sinners.
Yesterday, I received a fundraising letter from The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
Our country is hurting. We’re in trouble racially, economically, politically, and spiritually—and day after day the news across our nation reminds us of that.
Dallas, Texas, recently endured the deadliest day for law enforcement officers in America since 9/11—a sniper ambushed and shot 12 police officers. Five of them died. The killings came soon after two widely publicized shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. Protests—sometimes violent—erupted across the country.
These are just examples of how broken our nation and society have become. Government cannot fix this. Elections will not solve this. Our only hope is God, who changes hearts and nations. Pray for America.
A group of crisis-trained chaplains from our Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT), selected for this deployment because of their law enforcement backgrounds, headed to Dallas the morning after the attack to offer support, comfort, and emotional and spiritual care to people affected by the tragedy.
Only weeks before that, a chaplain team went to Orlando when the city suffered the most devastating terrorist-attack on American soil since 9/11. A Muslim gunman began shooting inside a gay nightclub during the early hours of a Sunday morning, massacring 49 people and injuring 53 more. He himself called 911 during the killings to proclaim his allegiance to ISIS.
Experienced Billy Graham chaplains (right) arrived there within hours and immediately started one-on-one ministry to family members, first responders, and others in the stunned community—listening, comforting, and sharing the love of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3, NKJV), and over a period of two weeks, 40 of our chaplains participated in caring for hurting hearts in Orlando, encouraging and praying individually with more than 1,600 people affected by this huge tragedy.
A young man who personally knew some of the victims came with his family to a memorial site. His distress over the shooting had caused him to think more carefully about God, and he engaged two of our chaplains with questions about sin and forgiveness and about faith. The chaplains used Scripture to help answer the questions, explaining what God’s Son did for him on the cross and how he could be confident of forgiveness and eternal salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The young man then asked eagerly if he, his family, and the chaplains could gather next to the memorial and pray together. In his own words, he repented of sin, thanked God for loving him personally, and committed to live his life in faith with Jesus as his Savior.
During the deployment, the governor of Florida and the FBI agent in charge of the investigation each stopped to thank our Billy Graham chaplains for being there. Another FBI agent, a believer, came by our mobile ministry center and asked if he could pray for the chaplain team.
One day members of the team noticed a man at a memorial site who was taking deep breaths as if to calm himself. They quietly prayed for him before walking over to ask, “How are you holding up?” He immediately began to weep, saying how thankful he was that someone cared enough to ask. He was a professional photographer on assignment from a prominent media outlet, and the images of tragedy he was capturing had started to overwhelm him. Chaplains spent time with him, listening and encouraging. One of them asked if he would like to know how to find
peace in his heart. He replied that he was a secular humanist and not interested in matters of faith.
Nevertheless, for the next 20 minutes he poured out questions about the Bible, church, God, and especially why the chaplains would so willingly invest themselves in other people’s troubles. The chaplains had the opportunity to share the Gospel clearly. The young man readily accepted prayer for himself and his family but was not ready to make a decision. Pray for him and the many others in Orlando who received comfort and heard the Good News, and ask God to nurture the seeds that were planted.
I wonder if the “sinners” mentioned in this letter knew that they were going to be used for fundraising purposes?
Franklin Graham’s Billy Graham Rapid Response Teams are human vultures who swoop down whenever there are major disasters or tragedies. While they might hand out bottled water, coffee, and food, their primary objective is to pick clean the carcasses of hurting people. Instead of offering hope, compassion, and kindness, they offer the bastardized Evangelical version of these things, one that has as its ultimate goal the salvation of sinners. This is, by the way, the modus operandi of most Evangelical “ministries.” Disasters and tragedies are just the means to an end — the evangelization of non-Christians.
When Wells Fargo hosed and took advantage of the poor by giving them sub prime mortgages they couldn’t afford, Focus on the Family, Samaritan’s Purse, and Franklin Graham said nothing. When a judge fined Wells Fargo for overdraft practices and charges that gouged and took advantage of poor customers, Focus on the Family, Samaritan’s Purse, and Franklin Graham said nothing. When Wells Fargo was fined for repeated mortgage irregularities and fraud, Focus on the Family, Samaritan’s Purse, and Franklin Graham said nothing. When Wells Fargo:
…settled a suit with 24,000 Florida homeowners alongside insurer QBE, in which they were accused of inflating premiums on forced-place insurance. In May 2013, Wells Fargo paid $203 million to settle class-action litigation accusing the bank of imposing excessive overdraft fees on checking-account customers. Also in May, the New York attorney-general, Eric Scheidermann, announced a lawsuit against Wells Fargo over alleged violations of the national mortgage settlement, a $25 billion deal struck between 49 state attorneys and the five-largest mortgage servicers in the US. Schneidermann claimed Wells Fargo had violated rules over giving fair and timely serving…
Focus on the Family, Samaritan’s Purse, and Franklin Graham said nothing.
No matter how Wells Fargo treated poor and minority customers, Focus on the Family, Samaritan’s Purse, and Franklin Graham said nothing. Yet, when Wells Fargo runs a one minute ad featuring a lesbian couple, THEN Focus on the Family, Samaritan’s Purse, and Franklin Graham decided to say something. Here’s the ad:
Wells Fargo’s history follows a pattern from which it has not wavered. Over the past few years, Wells Fargo has marched in scores of “Gay Pride Parades,” advertised monthly in gay magazines and websites, and has endorsed “Gay Pride Month.”
Wells Fargo has earned Human Rights Campaign’s highest “gay” award 13 years in a row, including paying for employee sex-change operations and associated mental therapy.
Again, where’s the offense? All I see is a major banking concern treating their employees fairly and providing for them necessary medical care. As far as Wells Fargo courting gay money, last I knew gay money spends and earns interest just like heterosexual and fundamentalist Christian money.
Who would you want to do business with?
“This is one way we as Christians can speak out – we have the power of choice. Let’s just stop doing business with those who promote sin and stand against Almighty God’s laws and His standards. Maybe if enough of us do this, it will get their attention.”
…“that use shareholders’ advertising dollars to promote homosexuality. … It’s promoting a godless lifestyle. … A bank should be promoting the best interest rates they’re going to give me and what they can do for me as a business. But they should not be trying to get into a moral debate and take sides.”…
“At Wells Fargo, serving every customer is core to our vision and values. Diversity and inclusion are foundational to who we are as a company. Our advertising content reflects our company’s values and represents the diversity of the communities we serve.”
Graham, knowing that his actions make him look like a homophobic bigot, let it be known that he was not targeting companies that hire or serve gay and lesbian customers. Sure, Franklin, sure. This is exactly what you are doing.
I expect more Evangelical temper tantrums once the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage. On the day this is announced, if you listen closely you will hear the air being sucked out of Focus on the Family, James Dobson, Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham, Tim Wildmon, the American Family Association, and other extremist fundamentalist Christian groups. WE can only hope so much air is sucked out that these groups die, never to be heard from again.
Perhaps it is time for Christians who value justice and fairness to stop supporting Franklin Graham. Perhaps it is time for Christians of good will to stop putting shoe boxes together for Samaritan’s Purse. Perhaps it is time for Christians to ask why Franklin Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Samaritan’s Purse is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars? Shouldn’t the money be going out as fast as it comes in? Surely, there are still plenty of the “right” kind of disenfranchised, homeless, and poor people to help?
Here’s what I think of Franklin Graham. He is an educated Fred Phelps and Steven Anderson. He represents everything that is reprehensible and wrong with Evangelical Christianity. Here’s the good news and the bad news:
On Monday June 5th Graham took to Facebook to express his outrage over Wells Fargo’s offense against almighty God. Since then, his screed has attracted 98,235 likes and 44,517 shares. Bad news? There are 98,325 people who think like Franklin Graham. Good news? There are ONLY 98,325 who clicked LIKE on his childish tantrum. Graham is getting a lot of press now, but remember that his media presence is much larger than his actual influence. He is just another Evangelical hack demanding everyone live by his interpretations of an ancient, outdated, contradictory, and, at times offensive, religious text. Justice and fairness continue to march forward, trampling over the dead corpses of people like James Dobson, Tim Wildmon, and Franklin Graham. Perhaps, one day, justice will prevail.
I am starting to wonder if Franklin Graham is a closeted gay. He sure spends a lot of time talking about things being rammed/crammed down his throat.