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Tag: Bob Gray Sr

How Math Led Me Away from the IFB Church Movement

ifb

I was raised in a dysfunctional Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) family, attended IFB churches throughout my childhood, attended an IFB college, married an IFB preacher’s daughter, and pastored several IFB churches in the late 1970s and 1980s. Yet, by the late 1980s, I was, for a variety of reasons, done with the IFB church movement. What happened?

One of the reasons was math. Yes, math. As a young preacher, I would attend Sword of the Lord conferences, Bible conferences, and preacher’s meetings. I heard countless big-name IFB preachers; men who pastored churches running thousands in attendance; churches that were winning hundreds and thousands of souls to Christ. Men such as Jack Hyles, Bob Gray (Longview), Curtis Hutson, Bob Gray (Jacksonville), John Rawlings, Tommy Trammel, Lee Roberson, Lester Roloff, Tom Malone, and others whose names are long forgotten, regaled attendees with stories about their dick size, uh I mean church-building prowess. These men would wow young preachers such as myself with attendance and soulwinning claims, suggesting that we too could be successful if we just followed in their steps, uh, I mean Jesus’ steps.

One day, I was sitting in my study at Somerset Baptist Church thinking about my ministry. Somerset Baptist was a growing, thriving rural church. We had just passed 200 in attendance. Souls were being saved every week. My colleagues in the ministry were talking about me being an up-and-comer. Some of them were even asking me for tips on how to grow their churches. I felt that I had arrived.

My mind turned to Jack Hyles, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana — then the largest church in the United States. I had just listened to a Hyles sermon on cassette tape. Hyles, a braggart if there ever was one, was regaling listeners with a statistical accounting of how busy he was for Jesus; how many people he counseled; how many sermons he preached; how many people he evangelized. On and on he went, painting himself as the busiest and most productive preacher since the Apostle Paul.

Hyles was quite the preacher; a storyteller. Surprisingly, Hyles preached very little from the Bible. I had long believed that Hyles was a master exaggerator. That’s Greek for liar. Every preacher could exaggerate from time to time to prove a point, myself included. David Foster Wallace once said, and I paraphrase, “why let the truth get in the way of a good story?” This was certainly the case with IFB preachers — a movement built on dick size: attendance, baptisms, offerings, souls saved.

ifb preachers importance
Three IFB preachers checking to see who has the biggest church

After listening to Hyles’ sermon, I wrote down all the things he said he did every week and the amount of time he had to do them. It quickly became clear to me that Hyles was lying; that he was grossly overstating how busy he was and how much he was doing for the Lord.

I then went on to examine the claims made by other IFB luminaries. I concluded that most of them played loose with the truth. While I didn’t immediately leave the IFB church movement, these revelations troubled me enough that I decided to stop fellowshipping with the Hyles/Sword of the Lord crowd. Not long afterward, Hyles was accused of sexual misconduct. Today, the IFB church movement is a shell of what it once was. The reasons are many, but I can’t help but believe that one of the reasons for their decline is that they allowed big-name preachers to lie with impunity from the pulpit. Instead of standing up and shouting LIAR!, we said AMEN! PREACH IT BROTHER! Instead of standing up for truth and honesty, we enabled these narcissists. I regret my participation in the charade.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Scores of Sinners Saved, Evangelical Preachers Say, But Let’s Look Behind the Numbers

Evangelical preachers loved to talk about the number of people saved under their ministries. The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement, in particular, is fixated on “souls saved.” If IFB churches were McDonald’s restaurants, they would replace the “____ billions served” line with “____ souls saved.”

Evangelists love to humble brag about how many people were saved during the meetings. “Souls saved” is the equivalent of a dick measuring contest. Watch a Billy or Franklin Graham crusade and you will see hundreds of people coming forward during the altar call. What most people don’t know is that many of the people coming forward are counselors, not people getting saved.

In a post titled Scaring Children and Teenagers Into Getting Saved, I wrote:

Some evangelists, using the Billy Graham model, “prime the pump” by having trained Christian altar workers come forward during the invitation time. These altar workers give the unaware the illusion that God is moving and people are being saved. Contrary to Donald Trump saying that he invented the phrase “priming the pump,” 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.

A new fad amount Evangelical megachurch pastors is mass baptisms. There was a time when baptism was reserved for new converts (or for church membership in Landmark/Baptist Bride congregations.) Today, churches will mass baptize people who want to recommit themselves to Jesus or have some sort of felt need. Doing so wildly inflates their baptism numbers, hiding the fact that very few new converts are being baptized.

Every day, or so it seems anyway, I read news reports about this or that church/pastor/evangelist having scores of sinners saved. I automatically say “bullshit.” Why? In most Evangelical churches, salvation is little more mental assent to a set of theological propositions. This is especially true in IFB churches that practice “easy believism” or “decisional regeneration.” (Please see The Bankruptcy of the Evangelical Gospel, Let’s Go Soulwinning, and One, Two, Three, Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style.) Preachers report large numbers of souls saved, yet when asked why their church attendances aren’t growing, these soulwinning machines say “that’s up to God, not me.” Bob Gray, Sr, the retired pastor of an IFB megachurch in Longview, Texas, proudly states thousands and thousands and thousands of people were saved under his ministry — upwards of a 100,000 people — yet most of these new converts were never baptized (the first step of obedience) or became members of the church.

During the First and Second Great Awakenings, thousands and thousands of people were saved. For a time, church attendances grew. By and by, the revival fires died, and many of these new converts went back to their worldly ways. One evangelist of that era (Jonathan Edwards or George Whitfield, I believe) said that revivialists should wait for a year before counting “souls saved.” They believed that this would give an accurate count of those truly saved.

I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio from 1983 to 1994. The church grew from sixteen people at its first service to 206 in 1987. During the eleven years I pastored Somerset Baptist, over 600 people made public professions of faith. Most of them didn’t become members, often coming for a few weeks or months before returning to their “sinful” ways. While the church did grow in the 1980s, most of the growth came from transfers — people changing churches. I would later see that the gospel I was preaching made people seven-fold children of Hell. I spent the remainder of my time in the ministry trying to get saved people unsaved. This proved much harder than getting them saved. Embracing Calvinism in the mid- to late- 1980s forced me to reorient my approach to preaching and evangelism. I went from being quantity-focused to quality-focused. I went from preaching textual/topical sermons to preaching expositionally. My focus was on building up the church instead of filling the pews with people who had no real interest in following Jesus.

The next time you hear a preaching bragging about how many souls were saved at this or that church/revival meeting, I hope you will quietly mumble under your breath, “bullshit.” 🙂 Or better yet, ask this braggart how many of these new converts were baptized, how many of them joined the church, and how many of them are actively serving Jesus. You will likely see the preacher’s dick shrivel up, and he will probably stammer and stutter as he tries to explain the disconnect between the number of souls saved and the number who are members and actively serving their Savior.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

Born That Way

born that way after all

I previously mentioned that Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) luminaries Bob Gray, Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, Longview Texas, and Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona are currently in a pissing war over whether homosexuals are “born that way.” Accusatory winds have blown the conflict into far corners of the IFB universe. The burning question facing these defenders of the one true and holy Baptist faith is this: Are homosexuals genetically born homosexual (nature or nurture)?

That IFB preachers are even considering this question is astounding, a sign that LGBTQ people are making themselves known in IFB churches and families. (Please read The Jonathan Nichols Story: Growing Up Gay in the IFB Church.) While there have always been gays in IFB churches, these tortured souls were buried so deeply in the dark recesses of church closets that there was little chance they would be discovered.

In the years since I left the ministry and Christianity, I have reconnected with several men who were children in one of the churches I pastored. These men are proud, out-of-the-closet, sexually active gays.  My mind goes back to the days when these men were young boys and teens who were forced to listen to preaching — not only mine, but that of evangelists and other guest speakers — who regularly excoriated homosexuals for vile, deviant, reprobate sexual behavior. While I have apologized to these men for my hateful, bigoted preaching, I can’t help but wonder how much damage my words did to them.

Over the years, a handful of LGBTQ people wandered into many of the various churches I pastored. While they didn’t announce their sexuality as they came through church doors, over time it became clear that they were physically attracted to the same sex. Sadly, once the whispers of gossip turned into accusations, I was put into the unenviable position of deciding how to deal with them. At the time, I believed that LGBTQ sexual behavior was sinful, and, in some instances, a sign that people were reprobates. (Please see Out of the Closet, Into the Light: According to Steven Anderson, I Am a Sodomite.) I regularly preached against sexual sins, giving adultery and fornication as much attention as homosexuality. The difference was how I went about preaching against homosexuality. Shamefully, I must admit that I used derogatory labels when preaching against homosexuality — words such as queer, homo, sodomite, and fag. I refused to use the word gay because I believed that there was nothing “gay” about the homosexual lifestyle. I remember — oh, I wish I could forget! —  when the AIDS epidemic came to light that I let congregants know that AIDS was God’s judgment of homosexuals. Had I remained an IFB preacher, I have no doubt that I would have been staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage.

LBGTQ people didn’t stay around long in the churches I pastored (with the exception of the men mentioned above, who were forced by their parents to listen to my preaching for years). When whispers turned to accusations, I confronted these “perverts,” demanding they leave the church. In one church, a gay man visited for months before it was discovered that he was a pedophile. Several fathers came to me and said this man was inviting their young sons to spend weekends with him at his nearby farm. Livid, I went to this man and told him he was not allowed to attend the church. When he objected, I threatened to physically throw him out of the church. He left, never to return. In retrospect, I deeply regret how I handled the matter. If the man was indeed a pedophile, I should have reported him to law enforcement. If he wasn’t, I should have tried to help him, though I doubt that there was much I could do because of my homophobic beliefs. That he was accused of being a pedophile was enough to reinforce the stereotype believed by many congregants: homosexuals are child molesters.

Thirty years later, some LGBTQ people in IFB churches are no longer willing to sit by and silently suffer while their preachers rail against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I have always wondered why anyone would willingly submit themselves to psychological assaults by supposed “men of God.” Children and teenagers have no choice, but adults are free to flee the verbal assaults and attacks on their person. Why stay?

As American society becomes more LGBTQ-friendly, IFB churches are confronted with how best to minister to people whom they consider to be sexual deviants. The Steven Andersons of the IFB world think attacking LGBTQ people in their sermons is the best way to “reach” them. I highly doubt such preaching is reaching anyone for Jesus. In fact, I doubt that reaching “sodomites” for Jesus is the goal of men such as Steven Anderson and Bob Gray Sr. As anyone raised in the IFB church movement can attest, attacking homosexuals from the pulpit is a surefire way to get lots of rounds of “amen!” Preaching against certain sins will always invigorate the righteous, and sexual sins are crowd favorites (even though we now know that IFB congregants are not immune from all of the behaviors they deem sexual misconduct, including homosexuality, pedophilia, incest, adultery, and fornication).

Realizing that the cultural tide is turning against IFB churches and their incessant prattle against sexual sin — particularly homosexuality — men such as Johnny Nixon and Bob Gray, Sr. have cooked up a novel reinterpretation of what the Bible says about homosexuality. Now, these men still believe engaging in homosexual sex, or any sex outside of marriage, for that matter, is a sin, but they now admit that homosexuals are “born that way.” These “eunuchs” are expected to refrain from same-sex sexual behaviors and relationships, and if they are willing to do so, they will be considered Christians. I suspect that the greater goal is to “convert” homosexuals, helping them to see that only by switching sides can they ever know true sexual fulfillment and romantic love. I am left to wonder why, if it is God who determines sexuality, does he make some people homosexual while at the same time saying that homosexual sex is a criminal act worthy of execution. (I refrain from using the LGBTQ acronym because the IFB preachers in question do not consider all sexual identities equally. Their primary focus is on gay men. I know of no IFB church that is accepting of bisexuality or transgenderism.)

My good friend, the late Steve Gupton— an IFB preacher turned atheist who once attended Bob Gray’s church and college and later attended a church named Hyles Baptist Church — made me aware that Jack Hyles worshiper David J. Stewart has weighed in on the Gray Sr./Anderson fight. In a post titled Refuting the Book ‘Born that Way After All’ and the Compromised Preachers Who Support it, Stewart stated:

I was surprised today while listening to a sermon by Pastor Steven Anderson (website). There is an ungodly book (published in 2015) titled, “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL,” authored by Dr. David J. Nixon and R. G. Hamm. They also have a website at BornThatWay.org. The book is unscriptural and promotes a wicked philosophy of tolerance for sin. What surprised me is that the website lists Dr. Bob Gray Sr., Pastor Jeff Owens and Pastor Paul Chappell, as being supporters of the book and ministry. The book is an ungodly perversion of the Scriptures!!!

I am trying to understand why Dr. Gray and Pastor Owens would approve of something evil like this. Both of these good men have counseled tens of thousands of people combined throughout their church ministries. So I tread lightly and don’t want to criticize them in my article, this is not my intent. However, I will voice my opinion of this ungodly book “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” and their ungodly “BORNTHATWAY.ORG” website. The book is clearly a sinful attempt to bridge the gap between the ungodly homosexual community and the New Testament Church. Dr. David Nixon and his co-author are trying to straddle-the-fence on the issue of homosexuality. As far as I’m concerned, they are pulling on the same rope as the Devil.

David J. Nixon and R. G. Hamm base their strange doctrine on Matthew 19:12, “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Being a eunuch from a mother’s womb simply means, for one reason or another, that a man is born impotent. The Greek word for “eunuch” in Matthew 19:12 is eunouchos, meaning, “a castrated person (such being employed in Oriental bed chambers); by extension an impotent or unmarried man; by implication a chamberlain (state officer).” Here’s some helpful Bible commentary on the topic, “EUNUCH.”

The Bible mentions eunuchs, who are born “THAT WAY” from the womb, which is equivalent to castration. This is not homosexual lust! A eunuch “FROM THE WOMB” cannot procreate, that is, cannot have children. A homosexual can procreate (with a woman if they so choose). Obviously, homosexuals do not come “FROM THE WOMB”! And as I will evidence to you later, many people who profess to be “heterosexual” admit to committing homosexual acts at times. This tosses a monkey-wrench into David Nixon’s retarded hypothesis! Homosexuality is a sin, and Christians won’t be able to help sodomites unless they address the issue as such. God only saves THE UNGODLY (Romans 4:5-6). It is evil to tell homosexuals that there’s really no problem, because God made them “THAT WAY AFTER ALL,” intending for them to become celibate as eunuchs for God. That doesn’t solve the problem, which is, HOMOSEXUALS ARE SINNERS in need of the new birth. Unless a homosexual is willing to confess to God, “I AM A SINNER,” they cannot be saved. You’ve got to admit that you are a sinner to believe the Gospel. You need to know what you’re being saved from!

On their “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” website, they say:

“The gay community is not the battle field, they are the mission field. They are not the enemy, they are the mission itself. We are in a spiritual battle, but if you view them as the enemy, you are fighting the wrong war (Ephesians 6:12). Our book “Born That Way After All” explains God’s unique design and purpose for those who are not attracted to the opposite sex.”

Although I agree that the gay community is a mission field, from a soul-winning perspective; I totally disagree when such reasoning is used to silence Christians about the evils of homosexuality which is targeting, recruiting and hurting America’s children. Hugh Hefner’s perverted Playboy business could be called “a mission field” too. We could say that the dirty magazine business is not the enemy as well. But does that mean preachers and Christians should be silent about such evils? Of course not. Now, more than ever, pastors and Christians need to expose the evils of homosexuality in our society. Silence is not golden, it is yellow cowardice. The false idea that exposing homosexuality as a filthy sin will hinder reaching the gay community for Christ is a big lie!

Homosexuality Is A Filthy Deathstyle (homosexuals account for 75% of all Syphilis cases!). Placing an adopted child into the hands of two homosexual parents (perverts) ought to be considered criminal child abuse! But our nation’s ungodly courts disregard God’s Word. Americans can legally commit adultery, film themselves in bed having sex and upload it to the internet, get drunk, murder their children by abortion, homosexuals can marry and children are forced into their care by adoption, et cetera. In eternity, God will hold people accountable for even their words (Matthew 12:36).

The insane notion that believers will never convert homosexuals to Christianity by calling them “perverts” is totally untrue. When the rich man in Hell begged Abraham to send Lazarus from the dead to warn his five brothers, “lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:28). Abraham plainly said that if people won’t listen to the Word of God, THEY WON’T GET SAVED, even if they see miracles and supernatural signs. “Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:29-32).

The ungodly book effectively attempts to silence Christians to the evils of homosexuality, portraying sodomites as a needy group who ought to be ministered to (informed that God really made them to be eunuchs) and otherwise left alone. So while naive preachers are spending the rest of their life reaching out to gays with the Gospel, America’s children are being homosexualized. If churches must become worldly to attract the homosexual community, then they’re coming to apostate religion, not Jesus Christ.

Although I disagree with Pastor Steve Anderson’s lack of love for the homosexual community, I must say that Brother Anderson COMES MUCH CLOSER TO BEING RIGHT than today’s compromised preachers who hobnob with gays and won’t preach against them!!! HOMOSEXUALITY IS EVIL. You’re NEVER going to win sodomites to Christ by tolerating their sins. A fundamentalist preacher ought to be a balance of grace and truth, of strength and beauty! Jude 1:22, “And of some have compassion, making a difference.” John 7:7, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” The Word of God condemns the sinful world. That’s why gays reject the King James Bible, changing it into a lie (Romans 1:25). All of the modern PERversions of the Bible completely remove the word “sodomite.” The unscriptural website “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” says they “do not necessarily endorse the term… ‘homosexual’ for several Biblical reasons.” [1] These are wicked people, who are trying to silence fundamentalist Christians about the evils of homosexuality. The idea that preaching and standing against open public wickedness, is a form of hate, is as satanic as can be!!!

….

I love Pastor Jeff Owens and Dr. Bob Gray Sr. I promote their sermons and ministries, because my heart’s desire is to help others in the Lord. I don’t throw people away because I disagree with them on something. I don’t stop promoting someone because they don’t agree with me. My faithful web visitors know that I often promote and expose someone at the same time. Most preachers won’t do that. Dr. Hyles invited Dr. R. G. Lee to preach at Pastor’s School in Hammond, knowing that Dr. lee was in the compromised Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Hyles didn’t demand that someone agree with him 100% on everything, to be his friend. I like that! There’s not one man that I promote whom I agree with on everything. I want to help others. If I find something that helps me, I want to share it with you also, to help you too. YOU are my Epistle. YOU are the book that I am writing. 2nd Corinthians 3:2, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.” YOU are my treasure!

Having said that, I love the preaching and teaching of Dr. Bob Gray Sr. and Dr. Jeff Owens. Albeit, I do not agree with them in their support of the “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” book and “BORNTHATWAY.ORG” website, where they are listed. I am 100% in agreement with Pastor Steven Anderson on this issue, because I believe Brother Anderson’s position is 100% Biblical. Romans 1:24-32 plainly condemns the homosexual deathstyle!!! No one is born with a Sodomite tendency. Homosexuality is abnormal, against nature. We are all born with a sin-nature. If the sin-nature is allowed to flourish, uncontrolled and unbridled by moral restraint, anything evil is possible. America was doomed the day in 1963 that the King James Bible was removed from our nation’s classrooms.

All human beings are born with a sin-nature. Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” We are ALL sinners by nature and by choice. A child doesn’t have to be taught to steal. They have to be taught to be honest. Children must be trained and taught the Word of God. And yet, even having grown up in the best home, with the most faithful Christian parents, enrolled in a great Christian school, attending a strong Bible-believing church—They may still ruin their lives and choose to go into a reckless deathstyle of sin. Having good Christian parents does not guarantee godly children. Certainly, training up a child in the admonition and nurture of the Lord stacks everything in their favor when they become adults, but they are still sinners by nature and by choice. What a proper upbringing DOES give a child is a strong FOUNDATION for the rest of their life. So if the house of their life burns down one day, it can be rebuilt!!! Amen!

No one is “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL.” I am not trying to be mean or unkind to anyone. If you are not saved, you’ll never get the victory over sin. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” If you have homosexual desires as a believer, then there is a Bible verse for you. 2nd Corinthians 10:5, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

You can read all of Stewart’s homophobic rant here.

Stewart’s website features countless articles against this or that sexual sin, leaving me to say “The [man] doth protest too much, methinks.” I so wish that there were a God and I wish there really were a Jack Chick-like This Was Your Life final judgment. Can you imagine what would come rolling out IFB closets come judgment day? (It is rumored that Stewart has a few skeletons in his closet.) All of us have things that we have done that we never want to be brought to light. All of us have done things that we regret or wish we had done differently. The good news is that our embarrassments are safely stored in the back of our closets right next to our white buckskin shoes, platform shoes, frayed blue jeans, maxi dresses, and our dad’s collection of old Playboy magazines.

With one exception, I oppose prying open the closets of others, revealing secrets long buried in the dark recesses of people’s lives. We all have a right to have secrets, things that are no one’s business but ours. I do my best to write openly and honestly about my past and present life. But, there are some things that I can’t or won’t talk about because I find these events embarrassing — even fifty-plus years after the fact.

The one exception I make is for preachers, politicians, and church leaders who deign to be the voices of moral authority; those who demand the Ten Commandments be posted on school walls and self-righteously demand their fellow citizens obey the anti-human moral code found in the Bible (as interpreted by them according to a literalistic, Fundamentalist hermeneutic). These defenders of virginity, the anus, and all things sexual, often don’t practice what they preach. While these “men of God” are preaching against adultery, fornication, pornography, homosexuality, masturbation, short skirts, tight pants, teenage petting, and lustful glances, they are often wallowing in the very sins they condemn. (Behaviors they call sins, anyway. I wouldn’t call these behaviors sins, depending, of course, on context. Sins? No. Bad Behaviors? Maybe.) For these self-absorbed preachers of God’s plan of intercourse — Evangelical, heterosexual, married, missionary position only — I am all for exposing their secrets. It is for this reason I write the Black Collar Crime series. The sooner the truth is known — that preachers are no different from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world — the better. Imagine how different things would be if Evangelical preachers swung wide the doors of their closets and openly talked about what is buried deep within. I am not talking about criminal behavior here.  Sexual predators who hide in plain sight as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and church leaders should be aggressively pursued and prosecuted. The secrets I am talking about are the things that are common to man. Imagine how different Sunday morning church would be if preachers admitted that they are human, burdened with the same desires, wants, needs, emotions, and feelings as everyone else. Granted, Evangelicals would have to re-write the Bible and abandon previously held certainties for them to truly reenter the human race. As long as they maintain that the Bible and Christianity are morally superior and demand everyone live according to their interpretation of a bronze-age religious text, preachers shouldn’t be surprised when people take delight in their moral failures.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

My Recent Interview with McKinnon Mitchell

McKinnon Mitchell is working on a documentary about young-earth creationist and convicted felon Kent Hovind. Hovind attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in the 1970s, as did my wife and I. Hovind attended a couple of years before we did. Best I can tell, Hovind was at Midwestern the same time Polly’s father was (1972-76).

McKinnon contacted me looking for information about Midwestern, Emmanuel Baptist Church (the church students were required to attend), and the college’s president and the church’s pastor, Tom Malone. I was more than happy to talk with McKinnon about these things. What follows are two videos: one of my full interview with McKinnon and the other of my interview edited for use in part one of the documentary. I thought readers would be interested in seeing and hearing these videos.

Video Link

Video Link

Please let me know what you think about the content of my interview in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Legacy of IFB Pastor Jack Hyles

Jack Hyles Through the Years

Members of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, and people closely associated with Hyles-Anderson College and Pastor Jack Schaap, were astonished at the firing of  Schaap for having sex with a teenager he was counseling, and his later criminal conviction in March 2013. Evidently, these people have a short memory or live in denial. First Baptist has a long history of pastors and other church leaders getting themselves in trouble with the fairer sex. (Please read Chicago Magazine feature story on First Baptist and their sordid history.)

Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, had a long-running illicit sexual relationship with his secretary. The evidence against Hyles was overwhelming, yet the church rejected this evidence and Jack Hyles continued to pastor the church until his death in 2001. (Please read The Biblical Evangelist’s report on Jack Hyles)

David Hyles, the son of Jack Hyles and youth pastor of First Baptist Church, had numerous sexual relationships with women in the church. The church quietly sent him away to pastor another church, not telling the new congregation about his sexual proclivities, and he continued to have numerous sexual relationships with women in the new church.

Many people praised the church for publicly exposing Jack Schaap’s “sin.” This is the same church that ignored Jack Hyles’ “sin,” covered up David Hyles’ “sin,” and whitewashed numerous other scandals in the church and college. So forgive me if I don’t think they are acting “better” than the Catholic Church (as one commenter said).

The people of First Baptist Church were taught by Hyles and Schaap that if they didn’t see something it didn’t happen. (Please see Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen.) They were taught that unless an allegation could be confirmed by two or more witnesses (Matthew 18) they were not to believe it. This kind of thinking resulted in a culture where “sin” was ignored or swept under the proverbial rug — a rug that is so high now that you have to walk up a ten-foot hill to get into the church.

In general, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement abhors scandal and its members do everything they can to cover it up. More important than the sin itself or the victims is the church’s “testimony.” The church’s testimony must be protected at all costs, even if a pedophile in their midst is ignored, as was the case with Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida and its pastor Bob Gray.

For First Baptist Church of Hammond to out Jack Schaap, they had to have been backed into a corner without the option of covering it up or quietly making the “problem” go away. Calling in attorney David Gibbs to “manage” the crisis speaks volumes about the depth of the scandal. Gibbs is considered a “fixer” in the IFB church movement.

The root of the Jack Schaap scandal is found in the ministry, teaching, and doctrine of his predecessor, Jack Hyles. The remainder of this post will focus on him. It is impossible to understand the Jack Schaap story without first looking at Jack Hyles’ forty-two year ministry at First Baptist Church of Hammond (a church that was an American Baptist Church until Hyles pulled it out of the Convention a few years after he arrived there in 1959).

In its heyday, First Baptist Church was the largest church in the United States (and at times, claimed to be the largest church in the world). The church was built around two things: the bus ministry and Jack Hyles.

In 1973, First Baptist saw attendances exceeding 25,000 people. At the center of this huge church was its pastor, Jack Hyles. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Jack Hyles was, as many of us described, the pope of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement. He authored numerous books with titles such as Let’s Go Soul Winning, Let’s Build an Evangelistic Church, Enemies of Soul Winning, The Hyles Church Manual, How to Rear Infants, How to Rear Children, How to Rear Teenagers, Satan’s Bid for Your Child, Marriage is a Commitment, Woman the Completer, and Blue Denim and Lace.

jack hyles 1973
Jack Hyles, 1973

There is a hard-and-fast rule in the IFB movement: the greater the church attendance, the more authority the pastor is granted and the more weight his words carry. I heard countless big-name IFB pastors say, “until you have as many eggs in your basket as I do, you have no right to criticize me.” Pastors with small churches were looked down on and were expected to shut up and learn from those whose baskets were overflowing with eggs.

From 1976 to 1989, I heard Jack Hyles preach numerous times. I traveled to a number of Sword of the Lord conferences, often taking with me people from the churches I pastored. Hyles was a dynamic preacher, a real motivator. He used very little of the Bible in his preaching. His sermons were always topical or textual and were littered with personal stories and illustrations. Hyles was a narcissist. Most of his stories and illustrations were about his own personal life and exploits. His stories about him and his mother are legendary.

Over time, as I became more and more dissatisfied with the IFB church movement, I paid closer attention to the substance of Hyles’ sermons. In particular, I focused on the stories Hyles told. I came to the conclusion that Hyles was a narcissistic liar.

Hyles would often talk about how important and busy he was. In several sermons, he talked about how many people he counseled every week. I sat down and did the math and I concluded it was physically impossible for Hyles to have counseled as many people each week as he claimed.

Hyles was a ruthless man. I watched him, during Q and A time, at a conference at the Newark Baptist Temple,  dress down and belittle pastors for asking the “wrong” questions. He refused to allow anyone to challenge his authority as the king of the IFB hill.

To understand the scandals at First Baptist Church in Hammond, we must understand the gospel that has been preached at First Baptist for over 50 years. It is the same gospel that is/was preached by men like Bob Gray of Texas, Bob Gray of Jacksonville, Curtis Hutson, Dennis Corle, Tom Malone, and thousands of other IFB pastors.

Jack Hyles preached a bastardized version of the Christian gospel. The Hyles gospel has been labeled as decisional regeneration or one, two, three, repeat after me. (Please see One, Two, Three, Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style.) I used to label the methodology of the IFB church movement this way:

  • win them
  • wet them
  • work them
  • waste them

(Please see IFB Church Movement: Win Them, Wet Them, Work Them, Waste Them.)

lets go soulwinning
Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soulwinning

The only thing that mattered was winning souls. IFB Evangelist Dennis Corle told me one time that I should spend more time soul winning and less time studying in preparation to preach on Sunday. All that mattered to him was the number of souls saved.

In the IFB church, the key to church growth is to keep more people coming in the front door than are going out the back. IFB churches are notorious for membership churn — especially when a pastor leaves and a new one comes in.

The Hyles gospel focused on praying the sinner’s prayer. (Please see The Top Five Reasons People Say the Sinner’s Prayer.) Pray this prayer and you are saved. Good works? They were desired and even expected, but if saved people never exhibited any change in their lives they were still considered “saved.” This gospel is prominently on display in the preaching of David Anderson and the writing of “Dr.” David Tee. (Please see Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona.)

If a pastor dared suggest that new life in Christ meant a change in conduct, they were accused of preaching “works salvation” (the Lordship Salvation controversy). According to the Hyles gospel, it was all about praying the prayer, and once a person prayed the prayer they could NEVER, EVER be lost again. This is why some people insist that I am still saved, even if I don’t want to be. Once God has you he never lets go.

The Hyles gospel filled churches with people who had made a mental assent to a set of propositional beliefs. Every year, churches like First Baptist Church in Hammond and Longview Baptist Temple report thousands of people being saved. Most of these new converts stop attending after a short while, but this is of no consequence. They prayed the “prayer.” On to the next sinner in need of saving.

The IFB church movement is centered on men. Most IFB churches are pastored by one man who has total control of the church. Most IFB churches are congregational in name only, with the pastor being the autocratic king of the church.

david hyles greatest men
Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men

Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and countless other big-name IFB traveling preachers routinely promote the notion of pastoral authority. The pastor, under the authority of Jesus and powered by the Holy Spirit, is the final authority in the church. He is the hub around which everything turns.

IFB churches are not known for their names, but for who their pastors are. IFB church members routinely say, when asked about what church they attend, say: I go to Pastor So-and So’s church.

In a post titled The Cult of Personality, I wrote:

Churches aren’t known for what they believe or even the works they do. They are known for who their pastor is. When asked where he goes to Church, a Christian will often say “I go to Pastor Smith’s Church.”

The focus of everything is on the pastor. He is the mover and shaker. He is what powers the machine. Without him it all fails.

Christian TV, radio and publishing is all about the personalities within the Church. Name recognition is the name of the game.

Does anyone really believe Rod Parsley is a good writer? Yet, his books sell. Why? Name recognition.

Everything is focused on and culminates with the sermon and the preacher.

I had people drive 40 minutes to the  church I pastored in SE Ohio. They loved my preaching. They thought I was the greatest preacher since the last guy they thought was wonderful. Really? As much as I think that I am a pretty good public speaker, they had to drive past 40  churches to get to the  church I pastored. Not one of those  churches had a preacher that could preach competently? ( Well maybe not, after hearing more than a few preachers.)

What happens when the pastor leaves the  church? What happens when the personalities change, when a new preacher takes over? Strife. Division. People leave the church. Why? Because church became about the preacher rather than about Jesus and serving others.

Why is it the pastor’s name is on everything? The sign out front. The bulletin . Every piece of literature the church produces. If it is really is all about Jesus then why does it matter if anyone knows the pastor’s name?

Ah, but it does matter. Many Evangelical Christians are good capitalists (serving a socialist Jesus). They are consumers first and Christians second.  They know people are “attracted” (the attractional method) to the church by the pastor, the programs, the building, etc.

They know the pastor becomes the face of their church. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is, and quite frankly, it is the church itself that must bear the blame for this.

The church members revel in the cult of personality. They love having a name- brand preacher. They watch Christian TV and listen to Christian radio because Pastor/Rev/Dr/Evangelist/Bishop/Apostle so-and-so is on. Take away the names and it becomes as interesting as eating a no-name hamburger at a no-name restaurant surrounded by no-name people . . .

Is it any wonder IFB pastors and churches have the scandals they do? Members are taught to obey their pastor without question. He is the man of God. If he is doing something wrong, God will chastise him. This kind of thinking allows IFB pastors to commit adultery, molest children, and steal from the church without anyone ever knowing about it. I could spend days writing about IFB pastors who have abused their place of authority and committed heinous acts against the people they pastored. (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.)

IFB churches think they are above the world and other churches because of what they believe. They are “Bible believers” and their pastors preach hard against “sin.” Because of this, they have a hard time believing that their pastors or famous preachers could ever commit crimes like Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, David Hyles, and Bob Gray did.

Bob Gray, pastor emeritus of Longview Baptist Temple had this to say on this blog about the Schaap scandal (I was unable to find the post on Gray’s blog):

May I present the practical side?  There exists more molestation cases proportionately reported in the 42,000 churches of the Southern Baptist Convention than in the 22,000 independent Baptist churches.  Consider the largest denomination in our nation, the Catholic Church, and then think on their sexual transgressions for a while.  This is not to take lightly one person who is violated by a leader in a church.

Look carefully at the argument Gray is making here. The Southern Baptists and the Catholics are worse than we are! Praise Jesus! Such thinking should sicken all of us.

Here is what I know about the IFB church movement. They will wail and moan for a while, but, in a few weeks or months, the scandal will pass, and they will go back to “winning souls” and “preaching hard against sin.” It is only a matter of time before a-n-o-t-h-e-r scandal rocks their churches. Until the IFB church movement repudiates its corruption of the Christian gospel and changes how their churches are governed, there is no hope of meaningful change.

Change is not likely to come because of their literalism, and their belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Armed with certainty, knowing they are right, they will continue to preach a corrupted gospel and allow narcissistic pastors to rule over them.

Posts on Jack Hyles

Posts on David Hyles

Posts on Jack Schaap

Posts on Bob Gray, Sr.

Posts on the IFB Church Movement

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Evangelical Preachers and the Elijah Syndrome 

elijah and the prophets of baal

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

Many evangelical preachers have what I call the Elijah syndrome. In First Kings chapter 18, we find the story of the prophet Elijah doing battle with the 450 false prophets of Baal. According to the Bible, Elijah decided to prove to Israel that Jehovah was the true and living God. Elijah did this by building an altar, placing a slaughtered bullock on the stone edifice, and calling fire down from heaven to consume the bullock. This all-consuming fire was so hot that it melted the altar’s rocks. According to modern science, melting rock into molten lava requires a heat of 1,000 to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Certainly, if Elijah did nothing else, he put on a good show.

After God demonstrated his power, Elijah told the Israelites to gather up the false prophets and slaughter them. Nothing says I’m a loving God like some old-fashioned bloodshed and murder. When Queen Jezebel heard that Elijah and the Israelites had slaughtered Baal’s prophets, she sent a message to Elijah that saidSo let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. Elijah, fearing for his life, ran away into the wilderness.

In First Kings chapter 19, we find Elijah camped out underneath a juniper tree. An angel appeared to Elijah and told him that he needed to eat because God had a long journey ahead for him. Elijah journeyed 40 days to Mount Horeb after eating, the very place God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. The Lord came to Elijah and asked him what he was doing at Mount Horeb (which is strange because an angel, one of God’s celestial beings, told him to go there). Here is what Elijah had to say:

I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

Elijah saw himself as the one remaining true prophet in the land. God reminded him in First Kings 19:18 that there were actually 7,000 prophets who had not yet bowed a knee to Baal.

Every time I think of this story, I am reminded that many Evangelical preachers see themselves as some sort of modern-day Elijah. And like Elijah, each thinks he is the one remaining prophet in the community standing up for God, the Bible, and Evangelical morality. Such preachers delude themselves into thinking that they alone are standing true, that they alone are preaching the right message. Some of these preachers, men such as Robert Lyte and AW Pink, think that the Christian church is so morally compromised that they can no longer in good conscience be a part of it. Susan-Anne White would be another example of this, even though she doesn’t claim to be a preacher. Please see Susan-Anne White Thinks I’m a Despicable, Obnoxious, Militant, Hateful Atheist.)

As readers of this blog know, the longer people steep their minds in the brackish waters of Fundamentalism, the more extreme they become. Over time, sin lists grow, beliefs harden, and certainty and arrogance convince preachers that they alone are standing for God. While every community has numerous Christian churches, there are always a handful of churches that think they are above the murky waters of generic Evangelicalism. Much like Elijah, they believe that God has chosen them to speak on his behalf to the world.

I remember thinking this of myself back when I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mount Perry, Ohio. Everywhere I looked I saw churches and pastors who were not winning souls and who were not waging war against Satan, sin, and godlessness. As the church began to grow, I convinced myself that people were attending the church because they wanted to hear a true man of God. What I understood later is that these people found me likable and enjoyed my sermons. So much for being a rugged, stand-alone prophet of God.

The next time you see a street preacher just remember he likely thinks that he is like Elijah, the lone prophet of God. After all, he is the only one standing on the street corner, right? If all the other neighboring churches and pastors really cared about America, they too would be on nearby street corners preaching against sin, gun control, abortion, secularism, atheism, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, evolution, liberalism, and any other issue deemed a moral affront to the thrice-holy God of Evangelical Christianity.

This “I alone remain true to God” way of thinking is what turns preachers into insufferable, arrogant, hypocritical pricks. Thinking that they have some sort of inside knowledge about God and the Bible, they are determined to share what they think they know with everyone, even if people don’t want to hear it.

Preachers such as Jack Hyles, Fred Phelps, James Dobson, JD Hall, and Greg Locke didn’t start out as pontificating bloviators. Over time, they convinced themselves that they had been chosen uniquely by God to speak on his behalf. Once convinced of this, their pronouncements became more shrill and severe. These Elijah-like prophets of God, thinking that most churches and pastors are Biblically and morally compromised, withdrew from the larger Christian body.

Inherent to the nature of Fundamentalism is the need to separate and divide. The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement is a good example of this. The IFB church movement was born out of rebellion against perceived liberalism in the American, Northern, and Southern Baptist conventions. Originally, this separation was due to German rationalism and higher textual criticism. These days, IFB churches and pastors separate due to silly things such as music, Bible translations, long hair on men, and whether women should wear pants. Several years ago, Bob Gray, Sr., the retired pontiff of the Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas wrote a blog post about the importance of being a prophet like Elijah. Here are some of the issues Gray thinks are important: (link no longer active)

In our fundamental churches, schools, and colleges we have some rules, regulations, and standards. We have rules about dating, dress, haircuts on the males, makeup on the females, hairstyles, clothing, smoking, dancing, bad music, Hollywood movies, speech, respect for authority, proper conduct, etc.

Immediately the accusations begin to come when such a stand is taken. The cry is always the same, and the charge is always the same. “Why, that is nothing but legalism with all those rules, standards, and regulations for they are nothing but promoting legalism!”

The truth of the matter is, when you associate legalism with rules, regulations and standards, people with neo-evangelical hearts who masquerade make such statements in fundamental Baptist clothing. Sometimes they are made by people who were real fundamental Baptist at one time, and yet have become weary of the battle and long to return to the onions, watermelons, leaks, cucumbers, and garlic of acceptance. Also, this cry of legalism often comes from the desks of colleges and seminaries built on fundamental foundations with walls of compromise and a leaking roof of pseudo liberty.

We have grown to desire that our truth be accredited by worldly educated error. We want a license from wrong to do right! My (sic) I remind all of us of that fundamental world we believed in and practiced before we had teenagers, home-schoolers, liberal fundamental colleges, Bill Gothard, Oral Roberts University, Benny Hinn, his girlfriend Evangelist Paula White, amusement parks, and before Jerry Falwell slid down a charismatic water slide!

….
This generation must not listen to the prophets of compromise who are silently bridging fundamentalism to a liberal Southern Baptist Convention in order to garner the crowds. No one is legalistic who insists on standards. When someone adds anything to salvation, other than the shed and applied blood of Jesus Christ, is by definition a legalist.

When you conveniently compromise you are not only betraying Billy Sunday, Sam Jones, Bob Jones Sr., Mordecai Ham, John Wesley, John R. Rice, Curtis Hutson, Lester Roloff, Lee Roberson, Tom Malone, and Jack Hyles, but you are betraying your own standards of just a few years back.

If we cannot have our padded pews with hell-fire and brimstone preaching, then let us go back to the sawdust trail and the store front buildings while sitting on wooden benches.

If we cannot have organs with trained choirs without the seven-fold Amens and the crusty anthems, then let us go back to the “pie-anar” and tuning fork.

If we cannot have a marriage of proper grammar and the mourner’s bench with preaching on Hell, Heaven, the rapture, the second coming, and separation, then let us go back to split infinitives, dangling participles, and hung gerunds.

If tiled restrooms and chandeliers are not conducive to the old-time religion, then let us mark off a path and build an outhouse. Let us screw a 60-watt light bulb in it and order a Sears & Roebuck catalogue for the outhouse and get right with God.

If we have to include Kierkegaard, Brunner, and Niebuhr in our required reading in order to be intellectual theologically, then let us go back to the Blue-black (sic) Speller, the ABC’s, the alphabet, and the simple preaching of thus saith the Lord God! We have listened too much to psychologists in the pulpit and not enough to leather lunged Baptist preachers. We have listened too much to philosophers and not enough to old-fashioned prophets of God. We have listened too much to so-called Christian TV and radio and not enough to men of God.

….
Legalism is not a godly mother who insists that her daughter dress modestly. Legalism is not parents enrolling their children in a Christian school that believes as they do about separation from the world. Legalism is not a dedicated aged godly dad who takes his son to the barbershop instead of a beauty shop every two weeks.

Legalism is not a faithful youth director who insists his teenagers dress appropriately. Legalism is not a hard working pastor who insists that his Sunday school teachers not smoke, not drink alcohol, no tobacco use, no movies, they visit absentees, and go soul winning.

Legalism is not the careful godly educator who forbids his students to dance or listen to bad music. Legalism is not the man of God who cries aloud against mixed swimming, in essence mixed nudity, against vampire lipstick promoting drugs, and young males with their Billy Idol bleached porky pine spiked chili bowl hair do!

Right has not changed and wrong has not changed just because you enter into a different century. Black is still black and white is still white. Good is still good and bad is still bad. Legalism is not the faithful man of God who cries aloud against sin.

….

Most of the Scriptures are about rules on how Christians ought to live! I challenge you to take Genesis and try to show unsaved people how to be saved or redeemed from going to Hell. Now you will find types of salvation, but you will have a tough time finding the plan of salvation in Genesis.

….

Liquor, dope, elicit (sic) sex, Hollywood, cigarettes, bad music, etc., enslaves and is addictive. God’s do’s and don’ts builds walls of protection for his people!

Gray states in no uncertain terms that most of the Christian Bible is about “rules on how Christians ought to live!” Gray, Sr. has finally reached IFB Nirvana, a place where rules, standards, and regulations replace love, compassion, kindness, and caring for others. When I first started preaching forty-eight years ago, any preacher making a statement like this would have been roundly condemned. While the Bible does have many laws, precepts, and teachings, it is far more than God’s Revised Code of Conduct — 2021 Gray Edition.

The good news is this: the IFB church movement is dying on the vine. Their churches and institutions are but a shell of what they once were. Instead of taking a hard look at why IFB churches are dying, and young adults are fleeing to the friendlier confines of “worldly” Evangelical churches, preachers like Gray, Sr. double down on legalistic standards and rules. Instead of considering whether their controlling, abusive behavior is to blame, these Elijah-like preachers condemn those who reject their moralizing and checklist Christianity. Gray, Sr. will go to the grave believing that if people would just follow the rules about “dating, dress, haircuts on the males, makeup on the females, hairstyles, clothing, smoking, dancing, bad music, Hollywood movies, speech, respect for authority, and proper conduct,” the Shekinah glory (glory of God) would fall from Heaven and all would be well.

Do you have an Elijah-like preacher where you live? Is there a preacher in your town who thinks he uniquely speaks for God? Perhaps you once attended a church that was pastored by a man who thought he was special or unique. If so, please share your observations in the comment section.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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IFB Pastor James Tester Sends Me a Message

pastor james tester

Today, I received a “wonderful” comment from Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor James Tester. Tester pastors Triad Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1989, Tester moved to Hammond, Indiana to attend Hyles-Anderson College. In 1996, Tester left the Jack Hyles’ IFB mecca and moved to Longview, Texas to attend Texas Baptist College — an unaccredited college started by sycophant (ass-kisser, lackey, toady, bootlicker, fawner) Bob Gray, Sr., a Hyles-Anderson alum. After graduating from college, Tester worked for Bob Gray, Sr. at Longview Baptist Temple. In 2003, he was sent out by Longview Baptist to start a new church in Greensboro. North Carolina. (Just what Greensboro needed, another Baptist church, right?) Tester’s children both attended Texas Baptist College — now called Texas Independent Bapst Seminary and Schools.

As you will see from Tester’s comment, he’s a Bob Gray, Sr. fanboy, and much like his idol, he’s comfortable with passive-aggressive behavior and name-calling. I suspect Tester runs his church much like Gray, Sr. ran (lorded over) Longview Baptist back in the day. Today, Longview Baptist is pastored by Gray, Sr’s son. The church’s name has been changed to Emmanuel Baptist Church, and most observers believe the son has moved the church away from some of his father’s extreme behavior. It’s worth noting the Gray, Sr. no longer attends his son’s church. Make of that what you will.

With that background in mind, I give you Pastor James Tester’s comment (all spelling and grammar in the original). My commentary is indented and italicized:

Lol! Check out the author, look at his photo, read his bio and simply consider the source of this article! End of story!

What’s with IFB preachers and their obsession with my looks, weight, body shape, and penis size? Okay, maybe not that last one, but damn, these guys seem to think that if you don’t fit some sort of approved “look,” whatever you say can be dismissed out of hand.

What, in my bio, suggests that no one should listen to me? If anything, my bio reveals that I have a lot of preaching and ministerial experience; that I know what I am talking about.

What Tester is doing here is classic misdirection. Instead of actually interacting with what I have written (the message), he focuses on me personally (the messenger). All that matters is whether what I write is true or is an accurate portrayal of the IFB church movement in general and “Dr.” Bob Gray, Sr. in particular.

Tester says “end of story,” but I ain’t going anywhere. I will continue to expose the IFB church movement until I die. Just today, I had an investigative reporter from a major newspaper call me to talk about IFB churches and their pastors. I am always delighted to provide background information. Who better to get it from than a man who spent years attending and pastoring IFB churches?

Everyone that knows anything about an aggressive soul winning Independent Fundamental Baptist church knows that there are always disgruntles. You almost have as many walking out the back door as you have coming in the front door. There are always those that get offended at the preaching (truth) with many becoming bitter.

There were many times in the Bible where Jesus preached and the people were cut to the heart and drew Him to the edge of the city to stone Him and He escaped out of there hands. Conviction is powerful!

Tester admits that IFB church growth is a zero sum game; that as many people go out the back door as come in the front door. In fact, IFB churches continue to decline attendance-wise. Scores of large IFB churches are shells of what they once were or have closed their doors.

Tester would have us believe that the people leaving IFB churches are disgruntled; that when they could no longer stand getting their toes stepped on, they fled to friendlier confines.

While it is true, some congregants do become disgruntled and leave for other churches, but to suggest this is always the case is laughable. Men such as Gray, Sr., Jack Hyles, and James Tester psychologically abuse church members, bombarding them three times a week with preaching meant to inflict harm. People leave because they are tired of being abused.

Tester, true to form for IFB preachers, absolves Gray, Sr., Hyles, and I suspect, himself, from any culpability or accountability for how their preaching and behavior harms others.

I was there as a member in the most successful years of LBT through the early to late 90’s. I graduated TBC (The Bible College). I worked on staff in the early 2000’s. Sadly, I have seen people come and go. I personally know why many left. I have seen what they became after they left. It was shocking and very sad to see peoples lives totally destroyed, not by Brother gray or the preaching of truth but by sin and rebellion. The result was broken homes, divorced marriages, drug addiction, alcoholism, criminally convicted of crimes etc. Don’t blame God, the church or Bro. Gray for that.

Tester asserts that those who left Longview Baptist Temple have turned to sin and rebellion against God. Why, their departure from the IFB Mecca of Texas, led to broken homes, divorce, drug addiction, alcoholism, and criminal behavior. Can’t blame God or Gray, Sr. for how people turned out after they left Longview Baptist.

Lost on Tester is the fact that Gray, Sr. and Jack Hyles and countless other IFB pastors such as Steven Anderson and Tester himself, preach a truncated, bastardized gospel; a gospel called 1-2-3 repeat after me or decisional regeneration. Simply put, salvation is procured by assenting to a set of propositional truths and praying the sinner’s prayer. Nothing else is required or demanded from sinners. Just “believe,” and go on your merry way.

This kind of gospel, of course, makes no lasting difference, thus the constant turnover. As long-time readers know, Gray, Sr. was a consummate bean counter. All that mattered to him was the number of souls saved. Based on my calculation of the number of people “saved” at Longview Baptist, every person in Longview, Texas is now saved.

The real enemy has always been Satan, sin and people like the author of this article that is trying to sow discord among the brethren.

Ah yes, the real enemies are Satan, sin, and Evangelicals-turned-atheists such as Bruce Gerencser. Again, Tester refuses to see things as they are, blaming others for the decline numerical decline of the IFB church movement.

Tester accuses me of “sowing discord among the brethren.” In other words, my writing causes turmoil among IFB preachers and congregants. And to that charge, I gladly plead guilty. Nothing would make me happier than to see the IFB church movement implode, and church members leave for churches that preach a healthier, kinder, loving faith. Who doesn’t want to put an end to the abuse, right? If every IFB church in the United States closed overnight, it would be a good day.

As for the author having many friends from the old LBT, I can only say, that birds of a feather flock to together. If they are truly “friends” then they are the same in many ways. Think about that for a second. The Bible says in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” No one that is a so-called friend to this author (who is a self proclaimed atheist) is right with God (Let that sink in). Anyone that is feeding this author with this kind of trash is like Simon in the book of Acts 8:23 when Peter said to him, “For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”

Yes, I have “spies” everywhere; people who share with stories about the IFB (and Evangelical) churches in their communities. One such person was the late Steve Gupton. Steve attended Texas Baptist College and the Longview Baptist Temple years ago. Others have contacted me and shared their own Bob Gray, Sr. horror stories. Don’t like people talking out of school? Treat people better. Stop verbally abusing and manipulating them.

I wonder if Tester has bothered to consider the fact that, according to his soteriology, I am still a Christian. I may be a “self-proclaimed atheist,” but according to the gospel preached by Gray, Sr., Hyles, and Tester, I am still a born-again Christian. Once saved, always saved, right? Sweet baby Jesus, Heaven will be my home someday. Tester will likely be my next door neighbor. Awesome!

I’m not surprised by this kind of junk being put out there, if this author was alive in Jesus day he would be saying the same kind of trash about Jesus. He would be criticizing the way Jesus spoke to the Pharisees when He called them a generation of vipers, saying that He is mean and not compassionate in His preaching. He would have written about that fact that He spent time with the sinners and the outcasts of the day saying that He has double standards and lives like those that He choses to be around. He would write articles slamming His doctrine saying that He was teaching and preaching against Old Testament law which is contrary to the writings of Moses. Jesus had many that falsely accused Him in His day. One of His right hand men that worked with him for years, Judas Iscariot betrayed Him. They came out of the woodwork at his mock trail and lied about Him, His teachings and His ministry.

Tester is suggesting that Jesus being persecuted in his day is the same as Bob Gray, Sr. and other IFB preachers being “persecuted” today. My, oh my, what a distorted view of one’s importance.

May this article be an encouragement to those who still believe the Word of God, go soul winning, and believe in the old time tried and proven paths of the KJB. The devil doesn’t like it when we obey Scripture, preach and live truth. That is why articles like this are written. We must be doing something right!

Tester thinks that my opposition to Gray, Sr. and the IFB church movement is proof of his and their rightness; that the only reason I write about them is that they must be doing something “right.”

I will leave it the astute readers of this blog to decide who is “right.” I can say that I have been contacted by scores of current and former IFB pastors, evangelists, missionaries, professors, and church members over the years. Their stories paint a picture of a movement that can be best described as a cult. Tester, of course, will never believe that he is a cultist. Until some sort of personal or theological crisis causes a chink in his certainty, there is no way of reaching him (and others like him). Certainty breeds arrogance, as readers can see, Tester is full of both.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Shelton Smith, An IFB Preacher Who Ignores His Neighbor and Tweets About It

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

Shelton Smith, the editor of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) paper, Sword of the Lord, sent out a tweet that said:

shelton smith tweet

 I responded:

bruce gerencser twitter response shelton smith

IFB preachers:

all thought Smith’s tweet was so wonderful that they made it a favorite.

I have a modern-day story for Shelton Smith and his merry band of let ’em starve, but make sure they pray the sinner’s prayer preachers. Maybe they will recognize what book the story is from:

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Murfreesboro to Nashville and rummaged in dumpster to find a morsel of food to eat.

And by chance there came down Shelton Smith that way: and when he saw him, he sent out a tweet to his peeps, not bothering to stop, lend a hand, or buy him a meal.

And likewise another IFB pastor, when he was at the place, came and looked upon him, and said “is there not a rescue mission this man can go to?”

But a liberal Methodist, as he journeyed, came where the hungry man was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. And went to him, bought him a meal, brought him to a Motel Six, and took care of him.

And on the next day when he departed, he took out $100.00 and gave it to the motel owner, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that had fallen on hard times?

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Luke 10:29-37

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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IFB Pastor Bob Gray, Sr. Peddles Lie About New American Standard Bible

For many years, fake “Dr.” Bob Gray, Sr. pastored the Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas. After retiring, Gray handed off the franchise to his son. Longview Baptist, renamed Emmanuel Baptist Church, is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church noted for its hyper-aggressive approach to evangelism. It is also known for its staunch defense of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. According to the Grays, there is only one true, perfect, inerrant, infallible, inspired Bible, and that is the 1611 KJV. All other Bible translations are counterfeit, tools used by Satan to lead people astray (never mind the fact that the Grays use the 1769 version of the KJV, not the 1611).Several years ago, Bob Gray, Sr. posted the following graphic on his blog:

from NASV to KJV Frank Logsdon

In Gray’s mind, Frank Logsdon’s repudiation of the New American Standard Bible is proof that modern translations of the Bible are counterfeits used by Satan to lead people astray. Logsdon’s story has been repeated countless times at IFB preacher’s meetings and conferences. But, here’s the problem . . . the story isn’t true. In fact, is a lie.

Years ago, the Lockman Foundation, the group that holds the copyright to the New American Standard Bible, released a statement about the Frank Logsdon story:

The Board of Directors of The Lockman Foundation launched the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE translation work in the late 1950s following the completion of the AMPLIFIED NEW TESTAMENT. Dr. S. Franklin Logsdon was acquainted with Dewey Lockman, president of The Lockman Foundation, prior to Mr. Lockman’s death in 1974. Mr. Logsdon was never a member of the Board of Directors, nor was he an employee of The Lockman Foundation. Mr. Logsdon had no authority to hire employees or translators for the Foundation, to set policy, to vote, to hold office, to incur expenses, etc. He cannot be considered “co-founder” of the NASB, nor part of The Lockman Foundation, nor part of the NASB translation team, nor did he write the forward of the NASB. According to our records, he was present at board meetings on two occasions — once to hear a travel report; and once to deliver an “inspirational thought.”

Mr. Logsdon last wrote to Mr. Lockman in fall of 1973 that he was moving to Florida. Mr. Lockman replied that he was surprised and saddened by his decision to leave the area. Mr. Lockman passed away in January of 1974, and no further correspondence was exchanged between Frank Logsdon and The Lockman Foundation. He resided in Florida until his passing some years ago.

The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God stands forever.  Isaiah 40:8  (NASB)

The Lockman Foundation

This statement appears on James White’s Alpha and Omega Ministries website. Dr. Jay Wile, a young earth creationist, confirmed with the Lockman Foundation that the statement is theirs.

I let Gray, Sr. know that he is spreading a falsehood. As per his custom, he ignored me and continued to spread this lie. Gray deleted my comment from his blog.

This lie can also be found on AV 1611, Defend and Proclaim the Faith, Jack Chick, to name a few sources.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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