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Tag: Discerning the Will of God

A Reflection on the “Will of God”

will of god

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)

According to the Apostle Paul, followers of Jesus prove/show what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God by:

  • Presenting their bodies as living sacrifices to God (which is their reasonable service to God)
  • Not being conformed to the “world”
  • Being transformed by the renewing their minds

Those of us raised in Evangelical and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches heard countless sermons and admonitions about doing the will of God. We were told that the Holy Spirit lived inside of us; that he was our teacher and guide, giving us everything we need for life and godliness. We were also frequently reminded to avoid the “world” and abstain from the very appearance of evil.

Most Evangelicals believe Christians have two natures: the flesh and the spirit. There’s a constant battle between the flesh and the spirit. The only way to overcome the flesh is to crucify it, giving no place in your life for carnal, worldly behaviors or the Devil. The only way to crucify (kill) the flesh is to explicitly, and without reservation, follow the will of God.

So what, exactly, is the will of God? Typically, Evangelicals believe the will of God is known three ways:

  • The inspired, inerrant, infallible words of the Protestant Christian Bible
  • The still small voice of the Holy Spirit in their heads
  • Personal feelings/intuition

The Bible is, of course, the gold standard for knowing the will of God. While the Holy Spirit can speak to Evangelicals or prompt them to do certain things, their behaviors must align with the teachings of the Bible. One problem is that there is no singular interpretation of the Bible. Every church, pastor, and congregant interprets the Bible his or her own way, often coming up with competing and conflicting interpretations. Thus, the “will of God” ultimately becomes whatever the believer thinks it is, regardless of what other Christians might think. Most Evangelicals believe in the priesthood of the believer. Every Christian has direct access to God, no go-between like the Roman Catholic pope between the believer and God. Of course, all the priesthood of the believer does is make every Christian their own pope.

I came of age in the Evangelical church in the 1970s, specifically the IFB church movement. My pastors implored me to seek and follow the will of God. At the age of fifteen, I went forward during a revival service invitation and asked Jesus to save me from my sin. I was baptized the following Sunday, saying to the church that I was a follower of Jesus Christ. Two weeks later, I went forward again, this time to tell the church that God was calling me to preach. From that point forward, my life was a string of choices that were me allegedly following the will of God. I say allegedly because long, painful reflections after I deconverted on the decisions I made that were the “will of God” led me to conclude that the only will that I was following was mine.

I went to Midwestern Baptist College to study for the ministry, married Polly, pastored this or that church over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry because it was the will of God for me to do so. I made countless decisions, from buying cars to moving into new houses to having children, all because I believed it was the will of God to do so.

How did I know doing these things was the will of God? I prayed and consulted the Bible. If it felt right for me to do something, that meant it was the will of God. Sometimes, I would talk to colleagues in the ministry about whether I should do something. Of course, I was looking for affirmation and approval for doing what I wanted to do. I made several decisions over the years that my preacher friends said were a bad idea. They, of course, were wrong. 🙂 As most Christians would testify, if they were honest, the will of God always lined up with my own wants, needs, desires, and ambitions. Isn’t it funny how that works? It is almost as if WE are God. 🙂

My life is filled with good and bad decisions. In 1994, Pat Horner and Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas offered me the position of co-pastor of the church. I prayed on the matter for a few days before declining their offer. I believed it was the will of God for me to continue pastoring Somerset Baptist Church. Several weeks later, I was studying in my office, in preparation for the Lord’s Day. Suddenly, I had a profound spiritual (emotional) experience. I began weeping as “God” made it clear to me that he wanted me to leave Somerset Baptist and move to Elmendorf, Texas to become the co-pastor of Community Baptist. Two months later, we moved to Texas. I was certain that I was following the will of God. Seven months later found me back in Ohio, mentally and spiritually destroyed. My time at Community Baptist proved to be a disaster. (Please read I am a Publican and a Heathen — Part One.)

What I am to make of God telling me one thing one week and another thing two weeks later? Was God the problem? Of course not. God is a myth. What triggered God (Bruce) to lead me to move to Elmendorf was a series of experiences that said to me it was time for me to move on. Have you ever thought it was time to work somewhere else, date someone else, sell your possessions, buy/sell your home, have children, or get married/divorced? Live long enough and you will make a few life-changing decisions. Sometimes these decisions work out, sometimes they don’t. I have made decisions that had disastrous results. I have also made decisions that worked out well for me. Marrying Polly forty-five years ago is a decision that definitely worked out well for me. Yet, there was a period early in our marriage when its long-term success was in doubt. We could have divorced. That’s a story I haven’t told, but one day I hope to do so.

Successful and failed decisions are part of the human experience. What complicates things for Evangelicals is God. When things work out well that is considered “the will of God.” When things don’t work out, Evangelicals often blame their “flesh” or Satan. God is, of course, never to blame. God is good all the time, all the time God is good, Evangelicals are fond of saying.

It is hard to look at the decisions you have made in life and realize that the only “will” in the equations is yours. To whatever degree we have free will, we choose, we decide. The next time Evangelicals say to you “this is the will of God,” ask them how they know this. What evidence can they provide that will show a particular decision/choice was God’s will? Often, Evangelicals will simply restate that their decision was the will of God. No evidence will be forthcoming. Much like the unwashed Philistines of the World, Evangelicals make their own choices — good, bad, and indifferent.


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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How Evangelicals Make Decisions

decision making

Many Evangelicals have a decidedly convoluted, complex process they follow when making decisions. In their minds, it is essential that this process be followed lest they be accused of missing or being out of the will of God. The goal is for every decision to line up perfectly with the will of the Almighty. In Romans 12:1,2, Christians are commanded to seek after the perfect will of God:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

And if Evangelicals find the perfect will of God, that one true God promises to answers to their prayers. 1 John 5:14,15 says:

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

When Evangelicals are faced with an important decision, here’s the process they follow:

  • What does the Bible say about the matter?
  • Pray about the matter.
  • Seek godly counsel about the matter.
  • Has God opened the door for you in this matter?
  • Do you have peace about the matter?

It is only after following this process that Evangelicals can know for sure that they are following the perfect will of God. Some Evangelicals turn to putting out fleeces or casting lots when this process still leaves them with doubt about the rightness of a prospective decision. Both are found in the Bible.

In a 2015 post titled, Putting Out a Fleece, I wrote:

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground. (Judges 6:36-40)

Let me give you a bit of context. The Israelites, those oft-sinning followers of Jehovah, disobeyed Jehovah and he punished them severely for their sin:

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD. (Judges 6:1-6)

Jehovah impoverished the Israelites because of their sin. Modern day followers of the Christian God must really be living right because they are definitely not impoverished.

For seven years, God pummeled his followers with the judgment stick. At the end of the seven years, the Israelites cried out to God and God sent a prophet to ask them if they had had enough of his judgment.

After the prophet left, an angel came to an Israelite named Gideon. The angel and Gideon had a conversation:

Angel: The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

Gideon: Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.

Angel (or Lord): Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?

Gideon: Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.

Angel (or Lord): And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.

Gideon: If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.

God gave Gideon the sign he requested and Gideon went forth to be a messenger for God, for a while.

It seems that Gideon’s skeptical side kept getting in the way. He wanted to make sure it really was God speaking to him, so Gideon asked God to prove to him he really was God.

Gideon put a fleece of wool on the floor. He said if the fleece was wet in the morning and it had not rained (or dew covered the ground) outside he would believe what God had said.

Sure enough, the fleece was wet in the morning. Did Gideon believe God? Nope. Skeptical Gideon asked for more evidence.

Gideon reversed the fleece experiment. He said if the fleece was dry in the morning and there was dew on the ground outside he would believe what God had said.

Sure enough, the fleece was dry in the morning.

God allowed Gideon to test him multiple times. (read Judges 7 to see more of Gideon’s God tests) Evidently, Gideon had a faith that required authentication and proof.

In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement I grew up in, putting out a fleece was common practice. Putting out a fleece was a way of “testing” God or finding out the “will of God.”


In Acts 1, the disciples of Jesus were having trouble deciding who should take Judas’ place as an apostle. After praying on the matter, the disciples decided to cast lots — the equivalent of pulling straws to see who gets the short straw — to determine who would be numbered among the eleven apostles. Verses 24-26 state:

And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Evangelicals can follow this process and conclude that God wants them to do something and still find themselves out of the will of God. Christians are encouraged to seek out God’s will. Their pastors preach on the importance of being in the “center” of God will; in running the race as a horse with blinkers on, focused on exactly what it is God wants you to do.  However, when congregants put their pastor’s preaching into practice, they often find themselves at odds with their pastor, elder board, or other church power structures. You see, the men running the show only want you following the will of God if it lines up with their purpose, plan, and agenda for the church. Worse yet, in Evangelical churches that have strict disciplinary practices, following what you believe is the will of God can get you kicked out of the church. Let me illustrate this point. Years ago, I met a single woman at a meeting I was preaching at a Reformed Baptist church in Findlay, Ohio. She had moved to Findlay from the east coast. She told me a heartbreaking story of her believing it was God’s will for her to move to Ohio and her pastor and elder board disagreeing with her. Her being single meant that she had no man to rule over her, so they expected her to submit their authority. After numerous meetings on the matter, she decided to follow her bliss and move. The church leaders punished the woman by excommunicating her.

I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I watched scores of congregants follow the aforementioned process for making decisions. I have watched countless church members make harmful decisions, believing that it was God green-lighting them. I can say the same for some of the decisions I made. I was oh-so-certain that the Captain of my Salvation was leading the way, yet in hindsight it was clear that my decision-making process was flawed or based on wrong or incomplete information. I can confidently say that there are several churches I never should have pastored, yet, at the time, I sincerely believed God wanted me to do so. And therein is the crucial point I want readers to see; that Evangelicals, much like their counterparts in the real world, make decisions based on feelings. If it feels right do it, the old mantra goes. We humans do what we do because we can. We may weigh the pros and cons of a matter, but when it comes right down to it, we choose to do what we want. Evangelicals may think that God is “leading them,” but the fact of the matter is that the only things leading any of us are wants, needs, and desires. In the end, we do what we want to do. We may seek out the counsel of others — certainly a wise idea — but once the opinion of others has been registered, we do what we think is best for ourselves at the time.

I am sixty-one years old. I have made a lot of decisions with and without God — not that there is any difference since there is no God. Many of my decisions have worked out as planned, but others haven’t. I have, over the years, made some horrid, wrong-headed choices. All I can do is learn from my mistakes, and hopefully not repeat them. I am sure the same can be said for all of us. Live long enough and you will have regrets.

Have a decision-making story to share? Please share it in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Bruce Gerencser