Tag Archive: Don Hardman

Things I’ve Heard Preachers Say


Over the years, I heard countless sermons, both during church services and at pastor’s conferences. I have also spent extensive time talking shop with my fellow colleagues in the ministry. Needless to say, I have heard some interesting, outlandish, and, at times, insane statements on all sorts of subjects. What follows are a few of the things I heard. I give them to you as I remember them. Some of the quotes are forty-plus years old, so they may not be verbatim. Unless otherwise noted, quotes are from Sunday sermons.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:1, Arm Yourselves!  (The speaker pushed his suit coat back and pulled out a revolver. The crowd went wild.) — Jack Wood, Baptist evangelist, said at a preacher’s conference in Rossville, Georgia

Go to Hell for all I care. No, I don’t mean that. Yes, I do. Go to Hell for all I care — Tom Malone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Pontiac, Michigan

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! (Said to a man who got up to leave during the sermon.) — Tom Malone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Pontiac, Michigan

Who cares about the hole in the ozone layer? That just means there will be a bigger hole for Jesus to come through when he returns to earth again. — Bruce Gerencser, pastor of Somerset Baptist Church, Somerset, Ohio

Speaking of Matthew 5:28. But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart, When a good looking woman comes your way, it’s not the first look that’s a sin; it’s the second one. So just make sure the first look is a long one. — Unnamed Baptist evangelist to a group of preachers, including fifteen-year-old Bruce Gerencser, at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio

Girl, when you climb into the backseat with a boy, I hope the only face you see is mine. — Baptist Evangelist Don Hardman (who came out of the pulpit, stood right in front of a teen girl, pointed his finger, and said the aforementioned quote), said during a revival meeting at Somerset Baptist Church, Somerset, Ohio

No girl has ever gotten pregnant without holding hands with a boy first. — Bruce Gerencser, pastor of Somerset Baptist Church, Somerset, Ohio

I have checked the tithing records, and it has come to my attention that there are some church employees who are not tithing. Either you will start tithing or I will have your tithe taken out of your check. — James Dennis, Newark Baptist Temple, Heath, Ohio

I don’t know, I have never, never lost. — Jack Hyles, First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana (answering someone who asked Hyles how he responded when he lost), said at a Sword of the Lord conference held at the Newark Baptist Temple, Heath, Ohio

Years ago, some men were drilling a deep hole towards the center of the earth. Suddenly, they heard what sounded like voices and screams. The men got a microphone and lowered it into the hole, and sure enough they heard people screaming. Hell is real! — Bill Beard, pastor of Lighthouse Memorial Church, Millersport, Ohio

If the King James Bible was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it is good enough for me. — Unnamed preacher at a Sword of the Lord conference held at the Newark Baptist Temple, Heath, Ohio

God doesn’t use quitters! — Tom Malone, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Pontiac, Michigan

The government is coming to take our guns. It’s the duty of every Christian to own guns so they can defend themselves. — John Williams, Baptist evangelist, said at a revival held at Somerset Baptist Church, Somerset, Ohio

There was a man whom God called to be a preacher. Instead of obeying God, the man instead took a secular job, married, and he and his wife had several children. One day, his wife and children were killed in an automobile accident. At the funeral home, God said to the man, now will you serve me? The man began weeping, and said to God, yes, I will serve you. I ask you, what will God have to take away from you for you to serve him? — Greg Carpenter, preacher

Divorce is always a sin. — Keith Troyer, Fallsburg Baptist Church, Fallsburg, Ohio

Your girlfriend’s skirt is too short and it is immodest. (This judgment was said to me, not my girlfriend. I replied, don’t look. Were her skirts too short? Not from my vantage point.) — Chuck Cofty, Sierra Vista Baptist Church, Sierra Vista, Arizona

What’s your favorite quote from your days as an Evangelical Christian? Please share them in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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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How Preachers Put the Fear of God into Church Attendees

fearful of god

Fear is a tool used by Evangelical preachers to manipulate and control church attendees. While many Evangelical churches are taking more of a relational approach that focuses on feel-good how-to sermons, hellfire-and-brimstone churches can still be found in virtually every community. These kind of churches are known for sin-hating, devil-chasing “hard” preaching. The men who pastor such churches take pride in the fact that their toe-stomping sermons cause sinners and saints alike to fear God. And in some instances, not only do church attendees fear the Almighty, they also fear the preacher.

There are two ways commonly used by preachers to cause people to feel afraid of God. First, there are the various Bible verses that promote a healthy fear of God. The book of Hebrews says that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon said that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep his commandments. The Bible also says that people should fear he who has the keys of life and death, “he” being, of course, God. Then there are also various Bible stories that remind people of what might happen if they disobey God. Preachers remind church attendees that disobeying God shows that they have a lack of fear. Church members who are not regular attendees or faithful tithers are told that their disobedience reveals a heart that does not fear God. No matter the sin, according to Evangelical preachers, the root cause is a lack of fear of God. If people feared God they would do all that God commands them to do. Of course, far too many Evangelical preachers confuse their personal convictions and way of life with the laws, commands, and precepts found in the Bible. I have written several posts in the past about the long list of rules and regulations that can be found in many Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. (Please see An Independent Baptist Hate List and The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) These rules and regulations are little more than personal interpretations of various Bible verses. There are no verses in the Bible that prohibit many of the things that Evangelical preachers preach against, but this does not keep them from conflating personal beliefs with the teachings of the Bible. While many Evangelical churches have softened their stance on many social issues, plenty of churches still preach against “sins” such as alcohol drinking, drug use, gambling, mixed bathing, movie attendance, swearing, immodest clothing, long hair on men, pants on women, rock ‘n roll music,dancing, petting, and premarital sex. Preachers scour their Bibles looking for verses and stories that can be used to prop up their peculiar social and moral codes. Again, the main purpose is to put the fear of God into people so they will not do the things that preachers and churches consider sin.

The second method that Evangelical preachers use to promote the fear of God is the telling of personal stories that are meant to remind people of what happens when people ignore God and live in ways that show a lack of fear. Remember, people show that they rightly fear God by obeying God and the teachings of the Bible. People who attend church, yet ignore God’s commands, are treading on thin ice, and if they do not repent, God could bring judgment down upon their heads. Preachers often tell stories about former church members who ignored their preaching and stern admonitions, only to find themselves being punished or even killed by God. Years ago I listened to a preaching tape by Southern Baptist evangelist Rolfe Barnard. His sermon was titled, God kills people. Will he have to kill you? The purpose of Barnard’s sermon was to provoke church members to explicitly obey the commands of God. Threatening people with death was certainly a good way to get their attention. Of course, despite all the fear-mongering, most church members remained passive attendees who threw a few bucks in the offering plate and said, Great Show.

Evangelists were often the best storytellers. These merchandisers of fear and judgment use unverifiable stories about people in other churches who did not fear God. With thundering voices and apocalyptic pronouncements, these men of God tell stories about people who angered God, and He made them sick, took away their jobs, killed their children, or suffered any of a number of other reversals of fortune people face in this life. Instead of seeing such things as shit happens, evangelists see these things as signs of God chastising his children.

I vividly remember a revival meeting with Don Hardman in the late 1980s when the evangelist left the pulpit and came down to where the church teenagers were sitting. With a raised voice Hardman pointed his finger at each teenager, telling them that GOD sees everything they do. He then recited a list of the typical “sins” committed by rambunctious, hormone-raging young people. By the time he was done, I could see that the teenagers were fearful. I thought, at the time, that God was using Hardman to ferret out sin and rebellion against God. I now know that the church teenagers did not fear God as much as they feared Don Hardman. Or perhaps they feared being found out. Either way, come invitation time, numerous teenagers came to the altar to pray. I suspect very little changed for these teenagers, but by coming to the altar to pray, they showed, outwardly at least, that they had received God’s and evangelist Hardman’s message.

Many Evangelical preachers save their best fear-mongering stories for unsaved church attendees. These kind of stories are used to show unsaved people what could happen to them if they put off getting saved. Every Evangelical preacher knows of people who had heard the gospel and had an opportunity to be saved, yet they put off their decision to another day. And before they could be saved some sort of tragic accident happened that led to their death. Once dead, the sinners no longer had an opportunity to make things right with God. They should have feared God and taken him up on his offer of eternal salvation. But because they didn’t, they are now burning in hell.

I wish I could say that I did not use such manipulative stories and means to get people saved, but I did. I justified it, at the time, by reminding myself that the Apostle Paul became all things to all men so that by all means he could save some. What is the harm of a psychologically manipulative story if the end result is sinners saved from the fiery pit of hell. I employed all sorts of justifications for my use of heart-wrenching, tear-inducing stories of human tragedy, suffering, and death. Believing that I somehow had to get people’s attention, I used these stories to force people to see the brevity of life and the importance of putting their faith in Jesus Christ. Over the years, hundreds and hundreds of people came forward at invitation time, knelt at the altar, and asked Jesus to save them. Nearby, at the same altar, would be church members — people who were saved — who were also doing business with God — confessing secret and not-so-secret sins.

Putting the fear of God into people is good for business. Without it, I suspect many people would not bother to attend church.  Without fear and threats of judgment, most people would choose to sleep in on Sundays and enjoy a leisurely brunch before they turn on the game. I know I would. One of the greatest joys that came with becoming an atheist is that I no longer fear God. Since God doesn’t exist, I no longer have a need to quake in my boots at the very mention of his name. Of course, Evangelicals are fond of reminding me that there is coming a day when Bruce Gerencser WILL fear God, but I am confident that when that day comes, the fear-inducing God will be found nowhere. This God is little more than a tool used by preachers and churches to keep people in the pews and money in the offering plates. Remove fear from the equation and I suspect there will be a lot more Baptists at the lake on Sunday morning.

Did you attend a church where the preacher regularly made use of fear inducing sermon illustrations? Was his fear mongering successful? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Life: It All Depends on Where You Are Standing

Photo by Ken Kistler, Public Domain

Photo by Ken Kistler, Public Domain

As you know, I spend a lot of time writing about my past: people, places, and events that are very much a part of the fabric of my life. I try to be as truthful and accurate as possible when I recount the past, but I am ever aware of the fact that I am giving an account of things as I remember them. Having read a good bit about the brain and memories, I know my retelling of my past may or may not be accurate. As best I can remember, I try to give an honest accounting of my life.

I have a younger brother and sister, and it is amazing how differently we each view events that happened in our childhood. Who is right? I’ve come to understand, we all are. The story we tell depends on where we were standing at the time.  As a 15 year old boy and the oldest son, my view of our parent’s divorce , is much different from that of my 11-year-old sister. The same can be said about many of our shared seminal experiences.

I live with a lot of guilt. I am prone to depression and I can be quite pessimistic. I have faced long, deep bouts of depression, times where I have felt that death would be too good for me. With my words, theology, and religious practice, I hurt people. Or so I think. I’ve come to have these feelings because I am looking back at my past with the eyes of a 58-year-old man. How could I have been Bruce Gerencser, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher? Who is that man, I ask myself. Thanks be to Zeus he no longer exists, having been slain by reason and maturity, but I still live with the memories of the past.

I am Facebook friends with several of the kids who were members of Somerset Baptist Church, a congregation I pastored from 1983-1994. I was their pastor through the formative years of their life. Not only did they sit under my preaching 3 times a week, they also attended Somerset Baptist Academy, a private Christian school I started in 1989. I often feel I hurt them and let them down. I think back to how narrow I was over things like certain kinds of clothing, music, physical contact between the sexes, movies,  and TV. If these children hated me, I wouldn’t blame them. Thankfully, they don’t.

When I talk to these former students, I hear their perspective on our shared experiences. All of them are in their 30s now and many of them are married and have children. Several of them are gay. Their religious persuasions run from atheism to liberal Christianity. None of them retained the fundamentalist Christianity of their youth. From their vantage point they recall things quite differently from the way I do. Several of them recall my wife teaching them to read. One man mentioned going back to the old church grounds and playing another game of kickball for old times sake. Again, what we remember depends on where we were standing at the time.

I recently re-read several posts I wrote about fundamentalist Baptist evangelist Don Hardman and his wife Laura. (please see Laura’s Light by Laura Hardman, A Book Review and The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman, A Book Review)  As I read these posts I felt twinges of guilt and sadness. When I was a pastor, I had no closer friends than Don and Laura Hardman. I loved them like they were family. When they came to our church it was the highlight of the year. For 15 days we would focus on God and his Word. Every day Don and I would go out evangelizing and street preaching. The church loved the Hardmans and graciously gave of their money and food to help them.

From my vantage point as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church, I have nothing but good memories and feelings when I think of Don and Laura Hardman. I never saw them fight and I never had a cross word with them. Even when we parted company for a few years over my Calvinistic beliefs, we remained friends. In the early 2000s, the Hardmans came to Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio, a church I was pastoring at the time, and conducted a week long meeting. We had a great time, but I knew that I could not have them back. While they remained right where I met them in 1987, I had changed. My view of God, the Bible, politics, culture, and other Christian sects was evolving. Yet, we remained friends until 2008, when my deconversion permanently fractured the relationship.

Here I stand in 2015, no longer a Christian, now an atheist. My view of the past is clouded with the tincture of time. While I still have fond memories of evangelist Don Hardman’s protracted revival meetings, I have come to see that the preaching and the theology behind it was psychologically controlling and damaging. This is how I view much of my preaching as well, especially the first 15 years or so. Over time I matured. I began preaching expositionally and I turned from a Bible-quoting, hellfire-and-brimstone-preacher to more of a teacher of the Bible. Oh, I was still quite passionate about God, the Bible, and how we ought to apply it to our lives, but I was much more careful about using the Bible in context and letting the text speak for itself. While the Hardmans remained steadfast and unmovable throughout our friendship, my understanding of them changed. Again, my vantage point changed, resulting in me viewing the Hardmans differently.

Polly, my wife, and I have known each other for almost 40 years. Last July we will celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary. A year ago, I uploaded a bunch of old pictures to Facebook: family pictures; pictures from the Somerset Baptist Church, and pictures from Our Father’s House. As I uploaded these photos I began to weep. The memories of years gone by flooded my mind; memories of the people I pastored and the children I taught at Somerset Baptist Academy; memories of my wonderful wife and our little babies. Good memories. Wonderful memories.

Now, having a different perspective, I view the events recorded in these pictures differently. Is this maturity? I don’t know. Time changes how we view the past.  What were once wonderful memories are now clouded by what I now know about the emotional and mental manipulation I perpetrated on those who called me Pastor. As I have shared before, I am in a unique position. I am both a victim and a victimizer. I followed in the footsteps of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers who emotionally and mentally scarred my life. Victimized by their manipulation, I in turn victimized those who were members of the IFB churches I pastored. It’s an ugly cycle of abuse that I was fortunately able to put an end to during my latter years in the ministry and subsequent post-Jesus life.

So it is with Polly. While she and I walked side by side through the years we spent in the ministry, Polly’s viewpoint is very different from mine. I was the leader of the church and the center of attention. People, for the most part, respected me, loved me, and supported my work as a pastor. For Polly it was different. Like many pastor’s wives she was my gofer. She did what others didn’t or wouldn’t do.  No one in the nursery? Polly filled in. Entertain people every Sunday for 20 years? Polly did it without a complaint, even when her pastor husband forgot to tell her so and so was coming over for dinner. She quietly submitted to  a life as the helpmeet of a poorly paid, Type A, constantly-working, never-home, Baptist preacher.

Polly did without.  Our entire family did without, but Polly more so than me the children and I. She never said a word. She quietly lived in ramshackled houses and drove cars that were better suited for a demolition derby.  She made do with what she had. This much I know, I do WISH there was a heaven, because Polly deserves a huge mansion right next door to Dottie Rambo’s Log Cabin.

Video Link

However, since there is no heaven, all I can do is make sure that Polly has the best life possible for the rest of this life. She deserves it!

It should come as no surprise then that Polly remembers the past much differently from what I recall. One time I said, wouldn’t you like to go back to __________church? Immediately she replied, No I wouldn’t. I was surprised by her quick and negative response. I asked, why not? I then quickly learned, from where Polly was standing, that her view of this church was very different from mine. Who is right? We both are.

I have written a good bit about the abuse that went on, and continues to go on, in Baptist group homes. (please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls, Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sin and The Dogma that Followed Me Home)  The stories that some people share from their time in these facilities break my heart. I want to personally find these abusive miscreants  and beat the shit out them.  They deserve to have punishment heaped upon them. They hurt  people that I love and respect, and the fact that these dear friends of mine still suffer from the abuse received from men like Mack Ford angers me to this day. Every once in a while, someone will come along and leave a glowing testimony from their time in the same facilities. They loved their time there. They were helped and their life is the better for it. How can this be? Surely, someone is lying, right? Not at all. While it is possible that someone is lying or they are living in denial, more often than not, the difference is simply a matter of where the person was standing in relation to the person, place, or event.

Time shapes how we view the past. For me, I am finding that the further a person, place, or event is in the past, the fonder my memories are. I suspect that’s how we as humans cope with life. The tincture of time often brings healing, and it also allows us to gain enough distance from the negative things in our past that they no longer feel harmful or threatening. While time rarely heals all wounds, it does allow us the space and distance necessary to be at peace with those things that cut us to the quick. Perhaps that’s the best we can hope for.


The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman, A Book Review

the preacher the life and times of don hardman

Laura Hardman, wife of Fundamentalist Baptist Evangelist Don Hardman, has written a biography about her husband titled The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman. The self published book is 201 pages long. In 2010, Laura published an autobiography titled Laura’s Light. The book was published in 2010. You can read my review of the book here.

Like Laura’s Light, The Preacher reads quite a bit like the Bible. Don Hardman’s story is one of bondage to sin and deliverance from that sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. Also, like the Bible, it is littered with fictions and omissions. I will illustrate some of these fictions and omissions later.

While the book is meant to be a biography of Don Hardman’s life, it is sparse on details, except for those details that paint Don in a favorable light. In the preface, Laura states:

I will endeavor to write about a man whom I watched God transform into literally another person over the last thirty-seven years. It is my desire not to glorify or make much of what he did when he was lost, but make much of his new life in Christ.

In other words, the past is the past, it is under the blood, praise Jesus! Time to move on.  The greater objective, according to Laura, is for some “sinner or saint” to “read this biography and realize there is hope for a victorious life, not only when we get to heaven, but also here as we walk in this world.” Laura wants readers to know that they too can be just like Don and Laura Hardman and achieve the victorious Christian life.

The book has eight chapters:

  1. A Struggle Through Childhood
  2. No Purpose for Life
  3. Time for Change
  4. The Call of God
  5. Just a Servant of the Lord
  6. A Street Preacher
  7. The Chance of a Lifetime
  8. The Life of Evangelism

These eight chapters take up 142 pages. The other 70 pages are what Laura calls a “Summary and Sketches of What the Preacher Said.” While Laura had uncounted recordings of Don’s sermons that she could have transcribed, she instead decided to summarize 30 of his sermons. While Laura says the reason for doing this is because “the Lord laid on my heart that giving a short essay and sharing how the people reacted might be more edifying”, I suspect the real reason for not transcribing Don’s sermons is because he often preached for 60 to 90 minutes. Over the years, Don lost meetings because he refused to shorten the length of his sermons.

Chapter one details Don’s birth in Canton, Ohio in 1950, his battle with polio, and a bit about his parents, brother, and grandparents. The chapter ends with Don graduating from high school, a rebellious young man who frequently skipped school, hung out at pool halls, smoked, drank beer, and rarely thought about God.  According to Laura, Don graduated in May of 1968 “with a diploma in hand and no purpose in life.”

What’s interesting is that Laura makes no mention of the fact that Don married a 13-year-old girl by the name of Cheryl, one month before he graduated from high school. At the time of their marriage, Cheryl was four months pregnant and both Don and her were wards of the court. While I can certainly understand why Laura might not want to mention this, wouldn’t this juicy tidbit enhance Don’s sinner to saint story?

evangelist don hardman

Evangelist Don Hardman, Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio, Late 1980’s

In chapter two, Laura skips Don’s marriage to Cheryl, the birth of their two children Joe and Tangi, and their foster daughter Shelly. Again, if what I am being told is correct, there are plenty of stories that Laura could have shared from this period that would have enhanced Don’s sinner creds. Outside of mentioning Don’s drinking habit, nothing more is said about Don’s life until May of 1977. During this nine year period, Don was married to Cheryl. An uninformed reader would assume that Laura is Don’s first wife and that Joe and Tangi are her biological children. In my review of Laura’s first book, I wrote:

Two children came out of Don’s first marriage. Laura claims the children as her own, a claim I suspect the biological mother finds quite offensive.(a woman I have corresponded with over the years)  While Hardman does say Don had two children, she never calls herself their step-mother. In her mind, when Jesus came into their life EVERYTHING became brand-new and that included the children having a new mother.

In May of 1977, Don, Laura, and their two children moved to Findlay, Ohio so Don could begin working for Ashland Oil. According to Laura:

In June of 1977, things seemed to be going great for us as a family. We moved into a government house on 1143 Concord Court, Findlay, Ohio. Our neighborhood was made up drunks, unmarried couples living together, and a slew of hoodlum kids. Needless to say, we added to their list of hoodlums. Little did we know that this wicked little neighborhood would become a mission field in the months to come.

Laura may have forgotten that I lived in Findlay in the 1970’s, grades eight through eleven. I am quite familiar with the neighborhood the Hardman’s lived in. The house in question is a single family dwelling. At the time the Hardman’s moved into the house it was around 20 years old. I seriously doubt that the house was government housing. It is possible that it was Section 8 housing, but this would mean that the Hardman’s were either on welfare or quite poor. Having already stated that Don had a job at Ashland Oil, which was a good paying job in the 1970’s, it is unlikely that the Hardman’s were poor or on welfare.  (put 1143 Concord Court into Google Earth or Google Map and take a street view look of the house and neighborhood)

As far as the Concord Court neighborhood is concerned, I  seriously doubt the neighborhood was as Laura describes it. While my memory is certainly not what it once was, I do remember that the Concord Court area was a working class neighborhood of moderately price, small homes, not unlike the neighborhood on National Court that my parents, siblings, and I lived in the 1970’s.

If my memory is correct, what are we to make of Laura’s description of the neighborhood? The easy answer would be that she is lying and that certainly might be the case. However, I am more inclined to believe that this story, like much of The Preacher’s Life, is like a testimony given during Sunday night church. Over the years, I heard hundreds of testimonies, often from people who told the same story over and over. I found that, over time, the stories become more exciting. A story that started out with a person being a drug user years later became the story of a person selling heroin for the mob. As we age, we tend to change, reformulate, correct, and expand the narrative of our life. The challenge for any reader is to be able to pick the facts out of the bullshit.

Chapter three details Don and Laura’s salvation experience. On June 20, 1977, Paul Reimer, pastor of First Baptist Church and church deacon Mike Roberts visited the Hardman home and shared the gospel with Don and Laura. After Reimer had shared the gospel with them and Roberts gave a personal testimony:

Don was the first to take a step forward, and prayed to God for forgiveness. Because we did not know how to pray, they led us in a prayer. Our hearts had been smitten and conviction brought tears to our eyes. We understood for the first time in our lives what Jesus had suffered for us on the cross that we might have life. Our lives were heavily burdened down with guilt and shame, and the chains of sin kept us shackled to the old life. Now we are given the choice of Freedom in Christ or Bondage withe the devil.  It’s doesn’t seem like much of a choice even though many  choose bondage with the devil.

Shortly after Don cried out to God, I also gave my life to God. We literally gave our lives to Christ!

The next Sunday, the Hardman’s walked the aisle at First Baptist Church and made their profession of faith public. Several weeks later, they were baptized and not long afterward they stopped smoking and drinking beer. Laura writes:

It took about four months of battling our flesh, but God did give us the victory. At the beginning, we only went to church on Sundays, but realized how important that midweek service was in our growth. Not only did I watch a thrice-Holy God changing my life, but also transforming my husband into another man, from a man whose mouth had a cuss word coming out every other word, to one thanking and praising God.

These excerpts are typical of testimonies of those saved in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Years ago, an Amish-Mennonite neighbor confided in me that he was troubled because he didn’t have a sin to salvation story like Baptists have. Raised in the church, a practicing Amish-Mennonite, he grew into salvation. He wanted to know if his salvation was defective because he didn’t have any bad sinner stories to tell. His question illustrated the fact that IFB churches and preachers play up the bad sinner part of their testimony. Everyone wants to be viewed as the baddest sinner in town, a sinner whom God miraculously delivered. As I mentioned previously, most of these testimonies are a mixture of lie, half-truth, fabrication, and fact.

The Hardman’s were saved in era when the IFB church and Evangelicalism made much of bad sinner testimonies. While these testimonies were meant to give God all the glory, what they really did was make much of the sinner and their debauched life before Jesus. Who wants to hear the testimony of the aforementioned Amish-Mennonite man when they can hear the testimony of Mike Warnke, Chuck Colson, Pat Boone, Joanna Michaelsen, and Eldridge Cleaver?

Nine months or so later, in the spring of 1978, “God spoke to his (Don’s) heart about full-time service.”  According to Laura, a short time later, God gave Don his life verse, II Timothy 4:5:

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Laura writes “of course, he never understood what that meant until later on.” Don told their church family that God had called him to preach. Pastor Fred Crown, also a pastor at First Baptist Church,came and talked to Don about his call to preach. Laura writes:

Pastor Crown looked him dead in the eyes  and said “So you feel God has called you to preach” and Don said, “Yes Sir.” He (Crown) said, “Then you need to consider not stealing from Him.” Of course, he was dealing with tithes and offerings. Don told him we could not see how we could pay our bills and tithe our income. The wisdom from this preacher never ceases to amaze me. He told us to try tithing for a month, and he would take care of every unpaid bill himself. Needless to say, we never had an unpaid bill and never again robbed from God.

While Don and Laura may never have robbed from God again, they did rob the U.S. treasury. Some of the churches Don preached at, including the churches I pastored, paid Don in cash. Don did not claim some or all of this cash income on his tax return. This proved to be quite a money boon to the Hardman’s.

Chapters four through six detail Don’s life as a pastor and evangelist. In 1980, Don graduated  with a one year certificate from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Baptist correspondence school. By this time, Don was on disability and he and his family moved back to eastern Ohio to be near family. While in eastern Ohio, the Hardman’s helped Victory Baptist Church in Kensington, Ohio and Lisbon Baptist Temple in Lisbon, Ohio.

Jim Midcap was their pastor while they attended Lisbon Baptist Temple. I preached for Jim in late 1980’s  when he was pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Negley, Ohio. Jim returned the favor and preached for me while I was pastor of churches in Mt. Perry and West Unity, Ohio. For several years, Jim operated a clothing and food ministry that provided the Hardman’s with food and clothing to distribute to the poor and homeless in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had the privilege of taking a trip with Jim and a few other men from Ohio to Louisiana  to deliver and distribute food and clothing. I had a great time and my eyes were opened to the plight of the poor in cities like New Orleans.

In November of 1980, the Hardman’s moved to Pennsboro, West Virgina to begin pastoring Pennsboro Baptist Church.  According to Laura:

…We used all of our money to transport our mobile home and did not have enough money to have our gas turned on…Here we were far hence unto the Gentiles and not a penny to our name until the disability check came in. Still, this Preacher had not come here to become a Pastor, but to be a Servant of the Lord in whatever capacity he was needed.

Don began filling the pulpit at the Pennsboro Baptist Church every Sunday. Some liked him, and some did not like his free spirit in decision, but the congregation asked him to candidate as Pastor anyways. He was voted in as Pastor in December of 1980.

I am sure readers will ask, as I did, why moved to Pennsboro unless you planned on pastoring the church? Why move without having the funds necessary to turn on the gas? What happened in Kensington and Lisbon, Ohio that resulted in the Hardman’s quickly moving to West Virginia? The book answers none of these questions.

According to Laura, while at Pennboro Baptist, Don became “a friend to the friendless, a father to the fatherless and a teacher to the unlearned.”  All Don wanted to do was “try to make a difference in people’s lives and get them to the God who changed his life.” Don spent two years trying to change the church, but, according to Laura, Don “could not seem to override the traditions of the church.”  In the fall of 1982, Don resigned from the church and moved down the road to start Freedom Baptist Church. Five years later, Don left Freedom Baptist and began working full-time on what he called the Streets of America. From this time, until today, Don’s ministry is operated from a base in New Orleans and Midway Bible Baptist Church in Fishersville, Virginia.

evangelist don hardman

Evangelist Don and Laura Hardman, Somerset Baptist Church, Mt. Perry, Ohio, Late 1980’s

I looked in vain for any mention in the book of myself and Somerset Baptist Church, Mt. Perry, Ohio. While Laura mentions numerous churches and preachers who gave Don his start, she makes no mention of me or Somerset Baptist. Laura seems to have forgotten that I was one on the first pastors to have Don hold a meeting for them. She seems to have forgotten than Don held at least five meetings for me, most of them two weeks long, at Somerset Baptist Church and Grace Baptist Church (later Our Father’s House) in West Unity, Ohio. She also fails to mention that we spent time with them at their parents home, named our youngest daughter after her, and brought a group from our church to their church’s Bible conference. Again, an uninformed reader would never learn that Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Somerset Baptist, and Grace Baptist, played an instrumental part in Don getting started in evangelism.

Of course, I understand why Laura might want to edit me and the churches I pastored out of  Don’s life story. Nothing like having a preacher friend turned atheist muck up Don’s story of spiritual ascendency from drunk to Holy Spirit filled man of God.

As I mentioned in my review of Laura’s first book:

Hardman portrays life in the ministry as one of standing for the truth at all costs. She details loss of friends and loss of meetings because of their stand for the blessed truths of the King James Bible. Not one time does Hardman ever speak of a problem being their fault. It’s always the liberals fault. There is always an enemy, imaginary or real, they are fighting. This is the kind of life narrow Baptist Fundamentalism brings.

This thinking is on prominent display in The Preacher. Not one time, does the book implicate Don or Laura. It ‘s always family, a church, or a pastor, who is to blame for broken fellowship or lost relationships. In Laura’s mind, her husband is a God-called man who is in tight with the Almighty. Those who take issue with Don’s preaching are liberals or carnal. Over the years, I saw Don repeatedly browbeat church members with the Bible, calling out their sins. One time, he went from teenager to teenager pointing his finger at them, exposing their secret sins. These tactics worked, with church members, visitors, and teenagers getting saved or repenting of secret sin.  Was this God? Of course not. Like most skilled Baptist preachers, myself included, Don was an expert manipulator of emotions. He knew how to set the hook and reel the fish in.

And here’s thing, I know a lot of things that I can not share in this review. Since I have no way of verifying what I know, I can’t share it. I mentioned Don impregnating a 13-year-old girl and marriage to her because I have a copy of the marriage application. Other things that I think are likely true lack evidence.  I can say this, there are those who think Don Hardman is an Elmer Gantry-like grifter; that he and Laura have spent four decades making an easy living off their marks. For readers not familiar with the term grifter, a grifter is “someone who swindles you through deception or fraud.”

Is it possible that Don and Laura Hardman are frauds? Sure. I have no way of knowing or proving this, but I do know that the IFB church has turned out a number of con artists, some of who have gone on to pastor large churches. Bob Gray pastored Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for decades. He was finally exposed as an adulterer and child molester, a life of perversion that began when he entered the ministry in 1949. I heard Bob Gray and Don preach at the same preacher’s meeting in Cambridge, Ohio. The Hardman’s are or were friends with a number of the men who operated IFB teen group homes. Many of these men have been accused of child abuse, sexual assault, and rape.

evangelist don hardman

Evangelist Don and Laura Hardman, Grace Baptist Church (Our Father’s House) West Unity, Ohio, Circa 2000

Supposedly, a few years back, I can’t remember the exact date, Don had cancer. This cancer was killing Don and modern western medicine couldn’t cure him. The Hardman’s raised a significant amount of money so Don could get alternative cancer treatment in Mexico. Yet, Don’s cancer story is not mentioned in the book. Wouldn’t a miraculous healing from deadly cancer be an important story to share? While this story isn’t shared, Laura spends 32 pages, almost 25% of the biography part of the book, detailing the lightning  story. Based on the amount of space given to this story, it’s safe to say that the Hardman’s consider this the highlight of their time in the ministry.

July 1, 2003, finds Don and Laura holding a meeting at First Baptist Church in Forest, Ohio. Don’s sermon text for the night is I Kings 8. Laura writes:

About halfway into the message, we could hear the thunder and see the lightning through the stained glass windows, During his preaching, when a loud crack of thunder rang out, Don would say, “Yes, Lord, we are listening.” He made reference to the verse God’s voice was like thunder. (Psalms 77:18)

All of a sudden, a lightning bolt hit the church and burnt out the sound system, blowing the light bulbs out of their sockets behind the pulpit. We could smell the burning wires but still did not know we had taken a direct hit. Not once did we lose our electricity, so Don kept preaching on Solomon’s prayer of repentance. About 20 minutes later, a women came running into the church and said, “the church is on fire.”

This event made the news, from the local paper to the Toledo Blade. It was mentioned on CNN and Don had interviews with the BBC, the NBC Today Show, and Paul Harvey. The book has several of the news stories along with a transcript of Don’s interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show:

Video Link

Again, what I find interesting is what is missing in this chapter. Laura makes no mention of the name of the pastor of First Baptist Church in Forest. Why is this? Perhaps it is because not too long after God’s lightning bolt sign from above, the pastor of the church was removed for sexual misconduct.  The image of Evangelist Hardman must not be tainted by any connection with an atheist, adulterers, child abusers, or rapists. Like the precious blood of Jesus that wipes away all recollection of sin before salvation, Laura conveniently writes out of the book anyone who doesn’t affirm, strengthen, or reinforce Don’s drunk to Holy Spirit  filled traveling evangelist testimony.

Over the years, Don has lost a number of the churches he once preached for. Whether this was due to his refusal to answer questions about his past or the length and content of his sermons, Don now has just a handful of churches he regularly holds meetings for; churches like Old Time Baptist Church, (Pastor Lou Guadagno) Buffalo, New York, Lighthouse Baptist Church, (Pastor David Constantino) North Tonawanda, New York, and Amazing Grace Baptist Church, (Pastor Jimmy Hood) Columbus, Ohio. As Laura admits in the book, most of the churches that once had Don preach for them no longer do so.

For the churches and pastors Don still preaches for, Don is a god-called evangelist mightily used by God to win souls and call backslidden church members to repentance. For others, Don is a long-winded, legalistic preacher. And for a few others, perhaps those who know Don and Laura Hardman the best, the Hardman’s are grifters who have found an easy way to make money. For me personally, there are things I have been told that deeply trouble me. While there is no hard evidence for these things, especially since many of these things happened decades ago, there’s enough smoke to make wonder if there is a fire. If I had known these things when Don first preached for me in 1987, I doubt that I would have had him do so. If I was still a Christian, I could play the pious preacher and say that God will make all things known on judgment day. As an atheist, all I can do is review Laura Hardman’s books and make my observations known. It is up to you the reader to determine whether what I write is true.


I do not know of any place this book can be purchased. Someone connected to the Hardman family sent me a copy of the book. Laura Hardman’s first book was published by Victory Baptist Press, but I did not find her newest book in their online catalog.


Laura’s Light by Laura Hardman, A Book Review

laura's light laura hardman

I am reposting this review because Laura has written a second book The Life and Times of Donald A Hardman. Once I am able to secure a copy, I will read and review it.

Laura Hardman, the wife of Fundamentalist Baptist Evangelist Don Hardman, has written an autobiography titled Laura’s Light. The book is 277 pages long, and is published by Victory Baptist Press. The book was published in  2010.

Laura’s Light reads quite a bit like the Bible. Laura Hardman’s story is one of bondage to sin and deliverance from that sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. Also, like the Bible, it is littered with fictions and omissions.

Hardman’s story begins June 14, 1955 in Salem, Ohio. The first 45 pages of book detail Hardman’s hard scrabble life, a life she says God used to prepare her for future life as an evangelist’s wife.

The rest of the book details Hardman’s marriage to Don Hardman, their conversion to Christianity, and their subsequent work as evangelist and wife.

There is no question that Don and Laura Hardman are sincere, devoted followers of Jesus Christ. I have no reason to question their commitment to Jesus. However, Laura’ Light does bring to light some glaring issues in the thinking and attitudes of Don and Laura Hardman.

The book is hard to read. It has numerous grammatical errors and I found myself speed reading at times, wearied from the poor grammar. Hardman would take my criticism of her grammar as a badge of honor. She is quite proud of her hillbilly ignorance.

Hardman writes in the preface:

The words of this book are simple and easy enough for a child to read. My education is very limited and my vocabulary is not with enticing words of men, because I am writing it from my heart and not from an educated view.

Hardman reiterates this point several times in the book. I can appreciate someone who writes from the heart. I do the same on this blog. However, Hardman should have engaged the services of someone who could correct the glaring grammatical errors. These errors detract from the story Hardman is trying to tell.

The book reveals that Hardman has racist tendencies. I am sure she would be appalled at being called a racist, but her language in the book reveals a deep-seated racism that is quite common. This kind of racism is so much a part of Hardman that she might not even be aware of how offensive her words are.

Perhaps Hardman is just refusing to be politically correct. Perhaps she is just refusing to use the language of the liberals she rails against in the book.

Here are a couple of choice quotes that show, at the very least, a lack of understanding of the modern world we live in:

One week we decided to take four of the ghetto kids on an outing to the Gulf of Mexico to play with them in the water….

The humorous part of this story is that when they were all done playing in that salty water, I took each one into the back of the truck and dried them off. The drier they got, the whiter they got! Black folks don’t have the pores like we have to produce oils, so they have to put lotion on their skin to keep it black and not a ashy color. It was a good thing I had some cocoa butter on hand, and I was able to soak them down before I got them back home. (page 189,190)

Speaking of a trip she and her husband took to Africa to preach and teach:

One day one of the preacher boys asked me if I would cut his hair. When I looked at him I figured it would be similar to trimming my black poodle, so I agreed. (page 233)

Speaking of a trip Hardman and her husband took to Hawaii:

It was on November 3, 2002, very early in the morning that we boarded a plane in New Orleans…

It had been just a little over a year since 9-11…

It became a little more frightful when I saw a couple of rag heads get on the plane… (page 247)

Throughout the book, African-Americans are called blacks and Hispanics are called Mexicans. I know there is disagreement about which terms should be used, but taken together with the quotes I mention above, the book has quite a racist tone. Hardman also repeatedly calls homosexuals,sodomites, a fundamentalist term of derision and hate.

I find the racial overtones interesting because the Hardman’s spend most of the year ministering to street people in the New Orleans area; people who are overwhelmingly people of color.

Another thing that stood out to me in the book was Hardman’s view of sex, married men, and her own sexuality. It is a subject that comes up repeatedly in the book.

If Hardman is to believed, married men chased after her from her teens years and up. Repeatedly, Hardman writes of married men trying to get her to have sex with her. She uses Christian-correct words for their actions, but there is doubt they were after her for sex.

After Laura Hardman and her husband were converted and in the ministry, Hardman finally saw the light about  married men wanting to have sex with her.

Hardman writes:

All the way through my Christian life it seemed I had to learn things the hard way. However, one thing was for sure, I never forgot the lesson I learned. Each day the pastor come to the trailer, and he and Don would decide where they would make calls that day. There is one day he came over, and for the life of me I can’t remember what I was wearing, but it must have looked worldly and sensual. He told my husband he could not look at me because my clothes were revealing the contour of my body. Talk about a dagger through my heart. I could say I had no idea what my well-built body did to men, but I really could not because I was still getting whistles when I went to the mall and shopping centers, even after salvation…

If I caused even a strong man to abstain from looking at me, what was I doing to the weak? (page 95)

I was astounded when I read this passage and others that spoke of Hardman’s sexuality.  Perhaps the problem was not Hardman but the preacher man who couldn’t keep his mind pure. (a common problem for poor, lustful, weak Baptist men)

Hardman portrays life in the ministry as one of standing for the truth at all costs. She details loss of friends and loss of meetings because of their stand for the blessed truths of the King James Bible. Not one time does Hardman ever speak of a problem being their fault. It’s always the liberals fault. There is always an enemy, imaginary or real, they are fighting. This is the kind of life narrow Baptist Fundamentalism brings.

Hardman glosses over a few pertinent issues in her life and the life of her evangelist husband Don Hardman. They practiced this subterfuge the whole time they were holding meetings for me in Somerset and West Unity, Ohio

On page 87, Hardman speaks of Don’s ministerial calling. (Don completed a 1 year Bible correspondence course with Liberty Baptist Home Studies) The church they were part of at the time, First Baptist Church, Findlay, Ohio did not believe that Don was called to the ministry. Hardman gives the reason as:

his (Don’s) wicked past.

That’s it. This is the same line the Hardman’s used time and time again when asked about their life BEFORE Jesus saved them. In their mind, the past was the past. It was all under the blood of Jesus, never to be remembered again

So what was Don’s wicked past? Don was divorced. Not only was Don divorced, but his first marriage was to a 13-year-old girl he got pregnant.  He was seventeen when they married. (I have a copy of the marriage license that proves this)

Two children came out of Don’s first marriage. Laura claims the children as her own, a claim I suspect the biological mother finds quite offensive.(a woman I have corresponded with over the years)  While Hardman does say Don had two children, she never calls herself their step-mother. In her mind, when Jesus came into their life EVERYTHING became brand-new and that included the children having a new mother.

Hardman details their life as a traveling evangelist. Laura’s husband Don became an evangelist in 1987. Prior to that he pastored a church in West Virginia. Hardman spends a lot of time mentioning people who helped them along the way. I was quite surprised that Bruce Gerencser and Somerset Baptist Church got no mention at all. We were one of the first churches to have Don come and preach. Don held four meetings for me in Somerset, Ohio and another meeting in West Unity, Ohio.

We were close to the Hardman’s. We traveled to several churches where Don was preaching to support him. We even took a group from our church to the Hardman’s home church, Midway Bible Baptist Church, in Fishersville, Virginia, to attend their annual Bible conference. We graciously supported the Hardman’s financially. We spent several days in northern Ohio with the Hardman’s family while Don and Laura were off the road. Our youngest daughter is named after Laura.

I suspect, like Don’s wicked past, I have been expunged from their memory. Laura’s Light was written in 2010. By then Laura Hardman had got my coming out letter and had written to tell me that I never was a REAL Christian. Perhaps, having a one time staunch supporter turned atheist was too much for them to bear. No matter what is or isn’t in the book, the Hardman’s know, Somerset Baptist Church and Bruce and Polly Gerencser were very much a part of their life.

The book is titled Laura’s Light. Laura Hardman has a persona she wants to portray and she does a good job portraying it. However this book is a mixture of fact and fiction, in many ways, like most autobiographies.

Hardman wants to portray her life as one of continued spiritual ascendency after salvation. For this reason her story has an untrue ring to it. Life is messier than that. Sins. Lapses in judgment. Wrong. Error. Doubts. These are the kind of things that say to a reader, here’s a real person. Unfortunately, like many Christian autobiographies, the book subject is given God-like qualities, qualities that those closest to them find dishonest and quite amusing.

Where can I buy the book?

You can purchase the book at Victory Baptist Press. I know of no other place it is available.

Here’s a video of Laura Hardman singing Blessed Assurance

News article about Don and Laura Hardman.

Sermon by Don Hardman, preached at Old Time Baptist Church, Buffalo, New York. (sermon begins at the 9:53 mark, after congregational hymn, offering, and special music number)

Interesting Snopes.com article about Don Hardman and a bolt of lightning hitting a church where he was holding a meeting.

Hardman’s home church, Midway Bible Baptist Church, Fishersville, Virginia, supports Olen King, Second Chance Ranch and Ron Williams, Hephzibah House. Both have been investigated for abuse.