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Tag: Easy-Believism

Why My Preaching Changed After 1988

bruce gerencser 1987
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1987

Recently, Jeff asked a question about something I wrote. He asked me to explain this statement:

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.

Jeff spent thirty years in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Hopefully, I can adequately answer his question.

When I entered the ministry in 1976, I preached the IFB gospel of one-two-three-repeat-after-me salvation, also known as easy-believism or decisional regeneration.

In 2015 I wrote:

Bob Gray, Sr., retired pastor of the Longview Baptist Temple (now Emmanuel Baptist Church) in Longview, Texas, is a super-duper salvation-dealing machine. Gray is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) who religiously subscribes to the Jack Hyles Easy-Believism, cheap-grace way of evangelizing lost sinners.

I was taught this kind of evangelism while a student at Midwestern Baptist College, but I came to see that it was little more than a cheap gimmick that allows preachers such as Gray to say: Look at how many people I won to Jesus. (Gray knows to the soul how many people he has won to Jesus over his long, illustrious preaching career.) It promotes a vacuous Christianity that does a real disservice to people who take the commands and teachings of Christ seriously.

Several years ago, Gray was in Albuquerque, New Mexico to hold a preaching meeting. While at a local Subway, Gray decided to do some soul winning. Here’s his account, which has since been pulled from his blog:

… Flew to Albuquerque, NM, and was picked up by Pastor Brent Lenetine who pastors the Gospel Light Baptist Church of Rio Rancho, NM. I will be joined by Evangelist Allen Domelee Sunday night and Monday. This is a great soul winning church!

After resting for a while I went next door to the Motel to get a bite to eat at the Subway Restaurant. I sat at a table next to a man named Bill McDermit. We joked a little bit together and after a while I went over to his table and continued our conversation. He lives alone in a house trailer and was a devout Catholic. After a few moments I presented the Gospel to him and he took me by the hand and prayed to receive Christ as his personal Saviour.

WOW! That old KJB is still preserved inspiration and is THE incorruptible seed that brings life to a dead soul! Don’t treat this issue of preserved inspiration lightly. He who sticks his head in the sand gets his behind kicked! Either the KJB is inspired or it is not! Which side of this issue are you on?

Let me summarize Gray’s testimony:

Gray is on the prowl for souls in Albuquerque.

Gray is hungry, so he goes to Subway to eat.

He jokes around with the elderly trailer-living Catholic man next to him. The joking is a pretext for what comes next.

After a few moments, Gray shares the Jack Hyles IFB plan of salvation with the Catholic man.

The life-long Catholic sees the error of his way, takes Gray’s hand, and prays the sinner’s prayer. Holding the hand is important, much like the salesman giving you the pen. Hold their hand and you are more likely to close the salvation deal.

In but a few moments this man goes from a headed-for-hell Catholic to a . . . uh . . . let me think . . . oh, I know! A Catholic who prayed a prayer so the busybody preacher would let him finish his sub.

And don’t forget that Gray used the all-powerful 1611 King James Bible to win this man to Jesus. It has supernatural powers that perverted, Satanic, non-inspired versions do not have.

This is the bankrupt gospel preached in countless IFB churches.

IFB preachers love to brag about how many souls are saved in their churches or revival meetings. Every soul saved is another notch on their gospel six-shooters. However, what happens to these sinners after they are saved? Do they get baptized? Do they join the church? Do they regularly attend church? Do they live their lives according to the teachings of the Bible? In most instances, no. IFB churches retain a fraction of the people whom they report making salvation decisions. A pastor may humble-brag about 300 people getting saved, yet when asked if his church’s attendance correspondingly increased, he will likely say no. It seems, then, there’s a huge disconnect between the methodology used and the fruit it bears.

In July 1983, I started Somerset Baptist Church, a new congregation in the southeast Ohio community of Somerset. The church later moved five miles east of Somerset to an abandoned Methodist church building. From 1983-1988, six hundred people were saved under my ministry. During this time, the church reached a high attendance of 206. Every week, sinners were being saved, but most of them never became active members of the church.

The disconnect between these two things began to trouble me. After reading John MacArthur’s seminal book, The Gospel According to Jesus, I concluded that I was preaching a truncated, bankrupt gospel; that I was making people seven-fold children of Hell. I realized that many church members had a superficial understanding the Christian gospel and God’s expectations for the followers of Jesus.

In 1989, I repudiated the IFB gospel and embraced Evangelical Calvinism. I began preaching expositionally. I spent two years preaching through the Gospel of John — 125 sermons in all. One of my goals was to show church members the true gospel of Sovereign Grace, and ask them to examine their lives and determine whether they were “in the faith.” This thinking transformed every aspect of my preaching and ministry. I stopped giving high-pressure altar calls, choosing to let the Holy Spirit do his perfect work. Very few people made public professions of faith post-1989. In fact, for the next decade, the number of souls saved was minimal, less than twenty. I was content to focus on my preaching and let God do the saving.

I believed then, and still do, that this approach results in better quality converts; people who understand the gospel and know what God expects of them. Saying you are a Christian should mean something. At the very least, it should mean that you take the teachings of the Bible seriously and daily work to put them into practice in your life. One need only look at modern Evangelicalism to see that churches are largely filled with cultural Christians. Oh, they believe, but when it comes to living according to the teachings of Christ, they give little more than lip service to his demands. How else do we explain that 82% of white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, and if given a chance to do so in 2024, they will do so again. There’s no possible way a Christian can vote for Trump and stay true to the teachings of the Bible. And then there are the daily sex scandals in Evangelical churches, as documented in the Black Collar Crime Series. It’s hard not to look at Evangelicalism as a whole and puke. I suspect Jesus, were he still alive, would do the same.

I may be an atheist, but I still believe that if people claim to be Christian, they should take their faith and the teachings of the Bible seriously.

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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Atheist Ex-Pastor Refutes the Claim That There is No Such Thing As an Ex-Christian

easy believism

According to Fundamentalist Christian Jimmy Randolph, there is no such thing as an ex-Christian. In an article titled Beware of the Perils and Pitfalls of Easy-Believism, Randolph shares a recent experience he had of witnessing to an atheist:

A few days ago the Lord allowed me to witness to an atheist about creation and Jesus Christ’s blood atonement for sinners. After a few minutes of going back and forth, I could see that the particular atheist I was dealing with was not interested in truth, but excuse. As I was about to end the conversation by telling the atheist that he will one day face his Creator face to face at the Great White Throne Judgment and give an account for every secret sin, the atheist interrupted me by telling me that he was “a former Christian”. Now any Bible Believer knows that it is not impossible for a born-again Christian to apostate so dramatically to the point where they could possibly become an atheist (2 Tim 2:13 KJV).  Therefore, I decided to check out his testimony in the Lord.

I asked him “how did you become a Christian?” He answered “I was raised in a society that was mostly Christian.”  I then explained to him that being raised in a Christian society does not make you a Christian any more than being raised in a garage makes you a car. So I presented the question to him again: “how did you become a Christian?” This time he answered me and said “I believed in a theistic God.” I then explained to him that the devils also believe in a theistic God and tremble (James 2:19 KJV). I presented the question to him a third time: “how did you become a Christian?”  He answered and said “I believed the bible and that prayers would be the answer” I then explained to him that Muslims also believe in prayer and that Mormons also believe the bible, but that doesn’t make them Christians. I then rebuked the atheist by telling him that according to all three cases of his own testimony, he was NEVER a Christian, only RELIGIOUS.  It was at this point were the atheist let his anger get the best of him at accused me of being radical, mean-spirited, outrageous, illogical, spreading hate, unreasonable, what’s wrong with “Christianity” today, ridiculous ideology, blah, blah, blah.

Now why would this atheist label himself as a “former Christian” when he was absolutely clueless to what a Christian was? Two words: EASY BELIEVISM. Easy Believism is a heresy that teaches that salvation or reconciliation with God is relative to the individual and NOT ABSOLUTE according to God’s word. In other words, Easy Believism teaches that an individual doesn’t have to run to Calvary’s cross as a BROKEN SINNER in need of a sinless Savior to save them from HELL. Instead, the individual can come to God self-righteously as their own mediator, in their own way, in their own time, according to their own thoughts and logic.

According to Randolph, those of us who label ourselves as ex-Christians never really understood the True Christian® gospel. Randolph thinks that ex-Christians fell prey to what he calls easy-believism. Unfortunately, Randolph has no idea what easy-believism is. Proponents of easy-believism (free grace)  — men such as Jack Hyles, Curtis Hutson, Bob Gray, Charles Ryrie, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, and Zane Hodges — believe that people are saved when they mentally assent to a set of propositional beliefs and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Those opposed to easy-believism — men such as John MacArthur and most Calvinists — believe that unsaved people must not only accept Jesus as their Savior, but they also must make him the Lord of their lives (lordship salvation). While both parties believe that good works are a natural consequence of being saved, those who oppose easy-believism say that these works prove that a person has indeed been born from above.

As you can see from the previous paragraph, Randolph doesn’t understand easy-believism. I am not sure where he pulled his definition from, but it wasn’t from any of the pro/anti-easy-believism books of the 1980s and 1990s. Randolph’s inability to define and understand easy-believism renders his claim moot. Still, for the sake of argument, I will let his definition stand so I can adequately address what he writes next.

According to Randolph, there are ten ways to spot the false converts to easy-believism (grammar errors and all caps in the original):

  • THEY WON’T OR HAVE DIFFICULTY ADMITTING TO BEING A SINNER
  • THEY DON’T BELIEVE THAT THEY EVER TRULY DESERVED TO BURN IN HELL
  • THEY BELIEVE THAT ANY GENERIC BELIEF IN GOD IS “GOOD ENOUGH”
  • THE IDEA OF SALVATION ALONE THROUGH CHRIST CRUCIFIED IS FOOLISHNESS TO THEM
  • THEY IDENTIFY THEMSELVES AS BEING A “CHRISTIAN” OR A “CHILD OF GOD” WITHOUT EVER ADMITTING TO BEING A LOST HELLBOUND SINNER BEFORE CONVERSION
  • THEY VIEW GOD AS A GENERIC BUDDY INSTEAD OF A SINLESS PERSONAL SAVIOUR
  • THEY BELIEVE THAT GENERAL GENERIC PRAYER, BIBLE READING, CHURCH ATTENDANCE, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, CHURCH MEMBERSHIP, SOCIAL FUNCTIONS, AND DEALING WITH SOCIETAL ISSUES EARNS THEM SALVATION OR SPECIAL FAVOR WITH GOD OUTSIDE OF SCRIPTURE.
  • THEY BELIEVE THAT SALVATION AND A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED BY REJECTING, IGNORING, OR BEING PURPOSELY IGNORANT TO WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS.
  • THEY BELIEVE THAT ALL RELIGIONS ARE THE SAME OR LEAD TO THE SAME GOD.
  • THEY CAN’T REMEMBER A TIME IN THEIR LIFE WHEN THEY HAD A FACE TO FACE COLLISION WITH JESUS CHRIST AND CALLED ON HIS NAME FOR SALVATION AS A BROKEN SINNER.

As regular readers know, I was a Christian for almost fifty years. I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. As many readers of this blog, I was, for many years, a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. At one time, thanks to the churches I grew up in and the training I received at Midwestern Baptist College, I preached the easy-believism gospel. However, by the mid-1980s, I realized that the easy-believism gospel generally turned people into cultural Christians who had no desire to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. So when John MacArthur wrote his Evangelical-shaking book, The Gospel According to Jesus, I quickly realized that MacArthur was spot on when it came to the lordship of Christ. From that point forward, my preaching and emphasis changed. Instead of just trying to get people to pray the sinner’s prayer, I focused on what I called the gospel of full disclosure. If people were going to become followers of Jesus, I believed they needed to know exactly what Jesus expected (demanded) of them.

So when I look at Randolph’s ten ways to spot a false convert to easy-believism, I can emphatically say that none of these things is true of me. And I expect that many of the readers of this blog can say the same.  We are living examples of the fact that people can be Christians and then walk away.  Any thorough examination of our lives reveals that we were once committed followers of Jesus. Our lives are proof that what Jimmy Randolph writes in his post is not true.

This should be the end of the discussion. I’ve presented evidence — my life — that cannot be refuted. But, this won’t be the end of the discussion because people like Randolph, when confronted with the exemplary lives of one-time Christians, will then suggest that we must still be Christians because the Bible says that the true Christian can never fall from grace or lose their salvation. Instead, we are just backslidden, and God, through chastisement or even death, will brings us back to Jesus.

While perusing the comments on Randolph’s post, I noticed that he said his definition of easy-believism came straight from the Bible.  After reading several more of his comments, I have concluded that he actually believes in easy-believism, just not the Bible-defined easy-believism that he has concocted in his head. (He also rejects lordship salvation.) In other words, he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Instead of trying to “save” atheists, perhaps Randolph should invest some money in buying several systematic theology books and doing some study on what the Bible actually says about salvation. Then, once thoroughly confused, Randolph can deconvert and become an ex-Christian who was never a Christian.

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