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Anna, the Evangelical, Hides Her Christianity Under a Bushel

light under a bushel

The Bible says in Matthew 5:14-16:

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

According to Matthew 5, Jesus went up to a mountain, gathered his disciples together, and taught them the aforementioned verses, and others. Jesus told his followers that they were the light of the world; a city on a hill that cannot be hid. When someone lights a candle in his home at night, he doesn’t put it under a bushel, concealing its light. He puts the candle in a location where it provides light for everyone in the house. So it is for Christians. They are light on the hill, providing light for all to see. The “light” in this context is their good works; works that glorify God, the Father, which is in Heaven.

Countless Evangelical children are taught the song, This Little Light of Mine. The lyrics state:

This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Don’t let Satan blow it out,
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out,
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out,
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Shine all over Somerset
I’m gonna let it shine
Shine all over Somerset
I’m gonna let it shine
Shine all over Somerset
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Let it shine til Jesus comes,
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine til Jesus comes,
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine til Jesus comes,
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Can’t get that song out of your head, can you?

Some Evangelicals who send me emails or leave comments on this blog try to hide the fact that they are Christians, in direct disobedience to the teachings of their Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ. Why would some Evangelicals hide what they are?

Take Anna, who sent me the following email last week:

What if you are wrong? Then what happens.

Do you believe in right and wrong? Good and bad?

I wrote a post answering Anna’s question. You can read it here.

As is my custom, I sent Anna the link to my response to her questions. What follows is our email “discussion”:

Anna: I never said I was a Christian I just asking a question. You take people’s money for what. Haha your religion sounds as ridiculous as any other.

Bruce: So, you aren’t a Christian? Yeah, that’s what I thought. No non-Christian is going to search for a post on Jeremiah Johnson’s false prophecy. And your questions? I’ve received scores of emails/blog comments asking these very same questions. All from Christians. So, I ask again, are you saying you’re not a Christian?

As far as money is concerned, I don’t “take anyone’s money. No God-mandated tithes or offering, even though I am a God (Bruce Almighty—you might have seen the movie about me). People willingly donate because they like the work I do in helping people see the truth about Evangelical Christianity and the Bible. My “religion” continues to grow, all praise be to Loki.

Anna: Also you said if you were wrong, but “I am not wrong ” was your statement. So you are setting yourself up as a god. Who says you can’t be wrong. Seriously dude you need to get over yourself and maybe become a car salesman. Haha “I’m not wrong” Wow what an ego.

Bruce: You have provided no evidence for the existence of your peculiar version of God. If you have empirical, verifiable evidence for the existence of the Christian deity, I’d love to hear it. I’m quite open to changing my mind about God if you provide persuasive evidence that would warrant such a change. So far, instead of standing up for and defending your God, you hurl insults at me.

I am not wrong about the Christian God because I’ve seen zero evidence for his existence. I can say the same about every extant God. You have all sorts of beliefs you are certain are right. Does that make you God? Or does that make you an informed adult?

As far as getting over myself, how can I? Millions and millions of people worship me and think I’m a loving, benevolent man with supernatural powers (that I only use on December 24 and 25).

Anna, your insults will not work with me. Your fellow Christians have insulted and verbally assaulted me more times than I can count. You are an amateur compared to them.

I do have a 2010 Ford Focus for sale 87K miles, only $3,000.

— end emails —

I was in the Evangelical church for five decades. I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 of those years. I have spent the last 14 years engaging, interacting with, and responding to Evangelical apologists and critics. I can spot an Evangelical in the dark, at 300 yards, with my eyes closed. Kinda like spotting holiness people or homeschoolers in the store. You just know, right? Yet, Anna refuses to admit that she’s a Christian. Why is that?

Years ago (mid-1980s), I was eating lunch at the Dairy Queen in Somerset, Ohio with Evangelist Gerald Fielder. Fielder was in town holding a revival for me. As evangelists are wont to do, Fielder tried to evangelize the young woman who took our order. Here’s how it went:

Fielder: Ma’am, I’d like a hamburger, order of fries, and a Coke.

Young Woman: Will that be all?

Fielder: That’s it. I would, however, like to ask you a question.

Young Woman: Sure.

Fielder: If you died today, would you go to Heaven?

Bruce thinks to himself: OMG, really?

Young Woman: I am a Christian, but I don’t want to talk about it. (She attended the local Methodist church.)

Fielder: Well, I’ve never met a Christian who didn’t want to talk about it.

The young woman said nothing. It was evident she was thoroughly embarrassed by Fielder’s public interrogation of her. I quickly stepped up, thanked her, and changed the subject. I am sure my behavior irritated Fielder. There he was trolling for souls, and I got in his way.

While Fielder’s approach was certainly offensive, his point was not. Most Christians, especially Evangelicals, want to talk about their faith. They don’t want to be grilled and interrogated as Fielder did with this young woman, but generally Evangelicals love talking about God/Jesus/Christianity/Church/ the Bible. Why is it, then, that Anna refused to admit she was a Christian? Was she ashamed of Jesus? All I did was ask her a question. When she asked me questions — which I have answered numerous times before — I patiently and directly answered them. Why didn’t Anna return the favor?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Beware of Evangelicals Who Ask You Questions About Your Tattoos

cant we be friends
Cartoon by Paco

I have written numerous times about how Evangelicals use fake friendships to evangelize non-Christians:

My Evangelical critics might argue that I have it out for Evangelicals; that I can’t see the “good” Evangelicals do; that Evangelicals sincerely care about people. Believe what you will, but one thing I know for sure: Evangelical zealots are notorious for using disingenuous methods and subterfuge to achieve their God-ordained goal: winning lost souls to Jesus. No other group of Christians — Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses excepted — is willing to use fake friendships to achieve a religious objective. I am friends with several mainline Christian pastors. Not one time have these men and women attempted to evangelize me. We are friends for friendship’s sake.

I am convinced that Evangelicals have a pathological need to make other people to be just like them; to seek, force, and demand conformity to their peculiar religious beliefs. Evangelical zealots see every non-Christian as an evangelization target, a prospect for Heaven, a prospective (tithing) church member. The goal remains what it has always been: to recruit new club members.

Lest readers think that I have developed this opinion post-Jesus, people who were following me back in 2007 know that I was quite vocal about Evangelicals and their nefarious evangelism methods. Readers from that time likely remember my interaction with an emergent church pastor named Iggy. Iggy was bragging about what he and his church were doing for the local community. If I remember right, they were handing out free flower pots to people. I asked if the pots had the church’s name on them and if locals were given church advertising brochures along with the pots. After Iggy admitted that yes, the pots had the church’s name on them, and yes, people were given church advertising brochures, he attempted to defend his actions by saying they were genuinely trying to make friends with people in their community.

Then, as now, I objected to what I considered less-the-honest methods to evangelize people; that the goal wasn’t friendship, but saving the lost and gaining new church members. This led to Iggy and me having an epic war of words, one in which I had a profanity-laced meltdown (for which I later apologized).

I share this story to emphasize the fact that I objected to Evangelicals using fake friendships to evangelize then, and I still object today. Whether I was a Christian or an atheist, it matters not. I despise people who attempt to befriend others for ulterior reasons. All I ask is that Evangelicals be upfront about why they are doing what they are doing. In other words, stop the Trojan horse evangelism practices. Have the “soldiers” get out of the wooden horse and declare themselves: we are here to ravage you in the name of the one true Lord and King, Jesus.

This brings me to the latest Gospel Coalition post about yet another way to evangelize non-Christians. Written by Erin Wheeler, wife of Brad Wheeler, the pastor of University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Wheeler writes:

“I like your ink,” I say casually as I walk past the woman in my exercise class. “Thanks,” she mumbles, eyeing me with that look.

It’s the look people give when someone notices their tattoo. They wonder if the person really means the compliment, or if they just happened to notice their purposely and permanently pigmented skin.

At the gym, our conversation continues for a bit. She tells me her tattoo reminds her of a family member she lost a few years ago. I tell her I got my tattoo to remember how God saved my marriage at a time when I thought we might not make it. I have interactions like these frequently: at the gym, at the coffee shop, at the community pool. As a Christian, I’m hoping these tattoo conversations might lead to a more important conversation. A conversation about the gospel.  

As we go through our days, looking to speak to others about Christ, maybe it’s time we considered how asking about someone’s tattoo could be intentionally evangelistic

….

Tattoos present a marvelous gospel opportunity for us. As my coworker, a former tattoo artist, said, “99 percent of people get a tattoo for a reason. There’s a story behind the artwork.” And that, my Christian friend, is an open door! Why not walk through it?

….

Why not ask the barista you order coffee from each morning (whose name I hope you know by now), “Hey Sam, I’ve noticed that tattoo on your arm and have been thinking about it. What is it exactly?” Depending on how he responds, follow up with, “What made you decide on that design?”  

Or how about a coworker or neighbor you’ve gotten to know a bit? Why not take the risk of possibly sounding nosy or weirdly curious: “Hey Laura, I’ve seen those words on your wrist. What made you choose those? I’m curious.” And then shut your mouth and listen. There’s a story behind that tattoo. 

Even if they don’t share their story with you right then and there, it might be the thing God uses to open a door and give you an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s amazing what you can learn about somebody with that simple prompt. 

In response to my questions, I’ve heard people’s whole life stories. I’ve had a man tell me about his tattoo in memoriam for the infant daughter he tragically lost. Others have shared their love of nature—or “Mother Earth” as they called it. I even had a fellow nurse explain her love for Dr. Who because of how he cared for others, particularly the innocent. According to her, that’s what led her into nursing. Even if someone doesn’t remember getting their tattoo, that drunken night or wild weekend is part of their story. 

We can respond to each of these stories with gospel truth. Jesus, the ultimate caregiver, has made a way for the dead to come to life through his own death and resurrection. He knows what suffering is like. He can identify with the broken. He’s the Creator and Sustainer of this amazing world. All we see, he has made. He’s the master storyteller, and he’s at the center of it all. 

Why not use a tattoo story as a bridge to invite others to become a part of God’s larger story?

Do you have tattoos? If you do, remember this post the next time an Evangelical strikes up a conversation with you about your body art. (Especially if it is Jerry Falwell, Jr. asking about your tats that aren’t visible.) Evangelical zealots want to evangelize you so they can put another notch of the handle of their gospel six-shooter. Yet another sinner slain for Jesus. Perhaps unbelievers need to get tattoos that say “Fuck Off” or “No, I am Not Interested in What You Are Selling” or Born-Again Atheist.” Or maybe just wear garlic around your neck to ward off the Evangelical vampires who want to drain the life out of you.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Honest Reflections From an Evangelical Pastor: It Was Never About Saving Souls

bruce-gerencser-street-preaching-september-7-1990

Let me share a dirty little secret with readers about Evangelicals who are actively involved in what is commonly called “public evangelism.” Door-to-door evangelism, street preaching, handing out tracts, standing on street corners with Bible verse signs — why do some Evangelicals do these things? Is the grand goal to win as many souls as possible before Jesus returns to earth? Is the notion that Hell is hot and death is sure what drives these evangelizers to make a public spectacle of themselves? Is everything they do driven by a love for the lost souls? Surely, these people are True Christians, right? The overwhelming majority of Evangelicals never verbalize their faith to someone else. Yet, these zealots go out of their way to confront non-Christians with their peculiar version of the Christian gospel. Surely, they are the “real” Christians of our day, right? 

I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 years. I spent my formative years in churches that were quite aggressive evangelistically. I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in the 1970s. Midwestern was known for producing soulwinning pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. As a pastor, I certainly followed my training, using the techniques I was taught to harass as many people as possible for Jesus. Yet, despite my on-fire, aggressive soulwinning efforts, few people asked Jesus to save them as a direct result of my efforts. Yes, hundreds of people were saved after listening to me preach, but the number of people saved outside of church services was few. You see, the goal of such efforts was not to win souls, as much as it was:

  • To been seen as a prophet by the community; to be seen as one willing to publicly take a stand for Jesus
  • To been seen as a preacher different from and superior to the other preachers in town; I was the one who cared for their souls, not their pastors
  • To been seen in the same light as the Apostle Paul and other first-century Christians; to say to the communities where I pastored that my churches were the real deal, cut from the fabric of the churches found in the Bible
  • To be seen as being “right,” right about God, Jesus, salvation, the Bible, and New Testament Christianity

Most Americans don’t want to be bothered by Fundamentalist evangelizers. Let me share a soulwinning story from years ago that I think aptly illustrates this fact. One Saturday, Greg Carpenter (Please see Dear Greg.) and I were knocking on doors in Junction City, Ohio. At the time I was the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry. It was a bitterly cold Ohio winter day, but warm on the inside with love for souls, we started out going door-to-door, looking for people who would let us share the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) gospel with them. We finally came upon a young woman who was willing to “listen” to us. She wouldn’t invite us inside, so we stood on her porch as Greg attempted to win her to Jesus. I still can picture in my mind this woman today. She had no coat on, yet there she stood freezing her ass off as Greg took her through whatever evangelism plan we were using that day. When Greg asked her if she would like to ask Jesus to save her, she said yes! Greg led her in the sinner’s prayer, and the woman was wonderfully and gloriously saved. We heard the angels in Heaven rejoicing over another lost soul being rescued from the clutches of Satan. 

After praying the sinner’s prayer, the newly-saved woman closed the door and we went on our way looking for more victims, er, I mean, lost souls. She was the only soul that was saved that day. Later attempts to get the woman to be baptized and attend church proved futile. You see, the only thing she got saved from on the cold winter day was Greg and Bruce. She just wanted to shut her door and be left alone. 

Winning this woman to Jesus fueled our pride, reminding us that we were doing a great work for the Lord of Lord and Kings and Kings. We were, in fact, bugging people who didn’t want to be bothered. But, since when have Evangelical zealots cared about what non-Christians thought? I didn’t. I was a God-called preacher of the gospel. I was determined to tell others the “truth” even if they didn’t want to hear it. 

“I told them, Lord! The results are up to you,” I told myself. Yep, I sure told them. Part of the deconversion process for me was coming to terms with why I did what I did as an Evangelical pastor. I concluded that I deep down really didn’t care of souls were saved. “That was God’s business,” I thought. This was especially the case after I became a five-point Calvinist. What was most important to me was looking the part; being perceived as a man of God who loved sinners and would go to great lengths to win them to Jesus. 

During the eleven years I was the pastor of Somerset Baptist, over 600 hundred people made profession of faith in Christ. Some Sundays, the altar was lined with people getting saved and getting right with God. Success was measured by altar response. Yet, few of these “converts” became active, long-term church members. 600+ conversions, yet attendance was, at its highest, a little over 200. 

Why were so many people saved under my preaching, yet I failed so miserably in my soulwinning efforts outside of the church? I was passionate both inside and outside of the church. Why the disparate numbers? First, people were attracted to my preaching. By all accounts — just ask former congregants — I was a skilled, winsome preacher. Sunday after Sunday, my sermons were well received. Well, there was that mess of a sermon from Hosea. Hell, I didn’t even know what I was talking about. People drove for miles to hear me preach. I believe this affection for me personally drove the high number of conversions. Once outside of the church, I took on the traits mentioned above. I was more concerned about being a prophet, a beacon of rightness than I was helping others. The good news is that over time I lost my zeal for winning souls, choosing instead to engage people relationally. I suspect Calvinism played a big part in how I viewed the eternal destiny of other people. I left the soul-saving up to God. I just expositionally preached the Bible and left the results up to God. I can count on one hand the people who were saved during the seven years I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. Congregants — most of them, anyway — loved me, I loved them back, and we all were quite content to let the world go to Hell. This post is me being brutally, openly honest about my life as an Evangelical pastor. I am sure that my critics will see what I have written here as more proof that I wasn’t really a Christian; that I was a false prophet. To that I say, whatever. I suspect what I have written here will resonate with a lot of Evangelical preachers. They know, deep down, that I am telling the truth.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

How to Witness to an Atheist

good news

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Many Evangelical Christians take seriously Jesus’ command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Every creature includes atheists.

Here is what Christians need to understand:

  • Many atheists were Christians before they deconverted. In my case, I was a Christian for fifty years and I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. Granted, most atheists’ stories are not like mine, but many of them were raised in the Christian church and know what the Christian gospel is and what the Bible teaches.
  • Many atheists have read the Bible many, many times. In fact, many atheists have likely read the Bible more than the average American Christian.
  • Many atheists attended church before they deconverted. They know a good bit about Catholic and Protestant Christianity. They know what it is to worship God, pray, and live according to the teachings of the Bible. They are not ignorant of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
  • People become atheists for a variety of reasons. Often there are psychological and cultural reasons why a person becomes an atheist, but, at the end of the day, most people become atheists for intellectual reasons.
  • Most atheists are not atheists because they are angry with God, mad at the church, or hurt.

Here are some evangelistic methods that will likely not work with atheists:

  • Preaching at the person
  • Quoting Bible verses (the atheist has likely heard the verses before)
  • Giving a testimony of how Jesus saved you and changed your life (atheists place little value on subjective stories such as testimonies)
  • Giving the atheist a Christian book, tract, sermon tape/CD/DVD
  • The Romans Road, John Road, Four Spiritual Laws, The Way of the Master, or any other evangelistic program you have been taught
  • Inviting them to church
  • Friending them on Facebook
  • Trying to become friends with them using your friendship evangelism methods
  • Threatening them with Hell

Personally, I would suggest you not witness to an atheist. You are likely going to be disappointed with the result. There are a lot of “other” prospects for Heaven — low hanging fruit — who are much easier to evangelize than atheists. However, if you are certain God is directing you and the Holy Spirit is leading you to witness to an atheist, I would encourage you to be all prayed up and ready to have an intellectual discussion about God, Jesus, and the Bible. Be prepared to talk about theology, philosophy, history, science, and archeology. Be prepared to give evidence for the assertions you make. Saying the Bible says will not work since the atheist will not accept the authority of the Bible.

atheists read the bible

You might as well face it, if the atheist refuses to accept the Bible as a God-inspired authoritative text, there is no hope of you successfully witnessing to him or her. It is better for you to kick the dust off your shoes and go evangelize those who accept your presuppositions about God and the Bible.

Atheists are the swine in the don’t cast your pearls before swine Bible verse. Atheists are reprobates whom God has turned over to their evil desires. Atheists are followers of satan, deaf and blind to your God and the Bible. With so many billions of other people to witness to, why bother witnessing to people who have no interest in your message, are likely to make great intellectual demands of you, and are probably not God’s elect? Be a smart fisher-of-men — go where the fish are.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Why Ex-Christians Don’t Trust Evangelicals

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Evangelicals get upset when ex-Christians such as I question, deflect, or reject their “love” and “friendship.” Several years ago, on a post that is no longer available, the following discussion took place:

TW: @John & Erin, Hi. I also have a Pentecostal background (A/G to be exact), and was a youth pastor & worship pastor (not at the same time, youth for 13 years, worship for 10 years). I would very much love to talk to both of you and share experiences. I left the A/G at the end of 2011 (out 2 years now), and while I am still a believer, I completely denounced all of the BS nonsense that the A/G promotes, like speaking in tongues, faith healing, etc.

If you are both amenable to chatting further, Bruce (if he doesn’t mind doing this), can forward my email address to you both and you can contact me, just let him know. And Erin, I know exactly what you mean when you say you can still “speak in tongues on demand”, haha!

Erin: TW: I appreciate the offer and respect that you’ve left the AG, but because you are still a believer, I would want to know a little more what you’d like to “chat” about.  As a former-Christian-now-atheist, I’ve run into these “chats” a few times before that really only have one ulterior motive. I’m not assuming this is true of you, but I’d like to know more about what you’re thinking first. Thanks!

John: I am glad that you have managed to escape the Pentecostal movement.

You say that you are still ‘a believer’. Does this mean that you are a Fundamentalist or an Evangelical or have you moved to some form of non-Evangelical Christianity? If the latter, I am open to the idea of chatting with you further about the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements.

I have informed Bruce that he can pass my email address on to you and you can contact me. Even if you are some kind of open evangelical, I am willing to discuss the ‘tongues movement’ with you further.

What I am not open to is any subtle or direct attempt to try and reconvert me to Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism. If you do try to attempt this, I will close off further discussion. I consider both Fundamentalism and most of Evangelicalism to be religions of psychological, emotional and intellectual oppression and don’t wish to be sucked back into those camps, ever again.

So, if you are willing to stick to topics related to the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements and their problems, I am open to further discussion with you.

Why are Erin and John so hesitant to correspond with TW? The answer is this: they have had many of these kinds of conversations already, and rarely, if ever, do they turn out well. Now, let me explain why they don’t turn out well.

Evangelical Christians believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. They believe people must have a personal relationship with Jesus to go to Heaven when they die. Everyone who does not have a saving relationship with Jesus will go to Hell when they die. Evangelicals believe the Bible/God/Jesus has commanded them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person, whether the latter wants to hear it or not. They believe all other Gods are false Gods, and all other religions are cults. In their minds, Jesus is THE WAY, not a way, THE TRUTH, not a truth, and THE LIFE, not a life. Simply put, it is Jesus or Hell; choose!

People such as Erin, John, and I know that Evangelicals have a deep-seated pathological need to evangelize. While they may say they just want to be friends or get to know us better, what they really want to do is win us back to Jesus. How could it be otherwise? If Evangelicals really believe the Bible is what they say it is, that Jesus really is the only way, truth, and life, and Hell awaits those who refuse to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, how can they not attempt to evangelize everyone they come in contact with? In fact, I would say if they DON’T evangelize, they are being disobedient to the clear teachings of the Bible (as read through the eyes of an Evangelical).

When Evangelicals want to be my friend, get to know me, correspond with me, etc. I immediately wonder what their real motive is. When I ask them about their motives, they almost always assure me their motives are pure, that they really just want to be my friends. However, after twelve years of having Evangelicals sincerely tell me they just want to be my friend, the truth is, in EVERY instance, over time, their true motive became known, and it wasn’t friendship. While I am sure there are Evangelicals who can be friends with ex-Christians without trying to evangelize them or win them back to Jesus, I just haven’t met any.

One man, a preacher and the brother-in-law of a dear friend of mine, friended me on Facebook a few years ago. While he was quite disturbed by my deconversion — having visited the church I pastored in West Unity — he told me he just wanted to be my friend. When his sister-in-law found out about it, she warned him to NOT try to evangelize me or be preachy. Our friendship didn’t last for two weeks. I wrote something on Facebook that infuriated him. He double-barrel blasted me with his Bible gun, told me I was a bad influence on people, and unfriended me (picture a toddler picking up his toys and stomping off to his room). He later told his sister-in-law and brother-in-law that they should avoid me and not be friends with me because I was a tool of Satan and a bad influence. Fortunately, they ignored his advice and they remain my friends to this day. (They are my only Evangelical friends.)

Another man, a local Evangelical preacher, tried a few years ago to befriend me. He and I corresponded a bit and he would comment from time to time on this blog (in one of its previous iterations). He friended me on Facebook and we began having more serious discussions in private. But, as with all such friendships, it quickly came to an end when he began having doubts about his call to the ministry and even his faith. My discussions with him were quite unsettling, so instead of honestly dealing with his questions and doubts, he determined I was the problem and unfriended me, stopped answering my emails, and stopped commenting on my blog.

Who can forget Evangelical Baptist preacher Marty? Marty was a regular reader of this blog and commented frequently. He had me questioning whether I was wrong about Evangelicals being able to be friends with someone like me. I thought maybe Marty was “the one!” Marty’s friendliness went on for several months until I began to notice an increased level of hostility in his comments. And sure enough, one day the shit hit the fan and Marty went full-bore Fundamentalist Baptist on me. He told me — well, told everyone since it was in a blog comment — that he knew the REAL reason I was not a Christian. When pressed to disclose this reason, he refused to do so. The discussions became more shrill, Marty became defensive and preachy, and eventually I had to ban Marty from commenting. In one of his last comments, Marty whined and complained about being persecuted by me and other atheists who responded to his comments.

I could share dozens of similar stories that illustrate why many ex-Christians rebuff attempts by Evangelicals to befriend them. Here are a few things I have learned from all of these failed pseudo-friendships:

  • Evangelicals are certain they are right and I am wrong
  • Evangelicals are certain there is some “secret” reason I am no longer a Christian
  • Evangelicals are certain I have been hurt or abused and that is why I am no longer a pastor or a Christian
  • Evangelicals are certain that they are the one who can bring me back into the fold, thus gaining a notch on their gospel gun for doing so
  • Evangelicals are certain my intellectual reasons for deconverting are a façade hiding the real reason(s) I am no longer a Christian.

In other words, they can never be my friend because they are unable to love me and accept me as I am. They love Jesus too much to leave me in my present state. I am like a beautiful woman who is constantly chased by suitors. As soon as a potential suitor comes sniffing around, she asks them, do really want to woo me, love me and marry me or, pardon the bluntness, do you just want to fuck me? Quite honestly, a lot of Evangelical zealots just want to spiritually fuck me. When I wake up in the morning, they will be gone, off to fuck other sinners for Jesus.

Perhaps today will be the day that an Evangelical befriends me, accepts me as I am, and loves me so much that he will let me go to Hell. I doubt it, but like my lack of belief in God, it is “possible” there really is an Evangelical somewhere who values personal relationships more than right beliefs. I just haven’t met one yet.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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My Response to Larry Dixon’s Starbucks Story

starbucks

Larry Dixon, an Evangelical preacher and professor, mentioned me again in a recent post on his blog. I am starting to think that Larry wants to have a bromance with me. Sorry Larry, I’m married, hopelessly heterosexual, and I definitely don’t socialize with people who see me as a target for evangelization. I am quite content with being an apostate reprobate who is headed to a mythical Lake of Fire. Now, if you want to join me and Christopher Hitchens in Hell, then maybe, just maybe, we can be friends.

Dixon recently wrote a post titled, What if this Happened in Starbucks? Evidently, Dixon was deep in sleep one night and had what can only described as an Evangelical wet dream. Much like the Bible, what follows is not a true story. I’ll let Larry explain:

So this morning (Sunday morning), I went to Starbucks to get coffee for my wife. The church we attend has a break between services, so I went to get her coffee and a multi-grain bagel.

The place was packed. The six or so Starbucks’ employees that were working behind the counter were swamped. One customer was upset because he was still waiting for his cheese danish. Most of the chairs and tables were taken. People were meeting with friends; laptops were everywhere

Before I placed my order, something came over me. I felt a profound burden to speak to the whole room:

“Hey! Forgive me for interrupting you folks, but I’ve got a critical question to ask you. Are you ready?”

People looked nervous. Nobody speaks to the whole group gathered in a Starbucks! Who was this kook?, they probably thought to themselves. Some of the men looked like they were examining me for a hidden weapon of some kind.

“Why aren’t you people in church?! There are a lot of good churches within a couple of miles of here. Has Starbucks become your church?”

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that one of the baristas was on the phone, probably calling the police. I knew my opportunity would soon be over.

“Folks, I’m not trying to be offensive, But shouldn’t all of you be in a church of some kind, worshiping the Lord Jesus for all He’s done for you? He died for your sins. As the Creator, He’s the One who gives you the next lungful of air that you breathe. Unless you’re on a break from your church like me, what are you doing here?!”

As I looked over this group of about thirty people, there were a few whose faces looked very angry. I had disturbed their Sunday morning quiet time at Starbucks. One or two looked, well, almost remorseful. Maybe they had given up on the church a long time ago, but the truth of Jesus’ giving His life for them seemed to rush back to their minds. The rest, to be honest, were each dialing 9-1-1.

Then I saw the flashing lights outside. As the police officer came in and gently led me to his patrol car, I thought, “Wait! I forgot to get the coffee and bagel for my wife!”

I can imagine Dixon awaking with quite a chubby after this dream. No Jesus viagra needed. Larry was standing at attention, proud of his boldness for the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Savior of his non-existent soul.

Dixon concluded his post with this:

Friends: Just so you know, this did not happen. But I thought about it. And I know my friend Bruce (a former preacher-turned-atheist) who sometimes reads my blog would say, “Why in the world did you think you had the right to interrupt those people with your silly message? They didn’t ask you, did they?!”

And he would be right. No one asked me to break into their peaceful moment at Starbucks with the gospel. But what if I did?

Dixon is right when he says I would likely have asked him why he thought he had to the “right” to interrupt people with his condemnations. And he WAS condemning them for NOT being in church. Quite John the Baptist of him. It seems strange to this unwashed, uncircumcised Philistine that Dixon dreams about going into places of business and condemning people he doesn’t know. Maybe the people at Starbucks were Observant Jews, Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Seventh Day Baptists, or even garden variety Evangelicals who attend houses of worship on Saturday. Dixon judges the patrons at Starbucks without having sufficient evidence to do so.

bruce-gerencser-street-preaching-september-7-1990

People have a right to shop, eat, walk, and play in peace. Unfortunately, Evangelical zealots believe their right to evangelize supersedes your right to peace, quiet, and a nut-free life. If Larry actually went into a Starbucks and fulfilled in real life his dream, he would be breaking the law. You see, the U.S. Constitution guarantees Dixon’s right to evangelize in public spaces, but not in private parks, institutions, malls, and businesses. Dixon, by breaking the law also breaks the law of God. Romans 13:1 states: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Dixon could legally stand in front of Starbucks and preach, hand out tracts, and condemn people for not being in church or being gay to his heart’s content. Unlike Dixon, I actually took the gospel to the streets for a number of years. I publicly preached on street corners throughout southeast Ohio, and in Columbus, Washington D.C. and New Orleans. I handed out thousands of tracts and witnessed one-on-one to countless people. But what I didn’t do is invade people’s private space, nor did I tell them that I wanted to be fake friends with them. I was certainly outspoken, but I also respected the wishes and space of others. Going into a Starbucks and preaching was never on my radar. First, doing so was against the law. Second, it was rude. And third, to what end? I sure told those coffee- swilling sinners the truth, bless God. And how many of them followed after you to your house of worship? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. The answer is NONE!

If I were still an Evangelical preacher, what would trouble me the most about Dixon’s story is the Jesus-less gospel he preached. Sure, Dixon gives passing mention to Jesus, but the thrust of his message is what? What are you guys doing here? Why aren’t you in church? Has Starbucks become your church?

Dixon is preaching a common gospel found in Evangelical circles — especially among Baptists. “Go to church and thou shalt be saved,” says this gospel. Inside the Evangelical version of the Masonic or Mormon Temple, “secrets” will be revealed. Typical Evangelical modus operandi is to get naive people in the door, lower their inhibitions with “cool” music, and then tell them just enough Jesus for them to walk the sawdust trail and get s-a-v-e-d. It’s only after people have been saved that they learn that their continued salvation and eternal happiness requires a long list of works. Chief on that list is attending church every time the doors are open. Well, that and tithing.

Perhaps Dixon is just sharing different ways to evangelize people; though I sincerely wonder how effective it is to go into Starbucks and condemn patrons for sipping on coffee instead of Jesus. My advice to Evangelical zealots is that they stop with all the magic tricks and games they use to “attract” people to the gospel. Instead, just be brutally honest. Tell people the truth about the requirements for salvation and continued membership in the Club. Let sinners know that they will be expected to devote Sundays and Wednesdays and other nights throughout the year listening to preaching, studying the Bible, and hearing boring, monotonous praise and worship music played and sung by rocker wannabees. Let them know that their family and sex life will have to align with teachings found in a Bronze Age religious text. Let them know their children will be expected to attend indoctrination classes from elementary school through college. There will be fun, food, and fellowship, but lots of Fundamentalist dogma too. Let them know that, in time, the church family will become more important than their flesh and blood family. And most of all, tell them they will be on a finance company-like contract. This contract requires them to pay ten percent of their gross income each week to the church, and several times a year they will be expected to make balloon payments called mission offerings, faith promise offerings, Lottie Moon offerings, and love offerings. And surely they should be told that sometimes God will tell their preacher to ask for additional money for buildings, trips, and anything else the preacher/church board fancies.

Imagine how few people would sign on the dotted line if the fine print was printed in an Arial font, size 24. That’s why evangelizers never tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when witnessing to unbelievers. Get them in church, give them enough Jesus to get saved, and let the Holy Spirit work out the details, right?

Now you know, Larry, what your friend Bruce would say. 🙂 I am always happy to answer your questions (or assertions). Be well. And get your wife her damn coffee and bagel. Your salvation in this life depends on it.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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The Coronavirus Pandemic: The Ministry Opportunity of This Century

ministry-opportunity-of-the-century

It seems impossible for Evangelicals to love and be kind to others without having some sort of ulterior motive for doing so. I have written about this issue here: Beware of Evangelicals Coming in the Name of Friendship and How to Turn Your Evangelical Teens into Annoying Fake Friends. Evangelicals are the equivalent of door-to-door salesmen. While they may smile and share a cup of coffee with you, their goal is to get you to buy what they are selling. You, the target, are just a means to an end. The vacuum cleaner salesman hopes you will give him your money in return for a grossly overpriced sweeper. The Jesus salesman hopes you will surrender your reason and personal autonomy in return for the forgiveness of sins and an eternal home in a celestial Heaven no one has ever seen. Worse yet, the Jesus salesman wants you to come to the home office where he learned the tricks of his trade. Doing so will require your time and money, but just remember all the perks that come with buying Jesus.

Cameron Cole, the Director of Youth Ministries at the Cathedral Church of the Advent and the founding chairman of Rooted Ministry, thinks that the current Coronavirus pandemic is ” the ministry opportunity of this century.” Cole, an Episcopalian, is surprisingly quite Evangelical theologically, and his approach towards preying on non-Christians, especially teenagers, is no different from what is found in conservative Baptist churches.

Cole writes:

Thousands of people are suffering, sick, and dying. Many people are facing financial straits and dire situations. In no way should we overlook what a catastrophe the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes for countless people around the world.

I have been in youth ministry professionally for fifteen years and another five as a volunteer before that; in other words, for this whole, young century. I want to tell everyone who ministers to young people — youth pastor and parent alike — this is the ministry opportunity of this century.

….

Biblical Christianity is the only worldview with sufficient, helpful answers to these incredibly difficult questions. Frequent will be the opportunities for kids to express doubts and to lament. Often will be the chances to offer answers or to simply lament with a child (and leave the theology for another time). Parents and youth pastors have an opportunity to enter into these hard questions with teenagers and offer hopeful truths or to just wrestle along with them.

….

Still, very few young people think they are actually ever going to die. Their mortality generally never crosses their minds. This global pandemic does cause them to consider their death and their standing before God. They may genuinely experience fear of death in these moments. Now is an opportunity to offer them the great comfort that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection means there is no fear in death for the believer.

As I said to start this article, we never want to think about the suffering and tragedy of others as an opportunity to capitalize on. What I do want to convey is that this challenging time offers a rich, unique, and temporary opportunity to minister to kids in a way that could change their lives forever.

Cole wants Christian readers to know that God has given them a golden opportunity to bushwack unsuspecting people who are sick and dying from the COVID-19 virus. People rightly fear dying from the virus — I know I do, to some degree — and Cole sees this as a vulnerability that can be exploited — in Jesus’ name, of course. You see, Cole and others like him think they KNOW what non-Christians need. Regardless of the circumstance or problem, the solution is always the same: Jesus.

Cole recognizes that his post makes him seem predatory and indifferent towards the sick and dying. Too bad he didn’t ponder that for a moment and then stop writing. But, he didn’t, there are souls that need saving, and it’s up to God’s chosen ones to harass, bug, and irritate them into saving faith.

The Coronavirus pandemic presents Christians with all sorts of opportunities to “let their little light shine” so the unsaved people of the world can see their good works and perhaps give glory to God as a result. Instead, Cole gives lip service to the plight of the sick and dying and instead focuses on rescuing people from eternal damnation.

Let me conclude this post by giving careful consideration to Cole’s last paragraph:

We never want to think about the suffering and tragedy of others as an opportunity to capitalize on. What I do want to convey is that this challenging time offers a rich, unique, and temporary opportunity to minister to kids in a way that could change their lives forever.

Cole says, ” We never want to think about the suffering and tragedy of others as an opportunity to capitalize on.” Good idea. Be better than most Evangelical Christians and just be a decent human being. If people want to know about your Jesus, salvation, or church, they will ask; but if they don’t ask, be content to let your “good works shine before men.” Cole doesn’t mention doing works of mercy for virus sufferers. He doesn’t mention any of a number of things he and other Christians could be doing for those suffering the effects of the Coronavirus, or for those in social isolation right now. Instead, his focus is on “eternal” matters. He’s more concerned with the “rich, unique, and temporary opportunity to minister to kids in a way that could change their lives forever” than he is wading in the gutter of human suffering.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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How to Turn Your Evangelical Teens Into Annoying Fake Friends

jesus is my boyfriend

Want to turn your Evangelical children into annoying fake friends? Just follow the advice of Katie Polski. Katie Polski is the wife of the pastor of a Presbyterian Churches in America (a Fundamentalist denomination) church. Her husband, Chris, pastors Trinity Church in Kirkwood, Missouri. You can read her blog here.

I am sure Polski means well. After all, most Evangelical zealots mean well. Their minds and hearts are on eternity, on the lost state of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Polski feels burdened over the fact that Evangelical teenagers are not well-equipped to evangelize their heathen classmates. Polski gives the following advice to parents who want to turn their teens into subversives for Jesus:

Cultivate an Evangelistic Disposition

There are three important ways we can do this as parents:

By building relationships with unbelievers

In one of my theology classes, we were asked to write a ten-page letter to an unbelieving friend. When I struggled to come up with someone to write to, I had no choice but to confront the glaring problem…I didn’t know many unbelievers. Parents, we can’t share the gospel with our kids but fail to cultivate a disposition toward evangelism, and one of the greatest ways we do this is by encouraging relationships with unbelievers.

As a mom of a sixteen and seventeen-year-old, I understand how grey the line is between embracing those who don’t know Jesus and embracing their sometimes-alluring ways. There is no easy answer, but what is clear is that we are not called to separate ourselves from unbelievers. Scripture is inundated with references that assume we will know and interact with them. In John 17, Jesus Himself prays that His disciples NOT be taken “out of the world, but that you [Father] keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). This should be our prayer as well as we build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus and prudently encourage our children to do the same.

By demonstrating how to build bridges

The key is understanding that our relationships with unbelievers should be developed with the hope of leading them toward the gospel. The foundation is the relationship. The next step is finding a bridge to gospel-sharing, and that bridge will look different for each friendship. Perhaps start by helping your kids to think of what they have in common with their unbelieving friend. Is it a sport? A certain type of music? A love for movies? All of these can be bridges that open up conversations about Jesus.

What is crucial for us as parents is helping our kids discern the difference between the way they as Christians view this common passion, and the way the world views it. If they love theatre, for example, encourage them to consider giving God the glory when they are praised for a performance. When a friend says, “Why do you answer like that?” there is a bridge to explaining Jesus, the One who gives all good gifts. If your child loves a particular sport, encourage them to not skip church to attend a game. When a friend says, “Why did you miss?” there is a bridge to explain why worship matters.

Even more pointed are the bridges built by taking firm stands in the truth. This is harder to do, but it’s good and right to model and encourage deliberate stances for Jesus. Perhaps it’s posting a Bible verse on Social Media or inviting a friend to a youth group retreat. These are all potential bridges to showing an unbeliever who Jesus is.

By assisting them in evangelism

There is something beautiful about engaging in evangelism with a child. One of the ways this can happen is by praying for our child’s unbelieving friend by name. When we do this, we are entering into the process of evangelism with them. Asking about and praying for these friends helps our children to remember to be gospel-minded, and it sets the stage for all to see the miraculous work that God can do. It’s not always immediate, but God works through the prayers of His people, so pray boldly and watch with anticipation at the work He will do!

Encourage your children to bring these friends into your home. Our actions can be one of the greatest forms of evangelism that our children will ever see modeled. Simply offering to invite an unbelieving friend to a family dinner is an example modeled by our Savior and one we should seek to model for our children. Pray for your kids as they learn and grow in their understanding of what it means to share Jesus with others. Trust that the Lord is working on their hearts just as powerfully as He is working in the lives of those they seek to evangelize.

Regular readers might sense a bit of déjà vu, thinking that this sure sounds a lot like Larry Dixon’s and Katy Morgan’s “friendship” evangelism shtick. (Please see Beware of Evangelicals Coming in the Name of Friendship and Larry Dixon’s Followers Dish the Truth about Atheist Bruce Gerencser) And just like Dixon and Morgan, Polski encourages parents to teach their children to be fake friends with their school classmates. Instead of teaching teenagers how to develop real, lasting, authentic relationships with others, Polskiwants parents to teach them to use manipulative, subversive methodologies to “reach” unbelieving schoolmates with the Evangelical gospel.

First, Polski says that evangelizing teenagers need to build relationships with their fellow students with the hope of “leading them toward the gospel.” Polski warns that Evangelical teenagers should build fake relationships without embracing the sinful, worldly ways of their targets. This, of course, requires lots of prayer. According to the Bible, Christians are supposed to be “in the world but not of the world.” In other words, parents should encourage their teenagers to hang out with worldlings but not participate in their worldly ways. Can you imagine, for a moment, how this will work out in real life for Evangelical teenagers? “Hey, let’s be friends, but I can’t do any of the things you do or go any of the places you go.” “Really, all I want to do is tell you about Jesus, invite you to church on Sunday, and hope you don’t think I’m a religious nut job.”

Second, Polski tells parents that it is important for their evangelizing teenagers to build bridges with unsuspecting, unregenerate classmates. Find out what you have in common with a fellow student — say sports, music, movies — and use that as a “bridge” (Greek for the word hook) to evangelize them, Polski says to Christian teens. Of course, due to a rigid, unflinching commitment to a Fundamentalist interpretation of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, parents must make sure that their evangelizing teenagers don’t compromise their beliefs and practices (actually the beliefs of their church, pastor, parents). Sure don’t want a church teenager losing his virginity to a classmate while trying to evangelize them, or some other horrid sin that normal people call a rite of passage.

Third, Polski tells parents they should assist their teens in evangelizing their classmates. This point is the most dangerous one of all. Polski suggests parents have their teenagers invite their friends to their homes — say to a family dinner. That way, parents schooled for years in the art of manipulating people can soften up and manipulate unsuspecting, naïve teenagers for the gospel kill. Polski and her husband, in particular, are likely experts at using this technique. Most Evangelical pastors and his wives likely have the requisite skills necessary to “make” a teenager receptive to their cult’s teachings. I know firsthand how this game is played, so any attempt by Polski to put a kind, friendly face on this feral pig won’t work.

I came of age in the 1970s at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. Saved, baptized, and called the preach at the age of fifteen, I was all in when church pastors Gene Milioni, Ron Johnson, and Bruce Turner (Please see Dear Bruce Turner) suggested that our youth group carry their Bibles to school, hand out gospel tracts, invite classmates to church, and engage in conversations about the gospel when given the opportunity. Out of the hundred or so students in the senior high youth group, I was the only one to heed the call and take the gospel to my hellbound acquaintances — most of my friends attended Trinity — at Findlay High School. I attended one of the largest high schools in the state of Ohio. There were over eight hundred students in my class alone. My mission field was large, and I intended to reach as many of them as I could for Jesus. After all, Jesus was coming soon. By 1976, Jack Van Impe said!

Every day, I would carry my King James Scofield Reference Bible on top of my books. What better way for me to tell my classmates that I was a Christian than to carry my Bible everywhere I went. During lunch, you could find me with a large group of no one sitting at a table reading my Bible. Again, this was my way of saying to my dope-smoking, booze-drinking, fornicating classmates that I was a non-dope-smoking, non-booze-drinking virgin. Did wonders for my social life, both inside and outside of church.

During this time, I was living with one of the church’s matriarchs, Gladys Canterbury. Being the lady who read missionary letters to the church, she approved of my evangelistic efforts. To help pay for my expenses, I work as a busboy at Bill Knapp’s Restaurant. I would get out of school at 11:30 AM and walk or ride my bike to Bill Knapp’s to work the lunch shift. On many days, I would take a several hour break, during which time I would either do my homework or read my Bible, and then I would work the evening shift. Several of my schoolmates worked at Bill Knapp’s too. We had been friends in junior high school, and knew each other from playing baseball and sports at the YMCA. I decided that I would start leaving gospel tracts in their coat pockets, hoping that they would read them, and ask me for more information. Instead, they wondered when I had become a religious fanatic. These same friends one school day took to throwing my Bible around the classroom, mocking my beliefs. I was thoroughly embarrassed by this, and a short time later I quit carrying my Bible to school. I felt guilty, saying to myself, “Bruce, you love the world more than you love God.” Never mind the fact that I was the only church teenager to heed the call to evangelization; the only one to seek lost sinners at Findlay High. I was a failure because I loved having the respect of my fellow classmates more than I did having the approbation of Jesus, my pastors, and the church.

I did have one soulwinning success story. Kinda, anyway. One Wednesday afternoon, I asked one of my classmates who worked with me at Bill Knapp’s if he would like to go to church with me that night. Surprisingly, Deke said yes. Trinity had what they called a “prayer meeting” on Wednesdays, but it was really just a typical Sunday preaching service, complete with an invitation, with a little extra prayer thrown in. So at the appointed time, my friend Deke joined me in the back center pew at Trinity Baptist Church. I think Deke was genuinely curious about what I was up to religiously. Well, he sure got more than he bargained for. The sermon that night was just like every other sermon — come to Jesus lest you burn in Hell for eternity. After my pastor gave his manipulative, coercive “every head bowed, every eye closed, no one looking around” speech, the song leader led the congregation in the singing of Just as I Am. As the singing began, I turned to Deke and asked him if he wanted to go forward and get saved. In no uncertain terms, Deke said no. Several verses into Just as I Am, one of the trained church stalkers, I mean altar workers, came to where Deke and I were standing and began to beat him over the head with Jesus and the importance of getting saved that night. Lo and behold, after a few minutes of what can best be described as tenderizing meat for the gospel grill, Deke went forward, knelt at the altar, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and was gloriously, wonderfully, awesomely, supercalifragilisticexpialidociously saved. Amen right? Amen! Praise Jesus. Another sinner saved from the fiery pit of Hell. 

Deke quickly left after the service, so we didn’t have a chance to talk about what took place. The next day, I talked to Deke at Bill Knapp’s. He derisively told me that he would never come to my church again; that he just prayed the sinner’s prayer so “that lady,” as he would call her, would leave him alone. The only thing he got saved from that day was her.

I am sure that much like Larry Dixon, Katie Polski will say that I have misrepresented her intent and beliefs, but I stand by my repudiation and criticism of her weaponizing Evangelical children; of turning them into annoying, irritating religious nut jobs. There will be plenty of time in their adult lives for these teenagers to make fake friends with unsuspecting unbelievers. No need to ruin their high school years. Again, if one of their classmates asks them about their faith, if they are so inclined, they should share it. But, encouraging Evangelical teenagers to make fake friendships so they can evangelize people is not only is a bad idea, it teaches them that subterfuge and manipulation are okay as long as you do it in the name of God.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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Beware of Evangelicals Coming in the Name of “Friendship”

lets be friends

I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible for many Evangelicals to befriend people just for the sake of friendship. Much like Amway or Herbalife peddlers, zealous Evangelicals always have an ulterior motive when talking to and interacting with the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. The good news for us heathens is that many Evangelicals aren’t good Christians. They are content to let us go to Hell in peace. That said, there are plenty of Evangelicals who believe they are duty-bound to irritate, bug, and harass non-Christians, all in the name of evangelizing the lost.

Take Larry Dixon, professor of theology at Columbia International University Seminary and School of Missions in Columbia, South Carolina. Dixon is “convinced that there is a major element missing in many Christian’s lives.” That element, you ask? Befriending sinners as Jesus did. Dixon implores his fellow Evangelicals to leave the Christian Ghetto® and “develop meaningful relationships with those who are still outside of Christ!”

Dixon is so excited about annoying unbelievers that he wants to send pastors a free copy of his book “Unlike Jesus.” Dixon hopes his book will spur pastors to invite him to their churches to give a seminar on “friendship evangelism.” Dixon knows that the vast majority of Evangelical church members never share their faith with anyone — all praise be to Loki for this small favor. He’s hoping to guilt more Evangelicals into feeling contrite over their indifference to the plight of the “lost.” I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches. I browbeat congregants in my sermons over their lack of evangelistic zeal, and when that didn’t work, I taught evangelism classes or had special speakers come in to teach church members the best ways to “reach” their family, friends, and neighbors with the Evangelical gospel. Despite all of this, most church members kept their faith to themselves. Outside of leaving tracts at restaurants or in bathroom stalls, most of them were content to go to their graves keeping the “good news” to themselves. Sure, I made them feel guilty over their indifference towards the plight of the lost, but the fact remained, most of them were unwilling to make fake friendships with people they didn’t know.

Then there is Katy Morgan, a writer for The Gospel Coalition. Morgan believes in an especially pernicious form of friendship evangelism. In an article titled Three Reasons to Visit an Elderly Person Soon, Morgan gives several reasons why Evangelical zealots should prey on old people.

  • They’re probably lonely
  • They’re probably wiser than you are
  • They definitely need Jesus

There it is, the “real” reason for Morgan and her ilk to “befriend” the aged: they definitely need J-E-S-U-S.

Morgan writes:

After years of faithful but seemingly fruitless witnessing, my mother saw both of her parents become Christians in their 90s. From my perspective, it seems two aspects of old age were among the things the Spirit used to bring them to faith in Christ. 

First, age had stripped them of all their old routines and ways of doing things. Becoming dependent on others gives people a chance to rethink what’s important. The stereotype is that elderly people are deeply entrenched in their ways. But age also forces many people to relinquish what they once valued most. And, like my grandparents, they may come to reconsider faith. 

Second, they were coming face-to-face with death. They were confronted with the question of what would happen when illness became terminal. They began to number their days (Ps. 90:12) and asked the Lord for his compassion (v. 13). He had mercy on them.

I pray he’ll have mercy on increasing numbers of seniors. Recently, I saw some cards designed to help start conversations about Jesus with elderly people. Each one had a picture, a Bible verse, and a prayer. I’m hoping I can take these as a gift for my elderly friend around the corner. “What do you think about Jesus?” I’ll ask. “What do you think of these verses?” We’ve spoken a little about God before, and I know she’ll be willing to talk. And what a hopeful opportunity it will be!

There’s a mission field in our own streets: in lonely apartments and quiet care facilities. These men and women have not been forgotten by God. Let’s be his hands and his feet to them: visiting, befriending, learning, and proclaiming.

I am all for genuinely befriending and helping people, be they young or old. However, I despise Evangelicals who come bearing gifts of friendship when what they really want to do is “save” people from the wrath and judgment of their mythical God. Old people, in particular, are in the sunset years of life. Yes, we “feel” our mortality. We sense the specter of death lurking in the shadows. We know that someday, sooner than later, it will be our names on the obituary pages of our local newspapers. We don’t need fake friends reminding us of our frailty. My wife and I have lived in the same rural Ohio town for thirteen years. There are six Evangelical churches within five miles of our home. Want to know how many times the pastors of these churches have knocked on our door to introduce themselves, invite us to church, or share with us that wonderful salvation they prattle on and on about on Sundays? Zero. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, now there’s a Christian sect that takes the Great Commission seriously. Evangelicals? Why, they are too busy worshiping and getting (metaphorically and literally) fat to bother with the temporal or eternal needs of their neighbors.

Evangelicals love to talk about evangelism, reaching the “lost,” and all the other metaphors they use to describe those God will torture for eternity in the Lake of Fire if they don’t repent and believe the gospel. But the fact remains, most of them, including pastors, deacons, and Sunday school teachers, seem to have no interest in evangelizing unregenerate sinners. Why is that? I suspect that they really don’t like bugging people. Who among us loves having door-to-door salespeople knocking on their doors? None of us. And isn’t that exactly what Dixon, Morgan, and their fellow zealots do: without invitation, inject themselves into the lives of others? Believing that they have a mandate from headquarters to go into the highways and hedges and compel sinners to come to Jesus, evangelizers will the bug the hell out of family, friends, and strangers. Never content just to be decent, thoughtful, genuine human beings, Dixon, Morgan, and company scour the countryside looking for “opportunities” to become fake friends with young and old alike.

After I divorced Jesus in 2008, I lost all of my Evangelical friends and colleagues in the ministry, save one man and his wife. I have been friends with this man since third grade — fifty plus years. I just saw him at a basketball game last night. We chatted as I photographed the game. Both he and his wife attend a Nazarene church. Why did my relationship with this couple survive my deconversion? We agreed that we had many things in common, and instead of focusing on our disagreements over politics, God, and religion, we decided to focus on things such as family, grandchildren, enjoying good food, and taking road trips. My friends are willing to let me go to hell in peace. Sure, my loss of faith bothers them, and they wish I were still a club member. I was, after all, their pastor at one time. They have heard me preach countless times. We have shared numerous spiritual experiences together. However, they also know that I am not lacking in knowledge when it comes to the claims of Christianity. What could they possibly say to me that I haven’t heard or said myself? Instead of focusing on things we will never agree on, we choose, instead, to focus on the love and history we have with one another. None of us is in very good shape, health-wise. I suspect that death is going to claim one or more of us sooner, and not later. When that time comes, I have no doubt that one couple or the other will be at the bedside of their dying friend, offering the comfort that only true friendship provides. Perhaps stories of yesteryear will be shared, as the last breath is drawn. Sure, tears will flow. How could it be otherwise?

I know what true friendship looks like. In a 2017 post titled Why Our Christians Friends Leave Us When We Deconvert, I wrote:

As a teenager, I had lots of friends, male and female. Most of my friends were fellow church members, though I did have a few friends in the “world.” I always found it easy to meet new people and make friendships. I had no qualms about talking to complete strangers, a gift that suited me well as a pastor. As a nineteen-year-old boy, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I quickly made a lot of new friends, including one who sleeps beside me to this day. I lived in a dorm room with three other men. Virtually every waking hour of my life was spent with fellow students — at church, school, and social events. As anyone who has ever lived in a college dormitory will tell you, dorm life is busy and full of activity. Practical jokes were an everyday occurrence, and, as an expert joker, I found great satisfaction in pulling one over on my fellow students. I lived on a dormitory wing that was labeled the “party” wing. The other dormitory wing was called the “spiritual” wing. My fellow party-wing residents loved Jesus, but they loved having a good time too. The spiritual wing? They loved Jesus too, but frowned on doing anything that might be perceived as bawdy or mischievous.

One day, a pastor by the name of A.V. Henderson preached at chapel (students were required to attend chapel five days a week). I have preached and heard thousands of sermons in my lifetime. I remember very few of them. I do, however, vividly remember Henderson’s sermon, even forty years later. Henderson was the pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Detroit. Temple was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) megachurch founded by Baptist luminary J. Frank Norris and later pastored by G.B. Vick. The 1970s were the zenith of the IFB church movement. Most of the largest churches in the United States were IFB churches. Churches such as Temple Baptist were pastored by men who were great orators and pulpiteers. Henderson was no exception. Henderson’s chapel sermon was from the book of Job. It was, by all counts, a thrilling, rousing sermon. However, Henderson said something during his sermon that I didn’t, at the time, understand. He said, with that distinct Texas drawl of his, that people will go through life with very few true friendships; that most people were fortunate to have two or three lifelong friends. I thought at the time, what’s he talking about? I have lots of friends! Forty years later, I now know that A.V. Henderson was right; that true friends are rare indeed; that if you have two or three such friends, you should consider yourself fortunate.

“Friends” such as Dixon, Morgan, and their fellow evangelizers, will come and go in our lives. When they don’t get what they want from us — our salvation — they move on to other marks. A common cliché found over the mission board in Baptist churches says, “Why should anyone hear the gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?” Rebuff their attempts at friendship and Evangelical soulwinners will leave you in your “need” and seek out other needy sinners. And that’s fine with me. I am quite happy to be left alone in my debauchery and apostasy. I just wish the purveyors of friendship evangelism would leave others alone too. Want to truly help the elderly? Meet their temporal needs. Stop by their homes and volunteer to rake their leaves, paint their houses, or shovel their drives. Make them meals, and sit down and break bread with them. Ask them about their children and grandchildren. Ask them to share stories with you. Genuinely enter into their lives, not as Evangelical carpetbaggers looking at “selling” them Jesus, but as human beings who genuinely love others. Want to make friends with your neighbors? Try being like Wilson or Tim Taylor on the TV show Home Improvement. Wilson and Taylor spent countless hours and years talking to one another over a fence. That’s what friends do. Invite your neighbors over for a cookout. When you see they have a need, try and meet that need. We have a plethora of opportunities to befriend others. We share a common humanity, regardless of our political or religious beliefs. If you are a Christian and a neighbor asks about your beliefs/faith, by all means share them. However, attempting to befriend people as a means to an end — salvation — is repugnant. None of us like being used, and that is exactly what Evangelicals do when they target people for evangelization.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

Are you on Social Media?  Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Bait and Switch Evangelistic Methods of Evangelicals

bait and switch

Originally published in 2015. Updated, corrected, and expanded.

On a previous iteration of this blog, a fundamentalist Christian by the name of Harold commented on The Jonathan Nichols Story: Growing up Gay in the IFB Church post. That post is an excerpt from Jonathan’s story about being raised in the Newark Baptist Temple, the church pastored for forty-six years by my wife’s uncle Jim Dennis, and how the church and its pastor responded to him when he said he was gay. (Please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis.) Harold left this comment:

Jonathan, I am a Baptist who views on homosexuality being sin have never changed. I can say however that my views of homosexuals have changed from judgmental condemnation to compassion. You can Google C.S. Lewis views on homosexuals which are compassionate. I think anyone can be delivered from homosexual sin (pornography, masturbation, the actual sex act) and same sex attraction can be overcome but I think for many it is a battle and perhaps a life long battle although I’m not sure about it being life long. For a compassionate view of homosexuality I would recommend to anyone: Christian, gay, family of one who is gay, a book titled” Love Into Light” by Peter Hubbard. Also for anyone wanting free from homosexuality I recommend http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com

Harold wanted to present himself as a compassionate, loving Christian, but I wasn’t going to let him get by with his subterfuge, so I left this comment:

I know you mean well, but cut the bullshit. Bottom line, no homosexual will inherit the kingdom of God, right? Unless they repent of their sodomy they will be tortured by God in the lake of fire for all eternity, right? Quit hiding behind claims of love and compassion. Jonathan is fine how he is. He is free to love who he wants, and have consensual sex with who he wants. Why should you have these freedoms but not Jonathan? Answer, the Bible says…right?

Subterfuge. This word accurately describes the evangelistic methods used by many Evangelicals. Subterfuge is defined as: Something intended to misrepresent the true nature of an activity.

Evangelicals rarely tell non-Christians what their true motives are. They come bearing gifts, speaking of love and compassion, but their real goal is to convert sinners, baptize them, and make them tithing members of whatever Evangelical church they represent. I’ve come to the conclusion that most Evangelicals are incapable of loving for love’s sake and having compassion for others without having an unstated agenda.

A few years ago, an Evangelical wrote a post about his church going from door to door handing out flower pots. He said they just wanted to show the community that they loved them. I asked, did the flowerpots have the name of the church on them, and did you give them literature from the church? Of course they did. The goal, then, wasn’t showing the community they loved them; it was advertising their church in hopes that people would come to it.

Evangelicals are experts at subterfuge, and it is important to force them to declare their true intentions. In my comment to Harold, I also wrote

Harold, what is your end game here? Put in a good word for Jesus? Evangelize? Preach the truth?

When Evangelicals want to befriend you, help you, or to get all cozy with you, you need to consider what their real motive is for doing so. In an article on The Gospel Coalition website, Jeff Cavanaugh wrote:

Yet churches still have a tremendous evangelistic opportunity in the people who live near the church building. After all, these neighbors walk and drive past the church building every day. They may wonder about what goes on when the church gathers. For non-Christians who don’t know any believers personally, the church down the street may be the biggest reminder of Christianity they see on a regular basis.

So how can a church be faithful in evangelizing the neighborhood when the members don’t live there? Some evangelical traditions have made a practice of “visitation,” knocking on doors and trying to engage people in spiritual conversations. Sometimes this effort bears good gospel fruit, though cultural changes in recent decades have made this more difficult as many North Americans have become suspicious of strangers at the front door.

I serve my local church as deacon of community outreach, and our strategy for reaching the neighborhood around us is mainly one of long-term, patient faithfulness. Our goal is to build relationships with our neighbors that, over time, will make it easier for us to have spiritual conversations with them. These relationships also make our neighbors more willing to attend services and other events aimed specifically at engaging unbelievers with the gospel.

The basic principle behind this strategy is simple, and it’s one any church can follow: engage your neighbors by taking an interest in what they care about. Building common ground is easy when you participate side-by-side in community organizations, service projects, family events, block parties, yard sales, and the like. Common interests are one of the most powerful tools for building friendships that can enable spiritual conversations to take place.

My church is located in a historic urban neighborhood that has a well-defined identity, and many of our neighbors have common interests. Neighborhood associations are popular and prominent in the life of the community, and events like street fairs, art shows, music festivals, park cleanups, and community yard sales are common. We engage our neighbors by having church members volunteer for these events, host booths, and attend neighborhood association meetings. We also invite the community to a couple of evangelistic events at Christmas: a service of lessons and carols with a brief evangelistic sermon, and a sing-along production of Handel’s Messiah…

. . . If your church is in a lower-income area, your neighbors’ biggest concerns are likely to be some of their most basic needs: food, shelter, jobs, transportation, education. Your members might help meet some of these needs, and thereby gain neighbors’ trust and attention, through soup kitchens, clothes closets, literacy programs, and such..

My father pastors a church in Ohio in a middle-class suburb with a lot of families, and many of these neighbors’ lives revolve around their kids. So the church hosts some events throughout the year that provide activities for the kids and expose neighbors to the gospel. The church puts on a vacation Bible school every summer. They host a big Easter egg hunt for the kids of the neighborhood, and someone tells the resurrection story with a clear gospel presentation for the whole crowd…

Here’s the money quote:

The basic principle behind this strategy is simple, and it’s one any church can follow: engage your neighbors by taking an interest in what they care about. Building common ground is easy when you participate side-by-side in community organizations, service projects, family events, block parties, yard sales, and the like. Common interests are one of the most powerful tools for building friendships that can enable spiritual conversations to take place.

On one hand, there is nothing wrong with having common interests with your neighbors. But, as Cavanaugh makes clear, the REAL reason for Evangelicals to have these common interests is so they can witness to their neighbors. Again, this is subterfuge.

I know the neighbors who live on both sides of me. Several summers ago, I sat on my one neighbor’s porch and he and I talked for an hour. We talked about family, our gardens, our health, and psychology (he is a retired psychologist). In the summer, I often talked to my other neighbor, an elderly gent, about woodworking, fishing, and gardening. Every so often, he would let me know he saw his “educated” neighbor’s letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News — that’s me by the way — and we will talk about it for a few minutes. We’d laugh and say, see ya later. Sadly, he had a stroke and I haven’t seen him in over a year.

As a good neighbor, I have no agenda. I don’t want anything from my neighbors. I care about them, and I worry when I don’t see them for a while. Both of my neighbors are good people as they are. I have no desire to win them over to my cause or to convert them to atheism. They are part of my community, and I want to be friends with them. I have other neighbors in front and in back of our house. While I don’t know them as well, I try to be friendly and talk to them when I see them. Again, no agenda.

Evangelicals can’t do this. They see every person as a sinner in need of salvation. Every person they come in contact with is a prospect for heaven, a potential church member. Remember this the next time an Evangelical wants to be your friend or wants to be a part of your group. Perhaps, the first question to ask is this: what do you REALLY want or why are you REALLY here?

Remember, Evangelicals are also taught that the world is evil, and that they are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14) They are taught that they must stand apart from the world, its sins, its philosophies, and its inhabitants. They are like the neighbor who only comes into my backyard to steal my watermelons. He is not interested in me, he is only interested in watermelon. The watermelon in the Evangelical world is another sinner saved, baptized, and made a tithing member of a Bible-believing church.

Beware of watermelon thieves.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Evangelizing the Lost: Do You Have Blood on Your Hands?

bloody-hands-of-christians

Liberal and Progressive Christians tend to let their “little lights shine” through their good works. Evangelicals, on the other hand, believe they are commanded by God to verbalize the Christian gospel to every human being. (And I am not saying Evangelicals don’t do good works. They do. However, their focus is different from non-Evangelical Christians.) The Bible says in Matthew 28:19,20:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 16:15 says:

And he [Jesus] said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

These verses are commonly called the Great Commission.

Let me chase a rabbit for a second, and then return to the subject at hand. Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. When Jesus says, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” they believe his words to be a command they are expected to follow.

Regardless of how often Evangelicals say they believe EVERY WORD OF THE BIBLE, none of them really does. Evangelicals pick and choose which Bible verses to believe. Mark 16 is a wonderful of example of Evangelical selectivity. The three verses immediately following the Great Commission say:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Please note what the precious, holy, perfect Bible says:

  • You must be baptized to be saved
  • Signs will follow those who believe and are baptized
  • True believers will cast demons out of other people
  • True believers will speak with new tongues
  • True believers will handle venomous snakes and not be hurt
  • True believers will drink poison and not be hurt
  • True believers will lay hands on the sick, and they will be healed

Let me ask readers this: based on the seven marks of a True Believer® above, how many Christians do you know?

Context sure can be a bitch! Okay, rabbit sufficiently chased now; let’s return to the Great Commission.

Evangelicals believe every human being, past and present, belongs in one of two categories: saved or lost. Evangelicalism is exclusionary by nature and design. Either you are a True Christian®, or you are not; either you are headed for Heaven, or you are headed for Hell. Our eternal destiny is black and white: either you are saved, or you are lost. The goal, then, is to move as many people as possible — including people who “say they are Christians —  from the lost category to the saved category. That’s the essence of the Great Commission, and it is for this reason some Evangelical churches, pastors, and congregants push their version of the Christian gospel on other people. Unbelievers are supposed to view their rude impositions as love. “I love you so much that I am going to annoy until you realize you are a hell-bound sinner in need of the salvation freely offered by Jesus through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead three days later.” Countless Evangelical zealots have come to this blog and attempted to evangelize you and me. They believe that their boorish harassment is “love.” “I love you enough, Bruce, to tell you the truth,” Evangelical evangelizers tell me. Evidently, the fifty years I spent in the Christian church and the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry wasn’t enough to educate me on the finer points of the Evangelical gospel. That’s sarcasm, by the way. It’s been a long, long time since an Evangelical has told me something I haven’t heard before. Trust me, I know everything there is to know about what is necessary to be saved. I just can’t do snake handling and drinking poison. Sorry, but I will just have to go to Hell.

einsteins witnesses

I spent many years in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. IFB churches are known for their hyper-evangelism efforts. Success is measured by souls saved. Yet, most IFB church members rarely, if ever, verbally share their faith with non-believers. Oh, they will give them religious literature or invite them to church, but sharing the Evangelical gospel face-to-face with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers? They leave that to their pastors, evangelists, and on-fire-for-God soulwinners. Why do most congregants keep the Evangelical gospel to themselves? Much like the rest of us, they like to respected and well thought of. What’s a sure way to piss people off? Get in their faces, preaching your peculiar brand of Christianity. Few of us like pushy religious zealots. That’s why I was never very good at confrontational evangelism. I was content to do my evangelizing through my preaching — be it in church or on the street. Now, that doesn’t mean I never won any souls for Christ while out on visitation, I did. It’s just that I was never comfortable with bugging and harassing people, especially when I knew that they were not the least bit interested in what I had to sell.

Why, then, did I, week after week, knock on doors, hoping to save sinners and add them to our church membership? One word: FEAR. I was afraid that God would hold me accountable for not doing everything in my power to reach the lost. One Bible passage, in particular, fueled this fear, Ezekiel 3:17-19:

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

“But his [the sinner’s, the wicked man’s] blood will I require at that hand.” As an Evangelical pastor, I didn’t want to have the blood of sinners on my hands. I didn’t want Jesus on judgment day parading before me the sinners I failed to evangelize. I didn’t want to hear their screams in Hell, knowing that I never told them the truth! Let this kind of thinking get deep down into your psyche; it can change how you view others. Instead of seeing my Catholic neighbor as a good man, a kind man, who helped me on many occasions, I saw him as a sinner in need of saving; a good lost man. Such thinking ruins one’s ability to see people as they are, and to understand the boundaries that decent, thoughtful people respect. That’s why the most obnoxious people at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other Evangelical high holy days such as Mother’s Day are Christians who feel duty-bound to evangelize everyone they come in contact with. Nothing else matters except standing before Jesus someday free of the blood of sinners.

I used Ezekiel 3:17-19 and Ezekiel 33:7-9 in my sermons to guilt congregants into showing up on Tuesdays and Saturdays for visitation and soulwinning. In the weeks leading up to revivals, I would passionately remind church members of their duty to their family, friends, neighbors, and workmates. “Do you want to stand before God on judgment day with blood on your hands?” I’d ask. Heads would bow, and congregants would grimace. “Point made,” I thought. Yet, come revival time, most of the evangelizing was done by me, the evangelist, and a handful of sold-out, on-fire, bug-the-Hell-out-of-people members. No matter how much I tried to shame congregants into verbalizing the gospel to others, most church members left evangelization to the hired help.

Did you attend a hyper-evangelistic church? Did your pastor try to guilt church members into witnessing? Were you a soulwinner? Why not? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Is Evangelism All About Winning Souls?

knock on door

Neil Carter recently wrote a post about evangelism that piqued my interest. Neil talked about how most evangelistic efforts do little to reach the “lost,” and are really more about tribal identification than saving sinners from the flames of Hell. Neil illustrated this with a question and answer that was posted on Quora.

Someone asked: “Why do people get angry when I try to share the word of God with them?”

A man by the name of Doug Robertson responded:

The entire process is not what you think it is.

It is specifically designed to be uncomfortable for the other person because it isn’t about converting them to your religion. It is about manipulating you so you can’t leave yours.

If this tactic was about converting people it would be considered a horrible failure. It recruits almost no one who isn’t already willing to join. Bake sales are more effective recruiting tools.

On the other hand, it is extremely effective at creating a deep tribal feeling among its own members.

The rejection they receive is actually more important than the few people they convert. It causes them to feel a level of discomfort around the people they attempt to talk to. These become the “others.” These uncomfortable feelings go away when they come back to their congregation, the “Tribe.”

I pondered, for a moment, my past evangelism efforts, and I concluded that Neil and Doug are right; that my soulwinning efforts and those of the churches I pastored did little to save sinners. The majority of the people converted under my ministry voluntarily came to church, heard me preach, and then walked down the aisle to be saved after I psychologically and emotionally manipulated them, and not through community evangelistic outreaches.  (Emotionally Manipulating IFB Church Members through Music and Preaching Styles, Walking the Aisle — A Few Thoughts on Altar Calls, and Why Evangelical Beliefs and Practices are Psychologically Harmful — Part One)

I grew up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I attended an IFB college to train for the ministry, and while there I married the daughter of an IFB preacher. IFB churches and preachers are known for their aggressive approaches to evangelism, and I was no exception. The IFB churches I pastored typically had several evangelistic outreaches each week. Year-round, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, we would go door to door — much as the Jehovah’s Witnesses do — and try to evangelize people. On Saturdays, we would also go on bus visitation. While our purpose was primarily to bribe children with candy/toys so they would ride one of our busses the next day, we did have occasional opportunities to “share” the gospel.

Several times a year, I would invite evangelists to come hold meetings at the churches I pastored. These meetings ran five to fifteen days in length. The goal was to “revive” the congregation and “evangelize” the community. When we had an evangelist in town, we went door-knocking every day. These concentrated evangelistic efforts gave the hired guns an opportunity to WOW us with their soulwinning skills. The pressure was on them to birth new babies for Jesus.

bruce-gerencser-street-preaching-september-7-1990
Front page photo, Times-Recorder, September 7, 1990, preaching on a downtown street corner, Zanesville, Ohio

In the 1980s and 1990s, IFB evangelist Don Hardman would come to our country church and hold fifteen-day protracted revival meetings. (Please see The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman, A Book Review, Laura’s Light by Laura Hardman, A Book Review, and My Life as a Street Preacher) Don was a street preacher, and it wasn’t long before he turned me into a street preacher too. Instead of going door to door, we would go to nearby communities, stand on a street corner, hand out tracts, and preach as loud as we could. After Don moved on to his next gig, I continued preaching on the street. I tried, without success, to get my colleagues in the ministry to go along with me. To the man, these preachers of the gospel told me that they weren’t “called” to preach on the street. At the time, I saw their refusal as cowardice, an unwillingness to preach like Jesus, the disciples, and the Apostle Paul did in the early days of the Christian church.

I stayed in hyper-evangelism mode well into the 1990s. Even after embracing Calvinism, I continued to busy myself evangelizing sinners. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that I finally threw in the towel and abandoned my aggressive evangelism tactics. Why did I stop? The short answer is this: knocking on doors and preaching on the street resulted in very few, if any, converts. The overwhelming majority of salvation decisions were made by people who voluntarily attended one of our church services. Every so often, knocking on doors resulted in someone getting saved, but as I look back on these experiences, I have concluded that the only thing these supposed new converts got saved from was us! Not wanting to be seen as impolite, they prayed the sinner’s prayer, asking Jesus to save them, so we would leave them alone and move on to someone else. Praise Jesus, preacher! I have been delivered . . . from YOU!

For the most part, my evangelistic efforts were failures. Sure, I shared the gospel with hundreds of people, but few of them got saved. My soulwinning techniques were perfect — those I was taught at Midwestern Baptist College. I was passionate and zealous, devoting countless hours to evangelizing the lost. Why, then, did I fail so miserably? The short answer is that people found my methods offensive and wanted nothing to do with me, my church, or what I was peddling. Of course, this played right into my martyr’s complex. You see, as Neil made clear in his post, my soulwinning efforts were never really about saving souls. What knocking on doors and preaching on street corners did was separate me and the churches I pastored from the “world.” Their rejection only reinforced the notion that what we preached was the truth; that our tribe was the one true church. The more sinners rebuffed my soulwinning efforts, the more I felt that I was right. There’s nothing like persecution to “prove” the rightness of your beliefs and practices.  When people slammed doors in my face or cursed at me, I felt closer to Jesus. When a man tried to hit me with his truck while I preaching on a street corner in Zanesville, Ohio, I felt glad that I was worthy to suffer for the Lord, and even die for him. Mockery and cursing only made me glad that I could “suffer” for Jesus. The Apostle Paul suffered great indignities as he publicly evangelized sinners. (2 Corinthians 11) Suffering in like manner put me in the company of the greatest Christian ever known. What an honor, I thought at the time.

Over the past decade, I have engaged in countless discussions with Evangelical Christians. Many of them came to this site hoping to evangelize me. (Please see IFB Evangelist’s Wife Says She Loves Me, And God Does Too! and Dear Charlie, I’m Only Going to Say This Once) Despite their efforts, I remain an unrepentant, apostate atheist. I have often wondered, did these zealots really think that I was a promising prospect for Heaven? Did they really think their cliché-laden, Bible verse-filled shticks would cause me to drop on my knees, repent, and ask Jesus to save me? Think of all the possible targets for evangelization. Why go after someone like me? There’s no chance in Heaven or Hell that I would ever return to Evangelical Christianity. Yet, they continue to try. Why is that?

Most apologists know deep down that I am not going to repent and return to Christianity. It’s not going to happen . . . However, by trying to evangelize me, they feed their martyr complex; they reinforce their belief that the world hates God, Jesus, the Bible, their church, and them personally. Foundational to Evangelical faith is the belief you are absolutely right, and that all other religions are false. My rejection of their evangelistic overtures reminds them that their tribe is God’s chosen people; that their beliefs and practices are the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). The more that the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world turn them away, the more certain they are that their beliefs are the right. Our hostility and dismissal just prove to them that out of all the religions in the world, they chose the right one; that someday soon Jesus is coming again, and then all the people who said NO to their evangelistic efforts will pay the price for rejecting their efforts. Picture in your mind millions of smiling Evangelicals surrounding you as you are cast into the never-ending flames of the Lake of Fire. Their last words to you? See, I told you . . .

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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