Tag Archive: Friendship Evangelism

Nice-to-Your-Face Christians

fake friends

One day, a new family moves in next door to John and Sally. After they are all settled in, John and Sally walk over to their new neighbors’ home and introduce themselves. John and Sally are quite friendly to their new neighbors, Bruce and Polly. Every time John and Sally see their new neighbors they wave and shout out, Hi neighbor. Bruce and Polly begin to think that John and Sally are wonderful people. Such great people to have for neighbors, they say to themselves.

One day, John and Sally walk over to their new neighbors’ home to ask them a question. It is a very important question, one that could affect Bruce and Polly’s future. You see, John and Sally are members of First True Evangelical Church. First Evangelical is known for being a friendly church, a church that really cares for other people. John and Sally have been members of First Evangelical their entire lives. Their pastor, Bro. Certainty taught them that it is very important for them to witness to all their neighbors. After all, the Bible says, go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone, and “everyone” includes John and Sally’s new neighbors.

Bro. Certainty, the skilled marketer that he is, taught John and Sally what is commonly called friendship evangelism. Rather than telling Bruce and Polly that they are sinners, headed for Hell unless they repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus, John and Sally are encouraged to pretend-friend Bruce and Polly. Try to find a common interest, they are told. Be nice. Bake them a pie or do some other act of kindness. By doing these things, Bruce and Polly would be more receptive to the gospel, Bro. Certainty told them.

So this was the day that John and Sally put aside pretense and revealed what it was they really wanted from Bruce and Polly.

John: Hey, how ya doing today?

Bruce: Great, how about you? Isn’t this warm weather awesome?

John and Bruce trade pleasantries as Sally and Polly talk about flowers and gardens. After a few minutes . . .

John (clearing his throat): While we are here, I would like to talk to guys about something very important.

Bruce thinks to himself, great here comes the Amway pitch. I knew they were being TOO friendly.

John: Sally and I are members of First True Evangelical Church down on the corner of Truth and Infallibility. We have attended First Evangelical ever since we were little children. We think it is absolutely the best church in town. Our pastor, Bro. Certainty is so winsome, everyone LOVES him! We were wondering . . . next Sunday is Friendship Sunday . . . and since you guys are our new-found friends, we thought that you might be interested in visiting our church next Sunday.

Bruce thinks to himself, Fucking awesome. Our “friendly” neighbors are Bible thumpers.

Polly snickers to herself. Can’t wait to see how this turns out.

Bruce: John, Polly and I are not church-goers. We don’t believe in God.

John: But Bruce, surely you believe in some sort of God? Only an atheist says there is no God.

Bruce just looks at John . . . giving him THAT look.

John: Oh, I see you guys ARE a-t-h-e-i-s-t-s.

Bruce: Yes, we are. (Bruce refrains from giving a smart-ass response.)

For the next twenty minutes or so, John and Bruce argue back and forth about God, Christianity, sin, salvation, and atheism. When it becomes apparent to John that Bruce is one of those apostates who have committed the unpardonable sin that Bro. Certainty talks about . . .

John: Well I hope you will think about what I told you about Jesus. What if you are wrong? Wouldn’t it be better to believe in Jesus and then you wouldn’t have to worry about going to Hell when you die? Better safe than sorry, right?

Bruce, without uttering a word, mentally bangs his head on a wall.

Bruce: No thanks, John.

John: Ok, then. Well, let’s go Sally. If you ever change your mind, you know where we live.

Bruce thinks to himself, that will be a cold day in the Hell I don’t believe in.

Off John and Sally walk, sad that they were unable to reach their new neighbors with the way, truth, and life. Oh well, we told them, they say to each other.

A few days later, Bruce and Polly pass John and Sally on the street. They wave, but John and Sally avert their eyes and don’t wave back.

Polly: What’s that all about? I thought they were our friends?

In a post about the death of Fred Phelps, Andrew Hackman wrote

To me, the only difference between Fred Phelps and the average conservative Christian is delivery style. It is similar to Delores Umbridge and Voldemort in the Harry Potter story. Both stood against Harry. Both wanted him eliminated. Both hated him.

Voldemort’s hate blazed in his eyes. Delores hid hers behind soft tones, feigned concern, and a predator’s smile.

But both had similar plans for Harry.

I don’t believe there is an afterlife, but if I did I would hope that Phelps can now rest from the burden of his hostility, and that his wounds have been healed.

In the end, I preferred the bigotry Fred wore on his sleeve, to the slippery words of “love” offered by so many Christians who quietly share Fred’s heart.

Remember this the next time your Evangelical Christian neighbor or coworker tries to befriend you. What is their true agenda? Do you really want to be friends with someone who thinks you will tortured by God in Hell for eternity if you don’t believe exactly as they do? I know I don’t.

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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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, 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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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, 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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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.

Larry Dixon’s Followers Dish the “Truth” about Atheist Bruce Gerencser

cant we be friends

Cartoon by Paco

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, Beware of Evangelicals Coming in the Name of “Friendship.” In that post, I used the writing of Evangelical preacher and professor Larry Dixon as an example of how “friendship evangelism” is a manipulative, deceitful method used to evangelize non-Evangelicals in the name of friendship. In essence, friendship evangelism promoters encourage zealots to make fake friendships with people so they can witness to them.

Dixon, of course, objected to my characterization of friendship evangelism and his use of it to evangelize the lost. You can read his objections in the comment section of the aforementioned post. You can also read his comments on his blog. Dixon wrote two posts about me: Answering a Personal Attack: My Response to a Former Preacher Turned Atheist and Bruce’s Response (Former Preacher Turned Atheist). Nothing Dixon said in response changed my opinion of the practice of friendship evangelism. (Please see Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part One, Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part Two, Dear Evangelical, Here’s The Number One Reason We Can’t be Friends, and Just Remember, Evangelicals Always Have an Agenda.)

I always find interesting and amusing how Evangelicals respond to disagreements such as the one between Bruce, the Evangelical-turned-atheist and Larry, the “let’s be friends” Evangelical preacher. Not a lot of comment traffic on Dixon’s blog, but what follows is four comments readers of this site might find interesting. Enjoy!

Linn says:

It will be interesting to see if BG does reply. I’m not sure how I stumbled on his website (which also led me to your blog, which I am enjoying), but I found what he wrote very intriguing, at first. At this point, he posts seem very repetitive. I thought I might gain some insight into why people reject Jesus, but it seems more like everyone who is a Christian is either a hypocrite or believes in fairy tales. He seems to have run out of arguments. Most of my family is non-Christian. After we go through all of their arguments, it always comes down to “I don’t want to.” They do not want to admit that they are sinners before a holy God Who loves them and provided a way of escape through the death and resurrection of HIs Son.

Kenenbom says:

Well written, Larry. I’d be tempted to write this off as a lost cause, but your perseverance models the Good Shepherd.

Anonymous says:

Larry,

Thank you for your persistence with him. The choices in Bruce’s’ worldview hold no consequences while choices within your worldview does. I would say either Bruce was not saved to begin with or that his buried faith will only come forth in the event of real personal crisis in his life. God is not done with him yet. What Bruce is forgetting, regardless of ones world view, is that life has a way of turning on us. Meaning illness, accidents, fear of death etc.. These things we do not wish on anyone, however unfortunately the brush with the brevity of life often can give the sinner one more chance to make things right with God. Prayer is essential at this point.

Butch says:

Dr. Dixon, I wanted to say that when Bruce makes the statement, “but could it be that you’re trying to justify your delusional need and worship of a dead man named Jesus?” it tells me that he (Bruce) does not even believe that Christ has risen and the He lives. We don’t server a dead God, but a God that is alive and loves us unconditionally. I believe that this is Bruce’s issue, and until he believes that Christ is alive, he will always be lost. What we need to do is keep Bruce in our prayers and ask our loving God to show him that he lives, and he cares!

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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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.

Beware of Evangelicals Who Come Bearing Offers of “Free” Coffee

free-coffee

Many Evangelicals have a pathological need to evangelize others. Born with the salesman gene, these Hucksters for Jesus® use all sorts of evangelistic techniques and psychological manipulation to snare unwary “souls.” One such huckster is  Steve Sjogren, pastor emeritus of Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sjogren practices what is commonly called “servant evangelism.” People into servant evangelism seek out people in public places whom they can be kind to, and once the mark’s defenses are lowered, they put in a good word for Jesus.

Recently, Sjorgen crowed on Charisma News about “reaching” a hurting Jewish couple with his version of the Christian gospel:

As I gave the barista my drink order that Sunday morning, I noticed a couple behind me who looked a little haggard. The woman had a legal-sized yellow pad and Bic pen in hand. I asked what they were having and put all three drinks on my card. As we waited in line for the drinks to arrive, all I could think about was that I might be late to speak at my friend’s church there in Columbus, Ohio.

As we waited for our drink to arrive, the man asked, “So what’s up with the coffee? Why’d you buy ours?”

I responded, “I like to buy coffee for people in line behind me—it’s a small way to say, ‘God is in love with you.’ If Jesus were at Starbucks this morning, he’d be showing His love, not just talking about it!”

At that, the woman let out a loud, guttural cry—almost a groan but at high volume. It was loud enough that the dozens of people suddenly got quiet and looked at me as though I had caused this to happen. The woman was so spent from her wailing she was winded—as though she’d finished an aerobic workout. As she quieted down, he put an assuring hand on her back and said, “It’s going to be OK, honey. It’s going to be OK.”

He continued with me. “Last night, our 19-year-old daughter went to a party. She took the drug Ecstasy. For whatever reason, the drug stopped her heart. She fell to the ground and died. We are here to plan her funeral service. As we pulled into the parking spot, my wife said, ‘We are Jewish but aren’t religious. We aren’t faithful to go to temple. Still, I want to know where God is in all of this!’

“Then five minutes later, we stand in line, and you tell us this coffee is on you to show us God’s love in a practical way. Wow! We don’t know what to say. Who are you? What do you believe?”

I directed him to my web site and assured him he could further connect the dots at Kindness.com.

….

Doing kindness in a practical way opens a door to the heart of not-yet-believers (the ones on their way to personal faith but not there yet). I used to try to engage those folks in a “spiritual conversation” (code for arguing) about the good news of Jesus. The problem was, my approach to engaging actually felt like bad news to people.

….

At lunch today or tomorrow, drive through Taco Bell during a busy time. Make sure there is a car or two behind you in line. When you go to pay for your order, tell the window person that you are also going to cover the meal of the person behind you. Tell that person what to tell that driver: “This is free as a way to show you God’s love in a practical way.” Often that person will write all of that down and ask if they can repeat it to me. It’s as if they are evangelizing someone else though maybe they don’t get the message themselves quite yet!

Kindness brings encounters. Not only will the person behind you be nudged, your “designated” evangelist at the window might just come toward the Lord as well. To boot, it’s easy to imagine that both the window person and driver end up telling the story of God’s kindness to someone else later the same day. It’s not every day that someone foots the bill for your Mexican food.

Sjorgen is no different from smiling, gift-giving door-to-door salesmen or pedophiles offering candy to unsuspecting children. Instead of being kind to people just because it’s the right thing to do or doing so makes you feel good, Evangelicals such as Sjorgen have ulterior motives for their kindness. Granted, their religion commands them to take the gospel to the whole world, so I understand Sjoegen’s methodology from a theological perspective. However, it’s less than honest to be kind to someone or befriend him using methods and cons that obscure or hide the real reason for the kindness/friendship.

Sjorgen should have told his marks the truth: I bought your coffees because I want an opportunity to preach the Christian gospel to you. I suspect that Sjorgen would have received a far different response had he been upfront and honest about his motivations.

I have long argued that most Evangelicals have ulterior motives for being kind to unbelievers or trying to befriend them. It’s in their theological DNA. Evangelicals believe there is a literal Hell with fire and brimstone; a place of eternal punishment for everyone who refuses to repent of behaviors Evangelicals deem “sins” and who refuses to worship Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Are you a happy, content unbeliever? Sorry, but you can’t be! Only through believing in Jesus can you find “true” happiness and contentment. Do you love your parents, spouse, and children? Sorry, but you have a worldly, superficial love.  Only through believing in Jesus can you find “true” love. Do you live a life of meaning, purpose, and direction? Sorry, but only bought-by-the-blood-of-Jesus Christians have lives of meaning, purpose, and direction. Unbelievers are just going through the motions, living lives of emptiness and quiet desperation. Or so Evangelicals think, anyway. And because Evangelicals think this way, they feel justified in using whatever means necessary to evangelize people they deem “lost.”

Just remember these things the next time an Evangelical tries to be “kind” to you. Ask yourself, what is it that they really want?

Why Evangelicals Can’t See People as They Are

Just Remember, Evangelicals Always Have an Agenda

As an Unbeliever, Is it Possible to Have Christian Family and Friends?

Dear Christian Friend and Former Parishioner, Am I a Good Person?

Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part One

Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part Two

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.

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.

Just Remember, Evangelicals Always Have an Agenda

fake friendsEvangelicals talk a lot about loving their neighbors and doing good to others. Pastors and parachurch leaders encourage Evangelicals to befriend their neighbors, workmates, and anyone and everyone they come in contact with. Sounds like a good idea, right? I am all for kindness and compassion towards others. I am all for doing good and loving my fellow humans (and dogs, cats, possums, squirrels, and raccoons). We only get one trip through this thing we call life, so why not be a good person, helping others and making the world a better place to live? The problem when it comes to Evangelicals doing these things is that they almost always have an agenda. Lurking behind practically every act of kindness lies an ulterior motive. That’s not to say that non-Evangelicals, including atheists and agnostics, don’t do the same, but Evangelicals have turned subterfuge into an art form.

Every year, thousands of American Evangelical churches have what is called Friendship Day (or Friend’s Day). Held on a Sunday, Friendship Day is an evangelistic effort meant to inspire Evangelicals to befriend their neighbors and invite them to church. The goal is not to meet new friends, but to evangelize people who have been labeled as “lost.” Congregants are encouraged to scope out their neighborhoods and workplaces, looking for people who need to be born again. Once targeted, church members are asked to invite these sinners to the Friendship Day service. Unwary “lost” people will be told that the church is having a special day just for them, complete with food and entertainment. What they won’t be told is that while they are there, the pastor of that church will preach AT them about their need for salvation. You see, the offer of friendship isn’t genuine. Evangelicals, according to their interpretation of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Protestant Bible, believe they are commanded by God to distance themselves from the “world.” James 4:4 says:

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

Evangelistic endeavors such as Friendship Day have one goal in mind: evangelizing non-Evangelicals. And once someone is successfully won to Christ, the next step is to incorporate them into the Borg collective, also known as the church membership; and once made part of church, they will be taught that the God who saved them expects them to attend church on Sundays, daily read the Bible and pray, and donate a portion of their income to “the church that loved them enough to tell them about J-E-S-U-S.”

You see, the goal was never for Evangelicals to be friends with non-Christians. In their minds, Jesus and his gospel are so important that it is okay to act deceitfully towards their neighbors. If, through outreaches such as Friendship Day, souls are saved, what’s a little deception among friends, right? The end justifies the means.

Yesterday, The Gospel Coalition published an article by Christy Britton titled 3 Ways to Show Up—and Speak Up—to the Lost.  Here’s an excerpt:

When Christians fail to show up, those around us remain unreached. Complacency is a sickness that keeps us from loving our neighbors. In fact, we misrepresent the gospel when we fail to bring it to our unbelieving neighbors. This proves our lack of love for them, our lack of gratitude for our own salvation, our underestimation of its primacy in our lives, and our rejection of God’s call to go.

But Christ’s love is the antidote to complacency, and it compels us to go to the lost. Jesus spent his life among the needy, and that’s where he sends us (John 17:18). We shine his light in the darkness. We speak up where the truth is silenced. We welcome when the world abandons.

….

We think strategically about how we can live out our mission to make disciples of the nations (Matt. 28:19). The global refugee crisis has, in many cities in both the United States and across the world, brought the nations to our neighborhoods. They’re coming to us. We have an unprecedented opportunity to show up.

My local church, Imago Dei Raleigh, cares for refugees who live in an apartment complex in our city. We seek to build friendships as these families transition to life in Raleigh. Recently we facilitated a vacation Bible school inside the complex. The gospel was shared with the children and their parents through Arabic and Burmese translators. My boys played soccer with new friends who speak multiple languages and have multiple skin tones.

I also met a Syrian woman with her four children. She lives in isolation, because she speaks little English. One tangible way I can love her is to help her practice conversational English. We exchanged phone numbers so that we can make plans to visit together. I’m committing to show up—not to exegete Romans, but to love her by helping her to learn English. Hopefully, as we become friends, I’ll have the opportunity to share Christ with her.

God orchestrates the placement of his people for his purposes. Our presence in our neighbors’ lives creates space for us to share the gospel. Engage your relational networks with gospel intentionality. Who’s better equipped to reach your neighbor than you are?

We’re not bound by one playbook for how to reach our neighbors. Be creative! For example, my friend hosts a neighborhood book club. Ladies come to her house to spend time with their friends as they discuss the latest bestseller.

Over time, as they get to know each other better, the group begins to see the genuineness of my friend’s affection for them and her love for God. They see gospel fruit displayed in and through her life. Planting a church presents opportunities to think creatively about reaching the lost. It forces us to ask questions that push us to create new spaces for people to encounter Christ.

….

We don’t show up to invest in the lives of others because we’re “do-gooders” or “super Christians.” We invest in people for their good and God’s glory. As churches are planted across the globe, God’s kingdom advances, and God’s fame is magnified.

Britton succinctly illustrates what I call agenda-driven evangelism. She makes it clear that the motive for Evangelicals engaging non-Christians is not to be “do-gooders,” but to give them what they need — Jesus. Never mind what non-Christians might really need physically, emotionally, financially, or socially. These things are but red meat waved in front of hungry lions; distractions meant to soften unbelievers up for evangelization. The agenda, as Britton makes clear, is to evangelize the lost.

lets be friends

Over the past decade, I have had numerous Evangelical pastors, evangelists, college presidents, and Holy Spirit-led laypeople attempt to befriend me. They have offered me breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and/or beer. Some of them have even sent me generous donations through PayPal. In every instance these friendly Evangelicals had an agenda: to win me back to Jesus. They weren’t interested in me as a person. All these evangelizers saw was a man in need of saving; and if they could win the former Evangelical-preacher-turned-atheist Bruce Gerencser back to Jesus, why, they could then put another notch on the wooden grip of their gospel revolver. These deceivers never wanted to be friends with me. Their goal was evangelization, not friendship. One preacher swore up and down that he just wanted to be friends with me. After repeatedly saying his motives were pure, I said, fine. Let’s meet for dinner at the strip club in Fort Wayne. Just two guys out on the town, right? Of course, he declined my invitation. I suspect he knew that semi-nude women dancing near us might negate his attempt to evangelize me. Jesus can’t compete with naked women.

I have no problem befriending Christians, even Evangelicals. I have plenty of things in common with Evangelicals: family, grandchildren, sports, good food, to name a few. If a prospective Evangelical friend is willing to not speak of Jesus/Christianity unless I ask them to do so — and I will do the same with my atheistic beliefs — then we can be friends. I want to be left alone. I know almost all there is to know about Jesus/Christianity/the Bible. I am a godless heathen by choice. I have weighed Christianity in the balances and found it wanting. If an Evangelical is willing to let me go to Hell in peace, then maybe, just maybe, we can be friends. Unfortunately, Evangelical zealots have a pathological need to talk about Jesus; to share the “good” news; to evangelize anyone and everyone deemed unsaved. This need to proselytize keeps Evangelicals from being friends with people just for friendship’s sake.

I want friends who love and accept me as I am. I want friends who can revel in the things we have in common and ignore the things we don’t. I want friends who see me as a good person; as a man who loves his family, neighbors, and friends. That’s why Evangelicals can’t really be friends with me “as I am.” The Bible tells them that I am broken; an enemy of God; a man whose father is Satan. Ponder all the atrocious things the Bible says about non-Christians. Why would I want to be friends with someone who thinks I am fundamentally a bad person; a man whose behavior warrants eternal punishment in Hell? No thanks.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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.

Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part Two

cant we be friends

Cartoon by Paco

If you have not done so, please read the previous post on this subject here.

After posting Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend Part One, I read a perfect illustration of what I was talking about in this post.

Writing for A Clear Lens — an Evangelical apologetics blog — Nate Sala wrote:

A lot of people in the Church seem to be asking the same question more and more these days: How do I talk to people about my faith in Christ? This is an excellent question to ask! Particularly considering the current climate of tribalism, whataboutism, and the outrage culture, how are Christians supposed to navigate often difficult conversations in order to get to the Gospel in the 21st century?

I’ve spent the last nine years formulating an effective method of communicating why Christianity is true; and a lot of this has been through trial and error. And I do mean, a lot of error! But now I see that the difficulty in sharing our faith with folks is not rooted in whatever is happening in the news or academia or political correctness or even atheist websites. I am convinced that the difficulty in sharing our faith stems from our having forgotten how to be in relationship with each other.

….

We need to stop making speeches and start making friends. Evangelism and apologetics is only as effective as the authentic relationship you have with folks. Let speeches be for political venues or TED Talks or even the pulpit. But for us, when we want to communicate to people about our faith, we need to begin with real relationship. That means asking questions to get to know people. In other words, treat your interactions with folks like you would a first date.

We all know (at least I hope we all do) the dos and donts of dating. Don’t dominate the conversation with long-winded speeches about yourself or your views. If you do that there won’t be a second date! Instead ask questions about your date in order to discover who they are and show them that you are genuinely interested in them. And then just listen carefully to what they say. This is no different when it comes to evangelistic or apologetic conversations. Don’t begin with an agenda where three steps later you’re asking someone to say the sinner’s prayer with you. Just start off by getting to know the person you’re talking to. Treat your interactions like a first date with an important person. And, when the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, ask them about their faith. Let me say that again: When the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, then ask them about their faith. As a matter of fact, J Warner Wallace has a great question you can ask them: What do you think happens after we die?

Friends, if you try to treat people like a checkmark on your agenda, you will come across as an inauthentic used-car salesman. Instead, if you treat your conversations like a first date with an important person, you will find the path to evangelism and apologetics so much easier!

Read carefully what Sala says: friendship is a tool to be used in evangelizing non-Christians. In other words, it’s friendship based on deception, not honesty. Imagine if Evangelical zealots were honest and said, look I want to be your friend, but I only want to do so because I see you as a hell-bound, sin-laden, enemy of the Evangelical God who is headed for hell unless you buy what I am selling. Why, I suspect most people would say fuck off. Few of us want friends who can’t love and accept us as we are, where we are. And don’t tell me Evangelicals love everyone, loving them so much that they just have to tell them the truth — JESUS SAVES! Who wants friends who see them as defective in some way; friends who view them as broken; friends who see them as purposeless and empty; friends who cannot and will not love them as is, without conditions?

Evangelicals feign friendship so they can evangelize. True friends, on the other hand, enjoy your company and accept that differences are what make each of us special. Evangelicals look to convert, adding more minds to the Borg collective. Conformity, not diversity is the goal. Doubt that this is so? Ask your new Evangelical “friend” if, after you get saved, you can continue having gay sex and continue working for Planned Parenthood. Ask him or her if you and your significant other can have your same-sex wedding at their church.  Ask if you, as a gay man, can teach Sunday school or work in the nursery. Absurd, right?

I have no doubt Sala and other Evangelicals will object to my characterizations of their intent. However, I spent a lifetime in Evangelicalism. I know how Evangelicals operate. I know what lurks behind their “friendliness.”  I know that they use friendship as a means to an end, much like foreplay before sexual intercourse. Evangelicals fondle and caress your emotions, hoping that you will spread your legs wide so they can penetrate you with their slick gospel presentations. No thanks.

For all I know, Nate Sala is a nice guy, as are many Evangelicals. I just wish they would all be honest about their intent when they lurk in the shadows hoping to befriend unwary “sinners.” While this might not generate as many club members, there will be no regrets come morning.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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.

Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part One

cant we be friends

Cartoon by Paco

Several times a month I receive emails from Evangelicals wanting to be “friends” with me. These emails invariably say that the writer is Evangelical, but not like the Evangelicals I focus on in my writing. Often, these writers attempt to “hook” me by saying that they totally understand why, based on reading about my past experiences, I would walk away from the ministry and Christianity. They too, I am told, would have done the same. Usually, these emails are filled with compliments about my transparency, openness, and honesty. These Evangelicals promise me that their motives are pure, that they have no desire to try to win me back to Jesus. All they want is an opportunity to show me “true” Christian love and friendship.

I also get frequent Facebook friend requests from Evangelicals who, again, promise that they have no ulterior motive for friending me. Years ago, one such person friended me on Facebook. He knew everything about me, having read my blog and talked to his sister who was, at one time, a member of one of the churches I pastored. So, I friended him, thinking that maybe, just maybe, he was different from other Evangelicals. And for a while he was, but one day he became inflamed with righteous indignation over something I had written about Christianity. Our discussion quickly spun out of control, and the man unfriended me. He warned his sister about me, saying that I was satanic and Christians should avoid me lest I influence them with my demonic words.

These days, I simply do not respond to Evangelical friendship requests, be they via email or on social media. Last year, the president of a Christian college attempted to goad me into having lunch him by appealing to my desire for openness and understanding. This man told me that he just wanted to share a meal and hear my story. I told him, as I do anyone else who takes this approach, Look, I have written over two thousand blog posts. I have written extensively about my past and present life. If you really want to know about my life, READ!  If, after reading my writing, you have questions, email them to me and I will either answer them in an email or a blog post. Of course, this is not what these “friendly” Evangelicals want. They want a face-to-face meeting with me so they can probe my life, hoping to find that wrong beliefs led to my deconversion. Never mind that I have written numerous posts about my past beliefs. Everything someone could ever want to know about my life and beliefs can be found on this blog.

Perhaps the question these Evangelicals should ask is this: why would I want to be friends with you? What would a friendship with you bring to my life that I don’t already have? It’s not like I don’t have any friends. I do, and I am quite happy with the number of friends I have, both in the flesh and through the digital world. Not only that, but my wife of almost forty years is my best friend, and I am close with my six children and their families. I have all I need when it comes to human interaction. Why, then, would I want to be friends with Evangelicals who, as sure as I am sitting here, wants to evangelize me? Friendship Evangelism remains a tool churches and parachurch ministries use in their evangelistic efforts. Friendship becomes a pretext. The real goal is to see sinners saved. Promoters of Friendship Evangelism know that befriending people disarms them, making them more sensitive and receptive to whatever version of the Christian gospel they are promoting.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I am pretty good at stalking people on the internet and social media. I have learned that you can tell a lot about people just by looking at their Facebook wall, along with the groups they are a part of and the pages they like. Recently, a local man contacted me, offering to buy me dinner with no strings attached. What, no expectations of sex after the date? Consider me a doubter. I decided to check out the man’s Facebook profile. I found out that he voted for Donald Trump and supports most of the Evangelical hot-button issues. He opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. We have nothing in common socially or politically, Why, then, would I want to be friends with him?

Friendships are generally built around shared beliefs. I don’t have any interest in being friends with people who voted for Donald Trump or support political views I consider anti-human, racist, bigoted, and misogynistic. And I sure as hell don’t befriend people who root for Michigan. I have standards, you know? Seriously, most of us have friends who hold to beliefs similar to our own. We might have a handful of friends who differ with us, but we find ways to forge meaningful relationships with such people. I am friends with several Evangelicals, but the main reason I am is that our friendships date back to the days when we were walking the halls of Lincoln Elementary. We’ve agreed not to talk about religion or politics. We share many common connections that make such discussions unnecessary. I am sure they fear for my “soul” and pray that I would return to the fold, but these things are never voiced to me. If they did attempt to evangelize me, it would most certainly put an end to our friendship.

To the man, these friendly Evangelicals believe that my life is missing something — Jesus — and is empty, lacking meaning, purpose, and direction. In their minds, only Jesus can meet my needs. Without him, what is the point of living another day, right? In their minds, Jesus is the end-all. Why would I want to trade the life I now have for Jesus? What can Jesus — a dead man — possibly offer me? Well, Bruce, these Evangelicals say, Jesus offers you forgiveness of sins, escape from Hell, and eternal bliss in Heaven. Surely, you want to go to Heaven when you die? Actually, I am content with life in the present. Threats of hell or promises of Heaven have no effect on me. Both are empty promises.

Why would I ever want to be friends with someone who believes that, unless I believe as they do, their God is going to torture me in a lake filled with fire and brimstone for eternity? This same God – knowing that my present body would, in hell, sizzle like a hog on a spit – lovingly plans to fit me with a special fireproof body that will be able to feel the pain of being roasted alive without being turned into a puddle of grease. What an awesome God! No thanks. I have no interest in being friends with anyone who thinks that this what lies in the future for me. I can’t stop (nor do I want to) such people from reading my writing, but I sure as hell don’t want to “fellowship” with them over dinner at the local Applebee’s.

I would like to make one offer to Evangelicals who want to be friends with Atheist Bruce. Fine, let’s go to the strip club and have drinks, and let’s do it on All Male Revue Night. I’m not all that interested in seeing males strip, but I thought taking these Evangelicals to such a place would help them to see how I feel when they view my life as lacking (naked) and in need of clothing (Jesus).

My life is what it is. True friends accept me as I am, no strings attached. Evangelicals, of course, have a tough time doing that. In their minds, Jesus is the end-all, the answer to all that ails the human race. Life is empty without the awesome threesome — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I spent fifty years in the Christian church. For half of those years, I was preaching the Evangelical gospel. I was, according to all who knew me, a devoted, zealous follower of Jesus. Whatever my faults may have been (and they were many), I loved Jesus with all my heart, soul, and mind. Deciding to walk away from the ministry and Christianity were the two hardest decisions I have ever made. Yet, my life in virtually every way is better today than it was when I was a Christian. Quite frankly, Christianity has nothing to offer me. I am content (well, as content as a perfectionist with OCPD can be, anyway) with life as it now is. Sure, life isn’t perfect, but all in all, I can say I am blessed. Yes, blessed. I am grateful for my wife, six children, and eleven (soon to be twelve) grandchildren. I am grateful that I can, with all the health problems I have, still stand, walk, and enjoy my life as a photographer. The advice I offer up to people on my ABOUT page sums up my view of life:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you’d best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

For me, the game of life is late in the fourth quarter. I must focus my attention and energy on relationships that are mutually beneficial, relationships that offer love, kindness, and acceptance. No Evangelical worth his or her salt can offer me such a relationship. Lurking below the surface will be thoughts about how much better my life could be with Jesus and thoughts of what will happen to me if I die without repenting of my sins. Evangelicals who really believe what the Bible says can’t leave me alone. They dare not stand before God to give an account of their lives, only to be reminded that, when given the opportunity to evangelize the atheist ex-preacher Bruce Gerencser, they said and did nothing. And it is for these reasons that I cannot and will not befriend Evangelicals.

Read Part Two here.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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.

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