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Tag: Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Colleges

I’m a Prophet, Preacher, or Evangelist Because I Say I Am

calling of god

Have you ever wondered how, exactly, an Evangelical man (or, in some instances, woman) becomes a prophet, preacher, or evangelist? What’s the process one goes through to become a spokesperson for the Evangelical God? In this post, I will detail how someone becomes an out-front spokesperson for the one true God.

Salvation Experience

First, a candidate for the ministry must be a saved/born again/bought-by-the-blood child of God. A prospective prophet, preacher, or evangelist must a clear, definitive testimony of salvation. An added bonus is a life before Jesus that includes drug use, drunkenness, sexual deviance, Satan worship, or atheism. The more fantastical the testimony, the more likely it is that congregants will think a person is a bona fide man of God.

Baptism

Second, a candidate for the ministry must be baptized. This is the first step new believers take in their new life with Christ. Some Evangelical sects also believe that ministerial candidates must give evidence that they have been baptized with the Holy Ghost. Such Spirit baptism is often evidenced by speaking in tongues.

Calling

Third, a candidate for the ministry must know that God is calling him to be a prophet, preacher, or evangelist. How does one know that God is calling him? Well, he just knows. Calling is a feeling, a psychological/emotional impression. I was saved and baptized at the age of fifteen. Several weeks after my conversion, I felt led by the Holy Spirit to go forward and confess to the church that I believed God was calling me to preach. The church was thrilled over my confession of ministerial ambition. Two weeks later, I preached my first sermon. For the next thirty-five years, I never one time questioned my calling. I just knew beyond all shadow of doubt that God had called me into the ministry. I was as sure of this calling as I was the fact that Jesus had saved me from my sins.

Educational Requirements

While some Evangelical sects have educational requirements for ministerial candidates, other sects, along with Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), Charismatic, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, and non-denominational churches have no requirements others than salvation, baptism, and calling. Countless Evangelical churches are pastored by men and women who don’t have a lick of post-high school education. The same can be said for evangelists. Years ago, I attended a revival meeting at a holiness church near the Baptist congregation I was pastoring at the time. The evangelist, an older man, would have his wife read the Bible for him. I had seen this tag-team approach before, but this evangelist was having his wife read because he, himself, could not read. Yet, I am sure if I asked if he was a God-called preacher of the gospel, he would have said with great assurance and certainty, yes.

Within the broad, diverse Evangelical tent, it is not uncommon to find prophets, preachers, or evangelists with little or no relevant ministerial training. God saved and called them, end of discussion. And as long as they believe God called them, that is all that matters. Sure, scores of Evangelical ministers have college educations. However, a closer examination of their educational backgrounds often reveals that they attended unaccredited Bible colleges or institutes (local church-based schools). These institutions often provide perfunctory, superficial educations that are little more than Sunday school classes. Even for men who attend accredited Evangelical colleges and universities, the academic level of their instruction is often woefully lacking. Readers might be surprised to know that the overwhelming majority of Evangelical ministerial graduates lack through, comprehensive training in the teachings of the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible. All too often, ministerial students take survey classes that are little more than shallow commentaries on the Bible. Worse yet, most Evangelical pastors are not fluent in the original languages the Bible was written in — Hebrew and Greek.

Ordination

Many Evangelical sects and churches use ordination as a gateway of sorts for men and women who say God has called them to be a prophet, preacher, or evangelist. Ordination is a stamp of approval put on the candidate by the denomination or church. In the IFB church movement, churches often call for a council of like-minded pastors to come together to examine the prospective ministerial candidate. Often, these examinations are little more than rubber-stamp approvals of the candidates. Who are they to say to no to what God has said yes to. How does the council know God has called a person into the ministry? Do they get some sort of impression or feeling that affirms to them that the candidate is a God-called prophet, preacher, or evangelist? Nope. they just take the candidate’s word for it.

External Evidence

Certainly, sects, churches, and ordination councils look for external evidence of calling. Is the prospective prophet, preacher, or evangelist active in the church? Does he or she have a passion for soulwinning? Does he have the requisite skills necessary to preach and teach? You would think this last point would be essential, but having listened to scads of sermons, I can tell you that a lot of pastors and evangelists are terrible communicators. In the early 1980s, I helped my father-in-law start an IFB church in Buckeye, Lake, Ohio. Dad had a real passion for evangelism, but his sermons, to put it bluntly, were atrocious. Dad graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in 1976. Somehow, he got all the way through college without ever learning to construct an outline and deliver a coherent sermon. Outlining always came easy for me, so I sat down with Dad one day and tried to teach him how to make a sermon outline. Sadly, my instruction did not stick. How he got through Midwestern without learning the basics of sermon construction is impossible to comprehend. I suspect that to his professors and pastors, Dad saying he was called by God into the ministry was all the mattered. Hey, who are we to say this guy isn’t fit to be a preacher? I left the church in Buckeye Lake in 1983, moving a half-hour south to Somerset to start a new IFB church. Dad closed the church six years later, and never pastored another church again. He continued to preach, but most often his congregations were found in nursing homes and jails — places where sermon quality didn’t matter.

Lone Rangers

What happens if a man’s church or sect doubts his calling? Does that mean the prospective candidate can’t be a prophet, preacher, or evangelist? Silly boy, of course not. You see, the calling card trumps all others. If a man says God has called him, how dare any sect or church say no to what God has said yes to. This is especially true with churches that are non-affiliated or independent. If a man finds disapproval in these settings, he’s free to move on to another church that is willing to acknowledge his calling. And if he can’t find a church that will put their stamp of approval on his life, there’s nothing to keep him from starting his own church. Thanks to the First Amendment and non-existent tax laws governing churches, little stands in the way of a man starting a new church. Over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry, I started four churches and pastored three churches that were first-generation church plants. Nothing ecclesiastically or governmentally stood in my way. I was a God-called preacher of the gospel, and that’s all that mattered. With Bruce and God, all things were possible.

Are you a former Evangelical prophet, preacher, or evangelist? Did you consider yourself called by God into the ministry? Were you ordained? Did you have a Bible college education? How in-depth was your training? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

The Midwestern Baptist College Handbook

midwestern baptist college freshman class 1976
1976 Midwestern Baptist College Freshman Class. Polly is the first person on the left in the first row. Bruce is in the third row, eighth person from the left.

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

What follows are some of the 2013-14 rules and regulations for students at  Midwestern Baptist College — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution. I attended Midwestern and met my wife-to-be there when the campus was located on Golf Drive in Pontiac, Michigan. The school moved several years ago to Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan. It is a withering ghost of what it was when Polly and I enrolled in 1976. I fully expect to hear of its demise one day. 

I give Midwestern credit for putting most of their rules and regulations out there for all to see. Many Fundamentalist colleges do not make their rules and regulations public. They don’t want to be misunderstood, they tell me. Either that or they know they will not have as many students if they let them know beforehand that they are going to a college that is like a prison. I suspect this is why Midwestern does not make their dating rules available before students arrives on campus. (See The Six Inch Rule.)

The handbook is more complex and lengthy than when Polly and I were students at Midwestern from 1976-1979. It is quite evident from the rules that Fundamentalist girls have really gotten worldly. There are SIX attire rules for men and FIFTEEN for women. Of course, the rules for women are so men won’t lust after them and be forced to masturbate in the dorm shower. Those future preacher-boys must be protected from their sexuality. How will they ever be able to someday preach the IFB moral and purity standard if they couldn’t keep it themselves while at Midwestern? (Oh, the stories I could tell!)

This is not the complete handbook. These are the parts I thought readers might find interesting. I have done some reformatting to make the text suited for the internet.

General Policies

Midwestern Baptist College, as a Christian institution, expects its students to live lives that are above reproach and to exemplify Christian usefulness and kindness in their dealings with their instructors and their fellow students. We believe that Christian young people should manifest loyalty to Jesus Christ by living consecrated Christian lives. Midwestern Baptist College does not permit dancing, the use of tobacco, alcoholic drinks, non prescribed drugs, gambling, obscenity, and other forms of worldly indulgence. Complaining, destructive criticism, and cynical attitudes are not allowed. The college expects the cooperation of all students in respect for and enforcement of the rules and regulations of the college.

Dress and Appearance

Dress standards at Midwestern are based upon the principles of modesty, self-respect, and concern for the reputation of the school. Some principles are spiritual; others are professional. As spiritual and professional leaders in the church, students are expected to set an example. In connection with the following rules and to help the student maintain a well-groomed appearance, all students will be expected to follow a healthy hygiene regimen daily. This includes showering, shaving, brushing teeth, and hair care. Furthermore, students are expected to have all of their clothing maintained in a neat, washed, and pressed condition.

Since fashion continually changes, the appropriateness of trends in both men’s and women’s clothing may be addressed, and the dress code amended during the school year as the need arises. Students are to abide by the dress code at all times, both on campus and in public.

Wearing inappropriate apparel is a demerit offense. Demerits will be assigned in proportion to the offense. Non-dormitory students are expected to follow the same guidelines as dormitory students.

POLICY FOR MEN

Hairstyle: 

Men are to be neat in appearance and dressed properly at all times. The hair is to be cut over the ears and tapered at the back above the collar. Sideburns are to be no lower than the middle of the ear. Hair must be no longer than the middle of the forehead in front. Men may not have facial hair unless approved by the Dean of Students. Such facial hair must be neatly groomed at all times. Faddish, worldly hairstyles will not be tolerated. The final decision as to the appropriateness of a hairstyle will rest with the Administration.

Attire:

  1. Dress pants may not have patch-pockets or topstitched side-seams. Fatigues, work jeans, sweatpants, and wind-pants are considered athletic and/or work apparel. They are not to be worn on campus other than in the dormitory, in the gym, or to work. Pants with frayed cuffs, tears, or holes are not to be worn.
  2. No recreational pull-overs or jackets are to be worn to church, chapel, library, or classes.
  3. Dress shirts may be long or short sleeved with a collar and must button down the front. The top button must be buttoned when wearing a tie. Shirt-tails are to be tucked in at all times. A tie and suit coat/jacket are required for classes, chapel, and church services. We ask that men wear their suit coat/ jackets until 1:00 PM.
  4. Men must wear a belt with their pants at all times.
  5. Necklaces and bracelets may not be worn by male students unless they are of a mandatory medical nature. Men are not permitted to obtain tattoos while enrolled as a student, or body piercings, or to wear earrings.
  6. No sweatshirt or tee-shirt with inappropriate writing may ever be worn. Sweatshirts may not be worn to classes or church services.

POLICY FOR WOMEN

Hairstyle: 

Hair must be neatly cut, groomed, cleaned, brushed, and styled in such a way that it does not resemble a man’s haircut. Hair should not naturally fall over the face. Unnatural colors are not to be used. Faddish, worldly hairstyles will not be tolerated. The final decision as to the appropriateness of a hairstyle will rest with the Administration.

Attire: 

  1. Modest apparel must be worn for all occasions.
  2. Dresses or skirts must come to the middle of the knee. When ladies are seated, the knees are to be covered. Dresses or skirts having slits must not be slit above the knee. Dresses worn for formal occasions (i.e. Banquets and concerts) must be approved by the Deans Office at least one week prior to the event. No tight skirts or dresses are permitted. NOTE: A skirt must fall freely from the hips when lifted or it will be considered too tight.
  3. Sleeveless dresses and blouses may not be worn unless a blouse or jacket is worn over them or a blouse under them. Spaghetti strap dresses may not be worn.
  4. Low necklines or backs are forbidden. Generally, necklines should be no lower than three fingers width below the hollow of the neck.
  5. Ladies are not required to wear hosiery and may wear socks. We ask ladies to wear a slip beneath their clothing except when in casual or recreational apparel.
  6. All tops must be long enough that the midriff is never exposed.
  7. All culottes of appropriate length must be approved by the Dean’s Office. These items may only be worn for approved recreational activities or work. NOTE: All items of this sort must come to the middle of the knee.
  8. Jeans, slacks, gauchos, spandex, sweatpants, and capri-pants are considered inappropriate apparel for campus wear.
  9. Undergarments may not be visible through the clothing.
  10. Shoes may not be masculine in appearance. Heels on dress shoes should not exceed 3 inches. No “flip-flops” are to be worn to classes, chapel, or church services.
  11. No recreational pull-overs, denim jackets, or fleeces are to be worn to church, chapel, or classes.
  12. Jewelry, make-up, and fingernails may not be gaudy, faddish, or unnatural in appearance. Earrings may be worn in the lobe of the ear (maximum of two sets). All other body piercing is prohibited. Ladies are not permitted to obtain tattoos.
  13. Garments having the appearance of lingerie may not be worn as outer wear.
  14. Sweatshirts may not be worn to classes or church services. Nice sweatshirts are considered casual wear and athletic sweatshirts are considered recreational dress.
  15. No sweatshirt or ladies tee-shirt with inappropriate writing may ever be worn.

RESTRICTIONS 

All students

  1. Students may not attend any church service other than Shalom Baptist Church without permission.
  2. Students must not patronize a bar, saloon or a place of ill repute.
  3. The College and church offices are not loitering places for students.
  4. The kitchen is not a gathering place for students. Students are not to eat in the kitchen.
  5. Students are not to be in the church auditorium except for services. Practice for special music is to be done in classrooms that have pianos, unless requested by the church staff.
  6. Off campus students must have permission from the Dean of Students to visit the dormitory.
  7. Men may not go to the Women’s quarters for any reason nor Women to the Men’s quarters.

Dormitory Students 

  1. Dormitory students are not allowed beyond an 8-mile radius (without permission).
  2. Dorm students may not visit homes of other students or church members without first an invitation and then permission.
  3. Men and women may not go shopping together unless as double dates.
  4. Any public performance (without permission) is prohibited.
  5. Movie theaters are off limits (no permission granted)
  6. Sports arenas (without permission) are prohibited.
  7. Dorm students may not accept invitations without permission.
  8. The guest rooms are always off limits except when students are cleaning them. Privacy for our guests must be maintained at all times. Ladies may not baby-sit in unsaved person’s homes or where tobacco and alcohol are used. Baby-sitting will be considered work and must be approved by the Dean Office.
  9. Ladies are not allowed to work in any situation where they are not treated with respect by the employer and other workers.

DATING POLICIES

Dating Regulations are available from the Dean of Students. Copies will be explained and distributed to the Dormitory Students during dormitory orientation.

I recently came upon an old Midwestern Baptist College handbook for the 1977-78 school year (our sophomore year). I want to focus on two sections: Maintaining a Christian Testimony and Griping not Tolerated.

Maintaining a Christian Testimony

  1. Midwestern does not permit dancing, the use of tobacco, or alcoholic drinks, dope or harmful drugs, gambling, obscenity, and other such forms or worldly indulgence in which young people so often engage.
  2. It is the conviction of the institution that griping, destructive criticism, and cynical attitudes grieve the Holy Spirit and they are destructive to Christian growth and Christian development. Constructive criticisms which are made to the proper authority will always be appreciated, but griping will not be tolerated. Penalty: 50 demerits
  3. The school expects the cooperation of all students in the development of the respect for and the enforcement of the rules and regulations of the school.
  4. The cooperation of every student is expected in the development of goodwill of the institution throughout the community. Therefore, each student and his family must live above reproach at all times in maintaining the testimony of Christ.
  5. The discipline committee reserves the right to issue demerits for attitudes of disloyalty, destructive criticism, or griping. The committee wishes to work with the student in a fair, helpful manner. Faculty members desired to offer advice when needs and conferences may be requested.

Griping not Tolerated

  1. Any student showing any attitude of complaining about our policies at Midwestern will be dealt with by the administration
  2. Students complaining to faculty or staff about another member of the staff or faculty will be considered out-of-line and shall be dealt with severely.
  3. Students showing a mean, insubordinate attitude toward any faculty or staff member shall be reported to the discipline committee and dealt with severely.
  4. Griping not tolerated about the dress code and standards.
  5. Griping not tolerated about the food served.
  6. Griping not tolerated comparing our school unfavorably with another.

As you can see, Midwestern had a strict policy concerning what the school president Tom Malone and administrators called “griping.” The no-griping law can be summed up this way: shut up and do/believe what you are told. Classic IFB thinking, is it not? We have the right beliefs and practices, and you are expected to happily obey them without deviation or criticism. Don’t do what you are told? You will be dealt with severely. Every year, students were expelled over griping; for daring to have an opinion of their own; for daring to challenge the school’s beliefs and practices. 

Male students who made it to graduation were ordained at nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church — the official Midwestern megachurch, pastored by Tom Malone. Ordination required students swearing before God that they believed and practiced the doctrines and tenets of the IFB faith. Students holding different beliefs would not be ordained. 

Graduates scatted across the United States to start new churches or pastor established congregations, taking four years of indoctrination with them. Is it any surprise, then, that many Midwestern graduates take a “shut up and do/believe what you are told” approach to the ministry? Midwestern was not special in this regard. All of us tend to practice and follow that which we were taught. For Midwestern students, growing up in IFB churches and four years of “shut up and do/believe what you are told ” turned them into psychologically damaged goods; who then, following in the footsteps of their pastors, Tom Malone, and college professors, inflicted psychological damage on their congregations.

This cycle of harm continues unabated unless those involved one day see the error of their ways and consider that there just might be a better way to treat people. Sadly, more than a few of the men I knew when we were students at Midwestern — over forty years ago now — are still faithfully preaching the gospel of “shut up and do/believe what you are told.” Their churches are ruled with rods of iron, with absolutely no griping allowed. Such churches are in decline, but the harm they cause is great, and often multi-generational in scope. One of the reasons for the existence of this site is to help people escape the pernicious hold IFB churches and pastors have on their lives.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

IFB Pastor Mark Falls Tries to Use Bible Verses to Guilt People into Attending Church during Coronavirus Pandemic

newark baptist temple heath ohio

Mark Falls is the pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio. The Baptist Temple, as it is commonly called, is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution. The church also operates the Licking County Christian Academy. My wife’s uncle, the late James Dennis, pastored the Baptist Temple for over forty years. Polly and I attended the church for a short time in the 1980s. Polly’s dad moved his wife and two teen daughters to Newark in 1976 so he could become the church’s assistant pastor. Dad left the Baptist Temple in 1981 to start a new IFB church in nearby Buckeye Lake. Polly and I joined him there, helping to build the church until we left in 1983 and moved to Somerset, Ohio to start a new church.

Polly’s parents have lived in Newark for forty-five years. Both are in their 80s, in poor health, and depending on the day, knocking on death’s door. After closing the church in Buckeye Lake, Polly’s parents returned to the Baptist Temple, and remain faithful tithing members to this day.

By way of a disclaimer, readers should know that my wife and I have an adversarial and complicated relationship with the Baptist Temple. While we have many fond memories of our time at the church, we also bad memories that have left deep, lasting scars. That’s why when we briefly returned to the Newark area in 2005, we joined the Fallsburg Baptist Church, pastored by my best friend at the time Keith Troyer, and not the Baptist Temple. Art Ball, a missionary associated with the Baptist Temple, emailed me at the time, wondering why we weren’t planning to attend the Baptist Temple. Art made it clear that from his perspective the Baptist Temple was the only church in town! I refrained from sharing our backstory with him. I told Art that family history is complicated and there were a lot of things he didn’t know. He did not inquire further.

After James “Jim” Dennis retired, Mark Falls, a graduate of uber-fundamentalist Pensacola Christian College and Seminary, became pastor. While I appreciate many of the peripheral changes Falls has made to the church, he is, at heart, a Christian Fundamentalist. I have not met Falls personally, nor do I intend to do so. The only time Polly and I plan to darken to doors of the Baptist Temple is for funerals and weddings. Polly was last at the Baptist Temple for her uncle’s funeral (I was too sick to attend). I have not attended anything at the Baptist Temple since the 1990s. Along with Polly’s parents, we have a number of other relatives who either attend the Baptist Temple or are closely affiliated with the church. While we are, thus, symbiotically connected to the church, we certainly do not consider the Baptist Temple and its pastor our friends. I plan this year, health willing, to write a series of posts about our experiences at the Baptist Temple and with its former pastor, James Dennis. It’s a story that needs to be told, but for obvious reasons, I have been hesitant to tell it. As long as COVID-19 doesn’t get me, you can count on reading “The Baptist Temple” series in the coming months.

Polly calls her mother every Sunday at 10:00 PM. It is a ritual Polly’s mom looks forward too, and one that I remind Polly is very important, even if she doesn’t see that importance now. My mom committed suicide at age 54. Dad died of a stroke at age 49. Whatever my relationship may have been with my parents, I sure wish I could pick the phone up and call them, just to hear their voice and to tell them that I love them. There will come a day, sooner rather than later, that next call we get from Newark will be from one of our nephews telling us mom or dad is dead. We are prepared for such an eventuality, but I am of the opinion that it is important to keep in contact with our elderly parents. I don’t want Polly to regret not talking to her parents. I don’t want her sitting home on a Sunday evening wishing she could hear their voices one more time. The past fifteen years have certainly strained the relationship we have with Polly’s parents. Our leaving the ministry and Christianity is something Polly’s parents can not/will not understand. How is it possible that we are now unbelievers; atheists who have no interest in God, Jesus, the Bible, or church? While mom reminds us that she prays for our family every day, we have yet to have an honest discussion with Polly’s parents about why we no longer believe. And frankly, I doubt we will ever have this discussion. We are fine with that. Our concern is for their quality of life, and it is this issue that brings me to the subject of this post.

pastor mark falls
Mark Falls and his wife, pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple

Last Saturday, March 14, Pastor Falls posted a live video to the Baptist Temple’s Facebook page detailing how he and the church would be handling the Coronavirus pandemic. I made an audio copy of the video which is posted below. Please forgive the lack of technical quality, but you should be able to hear my introduction and Falls’ words just fine. The audio clip is a little over six minutes long. I hope you will listen to it.

Audio recording of Mark Falls, pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple, explaining the church’s plan for the Coronavirus pandemic

I have been listening to IFB preachers speak for most of my life. From the 1960s, when Tim LaHaye was my pastor, until today, I have heard countless sermons and preached thousands of sermons myself. I know firsthand the lingo, what I call preacher-speak. I also know how IFB preachers manipulate congregants with their words to achieve a desired objective. That psychological manipulation was on showroom display in Pastor Falls’ Facebook video. While I have no doubt that Falls will vehemently object to me characterizing his words as manipulative, the fact remains, through the use of Bible verses, appeals to distrust of government, and challenges to the depth of the faith of people who might stay home, Falls makes it clear that he expects people to be presented and accounted for the next day.

Falls begins his video by appealing to the distrust congregants have of government. While Falls praises Ohio governor Mike DeWine for exempting houses of worship from his “no social gathering” order, he also makes it clear that if DeWine ordered churches to close their doors that he would view this order as the state ordering churches to not obey God.

In Acts 5:29, Peter and the other Apostles said: We ought to obey God rather than men. Over the years I heard countless sermons and preached sermons on Acts 5:29. Christians are duty-bound to obey God, and not men (government), IFB preachers say. If the government asks churches/Christians to do anything that runs contrary to their interpretation of the Protestant Bible, they are expected to disobey. This thinking runs deep in the lifeblood of the Baptist Temple. Years ago, the Baptist Temple operated an unlicensed daycare called Temple Tots. Polly worked there for several years until she was summarily fired for not being a member of the church (we were living in Buckeye Lake at the time, helping Polly’s father start a church). The State of Ohio determined that ALL daycares had to be licensed by the state. The Baptist Temple appealed to Acts 5:29, and refused to be licensed. This, of course, put them in breach of the law, creating several years of back-and-forth litigation. The State finally won the battle, and rather than accept state licensure, the Baptist Temple closed its daycare. The Baptist Temple has other conflicts with government over the years, fueled by their insistence that the State had no to right to meddle in their business.

Falls then appeals to the mother of all guilt-inducing verses in the Bible, Hebrews 10:25:

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

This verse is used to remind congregants that GOD expects them to be in church every time the doors are open. And if you aren’t at the church’s Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night services, you’d better be so sick you can’t drag your sorry, backslidden ass to church. Real Christians cough, man up, and go to church. God will bless you if you do! Or so the thinking goes, anyway. I preached countless sermons so sick that I could have passed out at any moment. It took mononucleosis to knock me out of the pulpit for the first time (1991). Bless God, I was going to be there every time the doors where open. I planned to die with my boots on.

Of course, I passed this mentality on to the people I pastored. They genuinely feared God (or Pastor Bruce) would get them if they didn’t show up for churches. I routinely excoriated people who skipped church services. Lazy. Backslidden. Why, they might not even be saved! What kind of person chooses the lake, reunion, or their wedding anniversary over attending church and listening to my wonderful, Bible-based, Spirit-filled sermons?

It is clear, at least to me, that Falls expected church members to be at church unless they were really, really, really, I mean r-e-a-l-l-y sick. Falls did say that if people had Coronavirus symptoms that it was okay for them to miss church. Thanks, preacher. I wonder if the good pastor realized that this virus can be and is passed on by people not exhibiting ANY symptoms; that there could be Coronavirus Marys and Marks walking in the midst of the congregation infecting everyone they come in contact with?

Falls plants in the mind of congregants that he has serious doubts about what government is telling us about the Coronavirus. I didn’t realize Falls was a scientist, an epidemiologist, or an infectious disease expert. He is, however, an avid supporter of President Donald Trump, so that might help to explain things a bit. While Trump has now had a come to Jesus moment when it comes to COVID-19, I am sure he still believes that a lot of what experts are saying is “fake” news, attempts by the media, liberals, China, and non-Christians to destroy his presidency and foil his reelection. I doubt that Pastor Falls believes the media is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the Coronavirus Pandemic. By planting that seed in the minds of church members, he is affirming their conspiratorial doubts too.

Finally, Falls reminds church members that their God is still on the throne. This is his way of saying, “Look, Jesus, the Great Physician, has everything under control. There’s no need to fear a silly little virus. God will protect us, and if some us come down with COVID-19, well, that means it was God’s will. Live or die, it’s all in God’s hand. Now, get your ass down to 81 Licking View Drive and listen to some old-fashioned IFB preaching and singing!

Here’s why all this matters to me, and matters to my wife. Polly’s parents were in attendance Sunday night. Both of them have serious health problems. Mom has congestive heart failure. Her cardiologist told her to prepare to meet her maker. She is quite proud, however, of the fact that she has beaten the doctor’s time-of-death estimations. We are glad that she is still among the living too. That said, we hope that she doesn’t check out any time soon. We have our own health concerns to worry about, so we would like to think that everyone at their church, especially their pastor, has their best interests at heart. Unfortunately, as the story I am about to share with you will show, Pastor Falls does not care about what is best for them.

I told Polly that perhaps Falls should call each elderly/sick congregant and encourage them to stay home. Let them know that God understands. In IFB churches, pastors wield a tremendous amount of control and power. Falls could use these things for good, but, instead, he’s more concerned with making a stand against intrusive government intervention. He’s more concerned with preaching up faith and making sure people obey the Bible than he is caring for their physical welfare.

After the service, Falls greeted Polly’s mom and, I kid you not, shook her hand. He did question the wisdom of doing so, but likely at my mother-in-law’s insistence, Falls went ahead and shook her hand. As I listened to Mom recounting this story to Polly, I wanted to scream. How can you be so stupid? How can you be so reckless? How can you be so indifferent to the health and welfare of others? That goes for Pastor Falls AND my mother-in-law.

It remains to be seen how the Coronavirus pandemic shakes out. I do know this. If we all follow the example of Pastor Falls and the Newark Baptist Temple, there will be no controlling or mitigating this pandemic. Falls has a duty and obligation to care for his flock. He has failed to do so. He cannot know whether he himself has been exposed to the virus, or anyone else in attendance, for that matter. Instead, he has let his theology and politics dictate what he deems proper care. He’s young, so he has little risk of dying from COVID-19. Polly’s parents? They are at the front of the death line, and it’s a shame that their pastor is indifferent towards their frail condition. They have given more than half of their lives to the Baptist Temple. They deserve better.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Questions: Bruce, How Was the Quality of the Education You Received From an IFB College?

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I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Troy asked, “How Was the Quality of the Education You Received From an IFB College?”

I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan from the fall of 1976 to the spring of 1979. Midwestern was a small, unaccredited Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution started by Dr. Tom Malone — who had an earned doctorate in education from Wayne State University — in the 1950s. Dr. Malone called Midwestern “a character building factory.” It existed for the express purpose of training pastors, evangelists, and missionaries (and providing them with wives). Most of the professors were either men and women with degrees (and honorary doctorates) from Midwestern or men and women with degrees from other Fundamentalist Christian institutions. Malone preferred having Midwestern men teach Midwestern students. It was quite incestuous.

Were the classes I took at Midwestern inferior? I guess I would have to ask, inferior to what? I took some classes out at the local community college, and I found that they were every bit as superficial and worthless as some of the classes I took at Midwestern. I found at both institutions that the quality and depth of a particular class depended on the professor’s commitment to excellence. My world history professor at Midwestern basically read the book to the class and had us take tests. Yawn. I had similar classes at the community college. The best teachers were men and women who loved teaching and enjoyed engaging students in raucous discussions. Such discussions were rare at Midwestern because what teachers could teach and talk about was limited by the college’s commitment to certain doctrinal beliefs. For example, ministerial students were required to take one year of Greek. Good idea, right? However, the professor was only allowed to talk about certain manuscripts — those that supported the Midwestern’s King James-only position. Discussions about minority texts, alternate translations, etc., were verboten.

Generally, Midwestern’s classes were easy (as were the classes at the local community college). Part of the reason for this was that Midwestern was unaccredited. Students received NO financial aid. Most students worked their way through college. I worked a forty-hour-a-week job while taking classes full time. I also attended church three times a week, taught Sunday School, worked on a bus route and took out my girlfriend twice on the weekends. A truly rigorous academic program would have been too much for most students, considering all they had to do outside of school. As it was, most students washed out, and by their senior year, seventy-percent of students had dropped out of college. This wash-out rate, in the eyes of the school administration, was God winnowing the chaff from the wheat. Married, with a child on the way, and laid off from work, I dropped out in the spring of my junior year. That said, Dr. Malone publicly said of me at a pastor’s conference, Bruce, we would probably have ruined you had you stayed in college. At the time, I was pastoring a fast-growing IFB church in Southeast Ohio. I was told when I left college that God would NEVER use me, yet here I was pastoring a successful church — a sure sign that God was indeed using me.

Most of my theological education came post-Midwestern. I read countless religious tomes and studied the Bible for hours on end. I committed myself to being a student of the Bible, and spent two decades educating myself in the finer points of Christian belief. In one church I pastored, one of the congregants was a PhD candidate at Westminster Theological Seminary. I was able to intelligently converse with him, and I never felt educationally inferior. In my mind, it’s not the degrees that matter as much as what you know. In 2005, I saw a young family medicine doctor for treatment of Fibromyalgia. He was honest, telling me that his whole knowledge of Fibromyalgia came from one class period on the subject. He knew that I had read virtually every book on the condition, so he asked me to recommend books for him to read. He was a humble man who had sense enough to know when he didn’t know something. He quickly got up to speed and was able to meaningfully help me with my condition.

I learned very little “Bible” at Bible college. Ironic, I know, but most of my Bible classes were Sunday School level survey classes. Study the text, take a few tests, write a few papers, done. On to the next one. There were two classes that did help me tremendously as a pastor: speech class and homiletics. My speech teacher was Gary Mayberry, He taught me how to structure and deliver a speech. My homiletics teacher was a southern preacher by the name of Levi Corey. On the first day of class, he said, forget everything you learned in speech class. Corey taught me how to craft a sermon and deliver it with personality and passion. I owe much of my preaching success to him.

Evangelical colleges such as Midwestern do not exist to educate men as much as they exist to indoctrinate another generation in dogma. Unfettered intellectual inquiry is never permitted, and professors who dare to foster such a climate are summarily dismissed. The goal is purity of belief and practice. The only way to achieve this goal is to stifle teaching and discussion that challenges or contradicts the approved narrative.

Midwestern did give me one thing: Polly. Whatever my current opinion of Midwestern might be, I am indeed grateful that the college was the vehicle that brought Polly and me together. I may not have gotten a good education, but I sure got a wonderful wife, lover, and friend. I’ll take that any day!

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.

Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping “Fallen” Pastors Get Back on Their Horses

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David Hyles, the son of the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana (once the largest church in the United States, sporting a Sunday attendance of almost 25,000), is back in the ministry again, helping “fallen” pastors return to the ministry. David Hyles, oft accused of sexual misconduct and criminal behavior, believes his past puts him in a unique place to “help” pastors who have “fallen.” Hyles, as of the date of this post, has never publicly atoned for his behavior. Hyles says God has forgiven him, and that’s all that matters. In his mind he doesn’t owe anyone an explanation for the lives he ruined, including his victims. God has wiped Hyles’ slate clean, and now it’s time for him to reclaim his rightful place among Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) royalty. I have no doubt that his brother-in-law, Jack Schaap, an IFB preacher who is currently serving a twelve-year federal prison sentence for his sexual misconduct with a church teen, feels the same way; that God has forgiven him; that he is still a God-called preacher; that his time in prison has made him a better man and a better Christian. This scenario is played out time after time in the IFB church movement. Once saved always saved, so David Hyles is a still a Christian, regardless of what he does. The calling of God is irrevocable, so David Hyles — a man chosen by God and Jack Hyles — is still a preacher, and he would be sinning against God to NOT be doing what God called him to do.

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Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men

For readers who are not familiar with David Hyles (or Jack Hyles) I encourage you to read the following posts:

Several years ago, David Hyles briefly blogged at the site Fallen in Grace. My exposure of him in this blog forced Hyles to abandon his blogging efforts. Hyles and I play a game of whack-a-mole. He pops his head up and I smack it. I will continue to do so until Hyles publicly atones for his past and forever ends attempts to minister to trusting (albeit naive) people. Hyles has reconfigured the Fallen in Grace domain, and he is now using it to promote Fallen in Grace: A Ministry of Reconciliation (FIG) — his latest attempt at reinventing himself. According to the site’s About page, FIG’s purpose is to:

…provide tools, encouragement and helps to aid in restoration; both for those who have fallen and those who are involved in the ministry of restoration. We are all about obeying this command; to restore the fallen. This is not a place to argue or discuss people’s sins. It is a place to discover how to resolve the challenges that arise after someone has fallen into sin.

Let me be clear before I go any farther with this post, that when I talk about FIG I am actually talking about disgraced IFB preacher David Hyles. FIG is a ministry of one — David Hyles. Hyles says as much when he writes:

This is not theory. Many of those who are involved in this ministry have themselves experienced a fall in their background, so they do understand, firsthand, the challenges and difficulties of being restored.

Our story is my story, as well as the story of others like me. I am one who experienced falling and for many years struggled with being restored. I learned the right ways and the wrong ways for restoration through my own experiences. My goal is to share these experiences with others who have fallen and with those who are trying to restore others like myself.

FIG has big plans. Hyles lists the following goals and objectives for his “ministry”:

  • Establish national Fallen in Grace Restoration Ministries.
  • Present ‘How to Restore’ Pastor’s [sic]Training Seminars.
  • Inspire the many talented and gifted Fallen in Grace.
  • Provide help in private areas online to restore people’s lives.

Hyles, of course, knows the IFB church movement is rife with sexual and criminal misconduct by pastors, evangelists, missionaries, deacons, college professors, and the like. In Hyles’ mind, these men of God, regardless of what they have done, are still called of God, and once God has forgiven the “fallen,” it is time for them to get back on their horses, riding into battle against Satan, sin, liberalism, and all sundry “sins” IFB churches and pastors oppose.

Thoughtful readers might ask, surely Hyles doesn’t believe that there’s nothing a preacher can do that will disqualify him from the ministry? What about murder? Not even murder. You see, Hyles’ favorite Bible character is — you guessed it — King David. The Biblical David committed adultery and murder, yet he was greatly used by God. The Bible even calls David a man after God’s own heart. In Hyles’ mind, if King David can be restored, so can he and any of the countless other perverts, criminals, and philanderers who lost their ministries. In Hyles’ mind, no sin is unforgivable; no sin is beyond God’s grace; and no sucker is beyond the reach of an IFB preacher in need of cash. (It used to be that divorce disqualified a man from being an IFB preacher. Jack Hyles believed this, yet the divorced and remarried David Hyles must think otherwise.)

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1973. Miller Road Baptist Church was started by Jack Hyles. David Hyles would later become the pastor of Miller Road. Orchestrated by Jack, the church was never told about David’s sexual improprieties. David would, as pastor of Miller Road, be caught having sex with female church members.

While FIG does offer some free materials, most of what they offer requires payment. For example, the Biblical Restoration: A Practical Study costs $50. And for those completing the course — I shit you not — they can receive two college credits from Bob Gray, Sr’s unaccredited online college — Independent Baptist Online CollegeBob Gray, Sr. the retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, Longview, Texas and a graduate of Hyles-Anderson College, has long been trying to restore David Hyles to his rightful place in the IFB kingdom. Gray, Sr, a man who has spent his life bowed before the King of Kings, Lord Jack Hyles, sees restoring David Hyles as a way to rehabilitate the Hyles name.

In October 2018, FIG will be holding a Restoration Workshop at a place called the Red Barn, located in Middle, Georgia. Hyles does not list, for obvious reasons, the address for the Red Barn, nor does he provide a link to its website. Hyles has this to say about the workshop:

I wanted to send you a special invitation to participate in one of our two Fall Restoration Workshops held here at the Red Barn in middle Georgia. We would be delighted if you and your spouse could attend one of these workshops. I would love for you to learn more about our ministry but also to hear teaching on the philosophies behind restoration. This will be a comprehensive time of teaching these principles and also a great time of fellowship.

….

We are excited about these workshops and feel it is just the beginning of the training that we will do here at the Red Barn. I hope you will make plans to attend but let us know soon if you plan to attend.

FIG provides a page full of sermon-like articles for fallen preachers. Most of the articles require registration and membership. I assume there’s a cost involved for being a member. You can browse the list of articles here.

A previous iteration (August 2017, Wayback Machine) of the FIG site reveals that FIG primarily exists for the purpose of helping “fallen” (Greek for having sex with underage boys/girls, adultery, fornication and any of the other behaviors and crimes IFB preachers commit; remember, no behavior is so bad that God cannot forgive, and no behavior is so bad that a man called of God can’t be restored to the ministry) preachers regain their places in the ministry. Of course, by helping disgraced preachers, Hyles justifies and validates his own restoration. One need only read Hyles’ article on divorce to realize that FIG is all about the self-justification of his life. In essence, Hyles is saying, God has forgiven me, the slate’s been wiped clean, and you have no right to criticize or judge me. My bad behavior is in the past, buried by God in the depths of the sea to be remembered no more. Too bad Hyles’ victims can’t find that same mind-wiping, life-restoring grace. They live with the deep wounds and scars of their past, often unable to move forward, while David Hyles waltzes around the country screaming, I’M FORGIVEN! WOO HOO! Call 1-666-666-6666 now to book me for a meeting at your church! Let’s get this restoration train rolling!

Hyles has this to say about same-sex attraction, or what he calls: Individuals Coming Out of the Unnatural Lifestyle:

Paul was the first to admit that he was carnal. He confessed to the fact that he struggled with his flesh. Yet we know Paul was a man who lived a chaste life. Many of the people with whom we deal struggle with same sex attraction. Unfortunately many people have been misguided as to how to deal with this. Their objective is to change the attraction. However sexual attraction is not only a problem for those who have a same-sex attraction. All sexual attraction can be a problem. If a young man has a sexual attraction to his girlfriend he must learn how to deal with that, just as someone who has a sexual attraction to the same sex.

First, take into consideration that attraction is not the problem. The problem is that this world has sexualized attraction. An attraction is not a sin, but when that attraction is accompanied by sexual desires then we have a problem. Some men can see attractive woman while others see a sexual object. The difference is in the mind. So what is the solution?

Paul gives us the answer in Romans 12. The answer is that we must remove the sexual from sexual attraction. That is true whether it be an attraction to same-sex or the opposite sex. If the attraction is sexual then we must remove the sexual from the attraction. Unfortunately our minds have been inundated with sexuality. It is difficult for people to separate attraction from sexuality. Thus we have a society overwhelmed with sexual attractions. A man sees a beautiful woman and because he has a mind that has been consumed by sex he automatically has a sexual attraction towards her.

….

If one’s mind has been filled with sexual thoughts, they cannot change their minds. Their minds have been programmed. Unfortunately we are not the deprogrammers. Who is? The answer is found in the same passage. It is by the renewing of our minds. But the renewing of our minds comes after we surrender our bodies. So in other words we must make the decision to sacrifice the sexual part of the desire or attraction before the Holy Spirit can transform our minds and remove the sexual from the attraction. Can a man who thinks sexual thoughts every time he looks at a woman have his mind changed? The answer is yes. However he must first make the decision to sacrifice his body. In other words he does not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Then we are transformed not before surrender but after.

The next step is non conformity to the world. We often misunderstand this. Nonconformity means we do not respond to the attraction like the world does. We do not ogle the person with sexual thoughts. We do not make flirtatious or sexual remarks. Our response to the attraction is based upon the fact that we are no longer our own because we have given our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable. It also means we avoid the places and situations where our sexual attraction is fueled or fed. One who has given their body as a living sacrifice can go to the places, including on the internet where this world goes to feed their fleshly desires.

After this is when the renewing of the mind comes. When the mind is renewed then suddenly the sexual has been removed from the attraction. In other words we can see someone as being attractive without having sexual thoughts. It starts with surrender, then to non conformity and finally to transformation. We get it backwards. A man who has same-sex attraction does not have to have same-sex sexual attraction. In other words he may be attracted to other men as friends, but he is not attracted to them sexually. Those who have been involved in a same sex lifestyle must understand this concept. They must surrender their bodies first. They must say I sacrifice my sexual desires because I submit my body to the Spirit of God. In submitting their body they now refuse to be conformed to this sexual society in which we live. Then, and only then, the metamorphosis of their mind begins and they are transformed. Now they can be attracted without being sexually attracted. Now they can have friendships without sexual thoughts. This is where the transformation takes place.

….

Later in the article, Hyles has this to say about masturbation:

Let me be frank. Masturbation is absolutely a curse to this process. Masturbation is just as much fulfilling the lust of the flesh or the act itself. When you think the thought during that process it is the same as if you had acted it out. You cannot live that thought in your mind to the gratification of your flesh. Many men who once were adulterers commit adultery constantly in front of a computer screen. Many men once involved in same-sex activity commit the same sins in their mind and then with their bodies. You cannot allow your body to be gratified by those sexual impulses. You must give your body as a living sacrifice. You cannot masturbate and be a living sacrifice at the same time.

It’s clear from what I have shared in this post, that David Hyles is still very much an IFB preacher. Thus, it should come as no shock that FIG is operated as a ministry of Family Baptist Church in Columbia, Tennessee — an IFB congregation pastored by David Baker, a graduate of — you guessed it — Hyles-Anderson College. Not only is Baker a Hyles-Anderson graduate, so is Steve Wipf, Family Baptist’s assistant pastor.

Family Baptist Church is a King James-only Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Its doctrines are from stem to stern IFB, including its belief that the universe was created 6,022 years ago. The church’s pastor and his wife also seem to support patriarchal thinking when it comes to family; they have eleven children, two of whom are married.

The IFB church movement is quite incestuous, especially the followers of Jack Hyles.  Earlier, I made the connection of Bob Gray, Sr, Hyles-Anderson CollegeIndependent Baptist Online College (IBOC) with David Hyles. A similar connection can be made with David Baker. Baker is a graduate of Hyles Anderson and sports a candy stick “Dr” in front of his name, given to him by Texas Baptist College (now Texas Independent Baptist Seminary), another institution started by Bob Gray, Sr. and now operated by his son, Bog Gray II. Baker is a professor at Gray, Sr’s latest enterprise, IBOC. David Hyles’ FIG ministry is sponsored by Baker and Family Baptist. My oh my, what a cozy family that takes care of their own no matter what they have done! Ironically, though sponsored by Family Baptist, FIG is not mentioned anywhere on the church’s website.

The sheer amount of data available on the FIG website could provide me enough fodder for several weeks of blog posts if I were so inclined. Alas, I can only stand so much of this stuff before I want to pull the hair out of my hairless head. I appreciate and thank my friend Steve, a former student at Texas Baptist College and attendee at Longview Baptist Temple, for sussing out exactly what David Hyles was up to these day.

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Let me concluded this post with a David Hyles quote that should tell you all you need to know about the man, his beliefs, and his current “ministry” to “fallen” preachers. Speaking to preachers living with secret sins, he tells them to confess their transgressions to God and then:

Tonight go to sleep as though your whole past has been dropped. Die to the past. And in the morning wake up as a new man in a new morning. Don’t let the same one who went to bed get up. Let him go to sleep for good.

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 Gerencser