Tag Archive: Independent Fundamentalist Baptist

IFB Pastor Jack Roberts Refuses to Close the Doors of his Church

pastor jack roberts

A small number of Evangelical pastors, showing no regard for the health and safety of their congregants and communities, refuse to cancel their services. One such man is Jack Roberts, pastor of Maryville Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Roberts, in his 70s, started Maryville Baptist in 1968. In 1980 he started Maryville Independent Christian Academy of Hope (M.I.C.A.H.). Roberts is a self-described Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. His church bio page states:

Dr. Jack Roberts was saved at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Fairdale, KY. He was licensed to preach by Oak Grove Baptist Church. In April 1966 he was ordained and accepted the pastorate position at Immanuel Baptist Church in Shepherdsville KY.

He has a B.A. and M.A. from Heritage University and a Doctor of Divinity from Victory Baptist Institute. In 1981 he received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Sacramento Bible College.

In June 1968 after conducting an evangelistic crusade at Overdale School in Hillview, KY, he agreed to help start a local church in the Community. With the help of several preacher friends, the church was organized and he accepted the responsibility to serve as pastor of Maryville Baptist Church. In 1980 he led the congregation to begin a Christian school that is named Maryville Independent Christian Academy of Hope (M.I.C.A.H.). This became a vital part of Maryville Baptist Church since that time.

Dr. Roberts was a vital part of the Ten Commandments issue in Classrooms in Bullitt County School System. After Mr. Hatfield, superintendent of Bullitt County schools at that time, agreed to have them taken down due to pressure from the A.C.L.U.; Dr. Roberts led a three day prayer vigil. Several hundred students stayed out of school and attended one of the three sites around the County where the prayer meetings were held. Dr. Jack Roberts was also involved with the fight for church related Christian School movement in the early 1980’s. That Eventually led to change of legislation law. This led to the end of the Board of Education taking individual schools to court to try and close them.

Dr. Roberts and his wife Tootsie have five children, many grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren. His eldest son Denver, is an ordained pastor at Star Baptist Church in Williamsburg KY.

“Dr.” Roberts doesn’t have an earned doctorate from an accredited institution. Like many IFB preachers, his doctorate is an honorary degree. (Please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor.) Such degrees are little more than statements of dick size among IFB preachers.

Marysville Baptist’s website describes the church this way:

Maryville Baptist Church is dedicated to bringing the Gospel of Christ to our community and the world.  We are an Independent, Fundamental Baptist Church using the authorized King James Bible as our final authority. Take a look around and see the work God is doing at M.B.C. We have been blessed to be a part of the Lord’s work and wish to share with you some of the exciting things here. We ask that you please keep us in your prayers, that God will use this site to bring more people to the Christ!

Maryville Independent Christian Academy of Hope, the brainchild of Roberts, uses Abeka curriculum — a ministry of Pensacola Christian College. The Academy’s general information page states:

The school day begins at 8:30 a.m. and dismisses at 3:00 p.m.  Students must wear the appropriate uniforms listed in our Student Handbook. MICAH stands firm on orderly behavior in the classroom, modesty in attire and in conduct.  All of MICAH’s rules and guidelines are taken from the King James Holy Bible.  Our standards are not from man but from God.

Got all that? Their rules and guidelines are straight from God and the one, true Bible, the KJV. Based on Internet reviews, I learned that teachers are not required to have degrees. No surprise, I suppose, when you have the KJV Bible. Written in 1611 and revised in 1769, the KJV Bible is all twenty-first-century Christian children need. Or so Pastor Roberts and his church think, anyway.

Roberts is a typical IFB preacher — arrogant, hardheaded, with little regard for anything or anyone but his infallible beliefs. As virtually every church around him wisely closed their doors to protect their congregants and larger communities from COVID-19 exposure, Roberts dug his heels in and said intends to keep holding services, even if state officials arrest him. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Roberts views himself as a fighter, a defender of the true faith, a warrior waging war against secular government authority. Roberts has spent most of his life fighting the government, so it should come as no surprise that he continues to do so now.

When asked about his refusal to stop holding services, Roberts stated, “It’s my life, and I feel like the Gospel is more important than anything else.” “It’s my life,” this troglodyte says. What a narcissist. It’s all about him, and not the lives of his congregants and neighbors. Roberts stubbornly refuses to understand that what he does personally can and will affect others. In fact, his careless actions could kill people.

Kentucky governor Andy Beshear has publicly chastised Roberts for his illegal behavior. Roberts replied:

I might not ought to say it this way — whatever you put on the air is what I’m saying, all right — but our stupid governor says you can’t get together with your family for Easter. What are they going to do stand at my front door and see how many people goes in?

Roberts also said, and I quote, “I know everybody thinks I’m crazy. Maybe I am.” I will leave it medical professionals to ascertain whether Roberts is “crazy.” I am more inclined to believe that Roberts is just a garden variety IFB preacher; a man so immersed in his own personal narrative that he is indifferent towards everyone but himself. He is an IFB example of Donald Trump. If Roberts truly cared about his congregation, school children, and the people of Bullet County, he would immediately stop holding in-person services at Maryville Baptist Church. Of course, he will never do this. He has too much invested in his stand against the government and its Satanic emissaries. To do the right thing requires Roberts to admit that he is wrong. And that ain’t gonna happen, even if his self-righteous arrogance kills people. Fortunately, many of Roberts’ congregants have wised up to their pastor’s behavior. Last Sunday’s service according to the Courier-Journal, attracted a whopping fifty people. Wednesday’s service drew 40 people.

Here’s hoping come Easter Sunday, the people in the above video realize that their risen Savior commanded them to “love their neighbors,” and the best way to show that love is to stay home.

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 Do You Get From Here to the Rest of the World?

jesus trapped
Cartoon by David Hayward

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

How do you get from here to the rest of the world?

This is a quote from the HBO series The WireDukie, a teenager raised in abject poverty on the streets of Baltimore, is having a discussion with Cutty, a former drug dealer/gang soldier, about life beyond the drug infested, crime riddled streets of Baltimore. The teen asks, How do you get from here to the rest of the world? Cutty replied, I wish I knew.

This question got me thinking about the people who are in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. The only world they know is the IFB church. Everything in their lives revolves around the churches of which they are members. Their ethics, morality, worldview, sense of meaning and purpose, and their identity is derived from their churches and pastors.

It is a self-contained world where the external “world” is banished and considered evil. IFB congregants are frequently reminded that their church, pastor, beliefs, and practices are the only correct ones. Other religions and churches are denigrated and exposed as heretical or worldly. Atheists, agnostics, humanists, and secularists are considered tools of Satan. Fidelity of belief and purity of life is demanded, and failing to meet this standard brings the wrath of God, and worse yet, the wrath of the pastor. (A person who spends twenty-five years in an IFB church will likely hear more than 4,000 sermons. Ponder the sheer level of indoctrination that happens in such a captive environment.)

Prior to the internet, a person could be raised in this environment and never know that there is a wild, woolly world outside of the IFB church. Church members are discouraged from having contact with the “world,” with an exception being made for evangelizing the world — the lost, non-IFB Christians who need saving. From the earliest age, IFB children are schooled in IFB thought and lifestyle. They are often homeschooled or sent to private IFB schools. If they have thoughts about going to college, they are told they should only go to IFB colleges. From the cradle to the grave, the IFB church and their pastor are the King and Lord over their lives. They will be told that Jesus and the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God are King and Lord, but the real power rests with the pastor and people who control the church. (And every congregation has a power center, a group that dominates and controls the church.)

IFB church members are told what books to read, what music to listen to, what movies, if any, to see, how to dress, how to raise their children, and how to vote. All of this telling is couched in religious verbiage, complete with Bible proof texts, but ultimately, it is their pastor’s interpretation of the Bible that determines what is to be believed and not believed. He alone determines by what standard church members will be expected to live.

The pastor is considered the man of God. Like Moses in the Old Testament, he stands between the church and God. He is God’s mouthpiece, and Sunday after Sunday and Wednesday after Wednesday he stands before the church and says, The Bible says or God says. He is in every way an oracle who has an intimate connection with God that allows him to expertly, correctly, and infallibly tell the church what it is God wants them to know. If you doubt my use of the word infallibly, ask an IFB church member about the last time their pastor said he was wrong about a belief, or anything for that matter.

With the advent of the internet, the secrets of the IFB church movement are now exposed to the light of day. We now know they have their own problem with sexual predators and are no different from the Catholic church in that regard. We know about the abuse, affairs, thefts, and cover-ups. A curious or troubled IFB church member can now “get from here to the rest of the world.”

This is why I work hard at making sure this website ranks high on Google. It is important that IFB church members who are looking for a way out of the bondage and control of the IFB church movement find people who are willing to help them. The goal is to help people see that there is a way out, that there is a wild, woolly, scary world beyond the IFB church of which they can be a part.

Those of us who have left the IFB church and dare speak about its pernicious teachings and secrets are often attacked, and concerted efforts are made to smear and discredit us. The hateful emails flood our inbox and we read the disparaging comments on forums and blogs, all of which are an attempt to marginalize us and silence our voice. They tell anyone who will listen that we never were Christians or that we are bitter and angry. They warn that anyone who heeds our voice will find themselves under the judgment of God, or worse yet, the judgment of their pastor and church leaders. The threat of being cut off from all they know often causes curious, questioning IFB church members to fearfully tremble, and sometimes this is enough to end their exploration of the world beyond the IFB church. All I know to do is keep the light on, hoping that they will, in time, wander out again seeking answers.

But for many others, they are able to push beyond their fears, and they find out that there is a way to “get from here to the rest of the world.” What they find is people who have been where they are, people who understand their fears and doubts. They are often shocked to find that there is an IFB pastor-turned-atheist who is willing to help them, even if they still want to believe in God. They quickly learn that the most important thing is breaking free from the IFB church. From there, the path they take is up to them.

This is one of the reasons I write. These people matter. Many of them are women who have had their entire lives dominated and controlled by men. They are, in many ways, not much different from women in Muslim countries. It should not surprise us, then, when these women finally break free, they also break free from the men who dominated and controlled them.

Several years ago, a man I am in contact with wrote:

Bruce, you are VERY popular among IFB circles. I knew about you before I started emailing you. I think every prominent preacher has made reference to you in some way or another. My the hate they have for you.

I consider this to be a badge of honor. I want IFB pastors and church leaders to know who I am and that I am not going away. Until God answers their prayers and kills me or the physical problems I have lead to my demise, I plan on being a pain in the ass and every other part of the IFB body. The IFB church movement is dying, and I want to be around when we finally put a pillow over its face and end its miserable life.

I want to be a voice that says “you can get from here to the rest of the world.” To you who regularly read this blog, I want to thank you for continuing to encourage and support me.  When I get hateful emails and comments, and I read blogs and forum posts that deconstruct and trash my life, it is your love, friendship, and support that give me the strength to ignore their attacks.

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.

1976-1978: The Midwestern Baptist College Dorm Snack Room

polly shope bruce gerencser 1977
Polly Shope and Bruce Gerencser, February 1977,
Midwestern Baptist College Sweetheart Banquet

It was late September 1975. I had driven to Phoenix to spend the weekend with my twenty-year-old girlfriend Anita at the Southwestern Conservative Baptist Bible College. We had started dating six months prior, a relationship that quickly turned serious. Both of us had volatile personalities. Years later, I concluded that had we married, it is likely one of us would have ended up in prison for murdering the other. 

Our weekend together turned sour, and by the time Sunday night arrived, I had broken up with Anita and angrily driven back to the home of my dad and his wife in the southeast Arizona community of Sierra Vista. I vividly remember driving my 1960s Chevrolet station wagon at excessive speeds the three hours home, culminating in a speeding ticket near Huachuca City. The same state trooper had ticketed me the previous week for assured clear distance. He warned me that my next ticket could result in the loss of driving privileges. I was eighteen.

By the next weekend, I had packed my meager belongings in two suitcases, hopped a Greyhound Bus, and traveled to my mom’s home in the northwest Ohio community of Bryan. I left my car with my father to sell, which he soon did. I am still waiting for the money. 

After returning to the place of my birth, I immersed myself in the life of First Baptist Church in Bryan, reconnected with friends such as Randy Rupp and Dave Echler, and became the dairy manager at Foodland, a local grocery store. I planned to wait a year and then enroll for classes at Briarcrest Bible Institute in Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada.

In early 1976, I turned my focus towards preparing for college. At the time, Canada had strict financial requirements for non-residents attending Canadian colleges. It became clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to meet this requirement, so I began looking at other Fundamentalist colleges to attend. I asked my pastor, Jack Bennett, for recommendations. He provided none. I came away from our discussion angry. I suspect Pastor Bennett thought that I was not qualified or well-suited to become a pastor, due to my family background and general orneriness. 

My mom’s dad and stepmother lived in Pontiac, Michigan. They attended Sunnyvale Chapel, a Fundamentalist church. Upon hearing that I was not going to Briarcrest, the Tiekens suggested that I check out Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac. In June of 1976, I drove up to Pontiac to check out the college. I quickly decided that Midwestern was where “God” wanted me to study for the ministry. In truth, Midwestern was much cheaper than other Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) colleges. Jobs were also plentiful. My grandparents, ever-helpful — until you crossed them — found a job for me working at the Rochester Hills Kroger. (Please see John and Dear Ann.)

I arrived at the Midwestern dormitory in late August 1976. A few weeks later, I started dating a beautiful seventeen-year-old dark-haired preacher’s daughter who would later become my wife. 

Men lived in the basement and the first floor of the dorm. Women were housed on the second floor. As one walked into the dorm, one entered a common meeting room. At certain times, dating couples could sit there six inches away from each other (please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule), and “fellowship.” To the right, down the hallway toward the section of the men’s dormitory called the “Spiritual Wing,” was the snack room. (I lived on the “Party Wing.” Of course, I did.) 

While Midwestern had a school cafeteria that provided rudimentary lunches for students, most dorm students did not use the cafeteria. In my case, I was too busy taking a full load of classes and working a fulltime job to fit going to the cafeteria into my schedule. Thus, for the two years I lived in the dorm, the snack room became my “kitchen.” I say “kitchen,” but that would imply it had basic appliances such as a stove, refrigerator, and cooking utensils. It didn’t. The snack room had a handful of tables and a microwave. 

Most students either ate at nearby fast-food restaurants, ate out of a can, or warmed up meals in the microwave. Imagine the eating habits I developed from eating this way for two years. The highlight of each week was going out on a double date on the weekend to a real restaurant that served food that didn’t require a can opener. I will never understand why Midwestern didn’t care enough about dorm students to require that they eat at least two meals a day in the school cafeteria. Surely they had to know that students needed proper nutrition and sufficient nourishment; especially since students were spending virtually every waking hour attending classes, doing homework, working fulltime jobs — often at local factories — attending church three times a week, working bus routes, teaching Sunday school, preaching, and going soulwinning. Whatever the reasons, dorm students were left on their own to scavenge for food. This led to numerous hilarious stories. 

One evening, Polly decided to cook a special meal for me. She knew that I loved liver and onions. I had eaten it on one of our early dates at Jerry’s Restaurant. Polly bought one of those ribbed microwave “browning” plates and cooked liver and onions. Needless to say, an awful smell emanated from the snack room as Polly lovingly cooked for me. The taste was not much better. 

One student worked at a nearby McDonald’s. Each night at close, the manager instructed him to throw away the unsold hamburgers. Not wanting to miss out on a free meal opportunity, the student brought the hamburgers home. Remember, there was no refrigerator — students were not permitted to have appliances or electric cooking implements in their rooms — so this student took to storing the hamburgers outside in a snowbank. More than a few of us afforded ourselves to one or more of Tom’s free hamburgers. It’s a wonder we didn’t get food poisoning. 

Most students had a food box. I had a long cardboard box that I kept under my bed. It was not uncommon for students to trade foodstuffs. It was also not uncommon for food (and money) to come up missing. We may have been at Midwestern to serve God and train for the ministry, but hunger and an empty gas tank will turn the best of people into petty thieves. I put the blame for this not on a lack of character, but on the blindness and indifference of Tom Malone, the college president, and dorm supervisors to the financial and material plight of many single students. All the focus was on winning the lost. What’s a bit of hunger when souls need saving, right? I suspect some with the college administration believed that deprivation was good for students; that suffering hardship would make for better Christians, and for better pastors and missionaries. Midwestern advertised itself as a “character-building factory.” By the time I arrived at Midwestern, I had already lived through nineteen years of doing without. I knew how to adapt and survive, even it meant swiping Hostess cupcakes and soft drinks from the grocery where I worked. 

Polly, on the other hand, came from a solidly middle-class family — a new car every two years, annual vacations. Polly’s dad entered the ministry late in life, graduating from Midwestern in May 1976. Polly was grossly unprepared for the life that awaited her at Midwestern. Her parents gave her little, if any, financial support, expecting her to “survive” on the part-time wages she earned at places such as Burger King, Sveden House, and cleaning houses. Her means of transportation was a worn-out early-1970s AMC Hornet. After the car broke down, her parents told her to junk the car, with no new car forthcoming. Fortunately, her mechanically inclined boyfriend was able to fix the car. When it finally gave up the ghost, Polly drove my car. If it hadn’t been for me providing financial support and allowing her to drive my car, I doubt she would have made it through her dormitory years. Of course, I have a vested interest in making sure that didn’t happen.

While I have many fond memories from the two years I spent living in the Midwestern dorm, I do wish that the college had invested more money in the welfare of its students. Sadly, all too often, it seemed that students were just fuel for the machinery of the college and nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church — the church all dorm students were required to attend. As a pastor, I had the opportunity to counsel church teens about their post-high school plans. While I suggested checking out schools such as Bob Jones University, Tennessee Temple, and Pensacola Christian College, I never recommended Midwestern. Had Midwestern cared better for their students, I may have sent students their way. It’s not that I am bitter about my experiences at Midwestern, I’m not. But the college could have been so much more had it not been so focused on soulwinning. The number of dorm students who didn’t return for their sophomore year was staggering. Midwestern prided itself on this winnowing process; sending home those who were “affectionately” called Momma-called, Daddy-sent preachers. By the time students reached their senior year, the majority of the students in their freshman class had dropped out. I wonder if this attrition could have been lessened had college officials truly cared about dorm student living conditions.

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.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Praise God for AR-15s!

nathan rager

The Sounds of Fundamentalism is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a Twitter video clip of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher Nathan Rager preaching at Independent Baptist Church of Tampa Bay in Tampa Bay Florida. Rager — a “real” man — loved the phrase, lily-livered liberals.

Video Link

Want to hear Pastor Rager’s view of the Coronavirus pandemic? You know you do. 🙂 He is definitely in favor of infecting as many people as possible. Get out there and go soulwinning, bless God! God is in control.

Video Link

Another Day, Another IFB Tract That Uses Fear of COVID-19 to Evangelize People

seeking a cure

Last week, I wrote about a tract published by North Platte Baptist Church and its pastor William Reeves that used fear to evangelize people. (Please see North Platte Baptist Church Uses the Coronavirus Pandemic to Evangelize People and Dear Pastor Reeves, Let Me Explain to You Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself.) Today, a reader shared with me a new COVID-19 tract written by Paul Chappell, pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California. Chappell is a well-known IFB pastor. He is also the president of West Coast Baptist College.

Titled Seeking a Cure, the tract states:

Hours before the world rolled into the new decade of 2020, a group of Chinese doctors worked tirelessly to understand the sickness they now found themselves treating. 

Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, noticed seven cases of an unusual virus, which he thought looked similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which had led to a worldwide epidemic in 2003. He was correct. What he did not know, however, was that this virus he had seen, while related to SARS (both are a coronavirus), was an entirely new virus, which would eventually be named COVID-19.

….

Meanwhile, the virus began to spread. On January 13, a case was reported in Thailand. On January 20, it showed up in South Korea. On January 21, it was discovered in the United States. By March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared it a pandemic. Now, the virus has infected every continent on the globe, except Antarctica. 

….

This, of course, is not the first pandemic that has swept our world. In fact, as our society searches for a cure for Covid-19, many have looked back to previous epidemics, such as the flu of 1918, to learn how practices such as social distancing can slow the virus’ spread. 

But even before 1918, or any of the other world-altering epidemics of the previous centuries, our entire world has been infected with a different kind of virus. This virus cannot be stopped by social distancing, for it is a spiritual disease — passed down to us from our planet’s first parents, Adam and Eve.

The Bible tells us . . . blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada

I recently read an article about a woman who lived to the age of 102, but had experienced what came to be known as the Spanish Influenza in 1918 at the age of 3. What saved her life—and undoubtedly the lives of others—was the white scarf tied to the family’s outside doorknob, alerting others that there was a quarantined patient inside. 

Even as a virus patient will only receive treatment if they acknowledge their condition, so we must acknowledge our need for Christ.  

Will you turn to Christ alone? Although Jesus already paid for our sin and offers us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Heaven, we must choose to receive his gift. We must stop trusting ourselves, our works, and our religions, and turn our full trust to Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sin. Health viruses will come and go, but in Christ you can have forgiveness and a home in Heaven that can never be taken away.

You can read the entire tract here.

It should not surprise me that preachers such as Chappell look for opportunities such as the Coronavirus Pandemic to preach their truncated fear-based gospel. I preached a similar gospel for many years. Put the fear of God, judgment, and Hell into people, and they will come running to Jesus. Or so the thinking goes, anyway. What I find shameful is how Chappell and others like him use a worldwide viral epidemic to promote their religion; that instead of focusing on helping people, they focus on saving them. That way, if people get infected with the COVID-19 virus and die, at least they were told the TRUTH before they died, right? Profiting from the fears of people is the worst of human behaviors. And believe me, Chappell wants to profit from the virus. Souls saved=new church members=increased offerings. Ding! Ding! Ding! Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

This kind of behavior by IFB preachers and their churches will never change. It’s part of their DNA. Without fear, IFB churches would empty out overnight. Without fear, Chappell’s congregants just might get snockered on Saturday nights, sleep in on Sundays, and, Loki forbid, church women might wear pants. Or better yet, they might seek out kinder, gentler expressions of Christianity; churches where love and kindness, not fear and judgment, permeate the air.

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.

Dear Pastor Reeves, Let Me Explain to You Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself

Have you noticed that many of the churches refusing to close during the Coronavirus Pandemic are Independent Fundamentalist Baptist congregations? Over the past week or so I have written about two such churches, First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio and the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio. (Please see Local Church Continues to Meet on Sundays Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic and IFB Pastor Mark Falls Tries to Use Bible Verses to Guilt People into Attending Church during Coronavirus Pandemic.) Pastor John MacFarlane at First Baptist has since seen the light and all services at the church are now canceled. The Baptist Temple, pastored by Mark Falls, remains open, but some peripheral programs have been canceled and older congregants have been encouraged to stay home. My wife’s parents attend the Baptist Temple, and, fortunately, both of them stayed home on Sunday. Polly’s aunt, the wife of the late James Dennis, who has end-stage bone cancer and is on chemotherapy? She was front and center, praising Jesus.

Why is it that many IFB churches refuse to close their doors? First, IFB churches have a conspiratorial hatred for the government — especially if the government is controlled by Satan’s party, the Democrats. I plan to write more about this hatred later this week. Second, IFB churches tend to have members who are easily led astray by conspiracy theories. This is especially true now that Donald Trump is president. Third, most IFB churches are not flush with cash. If they don’t hold services, their cash flow will be seriously compromised. Fourth, many IFB pastors believe that the government has no right to tell them what to do. Some go so far as to oppose any sort of government regulation, including fire, safety, and building codes. Years ago, an Ohio IFB pastor took it upon himself to build a new building without permits. He believed he should be able to build the building any way he wanted, even if it meant he violated the law. His actions, of course, brought legal action, and his refusal to comply forced the state to raze his building. Fifth, closing church doors would be a repudiation of the belief that God always protects Christians, and no matter the circumstance, the people of God should be present and accounted for on Sundays. Sixth, IFB churches tend to be anti-science. Remember most IFB church members and pastors are Bible literalists, young-earth creationists, and believe the entire earth was covered with a flood a few thousand years ago. Holding such anti-scientific beliefs reflects poor reasoning skills. I am not saying that IFB church members are stupid. I am saying that their theological beliefs cripple their ability to rationally understand the world they live in. Their thinking is crippled by their insistence that the Bible is some sort of divine blueprint for life and it contains everything necessary for life and godliness.

The latest IFB church on my radar is the North Platte Baptist Church in North Platte, Nebraska. Last week, I wrote about the church and its pastor, William Reeves, using the Coronavirus Pandemic as a tool to evangelize people. (Please see North Platte Baptist Church Uses the Coronavirus Pandemic to Evangelize People.) North Platte has continued to run its buses and hold services despite the Coronavirus. Reeves, in classic IFB fashion, has stupidly and stubbornly held his ground. Reeves has received a lot of negative publicity — glad I could help — so much so that he has taken the church’s and his personal Twitter account private. (I was banned long ago from both of these accounts.)

One of Reeves’ last public tweets can be found in the header graphic of this post. Reeves said:

Having church doesn’t make you an enemy of the state or an enemy of people. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about your people or that you are not doing your part in curbing the spread of COVID-19 (with Facepalm emoji, as if what he is saying should be obvious to everyone).

Jesus said in Luke 10:27: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 13:9,10: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. In Galatians 5:14, Paul said, For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. And finally, James said in James 2:8, If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.

Evidently, these verses must not be in Pastor Reeves’ leather-bound King James Bible. Consider what Paul says in Galatians 5:14: all the laws of the Bible can be fulfilled in one word, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Holy shit, Batman! Can Pastor Reeves, along with Pastor McFarlane and Pastor Falls and a host of other IFB preachers, honestly say that their actions show that they are loving their neighbors as they would themselves? Of course not. Their actions are driven by one or more of the six things I mentioned above.

To Pastor Reeves I say, if you really loved your neighbors — who include your congregation and the children who ride your buses — would you continue to have mass gatherings? You KNOW that mass gatherings are a prime way to spread the Coronavirus. You KNOW that people NOT showing COVID-19 symptoms can actually be carriers. Everyone could “look” healthy on Sunday, yet some of them could be spreading the virus. IF you really loved your neighbors, you wouldn’t take this risk. You have a social and moral obligation to not only your church but the community at large. By being a weak link in the containment process, you and your church could be making people sick and killing them. What kind of person ignores these things, all for the sake of some sort of theological or political statement? Evidently, you, Pastor Reeves.

I know, I know, the next words out of your mouth are going to be something like this: I DO love my neighbors, so much so that I am going to keep the doors of North Platte Baptist Church open so unsaved people can ride our buses, come to church, hear the gospel, and be saved! That way if COVID-19 chokes the life out of them, leaving their spouses widows and their children orphans, at least they will go to Heaven. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!

Their salvation can wait a few weeks. All that matters right now is the safety and health of others. I encourage you, Pastor Reeves, to swallow your theology and politics and show love to your community by closing the doors of North Platte Baptist and suspending all group activities until health experts give the all-clear. How you respond will show if you really do take the words of Jesus seriously.

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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Watch My Interview with Neil the 604 Atheist

neil the 604 atheist

Last week, I was interviewed by Neil on the Neil the 604 Atheist Podcast. I had a delightful time talking with Neil, sharing my story, and talking about Evangelicalism in general. The interview, over an hour long, is the first video podcast I have done. I hope you will take the time to watch it and let me know what you think.

Video Link

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.

Local Church Continues to Meet on Sundays Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic

The above screenshot is from the website for First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio. First Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. I attended First Baptist in the mid-1960s when it was located on Alpine Drive, and again in the 1970s when it was located in the old Methodist building on the corner of Beech and Butler. The pastor at the time was Jack Bennett.

Today, the church is pastored by John MacFarlane. John was a young boy in the church when I headed off to college in 1976. I used to bale hay for John’s father Randy. At one time, I had a number of family members and close friends who attended First Baptist. Today? Pretty much a new crowd. The old folks have died off, and those of us who were young years ago are now the new old folks. Such is the circle of life.

I really don’t know John that well. I know he’s a Fundamentalist, but I hoped he had a better understanding of the world than his predecessor, Jack Bennett. John’s no dummy, so I am astounded by the fact that he intends to continue holding services on Sundays. He’s canceling the Wednesday services and Sunday school, but Sunday morning and Sunday night? Game on! Everything we KNOW about the COVID-19 virus tells us that the best way to impede its spread is NOT to gather in groups. Stay at home, and avoid contact with other people. Churches are no different from schools, restaurants, sporting events, or other places where large numbers of people gather. John KNOWS this, yet he plans to have church anyway. Maybe he thinks God will be with them or be some sort of talisman that will protect them from the Coronavirus. Maybe he thinks if the church congregation prays real, real, real hard that God will hear their prayers and pass over them like he did the Israelites in Egypt. If so, he’s delusional. God is AWOL, and the only hope now is us. If we don’t do the right thing, who will?

You may remember that I mentioned earlier this week what John said about the Coronavirus in a blog post titled COVID-19 DOES Work Together for Good:

Listen here, you dirty coronavirus bug! You will NOT win! In Jesus name, the church is going to use what you are doing to the world and turn it around for something good. Your days of creating chaos will come to an end as Jesus heals body and soul. Your fear will be vanquished in the life-giving blood of Jesus as He makes new creatures, converting the lost souls. Persecution has never diminished the affects of the church. Quite the opposite! Persecution has always caused the church to grow and flourish. And, even though we can’t see you, you are an enemy that WILL be defeated. You will NOT conquer. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Jesus name — and all God’s people said — AMEN!

The fact that First Baptist, along with a handful of other local Evangelical churches, is having church on Sunday is yet more proof that Governor Mike DeWine should have ordered churches to close. Churches are nothing more than a weak link in an otherwise exemplary plan for controlling the virus in Ohio. (Dear Governor DeWine: Why are Churches Exempt from the Group Gathering Ban?) Just today, the Defiance County Department of Health said we now have our first confirmed case of infection in the county. It’s coming, John. For you, for your family, for the people you pastor. Do the right thing and close up shop and wait for the all-clear from Ohio Department of Health. Until then, you are risking the infection and death of your family, church members, and fellow citizens.

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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North Platte Baptist Church Uses the Coronavirus Pandemic to Evangelize People

The North Platte Baptist Church in North Platte, Nebraska recently published a tract that Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelizers can use to evangelize people who are fearful or troubled by the Coronavirus pandemic.

coronavirus tract north platte baptist church
coronavirus tract north platte baptist church

The gist of this tract is what? Fear the Coronavirus? What/who you better fear is God and Hell. Here we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, and the pastor of North Platte, William Reeves, wants to put the fear of God in people instead of helping them materially and physically. IFB zealots can’t seem to let go of their dogma long enough to act like decent human beings.

Most of the readers of this blog are people who would be considered evangelization prospects by North Platte and other IFB zealots. Let me ask you, would this tract “speak” to you in any meaningful way? If you were infected with the Coronavirus, would you find this track helpful? Let’s be a focus study group for Pastor Reeves and North Platte Baptist Church. Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

Listen to my Interview on the Preacher Boys Podcast with Eric Skwarczynski

polly bruce gerencser cranbrook gardens bloomfield hills michigan 1978
Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Cranbrook Gardens, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Spring 1978, two months before wedding.

Last week, I was interviewed by Eric Skwarczynski for his Preacher Boys Podcast. Eric is a Christian, formerly a part of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I had a delightful time talking with Eric, sharing my story, and giving my opinion about the health and future of the IFB church movement. The interview is over an hour long. I hope you will take the time to listen to it and let me know what you think.

I appreciate Eric’s kind and thoughtful words. I get a lot of negative press, so it is nice to hear someone speak well of me. I hope I live up to Eric’s lofty introduction.

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also find the podcast on Acast, Spotify, and Apple.

Why I Kept the Church Open When I Shouldn’t Have

pile of money

Thanks to various state governors, including Mike Dewine, the Republican governor of Ohio, houses of worship are exempt from gathering bans. While thousands of thoughtful, caring churches canceled services, more than a few Evangelical churches dug in their heels and kept their doors open. Whether out of the belief that the Coronavirus pandemic is a government attempt to take away civil liberties, an attempt by Democrats to take down President Donald Trump and spoil his reelection bid, or out of some sort of loyalty to Jesus and the Bible, none of these supposed defenders of God, freedom, and coffee after church are telling the real reason for carry on as normal.

I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. I hated to cancel services for any reason. “Sundays are meant for worship, bless God, and regardless of whether there are two feet of snow on the ground, the true Christians at _____________ (fill in the blank with name of church I was pastoring) are going to gather at their appointed times. Can I get an A-MEN? AMEN!” (Though I suspect more than a few members were thinking, FUCK YOU, PREACHER!)

Of course, people who cared about their personal safety and that of their family stayed home, but I could always count on some faithful souls showing up to worship the one true God. Rarely were these services memorable. Why? Because everyone there wanted to be somewhere else, myself included. “Then why have the services?” you might be thinking. Simple. Are you ready for the answer? I am going to blow your mind with my answer. The reason I was Heaven-bent on holding services regardless of the weather was because of money. Churches require money to operate. Most Evangelical churches don’t have large sums on deposit or investment accounts. Most churches rely solely on the tithes and offerings of attendees to operate. Without weekly offerings, churches quickly get into financial trouble. Churches are, in many ways, financially no different from the families they minister to. Living from offering to offering, many churches face employees not getting paid, utilities getting shut off, and mortgage payments going unpaid when services are canceled. It is for this very earthly reason many churches refuse to shut their doors during the current pandemic. Oh, they will put a shiny, pretty coat of paint on the situation and make all sorts of excuses, but the fact remains: it’s all about money. It is ALWAYS about the money (as it is for all of us).

“Bruce, surely congregants pay extra tithes and offerings to cover the services they missed?” While that is certainly a nice sentiment, far too many church members have a “no show, no money” approach to giving. Their thinking goes something like this: “If there are no services at church, why should I pay for sermons, sacraments, music, and fellowship not received?” I could count on offerings dropping fifty percent or more on weeks when services were canceled. Such income loss often meant that I didn’t get paid. Better to keep the lights on and propane in the tank than Pastor Bruce get paid. I know, what a guy, right? In retrospect, such thinking was stupid. It unfairly made me bear all the burden for decreased income. Instead of being honest with the churches I pastored about this, I, instead, bullied them into being present and accounted for on Sundays when ninety-nine percent of county churches were closed.

The good news is that by the time I started Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio in 1997, I had things figured out. Well, I had the offering issue figured out, anyway. I was no longer going to carry the load when church services were canceled and income was lost. I was first in line when it came to getting paid. I spent way too many years being the last person in line; often finding out that all that was left was a few widow’s mites, food stamps (yes, I preached that poor people should tithe their food stamps), and a cold half-eaten Big Mac.

While I certainly understand the financial pressures pastors and church leaders face when church doors are closed, they have a moral and ethical responsibility to act in the best interest of not only their congregants but the unsaved world they say they love and are trying to reach with the gospel of Christ. Want to model love, mercy, and responsibility, preacher? Shut the damn doors of your church until local, state, and federal officials say it is okay for people to safely gather in groups again. People will remember the pastors and churches who didn’t care about the health and welfare of others. They will also remember who put their lives before theology, politics, and money. How you respond during this crisis says a lot about you as a person, preacher and the church you pastor. Your “testimony” is speaking loud and clear.

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.

Is it Possible to Reform the IFB Church Movement?

for sale sign midwestern baptist college
For Sale Sign in Front of Midwestern Baptist College

I was interviewed recently for the Preacher Boys podcast by Eric Skwarczynski. The primary purpose of Eric’s podcast is to expose abuse within the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Eric is a Christian, but we share a common purpose when it comes to sexual abuse and clergy misconduct in IFB churches, so I was more than happy to lend my voice to his noble cause. The podcast will be available soon. I hope readers of this blog will find our discussion insightful and helpful.

At the end of the show, Eric asked me whether I thought the IFB church movement could be reformed. I told him I didn’t think it could be reformed and that I hoped to be alive when the IFB church drew its last breath. I want to be the person standing bedside with pillow in hand, smothering the last breath out of a religious movement that has caused incalculable harm. I have seen first-hand (and participated in) the carnage caused by IFB churches, colleges, and pastors. I have talked to and corresponded with countless people whose marriages, families, and personal lives were ruined in the name of the IFB God. The psychological wounds and scars run deep. The widening exposure of abuse within the IFB church movement is a sign that people are no longer willing to be cowed into silence by men who value protecting their reputations and their ministries more than they do victims. This exposure is in its infancy, so we can expect to see more and more abuse stories come forth in the days, months, and years ahead.

While it is certainly true that some IFB churches and pastors have “reformed,” I have found that the changes that they have made are largely cosmetic in nature. I don’t know of an IFB church that embraces progressive theology, liberal social values, or inclusivism. Big change in “reformed” IFB churches usually means they use translations other than the KJV, use drums, have praise and worship teams, allow women to wear pants, and permit men to have hair over their ears. Real “reformists” now let congregants go to movie theaters, drink beer from time to time, or read books not published by the Sword of the Lord or Bob Jones Press. Why, some IFB churches are so liberal that high school graduates are now permitted to attend colleges other than the ones attended by their pastors. Talk about unholy ecumenism! Such changes, however, are window dressings meant to give the appearance of a new, improved IFB. Once in the store, people find the same authoritarian practices and exclusionary doctrines. The fundamental problem with the IFB church movement is their beliefs and practices. These things will never change. They can’t. The very foundation of the IFB church movement is the notion of certainty and right belief. Countless IFB churches and pastors believe that they alone have the truth; that they alone are God’s voice and God’s chosen people in their communities. The IFB church movement has always been separatist in nature. I haven’t seen anything in recent years that suggests this has changed.

gary keen bruce mike fox greg wilson midwestern baptist college 1978
Gary Keen, Bruce Gerencser, Mike Fox, Greg Wilson, Midwestern Baptist College, 1978

The only cure for the IFB church movement is death. And the good news is this: IFB churches, colleges, mission agencies, and parachurch organizations are in numerical and economic decline. The heyday of the IFB church movement was 40 years ago. In the 1970s, many of the largest churches in the United States were IFB churches. Today, many of these same churches are either closed or shells of what they once were. From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan — an IFB institution started by Dr. Tom Malone in 1954. Midwestern was never a big college, but today it roughly has ten percent of the students it had in the 1970s. Its website is outdated, and current information about the college hasn’t been posted in ages. The spacious 32-acre college campus has long since been abandoned and, I believe, sold. Midwestern is now an ancillary ministry of Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan. Its president, David Carr, like his father Harry Carr, is a Midwestern grad. I predict that there is coming a day when I will hear that the college has closed its doors.

Dr. Malone was the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. A product of Bob Jones College, Malone started Emmanuel in 1942 after becoming increasingly troubled over what he perceived was liberalism in the Southern and American Baptist conventions. In the uber-sanitized authorized biography Tom Malone: The Preacher from Pontiac, Joyce Vick shares the following apocryphal story:

People ask me all the time, “Brother Tom, to what group do you belong? Of what association are you a member?”

I answer, “None.”

They ask, “Are you a Missionary Baptist?”

“Yes, I am.”

It may sound like a lie, but they do want to know what I am. “Are you a Southern Baptist?”

I say, “I am Southern and I am a Baptist.”

“Are you a Conservative Baptist?”

“Sure, I am conservative.”

“In what association book does Emmanuel Baptist Church appear?”

“Don’t have any.”

“Where are your headquarters?”

“I don’t have one.”

“You mean you don’t belong to anything?”

“No, I belong to the same thing to which the church at Antioch belongs. There is only one tie between New Testament churches, and that is the tie of fellowship. Each church is a local, autonomous church within itself. We have God, El Shaddai, and that’s enough.”

I have never felt I was called to preach for anybody, but I have felt I was caused to preach to everybody. I am not preaching for anybody but Jesus. There is nothing so wonderful, nothing so wholesome, as for a preacher to know there are no strings attached.

Thank God, I don’t have to fit into a denominational program. Thank God, I don’t have to get my orders from some national headquarters. Oh, thank God for the privilege of going to God for my directions! (pages 303, 304)

for sale sign emmanuel baptist church pontiac
For Sale Sign in Main Entrance Door, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Pontiac, Michigan

Emmanuel would be a new kind of Baptist church: an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist congregation. In the 1970s, Emmanuel had over 7,000 active members, and had attendances on special days over 5,000. Today? The doors of the church are shuttered, and its few remaining members scattered to other Fundamentalist churches in the area. The same story could be said of countless other IFB churches. Even First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, pastored by the late Jack Hyles and once arguably the largest church in the United States, is a shell of what it once was. Sure, you can find growing IFB churches here and there, but most of them are dying. Oh, they will still brag about the number of souls saved, but actual attendance numbers don’t lie.

My wife’s uncle, the late James Dennis, graduated from Midwestern in the 1960s. After pastoring a church in Bay City, Michigan, Jim moved to Newark, Ohio in 1968 to assume the pastorate of the Newark Baptist Temple. A church plant by the Akron Baptist Temple (started by Charles Vaden), the Baptist Temple, as it is commonly called, would see exciting numeric growth in the 1970s and early 1980s. However, by the time Jim died, after serving the Baptist Temple for forty-two years, the church was a shell of what it once was. Its one-time large Christian school was forced to drastically reduce its staff. Licking County Christian Academy (LCCA) at its inception was an Accelerated Christian School (A.C.E.) institution. It would later morph into an unaccredited traditional K-12 school. Today, a skeleton crew of staff use prerecorded Abeka videos to instruct students. Some of our relatives currently attend LCCA, as did our three oldest children for a short time.

emmanuel baptist church 1983
Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio, Bruce Gerencser’s ordination April 1983

Polly and I attended the Baptist Temple for a short time decades ago. I could write for hours about our experiences there — good and bad. We left the Baptist Temple in early 1981 to help Polly’s father, a 1976 graduate of Midwestern and Jim Dennis’ pastoral assistant, to plant a new church in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. I continued to have interaction with Jim and the Baptist Temple into the early 2000s. When our family briefly relocated to nearby Frazeyburg, Ohio in late 1994, people were shocked that we decided to NOT join the Baptist Temple, choosing instead to join the Fallsburg Baptist Church, an IFB congregation pastored by my former best friend Keith Troyer.

Over the years, I have watched the Baptist Temple “evolve.” While the church and its leaders are no longer as dogmatic as they once were over “church standards” (extra-Biblical rules used to govern and control the behavior of congregants), they are still a hardcore, right-wing, King James-only authoritarian congregation. When asked what I think has “changed” at the Baptist Temple, I laugh, and reply, “men are allowed to have facial hair now.” I suspect that this is not the kind of “reform” Eric Skwarczynski is talking about.

IFB institutions don’t reform. At best, they pretty themselves up a bit, hoping to attract unsuspecting visitors. Most IFB churches, however, remain committed to what they call “old-fashioned” Baptist beliefs and practices. They are proud to never have changed anything except their underwear. James Dennis was proud of the fact that be believed the same Biblical “truths” when he retired that he believed when graduating from Midwestern years before. No one should wear unchangeability as a badge of honor. “I have never changed my mind on anything. Bless your heart, my beliefs have never changed! Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and so am I. Can I get an AMEN?” And it is for this reason alone that I am convinced that it is impossible to reform the IFB church movement. The movement has chosen to die on the twin hills of arrogance and certainty. All any of us can do is to help them swiftly meet their end.

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.

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