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Tag: Leaving the Ministry

David Tee Says I’m a Quitter and Have Nothing to Offer People

dr david tee

“Dr.” David Tee (not his real name; his actual name is David Thiessen), a self-described Evangelical theologian and archeologist, doesn’t like me. My feelings are so hurt. 🙂 Yesterday, he wrote a post on his blog objecting to my post, It Only Takes One Errant Word to Destroy the Inerrancy of the Bible. Tee, an ardent, closed-minded Fundamentalist, had this to say about my post:

Over the years as we have followed God’s call to work with Christian pastors in our limited fashion, we have come across a lot of different people. Many of those people are like Mr. Bruce Gerencser a deconverted Christian or former pastor who used to believe the Bible (Or however he describes himself).

We are sad that he is sick but that is life and we all suffer at one point in time or another. We have known Mr. Gerencer for many years and never see eye to eye like the owner of Muskrat Musing.

In one of his articles on his website, Mr. Gerenscer has written It Only Takes One Errant Word to Destroy the Inerrancy of the Bible, which we do take issue with. (sorry had to change colors as it blended in with the link color).

The impression we got from reading his content, is that he thinks his eyes were opened to the truth and that he received the truth, which is why he downgraded the Bible and left his pastorate, career, and calling.

There is a lot of content in his article that should be refuted and we will bypass the Dr. Ehrman quotes for this article. The gist of the content is that Mr. Gerenscer thinks he has the truth, and all the fundamentalists and Christians he hates do not.

That is impossible as Jesus said he was the truth and he did not say the Bible was in error or had any errors in it. He told s if things were not true, he would have told us and we have received no divine scripture that corrects the biblical content.

….

At best, he points to works written by secular authors or scientists and claims that they have the truth over God’s writers. But how can that be when Jesus said the Christian is to be the light unto a dark world.

It is not the secular world or secular science that has the truth. If they did, Jesus would not have been needed nor would we need him to die on the cross. We would go to the person leading those secular people instead.

….

He is very misguided and deceived as it is not the Christian, their faith, the Bible, or Jesus that are harming those people who refuse to repent of their sins. The person harming those people is the one who traps them in those sinful activities and fights to keep them from being converted-the devil.

The Christian is showing the love when they try to rescue those unbelievers from that trap while Mr. Gerenscer and people like him are showing their hatred towards those people by helping evil keep its hold on them.

….

Mr. Gerenscer, and people like him, listened to those who do not believe over God. The people who infect young minds with falsehoods are those who stop believing God and accept the words of unbelievers who were not at the event they are trashing.

….

Mr. Gerenscer moves on to social issues and claims there are proof texts prohibiting certain preferences etc. Those are not proof texts but God’s communication on how he feels about certain things.

Yes, many believers get the verses wrong and apply them in a wrong fashion but that is due more to immaturity and bad instruction. Not to errors in the Bible. If God did not say those words, then we do not have God’s view of those social activities or preferences.

In other words, Mr. Gerenscer and others like him, want to live life their way and be god declaring what is right or wrong, good or evil, moral or immoral. They do not want to humble themselves and accept God as their God and live by his rules.

….

You cannot solve problems if you are going to leave the answers at home or in your car but then Mr. Gerenscer does not want to solve problems, especially God’s way. He wants people to remain in their sins because he has determined that God and his word are wrong (according to his limited thinking).

If people are going to trash me publicly, I wish they would at least spell my last name correctly. How hard can it be, right? GERENCSER.

I “love” Tee’s passive-aggressive comment about me being sick. What Tee is saying is this: everyone is sick now and again. Quit talking about it, wimp. As you shall see in a moment, Tee thinks I am “weak.” Besides, what does the fact that I suffer from gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis have anything to do with inerrancy? Of course, Tee said very little about the subject of my post: the inerrancy of the Bible. Instead, he went after me as a person. Tee can’t square my story with his theology or personal experiences, so he attacks my character instead. Sadly, this is common behavior by Christian Fundamentalists. Instead of critiquing my writing, they zero in what they believe are character flaws/failures. Tis the price paid for being a public figure, I suppose. Such behavior only drives people farther away from Christianity. One of the reasons I publish the stuff people say about me is that it shows readers the ugly underbelly of Evangelical Christianity. And, it’s fun.

Tee wasn’t done with me. Today, he wrote post titled, We Call Them Quitters. While Tee used plural pronouns in the article’s title, the body of the text reveals that the title should have been, I Call Bruce Gerencser a Quitter. The post is excerpted below. My response is indented and italicized.

In our last article, we wrote about one man who turned away from Christ and left his faith. He actually represents all the people who have done the exact same thing since Christ was here.

Tee believes in original sin and the substitutionary death of Jesus. Simply put, when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden 6,023 years ago, humanity sinned. We had no choice in the matter. We don’t become sinners — we are sinners. Of course, since Tee believes we are created in the image of God, that means that God either gave us our sin natures, or God himself is a sinner, and we are just like Daddy.

When the virgin-born, sinless son of God, Jesus, was executed on a Roman cross, he died to provide atonement for human sin. We deserved to be executed (why? Jesus is one who did what he did, not me) but Jesus died in our place. His Father hates sin and those who do it. If the All-Father (tell me you get the reference) had his way (you mean God can’t have his way?) all of us would end up in Hell for eternity. Jesus, the mediator between God and man, stood between humanity and his angry Father, dying on the cross on our behalf (unless you are a Calvinist — then Jesus just died for the elect. Non-elect need not apply). Even today, Jesus sits at the right hand of his Father, interceding on our behalf. This makes me think that Jesus’ Father needs to take anger management classes. Blaming billions of humans for what Adam and Eve did doesn’t seem just or fair. Regardless, that’s the plan the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit — the “we are not three gods, just one” deity — cooked up from before the foundation of the world.

Much like Adam and Eve and Jesus, I too represent a group of people: those who turned away from Jesus Christ and Christianity. I, Bruce, Gerencser, am the substitutionary Christian-turned-unbeliever. Not just Christians who are now atheists or agnostics, ALL Christians-turned-unbelievers. Awesome, right?

We are not singling him out as he just parrots the same words all the rest of the former Christians say and nothing is new coming out of his mouth or from his keyboard.

Hell, David, at least be honest. You most certainly are singling me out.

The Bible talks about running the race, fighting the good fight, and keep on doing it till the end. But Mr. Generscer and the people like him, have decided that they know better than God and quit the race, etc.

We do not support their moves, call them intelligent, or think they have something to offer. Instead, we call them quitters. They could not handle the fight, strive to the end, and did not take the right precautions to protect their faith.

Generscer? That’s a new one.

According to Tee, I am a quitter. Instead of running the race set before me, wearing a faith condom, and persevering to the end, I just up and quit. Instead of trying to understand the complexities of my story, Tee reduces my life to that of a quitter.

I attended Midwestern Baptist College, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution, in the 1970s. Dr. Tom Malone (who had a doctorate from an accredited university, Wayne State University), president of Midwestern and pastor of a nearby megachurch, Emmanuel Baptist Church, frequently railed against quitters in his sermons. Quitting was viewed as a cardinal sin, a sign of weakness. I heard this theme repeated over and over again at IFB Bible conferences and pastor’s meetings. Good Christians never quit. The fact that my six-month pregnant wife and I, recently unemployed, left Midwestern after three years was proof to Malone, our professors, and classmates that we were weak. I vividly remember a close friend of mine telling me as we were packing up the U-Haul to leave, “If you quit, God will NEVER use you.”

Seven years later, Malone was preaching at a Bible conference at the Newark Baptist Temple in Newark, Ohio. The church was pastored at the time by Polly’s uncle, James Dennis. Her father, Lee, was the church’s assistant pastor. At the time, I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. In the mid-80s, the church grew quickly, reaching 200 in attendance — quite a feat for a country church. Hundreds of people were saved through my preaching. By all accounts, I was an up-and-coming pastor.

My father-in-law told Malone about my exploits for Jesus. Seeing that I was sitting in the pews, Malone called me out by name and then said, “If Bruce had stayed any longer at Midwestern, we would have ruined him.” Everyone laughed. I thought, “I wonder what those people who called me a quitter think now?”

I have quit all sorts of things over the years. I suspect most of us have done the same. No big deal, right? Tee, however, is using the word “quitter” as a slur. People who “quit” Christianity are weak, unlike Mr. Tee, the True Christian®.

When you look at their websites, there is a common theme to them. We won’t quote from Mr. Gerenscer’s site, we will just link to his commenting rules page as that is where you find this common element found among all those who have left the faith.

Now we are to one of the reasons Tee’s feathers are ruffled, why he has written two posts about me in recent days. Tee doesn’t like the commenting rules for this site. He doesn’t like that I don’t let him and other Evangelical zealots publicly masturbate (it’s a metaphor, David)) in the comment section. Tee wants the right to whip out his Bible Dick whenever he wants on this site. Me telling him to put it away, zip up his pants, and move on down the road is an affront to all that is holy and true.

The commenting policy was crafted due to me spending the past thirteen years dealing with the David Tees of the world. For those who have not read the comment policy, here’s what it says:

— begin comment policy —

All commenters are expected to use a functioning email address. The use of a fake or non-functioning email address will result in your comment being deleted.

Pseudonyms are permitted. Please use one, and only one, pseudonym when commenting on this blog. People using more than one will have their comments deleted.

All first-time comments and comments with more than one HTML link are moderated. Depending on the time of day, It might take hours for me to approve your comment.

Before commenting, please read the ABOUT page to acquaint yourself with my background. You might also want to read the Dear Evangelical page and the WHY page

The following type of comments will not be approved:

  • Preachy/sermonizing comment
  • Bible verse-quoting comment
  • Evangelizing comment
  • I am praying for you comment
  • You are going to hell comment
  • You never were saved comment
  • You never were a Christian comment
  • Any comment that is a personal attack on me personally, my family, or the readers of this blog
  • Any comment that is not on point with what the post is about
  • Any comment that denigrates abuse victims

I write about issues that might not be child-friendly. Please be aware of this. I also use profanity from time to time, and I allow the use of profanity in the comment section.

The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser is not a democracy where visitors have a right to say whatever they want. This is my personal blog and I reserve the right to approve or disapprove any comment. When a comment or a commenter is abusive towards the community of people who read this blog, I reserve the right to ban the commenter.

If you can be respectful, decent, and thoughtful, your comment will always be approved. Unfortunately, there are many people — Evangelical/Fundamentalist/IFB/Conservative Catholic Christians in particular — who have a hard time playing well with others. Using a passive-aggressive approach in the comment section will not be tolerated and will result in a permanent ban.

This blog is also not a place for hardcore atheists to preach the gospel of atheism. While I am an atheist, some of the people who read this blog are not. Frank, honest, open, and passionate discussion about religion, Christianity, and Evangelicalism is encouraged and welcome. However, I do expect atheists not to attack, badger, or denigrate people who still believe in God. If you are respectful, decent, and thoughtful, you will be fine.

Generally, I will post one comment from a preachy, Bible-quoting, evangelizing Evangelical. If this describes you, please make sure you say all you need to say in your comment. By all means, say whatever it is you think “God” is leading you to say, but understand that no further comments will be approved once you have said your piece.

My writing is direct and pointed, and so is my response to comments. Please do not confuse my directness and pointedness with me attacking you or your religion. This is a grown-up blog, so cries that I offended you or “attacked” your religion will fall on deaf ears.

If you can play by these rules, I hope you will become a part of our community and join the discussion.

If you have further questions about the commenting policy, please use the contact form to email me.

— end of comment policy —

I determined long ago that my target group was Christians (primarily Evangelicals) who had questions or doubts about their faith and people who had already left Christianity. This blog is for them, not Evangelical apologists. That said, EVERY Evangelical commenter is given one opportunity to say whatever it is they believe God is laying upon their heart. If they show that they can play well with others, I will approve further comments. If I have learned anything over the years, I have learned that most Evangelicals are pathologically unable to play well with others. Give them the opportunity to comment, and they will show their true colors. When Evangelical commenters DEMAND further access to the comment section, I typically tell them to fuck off and to start their own blogs. Such people can start a blog in five minutes. Then they are free to critique my writing, deconstruct my life, or attack my character. Go for it!

As you read those rules, you will see that he, and others like him, act worse than they claim God acts. They are little dictators who demand that their readers and commenters follow their rules exactly or they will be excluded from public viewing.

I act worse than God? Really? I don’t believe I have ever committed genocide or slaughtered the whole human race, save eight. I am, in every way, a better person than God. All one needs to do is read the Bible to see that Richards Dawkins was right when he said:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

They hate God for excluding sin from his paradise, yet their own little world comes with worse rules than what God has set up. Violate them in a minute way and you are gone.

Sorry, David, I don’t hate God. You know this. I have told you this before, dude. One has to believe God exists to hate him. I don’t. I don’t hate mythical beings. Doing so is a colossal waste of time. Do you hate Santa Claus?

Again, Tee’s post is about him not being allowed to comment on this site or not being permitted to say whatever he wants. (He is not presently banned.) Imagine me going to an Evangelical church and demanding that they let me speak. I want to share with them the Gospel of Bruce Almighty. Do you know of any church that would let me preach to them the unsearchable riches of Bruce? Of course not. So it is with this blog. I want to be a help to people who have questions and doubts or have left Christianity. I use the comment policy to protect the people that matter to me. Well, that and the fact that I haven’t heard an original thought from Evangelical zealots in years. I’m bored, people.

What this tells you is that those who have left the faith have nothing to offer anyone, especially their former Christian counterparts. If they had such a better way, why is it not present in their rules and their conduct?

Huh?

I can say this much, thousands of people read my writing every day. So much for not having anything to offer anyone. I would be glad to compare traffic numbers with Tee. I suspect we will find out who it is that really has nothing to offer anyone. Size matters, David.

If they found something better than God why is it not permeating their words and actions showing the believer there is something better than God and his ways? When you read their content and comments, all we are seeing in them is more of the sin that Jesus is trying to save everyone from.

There is nothing in these people’s words or actions that show the world that they have found something no one else has. They just glorify sin and revel in it. That is not worth giving up eternal life.

Another common element you will see in their words and actions is hatred. They hate God, Jesus, and those that follow them. They hate other people who cling to their Christian faith, they hate hearing other people’s points of view if it is religious in nature.

Yep, this blog is all about sinning. Wait until you see the photos of me doing my Santa striptease act. I wish I could do more sinning. I am too sick to do so. Of course, I am being sarcastic. Well, not about the sinning part. I suspect that my life would measure up quite well with that of Saint Tee and his merry band of critics. Tee can’t bear that I am happy post-Jesus. Nope, in his mind, I sit around all day raging against God, the Bible, and True Christians®. Sure, dude, sure. I’m going to the zoo tomorrow with my youngest daughter’s family. And Sunday, Polly and I are going out on a date. I don’t have much time to hate on Hey-Zeus.

Sorry, David, you have concocted a picture of my life in your mind that is not true. That Bruce Gerencser does not exist.

Oh, our pingback from the other post was never approved, which backs up our point (we checked several times). Then they hate it when people disagree with them or try to bring them back to the faith, which Peter has said is impossible.

Ah, now we arrive at the real reason Tee is upset at me. I allegedly didn’t approve a pingback. What is a pingback, you ask? WP Beginner describes it this way:

“Pingback allows you to notify other bloggers that you have linked to their article on your website. Although there are some minor technical differences, a trackback is basically the same thing as a pingback.”

I approve ALL ALL ALL legitimate pingbacks. I have received no pingback from either of Tee’s posts. It must be my fault, right? What else could have gone wrong? As long-time bloggers know, the pingback system is not infallible. Just like the Bible. . .

Here’s the irony of Tee’s complaint. I have mentioned several of his posts over the years. I have pingback enabled on this site. That means Tee has received pingbacks from this blog. Where are they, David? Not one pingback from this site is shown on your posts. Why is that? Hypocrite. (Update: Several pingbacks have now miraculously appeared on Tee’s blog.)

What Tee wants is attention, and outside of this post, I will not give it to him. Per the comment policy, I will grant him one comment on this post. Let ‘er rip, big boy.

We are not and do not try to preach to Mr. Gerenscer and others like him as that would be a waste of time. We just point out the errors in their thinking to protect believers.

Those people have nothing to offer you but like the evil they follow, they will try and rob you of eternal life with Jesus. You have to take care to protect your faith as no matter what level in life the unbeliever enjoys, they have nothing over God to offer you.

Their education and experiences are used against them to ruin their faith and they are no trying to do to you what was done to them. At best ignore them and point out their fallacies to others so you can win souls for Christ instead of losing yours to Christ’s enemy.

….

The unbeliever has nothing to offer you even if they are the greatest scientist, teacher, leader, athlete, and so on in the world. Just do not be fooled by their fake claims of being a Christian.

I am just one man with a story to tell. That people find my story helpful or compelling is not my fault. Perhaps, the real question is WHY my story resonates with people. (Look in the mirror, David.) I am content to write and leave it at that. I have received thousands and thousands of emails, comments, and social media messages from professing Christians over the years — some of whom still read this blog. Not one time I have ever tried to deconvert someone. My goal has never been to make atheist converts. Helping people had always been my objective. I leave it to readers to determine whether I have done so.

I suspect Tee’s real issue with me is that he sees my congregation growing. He sees my words influencing and helping others. He reads stories about people who praise me for helping them in the deconversion process. Thus, Tee feels the need to demonize me and attack my character (and the readers of this blog). He simply can’t stand losing.

And dammit, my last name is spelled Gerencser. Get it right! 🙂

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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.

Bruce, If You Don’t Believe in Jesus Anymore, Who Do You Think Called You Into the Ministry?

emmanuel baptist church 1983
Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio, Bruce Gerencser’s ordination April 1983, age 25

Several years ago, I received the following email:

I read your blog. Thanks for sharing. I have been an Evangelical Christian since I was 5. I accepted Jesus of the Bible at that time. When I read your “Why I Hate Jesus”, it made me sad. I couldn’t help but think that you have had a lot of pain from people who profess Jesus Christ and that Jesus Himself has let you down. I did have a question. On your ABOUT page, the question was “when were you called into the ministry. ” If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?

In this post, I want to focus on the question, “If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?”

This is a fairly common question I am asked when someone is trying to square my current atheistic life with that of the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. I believed that it was GOD who called me into the ministry, but now I believe that this same God is a fiction. If God doesn’t exist, who is it then that spoke to my “heart” as a fifteen-year-old boy, telling me that I was to be a pastor, a preacher of the good news of the gospel?

The Evangelical culture I grew up in emphasized the importance of boys and girls growing up to be full-time servants of Jesus Christ. Children and teenagers were encouraged to pray and ask God if he wanted them to devote their lives to the ministry, be it as a pastor, evangelist, or missionary. As Hannah did with Samuel, parents were challenged to give their children over to God, hoping that he might see fit to use them in a mighty way to advance his Kingdom. Pastors considered it a sign of God’s favor if teen boys were called to preach under their ministry. Like the gunslingers of yesteryear, pastors put a notch on their gospel gun every time a boy surrendered to the ministry.

Being called to full-time service means you are special, uniquely chosen by God to do his work. From the moment a boy says, preacher, I think God is calling me to preach, he is treated by the church as some sort of extraordinary human being. I heard countless preachers say that being called into the ministry was the greatest calling in the world; that becoming President of the United States would be a step down from the ministry. Preacher boys — as young men called into the ministry are often nicknamed — are quickly given preacher things to do. No time is better than NOW, I was told, to start serving God and preaching his Word. I preached my first sermon to the Junior High Sunday school class two weeks after I stood before the church and said, God is calling me to be a preacher. I spent the next few years honing my preaching skills at youth meetings, nursing homes, and any other place that didn’t mind hearing the ramblings of an inexperienced, uneducated boy preacher. By the time I delivered my last sermon in April 2005, I had preached 4,000+ messages, often preaching three or more sermons a week.

What I have written above is key to answering the question, “If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?” Since I don’t think God exists, the only way I can possibly answer this question is from an environmental, psychological, cultural, and sociological perspective. It is important to remember that it is not necessary for God to exist for people to believe that he does. Billions of people believe in a supernatural deity/force that does not exist. Every day, billions of people will pray to, worship, and swear allegiance to deities that cannot be seen, heard, or touched. These deities can, however, be felt, and it is these feelings that lead people to believe that their invisible God is indeed real. Thus, I KNOW that God called me into the ministry because I “felt” him speak to me. This is no different from the five-year-old Bruce Gerencser believing that Santa Claus somehow came down the chimney every Christmas Eve and put presents under the tree just for him. Of course, time, experience, and knowledge caused me to see that my beliefs about Santa were false, as they did when it came to my beliefs about God.

These religious feelings and beliefs of mine were reinforced by the Bible. Various verses in the Word of God speak of men who are called to be pastors/elders/bishops/missionaries/evangelists. Variously interpreted by Christian sects, all agree on one point: God calls boys/men (and in some cases, girls/women) into the ministry. This calling is essentially God laying his hand on someone and saying, I have set you apart for my use. Church youngsters are regaled with stories about men and women called by God who did great works. From the Bible, stories of the faith-driven exploits of Noah, Moses, David, Gideon, Elijah, Elisha, Joshua, the apostles, and Paul are used as reminders of what God can and will do for those willing to dedicate their lives to serving him. Church children are encouraged to read the biographies of men (and a few women) mightily used by God. I heard more than a few preachers say, look at what God did through Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Dwight Moody, Bob Jones, John R. Rice, Billy Sunday, Adoniram Judson, Andrew Fuller, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, Jack Hyles, B.R. Lakin, and countless other servants of God. Who knows what God might do through you if you will dare to surrender your life to him? What young preacher boy wouldn’t want to be someday used by God like these men?

I spent thirty-three years believing that God had called me to preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ; that this calling was irrevocable; that misery and judgment (and perhaps death) awaited if I failed to obey God. The Apostle Paul said in First Corinthians 9:16:

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!

As with Paul, Bruce the Evangelical preacher had a burning desire to preach the gospel; to tell as many people as possible that Jesus alone can save them from their sin; that there is a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain; that what is a man profited if he gain the world and lose his soul. I shed countless tears over the lost — both in and out of the church. I spent untold hours praying for revival to break out in America, spreading to the ends of the earth. Believing Jesus was coming back to earth soon, I devoted myself to making sure as many people as possible heard the gospel. I thought, at the time, my duty is to tell them. It is up to God to save them. For many years, my evangelistic zeal burned so hot that I preached a minimum of four sermons a week, along with preaching on the streets and holding services at the local nursing home and county jail. To quote the motto of Midwestern Baptist College — the institution I attended in the 1970s — Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry, Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry. We Never Will Give in While Souls are Lost in Sin, Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry!

My burning the candle at both ends wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t believe that God had called me into the ministry and was speaking to and through me. I believed that this God existed. I may never have seen God or audibly heard him, but I felt his presence in my life. I “heard” the Holy Spirit speaking to me, leading me, and teaching me truth. These experiences of mine were verified by what I read in the Bible and Christian biographies and what I observed in the lives of my pastors, teachers, and mentors. Most of all, they were verified by the work God accomplished through my preaching and leadership. How then, knowing these things, can I now believe that God is a work a fiction; that my ministerial experiences were the work, not of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit, but the works of a quite-human Bruce Gerencser?

The deconversion process afforded me the opportunity to step back from my life and view it from a distance. As I looked at my parents’ religious, theological, social, and political leanings and that of the pastors of the churches we attended, it would have been shocking if I hadn’t, as a teenager, professed that God was calling me into the ministry. At age five, while we were living in San Diego and attending Scott Memorial Baptist Church (Scott Memorial was pastored by Tim LaHaye), I told my mother that I was going to be a preacher someday. Not a baseball player, policeman, or garbage truck driver — a preacher! This, of course, pleased my Mom. (Ironically, neither my mother or father ever heard me preach.) When people talked about the angst they had over trying to determine what they wanted to do with their lives when they grew up, I had no frame of reference. I never wrestled with what I wanted to be as an adult. I always wanted to be a preacher, and by God’s wonderful, matchless grace, that is exactly what I became. Everything I experienced in my life led me to the monumental day at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio, when, with tears and trembling, I told the church God was calling me into the ministry. Scores of fellow church members shouted Amen! and later hugged me, telling me that they would pray for me. I am sure that more than a few people had mixed feelings about my calling. Really Lord? Are you sure you can use this temperamental, ornery redheaded boy? I have often wondered what my peers thought as I went from the boy who told the youth director to fuck off! to a young man who loved Jesus, carried his Bible to school, handed out tracts to his unsaved friends, went soulwinning, worked on a bus route, and occasionally preached at Sunday evening youth meetings. The old Bruce, who wore frayed jeans, boots, and tee-shirts to church, gave way to the New Bruce, who wore preacher clothes, including ties. What’s next? Swearing off girls? Anyone who knew me as a preacher boy knows I resolutely obeyed the Baptist Rulebook®. (Please read The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) I didn’t smoke, drink, cuss, listen to rock music, or engage in premarital sex. I had plenty of girlfriends, but I drew the line at kissing, holding hands, and putting our arms around each other. My commitment to virginity was part of my devotion to God. As much as I wanted to have sex, I willingly took many a cold shower, keeping myself pure until my wedding day.

Most Baptist preachers will likely say that they just KNEW God was calling them to preach. If they are still Christians, I am sure they attribute their feelings to supernatural intervention. It’s all because of J-E-S-U-S, not me, I’m sure they’ll say, yet the signs in front of their churches say Rev. So-and-So, Pastor. You see, the whole notion of being called by God is rooted not in the supernatural, but in earthly human experiences. My Baptist faith taught me to call my interest in the ministry a calling from God, but in truth, it was the natural outcome of my upbringing and experiences. My entrance into the preaching fraternity was never in doubt. How could I not have become a preacher?

There is nothing in my story that requires the actual existence of a supernatural deity. All that is required is that I, along with the other players in my life, believe God exists. For my first fifty years of life, I believed that the Evangelical God was every bit a real as the sun, moon, stars, and earth. And now I don’t. Does this invalidate my years in the ministry? Of course not. All that has changed is my perspective and how I see my trajectory from a sinner to a Holy Spirit-led follower of Jesus Christ. Instead of God being the first cause, I now know that environmental, psychological, cultural, and sociological influences molded me into the man who would one day preach thousands of sermons in churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Congregants called me Pastor Bruce, Rev. Gerencser, or Preacher — the man of God who spoke the Word of God to the people of God. I now know who I really was . . . his name is Bruce.

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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.

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Bruce Gerencser