Tag Archive: Old Fashioned Church

“Old-Fashioned” Preaching: Calling Sin Sin, Stepping on Toes, And Naming Names

old-fashioned preaching jack hyles

“Old-fashioned” is a word used by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers and churches to describe their ministries and preaching. It is not uncommon to hear of IFB churches labeling themselves as “old-fashioned” churches. When asked what they mean by the word “old-fashioned,” IFB preachers will say “our churches are like the first-century churches in the Bible.” Never mind the fact that their churches don’t remotely resemble early Christian churches. IFB preachers see themselves as the keepers of the “faith once delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3) They believe that their Baptist theology is the same as that which Jesus, the 12 disciples, and the Apostle Paul preached almost 2,000 years ago. Sound like something straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? It is. As anyone who has spent time in “old-fashioned” IFB churches knows, such churches pattern themselves after 1950s Evangelical churches, and not the churches founded by  Peter, Timothy, and Paul. There’s nothing in IFB belief and practice that resembles early church practices. N-o-t-h-i-n-g.

IFB pastors frequently say that they are “old-fashioned” preachers, preaching the “old-fashioned” faith. What, exactly, is “old-fashioned” preaching? In what way does it differ from modern preaching? “Old-fashioned” IFB pastors think that “old-fashioned” preaching requires stepping on toes, calling sin sin, and naming names. “Old-fashioned” preaching is also called “hard” preaching. As opposed to what — “soft preaching”; on viagra preaching as opposed to erectile dysfunction preaching?

billy sunday preaching

Evangelist Billy Sunday, an IFB Idol

“Old-fashioned” preaching usually includes theatrics by preachers: loud preaching, shouting, pacing the platform, standing on the pews, pounding the pulpit, running the aisles with Bible raised high, to name a few. Such preaching is quite entertaining, but “old-fashioned?” Hardly. Such preaching styles find their roots in southern revivalism. People attend “old-fashioned” churches because they want to emotionally “feel” God. Thinking that they are “feeling” the Holy Ghost, well-intentioned congregants are blind to the fact that they are being psychologically manipulated by purveyors of “old-fashioned” preaching.

If I stopped writing at this point, most readers would laugh and dismiss “old-fashioned” preaching as a harmless cultural artifact of Christian Fundamentalism. However, many IFB preachers use “old-fashioned” preaching to abuse, manipulate, and control congregants. Imagine sitting in church on Sunday and hearing your pastor preach on the very “sins” you confessed to him during counseling? Or imagine being called out by name from the pulpit? Imagine having to sit in church and silently endure belittling sermons that are used by expert manipulators to control your behavior and that of your fellow church members? I spent decades of my adult life attending IFB churches. Such sermons are common. As an IFB pastor, I preached similar “old-fashioned” sermons. Imagine the poor school teachers who had to endure my sermon on the evil of unions. Or pants-wearing women who had to silently suffer as I lambasted them for their slutty dress. There was no “sin” that couldn’t be turned into a forty-minute, better-wear-steel-toed-boots, “old-fashioned” hellfire and brimstone sermon. I look back on that period of my ministerial career, and all I can say is this: “Bruce, you were a raving lunatic.” And so were my colleagues in the ministry, and the preachers I heard at preacher’s meetings and conferences.

Fortunately, I didn’t remain an “old-fashioned” preacher. In the late 1980s, I realized that what I was supposed to do as a pastor was teach the Bible to congregants and help them in their day-to-day lives. Of course, some of my colleagues thought I had abandoned “old-fashioned” Christianity or had lost my “fire.” Perhaps, but I came to a place in my life where I was content to just teach the Bible and let God do his work as he saw fit. I stopped the pulpit theatrics and abandoned the use of psychologically manipulative sermon illustrations. I also stopped giving altar calls. Granted, my new-found Calvinistic theology drove some of these changes, but the bigger issue for me is that I was tired of beating congregants over the head with the proverbial “sin” stick.

Did you attend an “old-fashioned” church? Did your pastor preach “old-fashioned” sermons? Please leave your “old-fashioned” thoughts in the comment section. 🙂

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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.

What Baptists Mean When They Use the Phrase Old-Fashioned

old fashioned baptist church

Statement from website for Green Pond Baptist Church, Carl Hall, pastor

Many Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches advertise themselves as an “old- fashioned” church. Many IFB preachers call themselves an old-fashioned preacher. What do they mean when they say they are an old-fashioned church or an old-fashioned preacher?

An old-fashioned church is one that yearns for the past, usually the 1950s. In their mind, if society and Christianity would return to the 1950s all would be well. In the 1950s, Negroes knew their place, women were barefoot and pregnant, birth control was hard to come by, abortion was illegal, homosexuals and atheists were in the closet, and Joseph McCarthy terrorized Americans with attempts to root out communism. In the 1950s, we fought a war against communism, teachers still prayed and read the Bible in school, creationism was considered good science, and Christianity controlled the public space.

Then came the rebellious1960s and 1970s,  and everything changed. Fifty years later, blacks no longer know their place, whites are becoming a minority, couples no longer get married,  women have access to birth control, homosexuals and atheists are out of the closet, a Kenyan-born Muslim socialist communist black man is president, abortion is legal, school prayer and Bible reading is banned, creationism is considered religious dogma, same-sex marriage is legal, and Christianity is no longer given a preferential seat at the head of the cultural table.

From the fundamentalist Christian’s perspective, I readily understand why they yearn for the old-fashioned days of the 1950s. The 1950s were a time when their brand of Christianity was the norm. Now they are fighting to be heard. Uncounted church members have left, seeking out the friendlier confines of generic Evangelicalism. Instead of hard preaching against sin, Christians clamor for pastors who will “feed” them and minister to their felt needs. Most of all, they want to be entertained. Nones and atheists are increasing in number, and more and more people consider themselves spiritual and not religious. Pluralism and secularism are on the rise and cultural Christianity is the norm and not the exception.

So what’s an old-fashioned Baptist church like? Their services are quite traditional, traditional meaning how it was in the 1950s. The focus is on “hard” preaching, often from the King James Version of the Bible. The goal is to convert sinners and strengthen church members so they can withstand the wiles of the devil. Everything the old-fashioned Baptist church does is a throwback to yesteryear — an era when preachers preached hard, hymns were sung, altar calls were given, couples stayed married, women saved themselves for marriage and the kitchen, and the Christian church was the hub around which the community revolved.

Millions of Americans attend some sort of an old-fashioned church, even if the Baptist name is not over the front door. They love the respite their church gives them from the evil, sinful, atheistic Obama-inspired world they live in. They love the certainty they hear in their pastor’s sermons. They are glad to be a part of a group that thinks just like they do. For those who desire to live in the 1950s, an old-fashioned church fits the bill. It heals their angst and gives them peace. It does not matter if their beliefs are true or whether their practice accurately reflects the 1950s. People finding value, hope, peace, and direction does not require truth. All it requires is faith and them believing their “old-fashioned” version of Christianity is true. This is this power of myth.