Yesterday, I received the following email from a young Independent Fundamentalist Baptist man (IFB) named Nate Lesmeister. My response is italicized and indented:
Hello Mr. Gerencser, thank you for reading my email. I just wanted to ask you a quick favor. Please stop writing such negative articles about independent fundamental Baptist churches.
I grew up in the IFB church movement, attended an IFB college in the 1970s, married an IFB preacher’s daughter, and pastored IFB and other Evangelical churches for 25 years. I visited countless IFB churches, preached for numerous IFB pastors, and attended/preached at IFB conferences and preacher’s meetings for years.
My wife’s family is littered with IFB pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and their spouses. I continue daily to follow and read IFB blogs and websites, even though what I read sickens me. I can safely say that I am an expert when it comes to the IFB church movement. And journalists and reporters think so too. I am regularly contacted for input, background, or comment on IFB stories.
Maybe Lesmeister doesn’t know these things, but he should. I have made it very easy for readers to find out about my background. I have led the proverbial horse to water, but it’s up to the horse to drink.
Are there some messed-up, awful people within the movement? Yes! However, although you may be sincere in simply wanting to point out the bad folks, you’re also hurting a lot of good ones. The majority of pastors and members of IFB churches truly love God and just want to do what’s right.
Let me be crystal clear, the IFB church movement is a cult. Some of the cultists are nicer than others, but that doesn’t change the fact that they psychologically, and, at times, physically harm people. This blog has provided ample evidence to back up the claim that the IFB church movement is a cult.
I have no doubt that many IFB preachers are “good” people and want to do what is “right.” I was one such man for many years. But, regardless of their “goodness,” these men of God teach, preach, and practice harmful, hateful, and dangerous beliefs.
Over the past 12 years, I have received hundreds and hundreds of emails from IFB preachers, pastor’s wives, and congregants who have been seriously harmed by the IFB church movement. Beliefs have consequences.
Worse, thousands of IFB zealots have emailed me or left comments on this blog that can best be described as vile and hateful. These “loving” people you speak of have attacked me personally, attacked my wife, and said despicable things about my children and grandchildren. Nice people? I think not!
I have gone to an IFB church my entire life, two in Minnesota and one in Kentucky, all them had loving, kind pastors who were not the “control freaks” that you seem to paint all IFB preachers to be. The majority of their church members were extremelly gracious in their speech and many times I would here a first-time guest say something like, “This is the friendliest church I’ve ever been to.”
I have done enough research on you to know that you are a young guy in his 20s. You have attended all of three IFB churches in your lifetime, and have only been old enough to make critical judgments about your tribe for a few years. I have attended more IFB churches in a week than you have attended in your lifetime. My advice to you is that you need to get out more and critically survey the broad spectrum of the IFB church movement. And then run!
Not all of us are like the weird, crazy, heretical, money-grabbing, numbers-driven group that you paint us out to be. Whether you mean to or not, you often give the impression that all IFB churches are followers of Steven Anderson, Phil Kidd, or some other crazy “pastor”.
I have never said that all IFB churches are “followers of Steven Anderson, Phil Kidd, or some other crazy “pastor.” I can, however, say with confidence, that IFB churches and pastors tend to be quite tribal; that churches often fellowship around particular IFB colleges or fellowship groups; that these tribes have chiefs that are considered the stars of their tribes.
You came to this site via a Bing search for Phil Kidd. Why? You viewed two posts about Kidd, did a search for Steven Anderson, read several pages, including the ABOUT page. You did not, however, read any of my autobiographical work, yet you deemed yourself sufficiently educated enough to pass judgment on my motives. This is, by the way, typical IFB behavior.
Evidently, your inspired, inerrant, infallible, King James Bible is missing Proverbs 18:13:
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
I do not mean to be unkind or rude. I simply want to ask that you please stop hurting the thousands of honest, well-meaning people in our type of churches. Even if you disagree with our theology, no one can say that we don’t love people and mean well.
How can you possibly know that I am “hurting thousands of honest, well-meaning people” in IFB churches? What evidence do you have for this claim? In fact, I have helped countless IFB preachers, pastor’s wives, deacons, evangelists, missionaries, and congregants leave the IFB church movement. Some have even become atheists and agnostics, while others have moved on to kinder, friendlier expressions of Christianity.
My goal as a former IFB preacher and a critic of the IFB church movement is to expose the movement for what it is: a cult. IFB churches and colleges are declining numerically and financially, and many of the IFB megachurches of the 70s and 80s are now closed or are shells of what they once were. While I won’t be alive to see the death of the IFB church movement, I hope my children and grandchildren will. I hope they will, with pillows in hand, stand over the wheezing, dying body of the IFB church and hold their pillows over its face as it draws its last breath. To that I will say, from the grave, “mission accomplished. All praise be to reason!”
I encourage you to leave the IFB church movement as soon as possible. Don’t wait five decades like I did to extract yourself from the cult. Don’t wait until deep, lasting psychological harm has been done to you, your spouse, and your children. Run! Now!
Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 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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