Menu Close

Tag: Somerset Baptist Church Mt Perry

Short Stories: The Missing Hammer

hammer

From 1983-1994, I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. After meeting for two years in several rented buildings in Somerset, we purchased an abandoned, brick United Methodist Church five miles east of town. Cost? $5,000.

The sanctuary was built in 1831, and a flat roof annex was built in the 1960s. Both buildings were in horrible states of disrepair. I spent the next ten years repairing and remodeling the buildings, as did some church members and my three oldest sons. Rarely did a week go by when we weren’t working on one of the buildings. Keep in mind, I had ZERO construction skills, so I was learning on the job — everything from plumbing to electrical work to tarring a flat roof to framing walls.

In 1989, I purchased a broken-down 12’x60′ mobile home for my family and me to live in. I parked it 50 feet from the church sanctuary. Think about that for a moment: 720 square feet for a family of eight. I had to do all sorts of building projects to make the mobile home fit for us to live in. Again, I had to learn on the job, as did my sons.

At the time, we had a Sears credit card. When I needed tools — and it seemed I always needed tools — I bought Sears’ Craftsman tools. One such purchase was the hammer pictured above. I loved this hammer. Well-balanced, perfect for my use.

One day, my favorite hammer disappeared. I looked and looked and looked for the hammer, without success. I was fairly certain that one of my sons had “borrowed” the hammer and left it “somewhere.” Of course, no one confessed to the crime. I ended up having to buy a new hammer.

Years later, on a crisp fall day, my sons and several church boys were raking leaves along the back fence of the cemetery. As was typical back in the day, the boys burned the leaves. One of my sons decided to help the fire along with gasoline. This quickly turned the leaves into a raging fire, burning all the leaves along the fence line. Fortunately, the fire didn’t jump to our neighbors farm field.

After the fire died down and was extinguished, guess what showed up? My hammer — surprisingly unscathed by the fire. “Someone” had left my hammer in the weeds along the fence line, and there it lay until the fire.

I still use this hammer, and I am always reminded of the fire when I do. I suspect after I am dead and gone that my oldest sons will battle over who gets the hammer. Such memories . . . And maybe, just maybe someone will confess to leaving the hammer in the weeds.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Short Stories: The Church Christmas Tree

somerset baptist church 1989

In July, 1983, I started a new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Somerset, Ohio. I would remain the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church until March 1994. Somerset was a community of 1,400 people located in Perry County — the northernmost county in the Appalachian region. It was here that I learned what it meant to be a pastor; to truly involve yourself in the lives of others.

The membership of Somerset Baptist was primarily made up of poor working-class people. Most church families received some form of government assistance — mostly food stamps and Medicaid. In many ways, these were my kind of people. Having grown up poor myself, I knew a good bit about their struggles. I deeply loved them, and they, in return, bestowed their love on me.

In 1985, the congregation bought an abandoned Methodist church building five miles east of Somerset on top of what was commonly called Sego Hill. After months of remodeling, the sanctuary was ready to use. Built in the 1830s, the church had oak floors, colored glass windows, and a 25-foot vaulted ceiling. The building was classic for its era, one of the oldest church buildings in the county. Purchased for $5,000, the sanctuary and annex required $15,000 in improvements, including two gas furnaces to replace the coal-converted-to-propane monster in the basement. We would later install a wood/coal furnace after propane costs skyrocketed one year.

December, 1985 was our first Christmas in the new building. I decided that we would purchase a Christmas tree and put it in the back of the sanctuary. After discussing with several congregants whether to get an artificial or real tree, one man spoke up and said, “preacher, I can get us a real Christmas tree and it won’t cost us anything.” I replied, “that would be great.”

A few days later, the man showed up at the church with a huge Christmas tree in the back of his 1960s Ford pickup. The man unloaded the tree, carried it into the church, and propped the monstrosity in the back corner. Proudly, he asked, “preacher, what do you think?” as I looked at the scrawny pine tree — 12 feet in height. I thought, “man, this tree sure is scrawny. I wonder where he bought it?” I told the man, “looks great! — a lie to be sure, but better than wounding the man’s spirit. He was so proud of doing this for me that I didn’t want to discourage him. It’s just a tree, I told myself. No big deal. “Where did you get this tree?” I asked. The man replied, “oh I went up on Route 13 and cut down one of the trees growing along the highway.” “You WHAT?” I alarmingly replied. “You do know that those trees are government property?” The man genuinely seemed clueless about the ownership question.  And then, without missing a beat, he replied, “well, preacher, those trees belong to God!”

This tree would be the first and last Christmas tree in the sanctuary. Two years later, I came out against Christmas and its excesses, putting an end to any sort of tree or decorations in the sanctuary. In their place, the sanctuary rang with sermons against Christmas and the excesses of the season. I am sure, compared to my guilt-inducing sermons, congregants missed the scrawny Christmas tree, regardless of its provenance.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Bus Ministry Promotion: Five Pound Chocolate Rabbit

somerset baptist church mt perry ohio 1987
Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio, circa 1987.

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

In July of 1983, I planted a new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, Somerset Baptist Church, in the southeast Ohio community of Somerset. For a few months, services were held at what was commonly called the old shoe store. The church then moved to the second story of the Landmark building where it would remain until it bought an abandoned Methodist church five miles east of Somerset in 1985.

Having spent most of my life around churches that operated bus ministries, I determined that the Somerset Baptist Church would have a bus ministry. In late 1983, the church bought an old, dilapidated bus from Faith Memorial Church in nearby Lancaster. By mid-1987, the church would own four buses, running routes throughout Perry County and to nearby Lancaster and Zanesville. Attendance would peak at 200, making Somerset Baptist Church the largest non-Catholic church in Perry County, a distinction I proudly advertised. Whether this was actually true is unknown, but it sure made for a great advertising slogan. I also advertised the church as the fastest growing church in the county, an accurate portrayal of the explosive attendance growth the church had for several years.

somerset baptist church mt perry ohio 1985
Somerset Baptist Church, Our First Bus, 1985

I was committed to using every available means to reach people with the gospel. I took the Apostle Paul’s approach: I became all things to all men that I might by all means save some.

Luke 14:23 says:

And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

This verse (and others) was the impetus for the church having an aggressive bus ministry. Every Saturday, bus workers would fan out over the bus operation area, visiting regular riders and canvassing for new ones.  Each bus had a captain who was in charge of the route, along with a driver and several workers. It was the captains’ responsibility to make sure EVERYONE on their bus route was visited EVERY Saturday.

Prior to going out on bus visitation, bus workers met with me at the church for a time of prayer and motivation. Running a bus route was hard, thankless work, and keeping people engaged in the work God had called us to do required me to constantly motivate bus workers, often massaging their egos lest they quit.

As in the capitalistic business world where gaining new customers is always part and parcel of growing a thriving business, a successful bus ministry had to continue to find new riders. Using the Apostle Paul’s “all things to all men” methodology, I planned weekly or monthly promotions that bus workers used to entice regular riders to invite their friends, family, and neighbors to church. I also planned promotions for the bus workers, rewarding the bus crew that brought in the most riders and visitors.

somerset baptist church mt perry ohio 1987-2
Somerset Baptist Church, 3 of our buses, circa early 1987

One Easter, I decided we would give away a five-pound solid chocolate rabbit to the person who brought the most visitors to church (on one of the buses). One of the ladies of the church was a candy maker, so she made the chocolate rabbit. A few days before the giveaway, we put the rabbit in my office. The next morning, as I walked into the office to prepare for Saturday bus visitation, I noticed that something was wrong with the rabbit. Sometime during the night, mice had gnawed on the ears of the rabbit. I asked the woman who made the chocolate rabbit if she could patch the rabbit’s ears. Oh yes, I did! The giveaway was the next day.

Both she and her husband were appalled that I would even think of giving the rabbit to one of the bus kids. Throw it away, they said, and off they went to buy five more pounds of chocolate so a new rabbit could be made. The next day, we awarded the new rabbit to the person who brought the most visitors to church.

The deformed rabbit? I cut the ears off the rabbit and gave it to my children. None of them gave one thought to the mice chewing the ears off the rabbit. All they saw was chocolate, a rare commodity in the Gerencser household.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

1986-1995: A Look at My Writing as an IFB Pastor

letter to the editor

What follows is a small sampling of the letters to the editor of The Zanesville Times Recorder I wrote between November 1986 and January 1995. These letters should forever put an end to the notion that I was never a True Christian®. These letters also should help current readers understand why former congregants and colleagues in the ministry are so troubled and upset by my defection from the one true faith. The contrast between then and now is glaring.

Personally, I find these letters embarrassing, but I publish them today to help readers better understand my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism. (Please see From Evangelicalism to Atheism.)

November 13, 1986

TEXTBOOK READING CASE BADLY REPORTED

To The Editor:

I have for some weeks now very carefully read the articles presented for public reading in The Times Recorder. I have particularly paid attention to those that deal with religion in general and fundamentalist Christianity in specific.

I am of the opinion that The Times Recorder is extremely biased in its reporting of fundamentalist activities. Case in point: the Tennessee textbook-reading book court case. While I certainly do not agree with all of the values these Christians held in regard to some of the books they wished banned from their schools, I believe they have a right to decide what or what not their children are to be exposed to in school.

Remember, children belong to their parents, not the state! Opponents say the state has a compelling interest. Why not have enough compelling interest to make sure kids can read and write? Parents have a right, to mold their children in the religious and ethnic values they see fit. Many will say then remove your children from the public school system and put them in a private school. This is exactly what many Christian parents have done, but even then the state tries to exert control. We are a nation founded on freedom. Why not allow fundamentalist parents to exercise that freedom by keeping their children from reading books they feel are offensive?

I feel that The Times Recorder in its reporting of this issue has tried very hard to present only the liberals’ point of view. When the fundamentalist point of view is presented it seems it is always presented in a negative, scornful, dumber-than-a-ridge-runner way.

How about some unbiased reporting and truly delved into why these parents believe the way they do? How about finding out what those in Muskingum County feel on the Issue? People have the right to know both sides of an issue. It’s time that newspapers begin presenting it.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

January 25, 1988

EDUCATION CHOICE IS PARENTS’ RIGHT

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my view on the recent article regarding the contemplated jailing of a Toledo couple for home schooling their children without Wood County school board approval.

It is a sad day in America when parents do not have the opportunity to choose how to educate their children. Studies show that children taught in a home school or Christian school environment consistently test higher than their counterparts in the public school. So the issue cannot be educational quality.

The real issue is control. The state, through its government sponsored schools wants to control our children. They feed our children a daily diet of humanistic philosophy and teaching.

They are taught there is no God, no authority and no absolutes. Is it any wonder our country is in the shape it is? We are products of our teaching.

We are told much of a person’s character is formed in their early years of life. He who gets the children when they are young will usually get them for life. For the humanists to further their cause, they must control the educational system. Thus, the reason for the case in Toledo.

I applaud this couple for standing up for their right to educate their children. They will be children who I am sure will know that there is a God, that there is authority and that there are absolutes. That is the only hope for America.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

July 5, 1989

THERE IS PRIDE IN FLAG-WAVING

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my view in regard to the recent Supreme Court decision dealing with flag burning.

It is appalling to think that we have come to the point in this country where we are even discussing whether or not it is acceptable to burn the American flag. Previous generations would roll over in their graves if they could bear the discussion going on today.

We live in the greatest country in the world. We are a nation founded as “One nation under God.” The flag of the United States of America represents that “One nation under God.” It is a great honor to be born in this country. We are the freest country that has ever graced the pages of history.

Our flag represents that freedom. Those who want to desecrate our flag should be given a one way ticket to Beijing, China. Let’s see how they like freedom Chinese style.

I would also like to suggest that Sen. Howard Metzenbaum be given the first ticket. He is a disgrace to this country and the State of Ohio. If he is personally against flag burning, then let his voting record reflect that. It sounds to me like Sen. Metzenbaum wants to have it both ways, and that is not possible.

It seems to me the issue is patriotism or left wing liberalism. Which will it be? As for me I’m with the countless throngs of people who still revere and honor “Old Glory.” I’m proud to be a flag waving American.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

November 7, 1989

STORY ABOUT RALLY FULL OF HALF-TRUTHS

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my disgust over the liberal reporting by The Times Recorder as exhibited in the article entitled, “Abortion Rallies Have Large Turnout,” which appeared in the Monday, Oct. 30, edition of The Times Recorder. The article is full of half-truths and it is evident the writer of the article is pro-choice. I had the privilege of attending the Rally of Hope, a pro-life rally on Saturday, October 28. It will go down as one of the highlights of my life. It’s too bad The TR chose not to give more newspaper space to this event.

Now to the article. It is statistically proven that most Republicans are pro-life. I thought it was ironic, you were able to dig up one Republican at the pro-choice rally that was for abortion. As a Republican, I assure you, most Republicans are pro-life. Thelma Moore does not represent the sentiments of most Republicans.

I also thought it was noteworthy that the article did not mention that Gov. Celeste participated in the pro-choice rally. Are you afraid to let the local citizens know that our governor is for killing innocent unborn children?

Finally, the article only printed half of Mr. John Willkes comments. It will be noted that his comments were in reference to how a survey can be tainted by the questions asked.

The rest of the statistical quote was “69 percent of Americans believe there should be laws to protect the lives of the unborn?” I wonder why this statistic was left out. Could it be that indeed America is a Pro-Life people?

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

November 10, 1989

SATAN ALIVE IN OUR WORLD

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the editorial on Halloween by Dave Claypool. Mr. Claypool seems to doubt the reality of a person called Satan (or the Devil). The Bible says in I Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

One only has to look around our country and see pornography, AIDS, homosexuality, abortion, divorce, rampant drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, and many other signs of decadence,. to know that the Devil is alive and well. He desires to destroy our families and our country. One way he accomplishes this is by getting people to believe his actions are harmless. Such is the case with Halloween.

Halloween is the High Holy Day of the Satanic Church. You will find that clearly stated in the “Satanic Bible,” by Anton LaVey. Halloween has always had its roots in the occult and satanism.

Mr. Claypool may call objectors to Halloween, zealots, but at the least, we are not blinded to the devices of Satan. Mr. Claypool may, in satirical humor, mock those who believe Halloween is Satanic; but someday, each of us will draw our last breath in this life. Then we will see if there is a real Satan and who has been blinded.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

January 31, 1990

MORAL APPROACH IS MISDIRECTED

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the letter written by Kenneth Prior in the Jan. 19, issue of The Times Recorder.

The purpose of my letter is not to debate the issue of the group called “Strike Force.” I personally have a problem with those types of ministries and the Jesus Christ they portray.

My issue of contention rests with the statements about the assemblies held at various schools. It was discussed, but not Jesus Christ.

Morals without Jesus Christ are nothing but self-righteous acts.

The permanent solution to drugs, booze, sexual pressures, etc., is a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The public school system for 25 years has been teaching a situational morality without God and the Bible.

The Result? A nation of young people that have little, if any, moral values.

Drugs, premarital sex, booze drinking, abortion, and venereal disease are all on the upswing among our young people. First-time occurrences of many of these things mentioned now occur with our elementary-aged children. Why? Morals without Jesus Christ and the Bible.

What this country needs is less Hollywood religion and more old-fashioned Bible preaching. An assembly on morals without a clear presentation of Jesus and the Word of God is like an automobile without tires. It is useless and it’s not going anywhere.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

October 8, 1990

GOOD QUESTION FOR CHRISTIANS

To The Editor:

This is in response to the article on Armageddon in the Sept. 30th Times Recorder.

While I would agree with some of the facts, I disagree wholeheartedly with much of the article. The Bible teaches the world as we know it is headed down a path that leads to destruction.

The final event that takes place on that trek is the Battle of Armageddon. When sin has been destroyed and the Lord Jesus Christ vindicated, God will bring into existence a new heaven and a new earth.

His people, those who have been born again, will live for eternity in the new heaven and new earth. Those who reject Jesus Christ and his salvation will spend their eternity in the lake of fire.

Prior to the end, God will pour out his wrath on this earth in a period which is commonly called the tribulation. My point of disagreement with the article is the issue of Christians being absent from the earth while God judges it.

This is nothing more than “pie in the sky” thinking. God’s people will face persecution and death during the tribulation, God’s people have always faced trial. Why should this generation of weak, carnal, and loose-living Christians be any different?

During the tribulation, God intends to purify His Church. It is time for Christians to WAKE UP!

A lost world needs to see a Christianity that really matters. We have had enough Bakkers and Swaggarts. The world needs to see a holy people who love God and obey His Word. Is God’s closing in on Armageddon and the tribulation?

While most preachers are too busy building their kingdoms on this earth, I intend to be on the street corners of our communities proclaiming a message of repentance! There are still some of us who believe in preaching “REPENT, for the end of the world is at hand.”

But this message is not only for lost sinners, but for Christians also. Luke 18:8 says, “When the Son of cometh, shall He find Faith on the earth?” I would suggest that is a good question for each Christian to answer.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

February 2, 1991

BIBLE IS CLEAR TRAINING GUIDE

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to an article ‘entitled “Controlling Your Household Tyrants,” written by Ron Smitley of Six County Inc.

From the tone of the article I can see Dr. Spock lives on.

God did not leave child training to chance. He gave each of us a clear guide for training children, and it’s the Bible.

The problem is many so-called experts have called the teachings of the Bible outdated. They would even suggest the Bible teaches child abuse. But is that the case?

The Bible teaches sexual abstinence before marriage. Planned Parenthood and public school sex education programs teach children safe and responsible sex. Result? Rampant venereal disease and pregnancy. Who shall we blame?

The Bible teaches homosexuality is a gross perversion. The liberals of the day call it an alternative lifestyle. Result? AIDS. Who shall we blame?

The Bible teaches marriage for life with monogamy inside the marriage. Society says live together, get a divorce if you are not happy, etc. Result? Broken homes, venereal disease and abused children. Who shall we blame? I could go on and on.

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” I will agree with Smitley on one point, we DO have tyrants in our homes. The reason? No Biblical discipline.

A parent who loves their children will spank them if they rebel against their authority. (Which is, by the way, a God given authority.) Proverbs 13:24 says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

The hope of America rests in its families. We need to get back to Bible-based family practice. It is the only way!

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

April 10, 1992

CHILD ABUSE LIST COULD BE FAULTY

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the article on the secret child abuse record, which appeared in the March 30 issue of The Times Recorder.

If the statistics quoted are to be believed, 10 to 20 percent of all adult Ohioans are on this list. Are we really to believe 600,000 Adults in this state are suspected Child abusers? Either the statistics are incorrect or the method by which one ends up on this list is faulty.

Granted, child abuse is a serious problem. In 15 years of pastoral ministry I have seen my share of cases. I have no objection to those who have been convicted of bonafide child abuse crimes, being placed on a list.

But I have a sneaking suspicion many on this “McCarthy Era” list are guilty of nothing more than good discipline practices.

The official philosophy of the Ohio Department of Human Services, the state teachers’ unions, and the different departments that offer help to children, is that of no corporal punishment. According to them, to paddle a child, for any reason, is child abuse. Several other states are trying to pass laws that will outlaw all forms of corporal punishment.

Our schools in Ohio have removed corporal punishment as a means of discipline. Result? Read the newspaper and see the mayhem in the public school system.

Educators blame it on the family structure. Perhaps this is true, but who suggested to this generation’s parents that they discard time-tested, God-mandated forms of child discipline? We must lay the blame at the feet of social workers, educators, liberal ministers, and mental health workers who bought Benjamin Spock’s line on discipline. The result of all this is a Society that is in rebellion to all authority including God’s!

The only thing Spock’s book is good for is paddling a rebellious child. OOPS! I better not say that. Some liberal bureaucrat might turn my name in to the DHS list keepers.

May we ever be reminded to: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6. That training includes proper child discipline.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

August 31, 1992

DEMOCRATS ARE AT ODDS WITH GOD

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to recent articles dealing with President Bush’s comments about Bill Clinton’s views of God and religion.

Bill Clinton and Albert Gore are Democrats in the truest sense. They try to pass themselves off as conservative, family-oriented politicians, but such is not the case. To be a Democrat is to be a liberal. While there may be good, conservative people in the Democratic Party, the official party stance is a liberal one. President Bush has every right to call Bill Clinton into question in regards to his views of God and religion.

The official Democratic line is pro-abortion, anti-capital punishment, expanded social programs, and pro-homosexual. This and many other issues puts the Democratic Party in direct opposition to the Bible, which then puts them at odds with God.

While I am not so naive to believe that being a Republican and a Christian are synonymous, the Republican Party does stand for many things that are right. I am a Republican not because of George Bush, but rather because of what the party stands for. Pro-life, pro-capital punishment, and social programs that help people (and not enslave them) are some of the reasons for being a Republican. These are Biblical values.

I have my concerns about the Republican Party. My fear is that they are just a few years behind the Democrats. This is evidenced in their courting of the homosexual vote. Instead of openly courting the homosexuals, better time would be spent passing and enforcing sodomy laws. God declares that homosexuality is a perverse sin.

Bill Clinton and Albert Gore both claim to be Baptist and Christian. Their views are incompatible with true Christianity, and as far as them being Baptists, I am ashamed that they would number themselves with those who for the most part oppose what they hold to politically. The Baptist churches which Clinton and Gore are members of should speedily exercise church discipline and remove these men from their church rolls. They have no right to the name Baptist, let alone the name Christian.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

January 15, 1993

CHOICE OF CHELSEA’S SCHOOL SHOWS CLINTON’S HYPOCRISY

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my views in regards to Bill Clinton’s decision to put his daughter in a private school. While I am an ardent advocate of private education, I believe Mr. Clinton shows utter hypocrisy in his decision.

We should remember, just months ago, Mr. Clinton ran on a platform of anti-school choice. He strongly believes that children should be educated in state schools. Unless of course it is your child and then you do what is best for the child. Mr. Clinton needs to practice what he preaches. If public education is so wonderful, why not enroll your daughter in the Washington, D.C., city schools?

No, Mr. Clinton knows that the D.C. schools are for the most part juvenile detention centers. Crime, violence, guns, etc. are commonplace. I wouldn’t want to educate my children in that environment either. Where are the teacher’s unions, now? Or do they know, like Mr. Clinton, the true shape of many of our school systems.

I am one parent who has determined to provide my children with a private, religious education. As progressive education, coupled with an amoral society, moves in force in our local communities, we can expect to see the same problems here that they face in Washington, D.C.

I trust Mr. Clinton will see what a hypocrite he has been. I don’t condemn him for doing what is best for his daughter. My prayer is that each of us will be allowed to do the same. For my family it is to send them to a non-chartered, non-tax supported Baptist school that teaches Bible morals, ethics, and doctrine. If Mr. Clinton has a right to choose, so should we!

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

February 5, 1993

HOMOSEXUALITY PERVERSE SIN

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my views in regards to the issue of homosexuals in the military. It is an admitted fact that homosexuals have long existed in the various branches of the military. The issue is whether or not their conduct or lifestyle should be given sanction.

This issue is much deeper than whether or not homosexuals can serve in the military. It clearly is a moral issue. If we have not, as yet, become a paganistic, amoral society, then it would do us well to address the morality of this issue. Is homosexuality moral?

For those who hold to the Bible being their standard of morality, homosexuality is indeed a perverse sin. While adultery and fornication are grievous sins as well, homosexuality goes beyond them in the fact that it goes against nature (Romans 1)God made man and woman to have distinctive roles. The very core of homosexuality goes against ALL that God intends. Bible believers reject the notion that homosexuals are born that way. Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice.

I would implore Congress to override the intentions of the Clinton administration and ban homosexuals from the military. Their lifestyle is incompatible with the rigor and order of military life. To those caught in the web of homosexuality I would beg them to turn to Christ in repentance and I believe they will find a Savior who will not only forgive them but will also deliver them from the deep sin they are in (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

April 11, 1993

CHRISTIANS MUST MAKE JUDGMENTS

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the letter by Doug Allen in The Times Recorder April 1. Mr. Allen’s views show very forcefully what is wrong with professing Christianity.

As Christians, we have been called to a life of holiness and commitment. We are to love what God loves and hate what He hates. We are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. But today, the salt has lost its savor and the light has gone out.

Mr. Allen equates those who make Biblical Judgments with those who hate and spew forth bitterness. Who is judging now, Mr. Allen? I have no hatred or bitterness in my heart toward others. My desire is to reach the sinner man with the gospel of Christ. My desire is to imitate my Lord in his love and compassion for sinners. But that DOES NOT mean we throw Bible truth and judgment to the wind.

People who take the view of Mr. Allen and claim to be Christians are in direct violation of the Scripture. We are to judge righteously and properly. To do so means making judgments about the society we live in. Contrary to the opinion stated by Mr. Allen, we ARE to speak for God. If His people do not speak for Him, who will? God gave us the Bible, which we must proclaim to our generation. It’s repent or perish!

Finally, I would say that perhaps the root problem is a theological one. Mr. Allen suggests that the only difference between a Christian and all others is a sincere prayer. This thought is the core of Arminianism and is utterly false. True Christianity is a turning from sin and an embracing of Christ by faith. It is the adopting of a new life in Christ in which Christ becomes the Lord and Savior of a person. Anything less will not avail. Some people are sincere and certainly some even pray but that is not true Christianity.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

May 26, 1993

JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY HOPE

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the May 19 letter by William Lacy. Mr. Lacy shows the demeanor and character of a man who rejects God and His infallible truth, the Bible. His letter is filled with distortions and inaccuracies.

First, he would have us believe that those of a “fundamentalist” persuasion do not think for themselves. While there are those who are “closed-minded,” and who would argue that Mr. Lacy himself doesn’t have a very closed mind, most Christians think for themselves. We wrestle with the truth of the Scripture. Some of the greatest thinkers in history have been Christians. I would gladly allow Mr. Lacy to look over my library. He will find books by men of education and stature.

Secondly, Mr. Lacy takes the approach that all who say they are Christian are indeed one. Not so! The Bible does not teach a salvation of many different roads all leading to one place. There is one hope of salvation and that is in Jesus Christ.

Such is the case on the moral issues Mr. Lacy brings up. There are not two ways to look at ANY of the issues he raises. It is not what man says, but God. It is of little concern to me that most denominations advocate abortion and homosexuality. The Bible declares both to be wicked and that is sufficient for me. The problem today is that what is called Christianity in America, for the most part, is false religion.

Mr. Lacy would have you believe that Christians believe they are not accountable to civil government. Sure we are, as long as that government rules in a righteous manner. The law of God is sufficient for any society. It is when civil government attempts to become god that conscientious Christians must object and stand against their government. We will either be ruled by God’s law or man’s law.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

July 9, 1993

OUTRAGED AT HISTORY REWRITE

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my outrage at the deliberate attempt to rewrite American history as attempted on the Mini Page June 28. The issue, which is mainly for children, featured Thomas Jefferson as the main subject. In among many historically correct facts were at least two blatant distortions of history.

The first dealt with the quote from the Declaration of Independence. It is remarkable that two important words, Creator and unalienable, were left out. They talk about being endowed with rights, but who did Jefferson say endowed us with those rights? Their Creator! The proof that this is a deliberate misrepresentation rests in the fact that all other phrases left out in the context of the quote were represented with ellipses. Such was not the case with the omission of “their Creator.” The word unalienable was also deliberately left out. The politically correct would have us believe that the government endows people with rights, which at any time can be taken away. Hogwash! Men are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, rights that cannot be taken away by man. The foremost of these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Daily our government continues to encroach in the areas of our unalienable rights.

I would also note in passing that the part in the Mini Page dealing with religious freedom paints a very biased and skewed view. It shows the symbols of the supposed five major religions in America. Would the writers of this article have us believe that these five religions were in existence when Jefferson wrote his various thoughts on religious freedom? The 18th century of America was a century dominated by Christianity. No Buddhists, Hinduists or Islamics and very few Jews. Let’s at least paint an accurate picture. Next we’ll be reading articles from these historical reconstructionists that the doctrine of separation of church and state as practiced today was what Jefferson meant when he wrote of the issues of government and church separation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

December 9, 1993

GOD HATES SIN AND SINNERS

To the Editor:

I am replying to the Dec. 3 letter written by J.D. Kimple. Mr. Kimple accuses me of being uninformed and of using rash generalizations. The truth of the matter is that Mr. Kimple has bought into the government line about AIDS. We can quote statistics galore but they prove nothing.

The largest percentage of those having AIDS is homosexual. Yes, it has spread to the heterosexual population, but the issue is still the same. Heterosexuals are getting AIDS for the most part because of immoral sexual practices. Show me two people who were virgins when they married and were faithful to each other and now they have AIDS. There is no such case. Morality and fidelity and the only cures for AIDS.

As to God being a kind, loving God, yes, he is. I am thankful for his saving grace. But God also hates sin. God punishes sinful men for their wicked practices. The old cliche “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner” is not in the Bible. God hates sin and those who do it. Man must flee from the wrath of God. Only then will man find love and forgiveness. God saves men out of their sin and does not leave them in it. God’s view of homosexuality is summed up in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Mr. Kimple is not questioning my religious convictions, but rather the word of God. Let God be true and every man a liar.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

November 15, 1994

ALL LIFE IS PRECIOUS

To The Editor:

Recent news reports have touted a new test that can be used for detecting Down Syndrome a month earlier than before. This new test is called Chorionic villus sampling, or CVS. Prior to this new test, amniocentesis was the primary method used to detect Down Syndrome while the child was still in the womb.

We are told that women over 35 should have this testing done to determine whether or not their child has Down Syndrome. What is not being said? That the only reason for this type of testing is so an abortion can take place if the test comes back postitive. Now we can kill the unwanted Down’s child at 10 weeks instead of 16 weeks. Our nation continues down the path of decadence, murdering those who don’t fit the accepted criteria of life. God help us.

All life is precious. It is the gift of God. Who are we to determine what is “quality” or “acceptable” life? God never gave us that right. Some would argue that the over 35 mother would like to know if she is carrying a Down’s child. When the test came back negative she would then be relieved. Why does it matter? If abortion is not the issue then it does not matter if the child is Down’s. But abortion is the issue, and we continue our killing ways.

God will hold us accountable for how we treat the innocent and the helpless. As a parent of a Down Syndrome child, I thank God for allowing us the privilege to have our daughter. Yes, there are those difficult moments, but the precious moments far outweigh the difficult ones. We wouldn’t trade our daughter for all the money in the world. May God help each of us to view life as precious. May we stand against anything and anyone that depreciates human life. From the womb to the grave we uphold the sanctity of life.

Bruce Gerencser
Frazeysburg

December 16, 1994

RAZE THE STRUCTURE

To The Editor:

The issue of school prayer will prove to be one of the hottest topics of 1995. Newt Gingerich and other ardent right wing Republicans plan on making it one of the first topics addressed in 1995. I guess we should feel excited that the Republicans are trying to get God on our side again. If we can just get prayer back in the schools, then America will have the favor of God

Please don’t do God any favors. For the first time in my life, and I am sweating as I write this, I agree with the liberal, card-carrying, ACLU members. Let’s keep prayer out of school. Do we really think, that a moment of prayer, at the start of the school day, is going to make a difference in our society? I think not By the time the politicians and the courts get done with what type of prayer will be acceptable, it will certainly not resemble anything that would be pleasing to the God of the Bible.

Christian parents are naive if they think that a momentary prayer at the start of the public school day will keep their children safe from the onslaught of humanistic instruction. Instead, Christian parents need to ask themselves if their children belong in public schools in which everything the Bible teaches is held up to question and ridicule. We can put our heads in the sand, Christians, but when we come out of our hole, the fact still remains: the public school system is bankrupt and no place for Christians to educate their children.

Yes, I am aware of the fact that there are fine Christian educators in the public school system, and they are to be commended for their diligent effort, but the Titanic is sinking and it is time to man the lifeboats.

Do you want prayer, real prayer in school? Then put your children in a school that believes the Bible and which encourages, by teaching and action, students to pray to the God of the Bible. Or perhaps, like some of the rest of us, home school your children. Prayer is always legal in the home school.

My main objection about school prayer has nothing to do with the school itself. It is time that Christians and churches quit being hypocrites. We want the public schools to practice what we are not practicing ourselves. The average Christian prays less than five minutes a day. Churches have prayer meetings in which nobody prays. Are we concerned about America? Then let’s pray. Let’s make our churches houses of prayer again. Religious leaders continue to clamor about the need for revival The precursor to every great revival is prayer. The New York revival of 1858 came forth from a small prayer meeting. Thousands were converted. Moral change was effected. But today, where are the cries of mourning coupled with prayer and fasting?

It is time to be honest. School prayer is just new paint on the outside of a dilapidated, soon to collapse structure. Oh, it may look nice for a while, but the building is sure to collapse. We don’t need any more paint Instead, let’s raze the structure and build it again.

People of prayer. That is what America needs. When we become a people of prayer, we will not have to worry about school prayer. When Christians determine to walk according to the teachings of the Bible, the public school systems will either change or their buildings will be empty.

It’s time to quit blaming the devil, the Democrats, or Bill Clinton, and instead put the blame where it belongs. We, as Christians, have forsaken our duties and responsibilities. We are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, but we have become a salt that has lost its savor and it’s pretty dark out there.

Bruce Gerencser
Frazeysburg

January 4, 1995

SHOOTINGS ARE WRONG, BUT SO IS ABORTION

To The Editor:

We find in the news again the report of another abortion clinic shooting. First, the paper was filled with articles on Paul Hill the Presbyterian minister recently convicted of murder in Florida. Now, I am sure we will be fed a continued diet of stories about John Salvi, the purported Boston abortion clinic shooter.

Paul Hill and John Salvi committed horrible acts; acts that God does not condone. God, in his unalterable moral law, declared “Thou shalt not kill.” The end never justifies the means, and the killing of abortion clinic workers will never bring an end to abortion. These two men are murderers and must face the consequences of their sin.

Sometimes men and women can become so committed to “the cause” that they lose sight of moral rightness. Instead any action becomes justified as long as it serves the cause. In the end, Paul Hill and John Salvi must answer to God.

But just as killing abortion clinic workers is murder, so is the aborting of babies. People who work in abortion clinics are employed in the killing fields. They, by their employment in such places, lend their support to the killing that goes on in the name of a “woman’s right to choose.”

While I feel sorry for the Nichols family who lost their daughter, Lee Ann, in the recent clinic shootings, let us not forget that Lee Ann Nichols was a willing participant in the killing fields. She may have only been a receptionist, but she knew what went on behind closed doors. Her brother was quick to quote the Bible and decry his sister’s murder, and rightly so. But his sister has blood on her hands also.

Lee Ann Nichols wanted the world to be more civilized. Abortion will never make us more civilized. Abortion, for any reason, devalues the worth of a human life. Human life is now nothing more than fetal tissue to be tossed away at a woman’s whim.

There is only one answer to this problem. Man must obey his God. And Jehovah God said “thou shalt not kill.” It is time that we figure out God really meant what He said.

Bruce Gerencser
Frazeysburg

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

An Example of How I Indoctrinated Children as an IFB Pastor

bruce-gerencser-street-preaching-september-7-1990
Bruce Gerencser, preaching on a Zanesville, Ohio street corner, September 7, 1990. This photograph was on the front page of the Zanesville Times-Recorder.

I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio for eleven years, from 1983-1994. I started the church in a storefront with 16 people. The church later grew to over 200 people. In 1989, after stopping our multi-county bus ministry due to costs, I started a tuition-free non-chartered Christian school for church children.

For five years, Polly and I, along with a handful of dedicated church members, got up early each morning and made our way to Somerset Baptist Academy (SBA) to teach our church’s children. Best described as a one-room schoolhouse, SBA had fifteen students. Most of the students were lacking academically, and though in retrospect some aspects of our school program were lacking, when it came to the basics, we excelled.

During this time, I was introduced to street preaching by Evangelist Don Hardman. Annually, Hardman would come to our church and hold a fifteen-day protracted meeting — the highlight of the church calendar year. Hardman and I later had a falling out due to my embrace of Calvinism. (Please see the series, My Life as a Street Preacher.)

Several times a week, I would take the church children with me to Newark and Zanesville where I preached and they handed out tracts and attempted to evangelize passersby. After a few years of doing this, I stopped due to increasing criticism from locals, suggesting that it was wrong (cultic) for me to use the children in this manner. While I wholeheartedly objected to their assertions — how was selling school raffle tickets any different? — I recognized that their continued participation was harming the church’s “testimony.”

What follows is a story written in 1990 by then Newark Advocate writer Kathy Wesley (behind paywall). The main character in the story is Shawn Nelson, a ninth-grade student at Somerset Baptist Academy.

You Never Realize How Wicked the World Is by Kathy Wesley, a features writer for The Advocate. Published September 16, 1990

NEWARK– The summer breeze is playing tricks with Shawn Nelson’s sandy hair, blowing it to and fro like wheat straw.

The sun is bright, the afternoon warm, the streets full of people. But Shawn sees darkness around the Courthouse Square.

“You never realize how wicked the world is until you get out there and see it,” the 14-year-old says, glancing around. “You see women in these short skirts, and men wearing no shirts at all, yelling and cussing at their kids.”

While many of his friends are back on the public school playground tossing footballs or dribbling basketballs, Shawn is toting his well-worn Bible in a race against evil on the Courthouse Square.

He spends three hours a week on the streets of Newark and Zanesville with 11 classmates from Somerset Baptist Academy, handing out tracts and opening their Bibles to anyone who will listen.

“It’s fun,” he says, shifting his Good Book from one hand to another and fingering his quarter-inch-thick packet of tracts. “You get to show people how to go to heaven.”

A well-dressed woman passes by, brusquely refusing Shawn’s tract, which asks on its front cover, “Where are you going to spend eternity?”

“It’s OK,” he says afterward. “You get used to it.”

Shawn’s been on the streets since May, when a traveling evangelist sold his pastor, the Rev. Bruce Gerenscer [sic], on street ministering. It felt strange at first to walk up to complete strangers and push Bible tracts into their hands, but Shawn is now a pro.

The latter-day apostle knows all the ropes: don’t give people a chance to say no, don’t step off the sidewalk. “As long as you’re on the sidewalk,” he explains, “you’re on public property and no one can arrest you.”

Like the other children, ranging in age from 9 to 16, Shawn has a Bible marked at the two verses they are to show to people who might stop to ask them for spiritual guidance: John 3:16 (” For God so loved the world … “) and Revelations [sic] 3:20.

In four months on the street, nobody’s asked Shawn to show them the way to salvation, but he’s ready. He’s in the midst of memorizing his Bible.

“I want to memorize the whole thing,” he says. “That way, when someone asks you a Bible question, you’ll immediately know the answer.”

There’s not a lot of Bible quizzes given on the streets of downtown Newark, but Shawn seems fairly confident already. His answers to questions of faith spill quickly from memory with childlike enthusiasm.

“In the old days religion was different,” he says. “Then men decided they wanted new religions, which had nothing to do with the Bible.”

“The Mormons and Presbyterians, among others, are in trouble with the Bible,” Shawn says. “They believe in a different way to go to heaven. Some say you have to work your way to heaven … but the Bible says the only way to heaven is through the Father.”

He’s not sure what it is to be a Christian, “except that you should obey the Bible and you shouldn’t sin.” But the details of those requirements seem to be a little hazy.

With the exception of his ambition to memorize the Bible, Shawn’s future is likewise fuzzy. He hasn’t thought about a career, although he acknowledges he has a fondness for automobiles and engines.

It’s fun for him to be on the street; he recalls with delight the lemonade a Zanesville street vendor gave him one day. But behind it all is his deadly serious mission.

Unlike his predecessor Paul, who spread the story of Jesus of Nazareth in the streets of downtown Ephesus in the First Century, Shawn doesn’t have to dodge spears and unfriendly government officials. He just has to put up with the rejection of people who walk a half block out of their way to go around him, and the taunts of children his own age who pass on bicycles.

“Sometimes they ride by and they mock us,” Shawn says, “and I don’t like it.”

But not, he says, because they hurt his feelings.

“I don’t like it,” he says quietly, with the firmness of childhood certainty, “because I know they’re going to die and go to hell.”

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

From Evangelicalism to Atheism — Part Three

creamery road zanesville ohio
Creamery Road, Zanesville, Ohio

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

I am often asked, when did you first begin to doubt? This is not an easy question for me to answer. As I look back over my life, there were many instances where I had doubts about certain theological or political beliefs. If there is one constant about life, it is change. Over time, our understanding, beliefs, and ideologies change. Sometimes, the change is so subtle that we are not really aware of it until we look back on our lives years later. Anyone who says that he has never changed his beliefs — and I know several pastors who say this about themselves — is either intellectually lazy, a liar, or living in denial.

Every preacher leaves Bible college with a borrowed theology. His theology is the theology that his parents, church, pastor, and college professors taught him. He believes what he believes because of the influence of others. Only when he is free of these influences does he begin to develop his own theological beliefs.

I have always been an avid student and reader. One of the frustrating things about the health problems I have is that I can no longer read as I used to. For many years, it was not uncommon for me to read 500 or more pages a week of theological and biographical texts. To this day, I rarely read fiction. Over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry, I accumulated a large library of books. These books were my constant companions and friends. When I left the ministry in 2003, I sold off my theological library on eBay.

While I learned many things as a student at Midwestern Baptist College, most of my theological education came from the countless hours I spent reading theological books, the Bible, and studying for my sermons. It was in the study that I began to come to theological conclusions different from what I had been taught by my parents, former churches, former pastors, and college professors. The most dramatic theological changes took place while I was pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset, (later Mt. Perry) Ohio.

I started the Somerset Baptist Church in July of 1983 and pastored the church for eleven years. At that time, I was a typical Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor and remained so until the Jack Hyles scandal rocked the IFB world in 1986. As I waded through the Hyles scandal, I began to question the gospel preached by many IFB pastors and churches. Noted preachers such as Jack HylesCurtis Hutson, and the preachers associated with the Sword of the Lord, preached a truncated gospel, believing that repentance was a change of mind and not a change of conduct. Simply put, the unconverted sinner was against Jesus and now he was for him. Around this time, John MacArthur came out with his book, The Gospel According to Jesus. MacArthur attacked the easy-believism gospel preached in many Evangelical/Baptist churches. MacArthur stated that repentance was not only a change of mind but also a change of behavior. If there was no turning from sin, then there was no true repentance, and without repentance, there was no salvation.

The Hyles scandal, my careful assessment of the gospel preached by many in the IFB church movement, and MacArthur’s book, led me to conclude that the gospel I had been preaching was a truncated, shallow gospel. I began preaching a gospel that demanded sinners turn from their sins. I believed that if Jesus was not Lord of all your life then he was not Lord at all. I believed that if people said they were Christians, then they should act like it. Unless unregenerate sinners were willing to turn from their sin and fully embrace Jesus, there was no salvation for them.

In the late 1980s, I began to reconsider my eschatological beliefs.  I was taught dispensational, pre-tribulational, and premillennial eschatology (end times) in college, and every church I attended growing up preached this end-times scheme. As I restudied the various eschatological positions, my beliefs gradually shifted and matured until I embraced post-tribulationalism and amillennialism. At this point, I was clearly theologically wandering outside the boundary of my IFB heritage. This shift in eschatology resulted in some people leaving the church; however, it also attracted new members who held a similar eschatological views.

It was also in the late 1980s that my theological beliefs dramatically shifted from the one-point Calvinism (eternal security, once saved always saved) of the IFB church movement to five-point Calvinism. My introduction to Calvinism came through the preaching tapes of Rolfe Barnard, a former Southern Baptist and Sword of the Lord evangelist who died in the late 1960s. Barnard’s sermons were powerful declarations of the gospel according to Calvinism. As I listened to these tapes, it was like a light went on in my head. For a time, I was angry because I thought those who had taught me theology had lied to me. Why had no one ever told me about Calvinism? All they told me at Midwestern is that they were against Calvinism and anyone caught promoting it would be expelled.

I began devouring books about Calvinism. I opened a book account at Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service and bought countless Calvinistic, Puritan, Sovereign Grace Baptist books. I read the books of Puritan/Calvinist authors from the 17th,18th, and 19th centuries. I discovered that Baptists, at one time, were quite Calvinistic, and some of my heroes of the faith, including Charles Spurgeon, were five-point Calvinists. I even learned that there were Calvinists, such as the late Bruce Cummons, pastor of the Massillon Baptist Temple, in the IFB church movement.

From the late 1980s until the early 2000s, I was a committed, zealous five-point Calvinist. My preaching style changed from topical/textual sermons to expository sermons. I stopped giving altar calls as I began transforming the Somerset Baptist Church into a Calvinistic church. This move cost me 99% of my IFB pastor friends, a handful of church members, along with almost all of my Arminian friends.

For several years, I published a newsletter called The Sovereign Grace Reporter. I sent the newsletter to hundreds of IFB pastors, and this caused quite a shit-storm. Surprisingly, Polly’s uncle, the late-James Dennis, pastor of the IFB Newark Baptist Temple, was quite supportive. Keith Troyer, then pastor of Fallsburg Baptist Church, was also quite supportive. I would later be accused of leading Keith astray with the pernicious doctrines of John Calvin. (At the time, I considered Keith my best friend.)

Probably by now, some readers are wondering, Why the history lesson, Bruce? I think it is important for me to establish several things:

  • I was an avid reader of books
  • I was an avid student of whatever subject I am reading about
  • I was willing to go wherever the evidence led me
  • I was willing to change my beliefs even if it materially cost me or made me unpopular
  • Truth mattered more to me than being accepted by my peers, friends, or family

These things are still true today, though I can no longer read like I once did.

In my pastoring days, my colleagues in the ministry, friends, and parishioners loved me for these traits. They applauded my willingness to be true to the Word of God, even if they disagreed with me. Now these same people think I read and study too much. I have been told that the reason I am an atheist is because of books (and there is some truth in this statement)! If I would only stop reading all these books and just read THE BOOK, all would be well, one former parishioner told me.

Just as the leopard can’t change its spots, I can’t stop reading and studying. Sixty years ago, my mother created an intellectual monster when she taught me to read. She wanted her eldest son to be like her, a devourer of literature, a person who valued truth above the approbation of men. I owe her a great debt of gratitude.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Blast From the Past (1990): Is TV an Idol in America?

tv-is-evil

What follows is an essay written by my ten-year-old son while a student at Somerset Baptist Academy in Mt. Perry, Ohio. As you will see, my son had been paying attention to my sermons. My three oldest sons, now 41 39, and 36, watched very little TV growing up. We did not own a TV until they were teenagers. (Please see The Preacher and His TV.)

Yes, television is an idol. We worship the TV every time we turn it on and watch it. The Devil is behind the television. It was his idea to make the television so he could enter people’s houses and rule over them. He loves his idea. It gives him his chance to kill people like that Bible says: that he’s a roaring lion and seeketh to devour someone.

In people’s houses everything is turned towards the television. We do not talk to guests. We watch TV and once in awhile make a comment about what there is to watch or something else. Even so-called “Christians” watch filthy, junky, and ungodly stuff on TV. Soon we become slaves and addicts to the TV.

When people watching the TV it is hard for them to stop watching it. People watch dirty and gruesome things and just say, what was wrong with it? or how terrible it was, and keep watching it. No one even bothered to not watch it or get rid of it. The devil laughs at us when we do this because he has won. People have let TV become a part of their lives, so therefore they let it control them instead of them controlling it.

When we as people come home we turn on the TV right away. Whatever there’s to see, it is on full blast. TV damages adults, but totally destroys children. One school teacher had her students not watch TV for 24 hours, and then write a report on it. One boy thought one minute [not watching TV] was like a month, another imagined that his favorite shows were on TV. Japanese children think that they cannot live without it. They have at least 3 TV’s in their homes. They think you are “different” if you do not have a TV to look at all the time.

The TV is a things that lays the way for the Anti-Christ. The Anti-Christ will rule the world by way of the TV. He will have everybody hooked on to the TV and watching filthy stuff, which allows demons come into their homes. TV is man’s number one idol besides other things. The Anti-Christ will speak through the TV. Unsaved people cannot watch or worship the TV during the Tribulation because they will be killed for not bowing down to him [Anti-Christ] when he comes on TV. We should not watch filthy things on TV. (Over 400 words)

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

What One Catholic Doctor Taught Me About Christianity

william fiorini
Dr. William Fiorini

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

In the 1960s, the Gerencser family moved to California, the land of promise and a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. Like many who traveled west, my parents found out that life in San Diego was not much different from the life they left in rural northwest Ohio. As in Ohio, my Dad worked sales jobs and drove truck. For the Gerencser family, the pot of gold was empty, and three or so years later we left California and moved back to Bryan, Ohio.

While moving to California and back proved to be a financial disaster for my parents, they did find Jesus at Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego — a fundamentalist church pastored by Tim LaHaye. Both of my parents made professions of faith at Scott Memorial, as did I when I was five years old. From that point forward, the Gerencser family, no matter where we lived, attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church.

Not only were my parents Fundamentalist Baptists, they were also members of the John Birch Society. While in California, my Mom actively campaigned for Barry Goldwater, and later, back in Ohio, she campaigned for George Wallace. Right-wing religious and political beliefs were very much a part of my young life, so it should come as no surprise that I turned out to be a fire-breathing right-wing Republican and a Fundamentalist Baptist preacher.

If the Baptist church taught me anything, it taught me to hate Catholics. According to my Sunday School teachers and pastors, and later my college professors and ministerial colleagues, the Catholic church was the whore of Babylon, a false church, the church of Satan and the Antichrist. I was taught that Catholics believed in salvation by works and believed many things that weren’t found in the Bible; things such as: purgatory, church magisterium, Pope is the Vicar of Christ, transubstantiation, infant baptism, confirmation, priests not permitted to marry, praying to statutes, worshiping the dead, and worshiping Mary. These things were never put in any sort of historical context for me, so by the time I left Midwestern Baptist College in 1979, I was a certified hater of all things Catholic.

In 1991, something happened that caused me to reassess my view of Catholics. My dogma ran head-on into a Catholic that didn’t fit my narrow, bigoted beliefs. In 1989, our fourth child and first daughter was born. We named her Bethany. Our family doctor was William Fiorini. He operated the Somerset Medical Clinic in Somerset, Ohio, the same town where I pastored an IFB church. Dr. Fiorini was a devout Catholic, a post-Vatican II Catholic who had been greatly influenced by the charismatic revival that swept through the Catholic church in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a kind and compassionate man. He knew our family didn’t have insurance or much money, and more than a few times the treatment slip turned in after a visit said N/C (no charge).

Bethany seemed quite normal at first. It wasn’t until she was sixteen months old that we began to see things that worried us. Her development was slow and she couldn’t walk. One evening, we drove over to Charity Baptist Church in Beavercreek, Ohio to attend a Bible conference. The woman watching the nursery asked us about Bethany having Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome? Our little girl wasn’t retarded. How dare this woman even suggest that there was something wrong with our daughter.

Bethany continued to struggle, reaching development stages months after infants and toddlers typically do. Finally, we went to see Dr. Fiorini. He suggested that we have Bethany genetically tested. We took her over to Ohio State University Hospital for the test and a few weeks later, just days before Bethany’s second birthday and the birth of our daughter Laura, we received a phone call from Dr. Fiorini. He told us the test results were back and he wanted to talk to us about them. He told us to come to his office after he finished seeing patients for the day and he would sit down and talk with us about the test results.

The test showed that Bethany had Down Syndrome. Her Down Syndrome features were so mild that the obstetrician missed the signs when she was born. Here we were two years later finding out that our oldest daughter had a serious mental handicap. Our Catholic doctor, a man I thought was a member of the church Satan built and headed for hell, sat down with us, and with great love and compassion shared the test results. He told us that many miscarriages are fetuses with Down Syndrome, and that it was evident that God wanted to bless us with a special child like Bethany. He answered every question and treated us as he would a member of his own family.

This Catholic didn’t fit my narrow, bigoted picture of what a Catholic was. Here was a man who loved people, who came to an area that had one of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in Ohio, and started a one-doctor practice. (He later added a Nurse practitioner, a nun who treated us when we couldn’t get in to see the doctor.) He worked selflessly to help everyone he could. On more than one occasion, I would pass him on the highway as his wife shuttled him from Zanesville to Lancaster — the locations of the nearest hospitals. Often, he was slumped over and asleep in the passenger’s seat. He was the kind of doctor who gave me his home phone number and said to call him if I ever needed his help. He told us there was no need to take our kids to the emergency room for stitches or broken bones. He would gladly stitch them up, even if we didn’t have an appointment.

Dr. Fiorini wasn’t perfect. One time, he almost killed me. He regularly treated me for throat infections, ear infections, and the like. Preaching as often as I did, I abused my voice box and throat. I also have enlarged adenoids and tonsils, and I breathe mostly through my mouth. As a result, I battled throat and voice problems my entire preaching career. One day, I came to see Dr. Fiorini for yet a-n-o-t-h-e-r throat infection. He prescribed an antibiotic and told me to take it easy. He knew, like himself, I was a workaholic and would likely ignore his take-it-easy advice. Take the drug, wait a few weeks, and just like always I would be good as new. However, this time it didn’t work. Over the course of two months, as I got sicker and sicker, he tried different treatments. Finally, he did some additional testing and found out I had mononucleosis; the kissing disease for teens, a deadly disease for a thirty-four-year-old man. Two days later, I was in the hospital with a 104 degree fever, a swollen spleen and liver, and an immune system on the verge of collapse.

An internist came in to talk with my wife and me. He told us that if my immune system didn’t pick up and fight there was nothing he could do. Fortunately, my body fought back and I am here to write about it. My bout with mononucleosis dramatically altered my immune system, making me susceptible to bacterial and viral infection. A strange result of the mononucleosis was that my normal body temperature dropped from 98.6 to 97.0. I lost 50 pounds and was unable to preach for several months.

Once I was back on my feet, Dr. Fiorini apologized to me for missing the mononucleosis. I was shocked by his admission. He showed me true humility by admitting his mistake. I wish I could say that I immediately stopped hating Catholics and condemning them to Hell, but it would be several years before I finally came to the place where I embraced everyone who called themselves a Christian. In late 1990s, while pastoring Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio, I embraced what is commonly called the social gospel. Doctrine no longer mattered to me. Moving from a text-oriented belief system, I began to focus on good works. Tell me how you live. Better yet, show me; and in the showing, a Catholic doctor taught me what it really meant to be a Christian.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.