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Tag: Soulwinning

Short Stories: Hawking Jesus and Candy Bars at Midwestern Baptist College

bruce and polly gerencser 1976
Freshman class, Midwestern Baptist College, Pontiac, Michigan 1976

My wife, Polly, and I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan from 1976 to 1979. Midwestern was a small, affordable, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution started in 1954 by Dr. Tom Malone. “Doc” was the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church — a nearby megachurch. Both the college and the church were built around winning souls for Jesus. Students were expected to participate in soulwinning activities and witness to people every week. The goal was to lead people through the plan of salvation — typically The Roman’s Road — and encourage them to pray the sinner’s prayer. (Please see Let’s Go Soulwinning and Door-to-Door Soulwinning.) On Sundays, students were expected to account for their soulwinning activities the previous week. I suspect most students fudged their numbers.

There were numerous IFB churches in the Pontiac area. Most of them were quite aggressive in reaching sinners for Jesus. These churches, along with Emmanuel Baptist, and Midwestern, turned Pontiac is to a burned-out zone — an area so evangelized that sinners were hard to find. Week after week, IFB church members and college students would fan across Pontiac and the nearby suburbs looking for prey, uh, I mean, unsaved people. Scores of people were allegedly “saved” every week, so much so that virtually all of Pontiac was saved. The deep south, with Baptist churches on every street corner, has a similar problem. So many soul winners, so few sinners. One pastor told me that there were so many Baptist churches in Chattanooga, Tennessee — home to IFB institutions Tennessee Temple and Highland Park Baptist Church, pastored by Lee Roberson — that everyone in Chattanooga was saved. Yet, young preachers would still be “led” to Chattanooga to start new churches. Easy pickings, I’d say.

Midwestern would annually hold a soulwinning contest — a period of time when students were expected to regularly and aggressively evangelize Pontiac residents. These contests were the regular soulwinning programs on steroids. Imagine a busload of Jehovah’s Witnesses showing up in your neighborhood and not leaving for two weeks. Knocking on your door, repeatedly. That’s what the annual soulwinning contests were like.

Midwestern put up a chart in the gymnasium/cafeteria that tracked the number of souls saved. This chart listed the names of the top soulwinners. As with all such contests, there were some students that were really committed to the contest, hoping to win the prize for winning the most souls. Yes, there were prizes. It was widely believed among dorm students that the top soul winners were likely lying about the number of souls they led to Jesus. I was among those who believed the top soulwinners were fudging their numbers. Of course, it may have been that we were just jealous that God had not blessed us with soulwinning power. Students were required to take evangelism classes each year, but some students didn’t take to the techniques as well as others. (It would be interesting to do a study on the psychology of those who were at the top of the souls saved leaderboard.)

Polly and I weren’t very good soulwinners. Polly didn’t win one soul to Jesus during her three years at Midwestern; I won two. I worked a full-time job, attended classes 25 hours a week, attended church three times a week, taught Sunday school, drove a church bus, went on Tuesday visitation and called on my bus route on Saturdays, preached at a drug rehab center on Sunday afternoons, and went out on double dates with Polly on weekends. I also played basketball often as I could. The dorm had a curfew — 10:00 pm, I think. When, exactly, did I have time to win souls? (As a pastor, I did put what I learned at Midwestern to work, but I never did like doing door-to-door evangelism. I always felt such practices were coercive.)

Midwestern would also hold annual fundraising contests. (Midwestern always seemed to be broke, often begging poor college students to give money to the college.) One year, students were asked to sell jumbo-sized O’Henry candy bars for $1. Students were expected to sell the candy bars to everyone they came in contact with, much like the college students who knock on your door in the summer, selling books, magazines, and knives. I halfheartedly tried to sell the candy bars. My biggest buyer ended up being me. 🙂

As I thought about the soulwinning contest and the candy bar fundraising contest, I realized that they were one and the same. The techniques were the same. The goals were the same: buy the product we are selling. The rewards are the same: recognition and your name on a chart. And the people who were at the top of the souls saved chart were the same people at the top of the candy bars sold chart.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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The Four Ws of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Church Movement

four-ws-ifb

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement began in the 1950s as a response to theological liberalism among American and Southern Baptists. Pastors pulled churches out of their respective denominations and declared themselves INDEPENDENT. In the 1960s and 1970s, many of the Top 100 churches in America, attendance-wise, were IFB churches. The largest church in the country was an IFB church — First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, pastored by Jack Hyles. All across America, IFB big-shots held conferences to motivate and inspire preachers to do great exploits for God. Emphasis was placed on growing church attendance. The late John R. Rice, an IFB evangelist and the editor of The Sword of the Lord, is famous for saying, there’s nothing wrong with pastoring a SMALL church — for a while. Rice, Hyles, and countless other big-name IFB preachers believed a sure sign of God’s blessing on a church and a pastor’s ministry was an increase in attendance — especially a steady stream of unsaved visitors filling the pews.

IFB churches used poor children as a vehicle by which to drive up attendance. Bus ministries were all the craze in the 1960s-1980s. IFB megachurches ran hundreds of buses, bringing thousands of people — mostly poor children — to their services. Churches ran all sorts of promotions and gimmicks to attract bus riders — world’s largest banana split, hamburger Sunday, and free bike giveaway, to name a few. Once at church, children were shuffled off to junior church programs. Teens and adults usually attended the main worship service. IFB churches often had programs to “reach” deaf people and the developmentally disabled (or “retard church,” as it was called back in the day). The goal of all of these programs was to bring hordes of unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines to the church so they could hear the gospel and be saved.

I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio for eleven years. I started the church in 1983 with sixteen people. By the end of 1987, church attendance reached 206 — quite a feat in a poverty-stricken rural area. Somerset Baptist was the largest non-Catholic church in the county. At the height of the church’s attendance growth, we operated four Sunday bus routes. Each week, buses brought in a hundred or so riders, mostly poor children from the surrounding four-county area. We also ran a bus route on Sunday nights for teenagers. For several years, Somerset Baptist Church was THE place to be. There was a buzz in the services as visitors got saved and baptized. All told, over 600 people put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. And that was the primary goal. A good service was one during which multiple sinners came forward to be saved and repentant Christians lined the altar getting “right” with God.

During my IFB years, I attended numerous soulwinning conferences. These meetings were geared towards motivating pastors and churches to win souls for Christ. I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in the 1970s. One of the songs we sang in chapel went something like this:

Souls for Jesus is our battle cry
Souls for Jesus we’ll fight until we die
We never will give in while souls are lost in sin
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry

Midwestern held annual soulwinning contests. The student bagging the most souls for Jesus received an award. Founded by Tom Malone, the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church, in the 1950s, Midwestern’s goal was to turn out soulwinning church planters. Students were required to attend church at Emmanuel. This provided the church with hundreds of people to run their bus routes, Sunday school, and other ministries. During the 1970s, Emmanuel was one of the largest churches in the United States, with a high attendance of over 5,000. (Today, Emmanuel is defunct.) Everything about the church and college revolved around evangelizing the lost. Students were required to evangelize door-to-door, seeking out lost sinners needing salvation. My favorite story from my days pounding the pavement in Pontiac came one Saturday when a young couple decided to give the two young preacher boys banging on their door a surprise. You never knew how people might respond to you when you knocked on their doors, but this couple so shocked us that we literally had nothing to say. You see, they answered the door stark naked!

What follows is the Four Ws plan many (most) IFB churches followed when I was a pastor: Win them, Wet them, Work them, Waste them. The Four Ws are still followed today, even though the IFB movement as a whole is dying, with decreasing attendance, and fewer and fewer souls saved and new converts baptized.

Win Them

The goal is to evangelize unsaved people. “Unsaved” includes Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Buddhists, Hindus, and countless other liberal or non-IFB sects, along with atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, Satanists, and anyone else deemed “lost.”  My goal as a pastor was to go out into the community and knock on every door, hoping that I could share the gospel with locals. I implored church members to invite their family, friends, and neighbors to church so they could hear me preach and, hopefully, be saved. When we went out on street ministry, the goal was the same: preaching the gospel and winning the lost. When we had revival meetings, members were expected to attend every service and bring visitors with them. Again, the grand objective was bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ. Soulwinning is the lifeblood of the IFB church movement. (This is not necessarily a criticism on my part. The Bible seems to teach that Christians are to win souls. IFB churches take this charge to heart; most other churches don’t.)

Wet Them

The first step of “obedience” new converts are told about is baptism by immersion. New converts are encouraged to be baptized right away. Typically, IFB churches have a lot more new converts than they do new baptisms. There is a joke that goes something like this: why do IFB churches baptize people the same Sunday they are saved? Because most of the new converts will never attend church again! IFB churches typically go through a tremendous amount of membership churn. It is not uncommon for churches to turn over their entire memberships every five or so years. I was taught by seasoned pastors not to worry about churn. Just make sure more people are coming in the front door than are leaving out the back door.

Work Them

Once people were saved and baptized, they are given a to-do list: pray every day, read the Bible every day, attend church every time the doors are open, tithe and give offerings, witness, and find a “ministry” to work in. Many IFB congregants are pilloried over not working hard enough for Jesus. Pew warmers are subjected to guilt-inducing sermons, reminders that Christians should want to be found busy working for Jesus when he comes again. No matter how much I tried to get congregants to join me in the work of the ministry, most of them showed up on Sundays, threw some money in the offering plate, listened to my sermons, and repeated the same things week after week. There was, however, a core group of people who drank the Kool-Aid, so to speak. Along with their pastor, they worked, worked, worked. The same group attended every service, gave most of the money, and staffed the church’s ministries. They were, as I was, True BelieversÂŽ. (Many of the regular readers of this blog who were former IFB Christians were True BelieversÂŽ — people who worked nonstop to win souls and staff their churches ministries.)

Waste Them

Eventually, the work, work, work pace wears out even the best of people, myself included. I have no doubt my health problems began back in the days when I believed it was “better to burn out for Jesus than rust out.” I worked night and day, as did the people who followed in my steps. Over time, preacher and parishioners alike ran out of steam. Ironically, the steam venting happened at Somerset Baptist around the time I embraced Calvinism. It was Calvinism, in many ways, that rescued me from the drive and grind of the IFB church movement. Over time, church attendance declined as we stopped running the buses and people moved on to other, more “exciting,” churches. Instead of being focused on evangelization, I set my sights on teaching congregants the Bible through expository preaching. We still were evangelistic, but gone were the days when we were focused on numbers. It was Calvinism that allowed me to take a deep breath and relax a bit.

People aren’t meant to work night and day. Eventually, they burn out. That’s what happened to me. I truly thought Jesus wanted me to work non-stop for him. However, I learned way too late that we humans need rest and time away from the grind. Many of my pastor friends figured this out long before I did. I considered them lazy, and indifferent to the lost in their communities (and some of them were). However, they understood the importance of maintaining their health and spending time with their families. While I eventually came to understand the importance of these things, I wasted the better years of my life.

Were you an IFB pastor or church member? Did your church follow the four Ws? Please share your thoughts, insights, and experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

My Experiences with IFB Evangelist Dennis Corle

I started the Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset, Ohio in July 1983. Sixteen people attended our first service. We later bought an abandoned, 150-year-old Methodist church building five miles east of Somerset for $5,000. Attendance quickly exploded, and by 1987, the church was running four bus routes and had a high attendance of 206. Across five years, roughly 600 people made public professions of faith. Countless Christian people came to the altar, knelt, wept, slung snot, and got right with God. Somerset Baptist had all the marks of a church on the move. We talked about adding space to accommodate the burgeoning crowd. Unfortunately, the cost was prohibitive, so we made do with what we had. This proved to be the right decision. Internal personal and theological squabbles led to people leaving the church and taking their money with them. Our total income dropped by 50 percent. We sold off all our buses and started a tuition-free member-only Christian school. In February 1994, we closed the church, sold the building for $25,000, and I left to become the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church — a growing congregation southeast of San Antonio, Texas.

During the eleven years I was privileged to pastor Somerset Baptist Church, numerous evangelists preached for us. Men such as Doug Day and Don Hardman preached multiple meetings. Other men were, for a variety of reasons, one and done. Dennis Corle, a well-known evangelist in IFB circles, preached at least two meetings for us, one in 1984 and another in 1987. Corle may have preached another meeting, but my memory is sketchy, so I will focus on the two meetings I remember best. Corle also preached a meeting for my father-in-law at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, a church I started with Dad in 1981.

Corle describes himself this way:

Dennis Corle was saved on January 15, 1975, at the age of 20, and began preaching just a few months after his conversion. He worked on staff at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Ski Gap, Pennsylvania, for over 2 years. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Beth Haven Baptist College in Louisville, Kentucky, under the ministry of Dr. Tom Wallace in 1980. He completed the four-year course in 20 months and graduated valedictorian of his class.

He spent one-year training under the ministry of veteran evangelist, Dr. Joe Boyd traveling and working in his revival meetings. He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Tri-State Baptist College in Memphis, Tennessee, with Dr. Ron Westmoreland, and a Th.M. and Th.D. degree from Great Commission Theological Seminary.  He also received a Doctor of Humanities from Truth Baptist Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Literature from Faith Baptist College; as well as a Th.M. and Th.D. from Landmark Baptist College. He has started eight different churches through the years and has helped over 100 other church planters get started.

Dennis Corle entered full time evangelism in 1981. In the past 38 years: he has traveled over 4 million miles, held over 2,085 revival meetings and over a thousand one-day meetings as well as Soul-winning and Revival Fires Conferences.

In his ministry he has had over 71,336 saved and 19,422 baptized. He has seen thousands of young people surrender for full time ministry many of whom are presently serving the Lord full time as well as thousands of members added to independent Baptist Churches during his meetings.

He is the founder and president of Revival Fires Baptist College which is a correspondence college that offers a full 4-year program. He started and teaches a summer institute designed to train young evangelists in the field. Dr. Corle also teaches in several fundamental Baptist colleges each year.

Dennis Corle is the founder of Revival Fires Publishing. His ministry has published 127 books to date.

….

Dr. Corle is the Editor/Publisher of the monthly fundamental publication, Revival Fires! For 31 years in its present form and three years prior in a smaller format he’s hosted the Revival Fires! National Conference. He has also hosted the Shooters’ Expo, Evangelists’ School, and Church Planting Conference for years.

Brother Corle travels with his family to hold around 100 meetings each year all over the United States and a few foreign fields.

As you can see, Corle is a bean counter and braggart. It’s one thing to humbly share your accomplishments, and another to say:

In the past 38 years: he has traveled over 4 million miles, held over 2,085 revival meetings and over a thousand one-day meetings as well as Soul-winning and Revival Fires Conferences.

In his ministry he has had over 71,336 saved and 19,422 baptized. He has seen thousands of young people surrender for full time ministry many of whom are presently serving the Lord full time as well as thousands of members added to independent Baptist Churches during his meetings.

For my view on Corle’s “numbers,” please see the post How Math Led Me Away from the IFB Church Movement.

Corle has always been a promoter of one-two-three-repeat-after-me evangelism. (Please see One, Two, Three, Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style.) Corle told me that he could win any sinner to Christ in five minutes. Just follow the plan, get them to pray the sinner’s prayer, and move on. Corle led numerous people to Christ while holding meetings at our church. Few of them ever visited the church or were baptized, yet they were all notches on the grips of Corle’s gospel six-shooter; one of the 71,336 people saved under his ministry.

Corle thought very little of spending significant time studying in preparation for preaching on Sundays. He told me pastors should only spend four or five hours a week preparing their sermons. Better for them to spend the bulk of their time knocking on doors and winning souls for Christ. I, of course, rejected Corle’s advice. By the late eighties, I was spending 20 hours a week studying for my sermons.

Corle’s preaching was typical IFB stuff. Lots of fear and guilt. Corle could be a bully, especially during invitations. His goal was always the same: to beg and plead for people to come forward, and if that didn’t work, cajole and berate them. One night, Corle preached on the importance of church membership. His objective was to get people to come forward and join the church. During the invitation, Corle asked everyone who was not a member to raise their hands. One such couple was Kerry and Linda Locke (who later joined the church). Corle proceeded to call out Kerry, demanding that he give a good reason for not joining Somerset Baptist. Corle tried to badger Kerry and his wife into coming forward, but they declined. I was so embarrassed by Corle’s behavior. I later apologized to the Lockes.

The first meeting Corle preached for us took place in 1984. At the time, attendance was small. We were meeting in a rented facility, the upstairs part of the Landmark building. Not many souls were saved during this first meeting, but that would change in 1987. By then, we were in our own building, and attendance was averaging 150. Corle preached Sunday morning and Sunday night, and Monday through Friday nights. We had good a turnout for each service. Corle also held a service for children one hour before. I did not attend these services, so I had no idea what was going on. That would be a big mistake on my part.

The meeting came and went with nary a thought. Weeks later, I received the latest issue of the IFB rag the Sword of the Lord. The Sword had a section where IFB evangelists could report their stats. Imagine my surprise to read that 45 souls were saved under the preaching of Dennis Corle at Somerset Baptist Church. I had a Baptist version of WTF moment. When were these people saved? There weren’t 45 people saved during the revival services — not even close. Was Corle lying about his soulwinning prowess? Maybe. After all, he ran in Sword of the Lord/Jack Hyles circles. Exaggeration (lying) was common. Not so much these days since the IFB church movement is largely a smoldering dumpster fire.

Come to find out, Corle was using high-pressure evangelism techniques to “save” largely church children. He would scare the Hell out of these captive youngsters, and then ask them if they wanted to get “saved.” Of course, they wanted to get saved. They were trembling in fear from being threatened with God’s judgment and eternal torture in Hell. Today, I view such techniques as child abuse.

Corle did not get another opportunity to preach at our church. The only positive thing I can say about Corle is that his wife Kathy had a wonderful singing voice.

Video Link

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Scores of Sinners Saved, Evangelical Preachers Say, But Let’s Look Behind the Numbers

Evangelical preachers loved to talk about the number of people saved under their ministries. The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement, in particular, is fixated on “souls saved.” If IFB churches were McDonald’s restaurants, they would replace the “____ billions served” line with “____ souls saved.”

Evangelists love to humble brag about how many people were saved during the meetings. “Souls saved” is the equivalent of a dick measuring contest. Watch a Billy or Franklin Graham crusade and you will see hundreds of people coming forward during the altar call. What most people don’t know is that many of the people coming forward are counselors, not people getting saved.

In a post titled Scaring Children and Teenagers Into Getting Saved, I wrote:

Some evangelists, using the Billy Graham model, “prime the pump” by having trained Christian altar workers come forward during the invitation time. These altar workers give the unaware the illusion that God is moving and people are being saved. Contrary to Donald Trump saying that he invented the phrase “priming the pump,” Evangelists have been talking about and using this practice since the 1920s. While many evangelists don’t use such a crass phrase as “priming the pump,” and instead use less-offensive phrases such as ‘helping sinners take the first step’, I have heard several notable evangelists utter the phrase. The late Joe Boyd is one evangelist who comes to mind.

A new fad amount Evangelical megachurch pastors is mass baptisms. There was a time when baptism was reserved for new converts (or for church membership in Landmark/Baptist Bride congregations.) Today, churches will mass baptize people who want to recommit themselves to Jesus or have some sort of felt need. Doing so wildly inflates their baptism numbers, hiding the fact that very few new converts are being baptized.

Every day, or so it seems anyway, I read news reports about this or that church/pastor/evangelist having scores of sinners saved. I automatically say “bullshit.” Why? In most Evangelical churches, salvation is little more mental assent to a set of theological propositions. This is especially true in IFB churches that practice “easy believism” or “decisional regeneration.” (Please see The Bankruptcy of the Evangelical Gospel, Let’s Go Soulwinning, and One, Two, Three, Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style.) Preachers report large numbers of souls saved, yet when asked why their church attendances aren’t growing, these soulwinning machines say “that’s up to God, not me.” Bob Gray, Sr, the retired pastor of an IFB megachurch in Longview, Texas, proudly states thousands and thousands and thousands of people were saved under his ministry — upwards of a 100,000 people — yet most of these new converts were never baptized (the first step of obedience) or became members of the church.

During the First and Second Great Awakenings, thousands and thousands of people were saved. For a time, church attendances grew. By and by, the revival fires died, and many of these new converts went back to their worldly ways. One evangelist of that era (Jonathan Edwards or George Whitfield, I believe) said that revivialists should wait for a year before counting “souls saved.” They believed that this would give an accurate count of those truly saved.

I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio from 1983 to 1994. The church grew from sixteen people at its first service to 206 in 1987. During the eleven years I pastored Somerset Baptist, over 600 people made public professions of faith. Most of them didn’t become members, often coming for a few weeks or months before returning to their “sinful” ways. While the church did grow in the 1980s, most of the growth came from transfers — people changing churches. I would later see that the gospel I was preaching made people seven-fold children of Hell. I spent the remainder of my time in the ministry trying to get saved people unsaved. This proved much harder than getting them saved. Embracing Calvinism in the mid- to late- 1980s forced me to reorient my approach to preaching and evangelism. I went from being quantity-focused to quality-focused. I went from preaching textual/topical sermons to preaching expositionally. My focus was on building up the church instead of filling the pews with people who had no real interest in following Jesus.

The next time you hear a preaching bragging about how many souls were saved at this or that church/revival meeting, I hope you will quietly mumble under your breath, “bullshit.” 🙂 Or better yet, ask this braggart how many of these new converts were baptized, how many of them joined the church, and how many of them are actively serving Jesus. You will likely see the preacher’s dick shrivel up, and he will probably stammer and stutter as he tries to explain the disconnect between the number of souls saved and the number who are members and actively serving their Savior.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Man Endued with the Power of God at Wife’s Funeral

jack hyles praying
Jack Hyles Praying

If you are unfamiliar with Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

Excerpt from Woman the Completer, by the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana:

“Dear Dr. Hyles. I am 24 years of age. I am a preacher boy whom God called to preach six months after I got saved three years ago. I felt led to go to a certain Bible college in a certain state. I attended there until God called me to pastor a small church. I was ordained. From there, God led me back to a certain city in a certain state where I got saved under Dr. Joe Doe. (I’m using ficticious names.) I worked on the staff of Dr. Doe for that summer and started to go to the Letot Bible Institute that fall.

As I started to go to school that fall, I got a full-time position in a church as assistant pastor and youth director. While I was in a certain state, I met and married a wonderful girl, a spiritual girl, a girl that loved Jesus Christ. As we lived in Letot, I was working for a church in a certain place. I seemed to be getting away from soul winning and getting deeper into the books. After awhile I was not doing what God wanted me to do and what God made me to do. I was not knocking on doors and winning people to Jesus Christ. My not being the man of God I ought to be affected my marriage. It affected my marriage to the extent that my wife told me at one time that if I didn’t become the soul winner that God wants me to be, she couldn’t respect me as a man of God, and she thinks. . . .”

“One afternoon as I was leaving from school, my wife and I seemed to be in the flesh. We didn’t have devotions that day and pray as we usually do. I walked out of the house without telling her I loved her and without telling her good-bye. As I got to school, I felt bad, so I called on the phone, and there was no answer. I knew something was wrong. I drove home immediately and found my wife had committed suicide.”

“As we had her funeral in her hometown up North, I went a half hour early before her relatives and friends viewed the body. I walked in and put my head on my wife’s chest in the casket and was hoping that she would lean up and hold me, kiss me, cuddle me, baby me and tell me that she loved me, but she wasn’t there–she was with the Lord. I then fell on my face before the casket and talked with God. Something happened to me there that I can’t explain, but for once in my life I had the full power of God, but what a price to have to pay! As her friends and relatives came by the casket, I stood there like a soldier witnessing and telling them about Jesus Christ. I feel, Dr. Hyles, that God is leading me to Hyles-Anderson College to learn more about Him and learn more about character and discipline and be the man that God wants me to be.”

Does anyone really believe this story is true? I know I don’t. Jack Hyles was a pathological liar, often spinning yarns, half-truths, and exaggerations in his sermons. Such behavior is not uncommon in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist circles.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Prayer and Reading the Bible: The One Method That ALWAYS Works in Evangelizing Atheists

ra torrey

Several years ago, the fine, upstanding Christians over on Baptist Board were discussing my past and whether I was ever a “real” Christian. If you have not taken the time to read their pontifications, please do so. And after doing so, please let me know who in the Heaven they are talking about!

One forum participant suggested the following from R.A. Torrey’s book (Torrey worked with D.L. Moody in the nineteenth century), How to Work for Christ, for reaching people such as myself:

Having asked the man these preliminary questions, proceed at once to show him how to believe. I have found no passage in the Bible equal to John 7:17 in dealing with an honest skeptic:

“If any man WILL DO HIS WILL, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

It shows the way out of skepticism to faith, and has been used of God to the salvation of countless skeptics and infidels. You can say to the skeptic, “Now Jesus Christ makes a fair proposition. He does not ask you to believe without evidence, bet He asks you to do a thing that your own conscience approves, and promises that if you do it, you will come out of skepticism into knowledge. What Jesus asks in this verse, is that you will to do God’s will; that is, that you surrender your will to God. Will you do it?”

When this point has been settled, next say to him, “Will you make an honest search to find out what the will of God is, that you may do it?” When this point has been settled, ask the man, “Do you believe that God answers prayer?” Very likely the skeptic will reply that he does not. You can say to him, “Well, I know that He does, but of course I don’t expect you to accept my opinion, but here is a possible clue to knowledge. Now the method of modern science is to follow out any possible clue to see what there is in it. You have given me a promise to make an  honest search to find the will of God, and here is a possible clue, and if your promise was honest,you will follow it. Will you pray this prayer?

‘O God, show me whether Jesus is thy Son or not; and if you show me that He is, I promise to accept Him as my Savior and confess Him as such before the world.'”

It is well to have him make his promise definite by putting it down in black and white. After this is done, show him still another step. Take him to John 20:31:

“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

Here we are told that the Gospel of John was written that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Tell him, “Now this Gospel is given for this purpose, to show that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. Will you take this Gospel and read it, honestly and carefully?” Very likely he will say, “I have read it often before.” You can say, “I want you to read it in a new way. Will you read it this way? Read a few verses at a time, and each time before you read, will you ask God to  give you light on the passage that you are about to read, and promise that if He does, you will follow as much as you see to be true. Now when you have read the Gospel through, come back to me and tell me the result.” I would again carefully go over all the points as to what he was to do.

….

This method of treatment if it is honestly followed by the skeptic will never fail.

Torrey says that if skeptics are “honest” and follow his suggestions, they will unfailingly become followers of Jesus Christ. And when they don’t? Why, brothers and sisters, they ain’t being honest.

What do you think about Torrey’s approach to skepticism? Were you convinced of the error of your ways?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Evangelical MLM Evangelism

nude-evangelism
Cartoon by Chris Morgan

Several years ago, I wrote a post titled J.A. Medders Asks: What Do You Think Jesus is Doing Right Now?.

As I read the comments on this post, I had thoughts about how similar multi-level marketing (MLM) programs are to the various methods and programs Evangelicals use to evangelize people they deem unsaved/lost/unregenerate and headed for hell. This post will detail these similarities.

From 1995-2002, I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. During my tenure at this church, I had to deal with well-intentioned members and Christian friends who tried to recruit me into their MLM programs. I was an attractive candidate due to the fact that I had a name-filled Rolodex that could be mined for new marks. Always polite and respectful, I never said NO, so this made me an easy target for church members who were involved with selling everything from Amway to long-distance telephone service.

One day the telephone rang and it was Brother Bob (names changed to protect the guilty) calling to ask if he could come over and talk to me about something that he was SURE I would find interesting and exciting; an opportunity to help other people and make money too. I thought, Not again, but not wanting to upset Brother Bob, I said, sure, when would you like to come over?

The next night a new Cadillac pulled into our driveway. Unbeknownst to me, Brother Bob had brought someone else with him. Great, I thought, now I have to deal with Brother Bob AND a stranger. As they came onto our front deck, I opened the door, and putting on the biggest I love Jesus smile possible, I invited them into our spacious, palatial 14’x70′ home on wheels.

Brother Bob was wearing Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, while the intruder who came with him looked like he stepped out of the pages of a fashion catalog. After trading pleasantries, I invited Brother Bob and the now-I-know-your-name stranger into our expansive seventy-square-foot dining room. Brother Bob sat on one side of the table, I sat on the other side, and the stranger — let’s call him Dick — sat at the head of the table.

Dick relaxed into his chair, putting both arms on the table with hands clasped. In doing so, I couldn’t help but notice his Rolex watch and large diamond ring. These accessories were a perfect match for his calendar model look. From this point forward, Brother Bob didn’t say another word. Dick began talking to me about wants, needs, and desires, focusing on the accrual of wealth and material goods. At this point, he had not yet told me WHY he and Brother Bob were there. Having evangelized hundreds of people over the years, I knew Dick was trying to make me think that we were friends and that we had common wants, needs, and desires. He regaled me with stories about how his standard of living had mushroomed since he joined — are you ready? drum roll please â€”  AMWAY.

Dick asked if I had ever heard of AMWAY. I told him I had, but that didn’t stop him from giving me a well-rehearsed speech about the history and wonders of AMWAY. After thirty minutes or so, Dick thought it was time to close the deal. He asked me if I wanted to earn more money and improve my standard of living — offensively assuming that there was something wrong with my current lifestyle. Dick reiterated all that Amway had done for him, sure that I would want the same things. Imagine his surprise when I told him that I really wasn’t interested in accumulating material goods.

Dick had said he was a Christian, so I was somewhat surprised that he didn’t know that the Bible said:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17)

I shared with Dick my view of wealth and material goods, and it became quickly clear to him that I was NOT a prospect for AMWAY. Dick quickly ended his attempt to hustle me, saying to Brother Bob that it was time for them to go to their next appointment. I shook hands with them, walked them to the door, and off into the night they went looking to suck the blood out of other friends of Brother Bob.

Over the course of fifty years in the Christian church and twenty-five years in the ministry, I knocked on the doors of thousands of homes as I followed the Bible mandate to preach the gospel from house to house. My goal, regardless of the church I pastored, was to knock on the doors of every home in the community, introduce myself, and, if possible, share the gospel. I also encouraged church members to get me into the homes of their lost loved ones so I could share with them the wondrous good news that Jesus Saves!

I believed throughout my years in the Christian church that every person in the world needed to hear the gospel. While my fervor waned in later years, I still considered it my duty and responsibility to put a good word in for Jesus whenever possible. It always troubled me that OTHER Christians (and pastors) didn’t seem as bothered as I was about the lostness of their family, friends, and neighbors. Despite hearing and knowing the gospel, most church members showed little interest in getting others saved. I suspect most members viewed me as some sort of hired gun trained in the art of winning souls. Content to invite the unsaved to church so they could hear me preach, church members busied themselves with building a kingdom on this earth. No matter how often I attempted to raise an army to wage war against sin and the devil, most members were content to let me and a handful of other zealots do all the evangelism.

Think for a moment about soulwinning Evangelicals and the preachers of the  various MLM gospels. The methodology, techniques and promises are quite similar:

  • Both attempt to befriend people in hopes of getting them to buy what they are selling.
  • Both attempt to manipulate emotions in hopes of making people sympathetic to their sales pitch.
  • Both attempt to bolster their sales spiel with stories of how wonderful their lives are since getting saved/joining MLM program.
  • Both attempt to appeal to prospective customers with promises of a better life.
  • Both promise lives of meaning, purpose, and helping others.
  • Both attempt to impress on people the importance of making an immediate decision.
  • Both leave literature if people want to think about it or are unwilling to make an immediate decision

I am sure there are other connections. If you think of any, please share them in the comment section.

I am sure that Evangelicals will object to how I have painted their evangelistic efforts, but the fact remains Evangelicals are salespeople with a product to sell: forgiveness of sin, salvation, and a home in Heaven. This product purportedly offers purchasers joy, happiness, meaning, and purpose. The difference between what Evangelicals are selling and what the MLM zealots offer is that Evangelicals attempt to sell an invisible product that may not pay off until after death. Those who buy into the Jesus SavesÂŽ program must exercise faith, believing that, in the end, the multi-level marketer in the sky — Jesus — will move them to the top of the MLM pyramid, granting them a beautiful new mansion along streets of pure gold. With AMWAY, at least, converts can — in this life — judge the quality and truthfulness of its claims. This is why most people drop out of MLM programs, while most Evangelicals stay in their program until the end. Imagine what might happen if people required Jesus’ soul-saving MLM program to pay out BEFORE death. Why, most people would abandon Evangelical churches in short order.

As long as Evangelical churches promise things that can only be gained AFTER death, people will hang on, hoping that after their demise, they will cash in their eternal lottery ticket. While religion certainly has (for some people) utilitarian value, I do wonder if people would spend time going to church, giving their money, and attempting to live according to the teachings of an ancient religious text if there were no divine payoff.

Think back to your Evangelical days. If there was no life after death, no eternal reward, would you have been a Christian? Would you have lived as you did? If this life is all there is, how differently would you have lived your life? Please share your thoughtful ruminations in the comment section.

Christian Apologetics: Eight Failed Methods Evangelicals Have Used to Evangelize Me

atheists read the bible

Evangelicals believe they are commanded by God to go into all the world preach the gospel to everyone. Pastors encourage church members to seek out prospective candidates for evangelization everywhere they go. Hell is hot, death is certain, and the return of Jesus to earth is imminent, preachers say, so winning souls for Jesus is their top priority. (Fortunately, most Evangelicals fail to evangelize even one sinner.)

I studied for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution, was founded by Tom Malone, a graduate of Bob Jones College and the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. Every day students were required to attend chapel — a 45 minute or so church service. One song that was frequently sung went like this:

“Souls for Jesus!” is our battle cry!

“Souls for Jesus!” We’ll fight until we die!

We never will give in while souls are lost in sin!

“Souls for Jesus!” is our battle cry!

Students lustily sang the words, believing that their highest calling in life was winning souls for Jesus. Students were required to share the gospel weekly with at least three people. Some students, all jacked up on Mountain Dew, would spend hours each week evangelizing “sinners” in the Pontiac area. Others, such as Polly and I, had a life, which included full-time jobs, full-time class schedules, attending church three times a week, going on visitation/bus calling, working in a church ministry, and then, in the few waking hours we had left, have some sort of social life. We “wanted” to win souls. We wanted to be as zealous as other students, but we simply didn’t have enough hours in the day to do so. And we were not alone. Countless students, when called on to give an account of how many people they shared the gospel with, lied or played loose with what it meant to verbalize the gospel to sinners. All told, I won a handful of people to Christ during the three years I spent at Midwestern. I was, by Midwestern’s standard, a soulwinning failure.

As a pastor, I found that most of the people saved under my ministry came to saving faith through my preaching (over 600 people at one church in Southeast Ohio). I continued to knock on doors, hand out tracts, and preach on the streets, but I quickly learned that my most effective evangelization tool was my preaching.

I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. During this time, I came in contact with thousands of people. Two of the churches I pastored had attendances around 200. These two churches, in particular, had lots of visitors. Yet, in all my years in the ministry, I didn’t meet one person who said they were an atheist. Not one. I can’t remember ever preaching a whole sermon on “atheism.” When the text I was preaching from was applicable to atheists, I would mention it in passing, but I never dwelled on the people God called “fools.”

Now that I am a non-Christian, I realize everything I have learned about evangelizing atheists has come from Evangelicals who have tried to evangelize me. What follows is a list of methods Evangelicals have used in their attempts “save” me:

  1. The God question
  2. Philosophical arguments
  3. Creation
  4. Law of God written on my heart
  5. Questioning/doubting my story
  6. Quoting Bible verses
  7. Sharing personal testimony with me
  8. Attacking my character and motives

Scores of Evangelicals have tried to reclaim me (or claim me for the first time, depending on their soteriology) for Jesus using one or more of the methods listed above. All of them have failed spectacularly. Of course, Evangelicals never accept blame for their failed efforts, nor do they blame God for his inability to “save” me. No, I am to blame. I have a hard heart. I am a reprobate. I secretly want to sin. I am a closeted homosexual. I refuse to accept the “truth.” However, Evangelicals might want to reconsider their methodology, or better yet, realize that most atheists are not good prospects for evangelization — especially those who were Evangelicals before they deconverted. Atheists are not low-hanging fruit. We are at places in life where we are almost impossible to reach. Yet, Evangelicals continue to try to evangelize me, each thinking he or she is going to be the one who wins the Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist back to Jesus. What a prize, right?

I know I will never dissuade Evangelicals from trying to “save” me. All I can do is suggest that they come up with better methods than generic God arguments, fuzzy philosophical arguments, presuppositional arguments, quoting Bible verses I have heard and preached on countless times before, calling me a liar, discounting/dismissing my story, besmirching my character, or shitting on my doorstep.

Why not just pray and ask God to save me? Why not leave the state of my nonexistent soul up to the nonexistent creator of the universe? If God is the sovereign Lord of all and knows everything, surely he alone knows if and when I will be saved and what means will best do the job. Why leave my salvation in the hands of people who can’t even agree amongst themselves about “how” a person is saved, whether I need saving, or whether I have committed the unpardonable sin and crossed the line of no return?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

I “Persecuted” a Christian Today

billy sunday preaching

Last Monday, I had outpatient surgery to remove a benign tumor from my upper abdomen. Today, I returned to the surgeon’s office so he could remove the dressing and check the incision. I no longer drive, so my wife has to drive me to and from my medical appointments. Typically, while Polly checks me in, I slowly walk to the designated waiting area. Polly and I were apart all of five minutes, but that was enough time for me to “persecute” a Christian.

After sitting down in the waiting area, I couldn’t help but see and hear a loud, boisterous Evangelical Christian trying to evangelize a man sitting near him. I am not sure how the one-way conversation started since it was in progress when I arrived. What I do know is that while I was sitting there the Evangelical man told the unsuspecting “sinner” that his mother was in Heaven is she was saved; that some Christians believe you can’t lose your salvation and others believe you can; that he personally believed that once a person asks Jesus to save him he can’t fall from grace; that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian; that sometimes churches treat people badly, saying he had experienced such treatment himself; that people who don’t get saved go to Hell. His last words to the man were as follows: “I know you are a good man.”

Five minutes of loud in-your-face preaching, with the “target” not saying one word in response, just nodding his head in polite Midwestern fashion. As Polly was walking up the hallway to where I was sitting, I decided that I had had enough of the Evangelical man’s unwanted abusive behavior. I said to him in my preacher’s voice, “maybe the man doesn’t want you badgering him. Maybe we (there were six people sitting in the waiting room) don’t want to hear your bullshit. I know I don’t.” 🙂 And with that, the Evangelical man sat down and didn’t say another word. All praise be to Loki for his kindness.

I am plumb worn out (and irritated) by Evangelicals who think they have a duty and right to harass people in public. It was evident that the “target” wasn’t interested in what the man was selling, but was too polite to tell him to fuck off. Of course, Evangelicals reading this post will say, “Bruce, that sinner’s blood is on your hands. If he ends up in Hell, God will hold you accountable! It’s evident God sent the Evangelical man to the sinner to preach the gospel to him.” No, what is evident is that the Evangelical man didn’t care about social boundaries. I’m sure his pastor taught him to look for opportunities to witness. Evidently, his pastor didn’t warn him about curmudgeonly atheists who might be lurking nearby. 🙂

Come Sunday, I have no doubt the Evangelical man will tell his pastor and fellow church members that he was “persecuted” for sharing the gospel.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Trolling for Souls

paul-chappell

Several years ago, Paul Chappell, pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church and president of West Coast Baptist College, wrote a blog post titled Six Places to Find Soulwinning Prospects. Chappell, a hardcore Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), gave six places like-minded Fundamentalists could troll for souls:

  1. Door-to-door witness — This week our church family is working to knock on the door of each of the 80,000 homes in our community with a gospel invitation. We’re doing it in preparation for Open House Sunday (see #3 below), but even after this Sunday, we’ll start over again. Our goal is to saturate our valley with the gospel by strategically, systematically, and persistently reaching out to our community one home at a time. Many of the people in our church today were reached through door-to-door soulwinning.
  2. Community service — Look for ways to engage your community through service. Whether it be hosting a “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day” or a community-wide Love Works campaign, let people in your area know you care. This is important not only on large, church-wide scale, but also on a next-door neighbor scale. (You don’t need a church-wide event to keep your grass mowed or bring your neighbors a plate of brownies.)
  3. Special days — Days such as Christmas, Easter, and even events you create (such as “Open House Sunday”) can be tremendous opportunities to invite people to come hear the gospel in an evangelically-themed service at church. Because there is a particular date on these events, it helps encourage the people who ordinarily say “someday” to actually come.
  4. Friends and neighbors — Gospel-conscious Christians should cultivate relationships with lost people. Neighbors, coworkers, classmates, baristas—you should know the names of and develop an interest in the people who you see on a regular basis. And you should look for opportunities to share the gospel with them.
  5. Guest follow up — Every Monday morning, our outreach pastor collects the guest cards from Sunday services and assigns these as visits to adult Bible class leaders and faithful soulwinners. These are people whose hearts God is already working in, and they are contacts to be stewarded faithfully and followed up on tenaciously.
  6. Everywhere — Aside from depending on the filling of the Holy Spirit, the most fruitful habit a soulwinner can develop is a consciousness that every person to whom they speak has an eternal soul. Learn to see people as Jesus did—not just through the lens of the immediate interaction you have with them (or the irritation they may bring), but as a person with a soul that will spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. A soul-conscious Christian will not only set time aside specifically for gospel outreach, but will find opportunities all week long to witness to the barber, mechanic, grocery clerk, seatmate on the commute, and others.

In other words, Chappell is encouraging Evangelical Christians to deliberately seek out non-Christians and bug the hell out of them. Chappell is not interested in building friendships or accepting people at face value. Death is sure, hell is hot, and Jesus is coming soon, right? Chappell has no time for being a decent human being. Believing God has commissioned Christians to verbally and confrontationally harass unbelievers, Chappell implores his church and other like-minded churches to use classic bait-and-switch methodologies to get the job done. (Please see The Bait and Switch Evangelistic Methods of Evangelicals and Pastor Bruce Goddard and His Bait and Switch Tactics.) Hold a Law Enforcement Day service, bake brownies for the neighbors, or rake leaves for widows, but remember these acts of “love” are just a means to an end — getting people saved. That’s what it is all about, right?  Yes, but even here Fundamentalist evangelizers have ulterior motives. The IFB formula for church growth goes something like this:

  • Win them (get them saved)
  • Wet them (get them baptized)
  • Work them (encourage them to read the Bible, pray, tithe, give offerings, go soulwinning, attend church every time the doors are open)
  • Waste them (burn them out)

Please see The Four Ws of the IFB.

Many Evangelical churches use a front door/back door plan for numerical and monetary growth. The key is to always have more new people (either newly saved or transfers from other Christian churches) coming through the front door than old people going out the back door. (Please see The Pastor Called us Fresh Meat.) The methodology used by the Paul Chappells of the religious world is no different from that which is used by secular businesses. The cardinal rule is one and the same: do something nice for people and they are more likely to buy what you are selling. Chappell knows that making personal contact with people is the first step in getting them to buy his Jesus. This is why many Evangelical churches have special services and contests that are used to motivate congregants to invite their family, friends, and neighbors to church. Think Mother’s Day at an IFB church is all about mothers? Think again. Mother’s Day is just a pretext for getting sinners in the pews so they can be preached at. Christmas, Easter, Father’s Day? All opportunities to troll for souls. Unwitting people who are promised food, trinkets, or some other inducement, agree to come to church. Little do they know that they have big fat UNSAVED targets on their backs.

I have no problem with Christians preaching the gospel to people who WANT to hear it. However, Chappell is encouraging the use of subversive (unethical?) methods to entice and manipulate people into coming to church and/or getting saved. Have you ever watched a Billy Graham Crusade on TV? Remember come invitation time all the people streaming out of the seats and coming down to the front so they could get saved? I thought, at the time, look at all those people getting saved! Why I bet they couldn’t wait to walk the aisle! Praise God! Years later, I found out that Graham, along with many other notable evangelists, used a method called “priming the pump.” Knowing that it is hard to get unbelievers to take that first step towards the front, Graham would have saved counselors positioned throughout the stadium come forward on the first note of the first verse of the invitational hymn (Just As I Am). Unbelievers, filled with preacher-induced guilt, would see this and be more likely to join the throng at the front. Unbelievers who were still hesitant would then be singled out by roving salesmen and not-so-gently encouraged to quickly move to the front so they too could complete their salvation transaction.

Just remember this the next time a kind, loving, compassionate Evangelical sidles up next to you and wants to give you something or be your “friend.” More than likely, they have an ulterior motive — wanting, above all, to usher you through the front door of their church. These gunslingers for Jesus are interested in one thing, putting another notch on their gospel gun.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser