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Tag: Soulwinning

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.

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.

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 —  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 Saves® 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.

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J.A. Medders Asks: What Do You Think Jesus is Doing Right Now?

ja medders

Evangelical pastor J.A. Medders thinks asking people What do you think Jesus is doing right now? is a great way to start a conversation with unbelievers. Medders writes:

If you struggle to get the conversation with your friend, neighbor, or barber rolling toward the gospel, there is one question you can ask that will get you there quickly. Whether you are talking to an Uber driver, a family member, or the server at The Cheesecake Factory, this question will likely get a friendly gospel conversation rolling:

“What do you think Jesus is doing right now?”

When I recently asked this question to our server at a restaurant, she was struck. “What do you mean is doing? He’s dead. He’s not alive.” She picked up on my grammar. The red carpet suddenly rolled out for me to tell her Jesus is not dead. He folded up his grave clothes, walked out alive, is still alive today, and desires for her to be saved.

Just what every server wants to hear, right? Evidently, Medders doesn’t understand personal boundaries or that discussion about religion and politics should be off-limits in work and social gatherings — especially in public settings. Sadly, Evangelical zealots such as Medders believe they have a God-given right to verbalize their beliefs to anyone, anytime, everywhere. Medders is like one of my grandchildren — a three-year-old — who gets out the community toys and declares, Ezra’s toys. In his mind, all the toys belong to him, to the exclusion of our twelve other grandchildren. Medders is the typical selfish preacher who sees people as toys. He claims these toys for his own, in Jesus’s name. Instead of being a decent person, Medders chooses to inflict his religion upon an unsuspecting, busy, hardworking server.

The server — likely clueless that Medders has an ulterior motive — innocently answers his question, only to then be forced to listen to his red-carpet-rolled-out preaching. Medders clearly violated the server’s personal space and kept her from taking care of other customers (you know, those who don’t see people as prospects for evangelization). In other words, Pastor Medders, a card-carrying member of Club John Calvin®, defrauded the server and her employer by robbing them of her time.

As for Medders’ question? The server was right. Jesus is dead. His bones lie buried in an unknown grave near Jerusalem. This Jesus, as with all humans, lived and died, end of story. Telling someone what the Bible says about a Jesus who lived two thousand years ago is not evidence for the claims Evangelicals make for their peculiar God. Outside of Bible, there is no evidence for what Medders claims. Either someone believes by faith what the Bible says or they don’t. Medders believes. Great! Go with God, but quit forcing others to listen to your religious drivel.

Of course, as a good Calvinist, Medders believes that it is God alone who saves. Medders has been tasked by God to preach the gospel, but it is up to the Holy Spirit to give dead sinners life (regeneration) so they can truly hear the gospel. I say truly hear because Calvinists believe that people can hear the gospel, but not really hear it. Only those who are the elect (chosen, predestinated) will savingly hear the gospel. The non-elect, people not chosen by God before the foundation of the world, can “hear” the gospel, but it will have no effect. Yet, God holds the non-elect responsible for hearing the gospel despite their inability to savingly hear the gospel. Sound convoluted and contradictory? Welcome to Calvinism.

Medders likely views himself as a sower of seeds. Wherever he goes he throws seeds to the wind, trusting that God will cause some of the seeds to sprout and produce fruit. It is God who saves, so why not preach to whomever, wherever, and let God do his work, right? I wonder how Medders might respond to the server if she said what was likely on her mind: Fuck off, asshole. I have customers to take care of and I have no time for listening to you tell me fables from an ancient religious text. Of course, unlike Medders, the server is polite and respectful, so she quickly answered Medders’ question, only to then to subjected to his preaching.

Medders needs to spend some time with unbelievers who work service jobs. Perhaps they can school him in how attempts at evangelization are viewed by them. Perhaps readers who work or used to work in the service industry can share in the comment section how they view those who attempt to evangelize them while they are working.

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.

Bruce, As an Evangelical, What Were You Taught About Atheism?

naked adam and eve

This could be the shortest post I have ever written. Not really. Remember, I was a preacher for twenty-five years. I always have something to say on a subject. That said, the short answer to this question is this: absolutely nothing. I have no recollection of my pastors or my professors at Midwestern Baptist College ever mentioning atheism or atheists. In the 1970s and 1980s, the enemies of Evangelicalism — particularly in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement — were: liberalism, the Southern Baptist Convention, modern Bible translations, situational ethics, and sexual immorality. The culture war fueled by Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority was all the rage. I heard lots of sermons about abortion and prayer/Bible reading in schools, but not atheism proper. At times, atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s name would come up in sermons, but only in the context of the aforementioned culture war issues.

I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. I can’t recall preaching one sermon on atheism. I mentioned O’Hair on occasion, but not her atheism per se. In fact, I didn’t know any atheists. As far as I know, no atheist ever attended one of the churches I pastored. Were there atheists in the midst? Sure, just like there were LGBTQ people too. Such “abhorrent” beliefs and identities were, however, hidden — deeply buried in the proverbial Fundamentalist closet.

There is one atheist story I would like to share with readers, a humorous conclusion to this post. During my freshman year of college, a fellow dorm student and I were out knocking on doors one Saturday, hoping to find someone willing to let us share the gospel with them. Students were required to go soulwinning every week. And then we were required to report our evangelistic endeavors to the college. Many students, myself included, lied about how many doors they knocked on, how many people they led to the Lord. During the three years I attended Midwestern, I led a total of two people to Christ. I was, when it came to winning souls, a failure.

As my friend and I went from door to door in a Pontiac neighborhood, we had little to no success when it came to the “souls saved” department. What happened next, however, left an indelible impression on two virgin Baptist preachers-to-be. First, as we walked up the sidewalk to the next house, we noticed a number of squirrels in the yard. All of a sudden, one of the squirrels ran for my friend, jumped on his leg, and proceeded to scale his tall frame before jumping off his shoulder. Once we regained our composure, we walked up to the door and knocked. I should note before I tell the rest of this story, that locals were frequently harassed by Midwestern students. Imagine, being up late on Friday night, only to have a couple of Bible thumpers banging on your front door first thing in the morning. Many of us went soulwinning early on Saturdays so we could have the rest of the day to ourselves. It was the one day when I could spend significant time with my wife-to-be.

Then, as we knocked on the door, we heard people scuffling inside. Soon the door opened, and standing there stark naked were a man and a woman. My fellow dorm mate and I were speechless — I mean dumbstruck. Before either of us could start our soulwinning spiel, the man said, “we’re atheists, and we are not interested in what you have to say.” And with that and a laugh, the man shut the door.

This would be my first and last interaction with an atheist until I started reading books by atheist and agnostic authors in 2008. I still haven’t met many atheists in person. Most of my interaction with godless people has come through this blog and social media.

As a Christian, did you know any atheists? Did your pastor ever preach about atheism? Please share your 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.

Bruce Gerencser