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Tag: Southern Baptist Convention

Why Do People Attend Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Churches?

ifb preacher phil kidd
IFB Preacher Phil Kidd

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches are known for their commitment to literalism, Biblical inerrancy, and strict codes of personal conduct. Demographically, IFB churchgoers tend to be white, Republican, and middle to lower class. IFB churches also have anti-culture tendencies, as revealed in their support of the Christian school and home school movements. The IFB church movement has spawned numerous colleges, including Hyles-Anderson College, Tennessee Temple, Midwestern Baptist College, Baptist Bible College, Pensacola Christian College, Clarks Summit Baptist Bible Seminary, Maranatha Baptist University, Massillon Baptist College, Crown College of the Bible, Faith Baptist Bible College, Fairhaven Baptist College, Pensacola Bible Institute, and West Coast Baptist College. Though not explicitly IFB institutions, Bob Jones University, Liberty University, Cedarville University, and Cornerstone University are sympathetic to IFB beliefs and practices, and attract a number of IFB students.

Millions of Americans attend IFB churches. Add to this number Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches who hold similar Fundamentalist theological and social beliefs (please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?), and you end up with a sizeable minority within the broad Evangelical tent. While some IFB apologists trace the movement’s genesis to the Modernist-Fundamentalist battle of the 1920s, most would say that the IFB church movement was birthed out of opposition to liberalism in the Southern Baptist Convention and American Baptist Convention in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the fathers of the movement were Southern Baptist or American Baptist pastors who pulled their churches out of their respective conventions. I attended numerous Sword of the Lord conferences in the 1970s and 1980s where big-name IFB preachers trumpeted the astronomical numerical growth of their churches while delighting in spouting statistics that showed the SBC was in decline. I heard Jack Hyles, then the pastor of the largest church in the world — First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana — run down the list of the largest churches in America, pointing out how many of them were IFB churches. Hyles, along with countless other IFB preachers of that era, believed that their churches’ growth and the SBC’s decline were sure signs of God’s approval and blessing.

Today, the IFB church movement is in steep numerical decline. Churches that once had thousands of members are now closed or are shells of what they once were. IFB colleges have also seen drops in enrollment due to the fact that the feeders for these institutions — IFB churches — aren’t sending as many students to their schools. The Southern Baptist Convention, on the other hand, has been reclaimed from liberalism, and many of the largest churches in America are affiliated with the Convention. (The SBC is the first denomination that I am aware of that has reversed its course and returned to its Fundamentalist roots. The Convention is now home to a burgeoning Calvinistic movement. Many liberal/progressive SBC churches broke away in 1991 (1,800 churches) and formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Liberals who remain will either seek out friendlier associations or be excommunicated.)

For countless Christians, the IFB church movement is all they have ever known. Their entire lives, from baby dedications to graduations from IFB colleges, have been dominated and controlled by Baptist Fundamentalism. In many ways, the IFB church movement is a cult (please see Questions: Bruce, Is the IFB Church Movement a Cult? and One Man’s Christianity is Another Man’s Cult) that shelters families from the evil, Satanic outside world. All that congregants are required to do is believe and obey. Is it any wonder that the hymn Trust and Obey is a popular hymn in many IFB churches? Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. For those born and raised in the IFB bubble, all they know is what they have been taught by their parents, pastors, and teachers. Encouraged to make professions of faith at an early age, these cradle Baptists know little about the world outside of the IFB bubble. The bubble protects them from outside, worldly influences and helps to reinforce IFB beliefs and practices. (And when IFB youths run afoul of the strict rules found in IFB churches, they are sometimes sent off to IFB group homes and camps so they can be “rehabilitated.”)

The video below graphically (and beautifully) illustrates how deeply and thoroughly Fundamentalist beliefs dominate the thinking of those raised in Fundamentalist churches. Sung by Champion Baptist College’s (now Champion Christian University) tour group, the song I Have Been Blessed, is a compendium of IFB beliefs. The indoctrinated young adults singing this song really believe what they are singing. Outsiders might label these singers ignorant — and they are — but I choose to be more charitable, knowing that this song is simply a reflection of the tribal religion they have been a part of their entire lives.

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I have great sympathy for people who know only what they have been taught in IFB churches and institutions. From the early 1960s to the mid-1990s, I was one such person. My parents were saved at an IFB church in the 1960s, and from that day forward we religiously attended IFB churches. When my parents divorced in the early 1970s, I continued to attend IFB churches. In many ways, these congregations became my family, giving me love and structure. After high school, I attended an IFB college, and from 1979 to 1994 I pastored IFB churches. (One church I co-pastored, Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, would not call itself an IFB church due to its Calvinistic beliefs, but its social practices and anti-culture beliefs put it squarely in the IFB camp.) I was, in every way, a true-blue believer, never questioning my beliefs until I was in my late 40s. I know firsthand how IFB indoctrination affects a person intellectually and psychologically.

Not everyone, of course, is born into the IFB church movement. Others become members due to the movement’s aggressive evangelistic efforts and methodology. Particular targets are people who have messy, unhappy lives or have drug/alcohol addictions. Wanting deliverance from their present lives, these people are often quite receptive when they come in contact with IFB preachers and church members who promise them that, if they will believe the IFB gospel, then Jesus will make their lives brand new and deliver them from their chaotic, broken lives. Once saved, these newly minted Christians are encouraged to join the churches that cared enough about them to share the Good News® with them. And many of these people do indeed join IFB churches, but unlike those raised in such churches, these outsiders often have a harder time accepting IFB social strictures. More than a few of them stop attending church or seek out congregations that aren’t as extreme.

And then there are the people who deliberately seek out IFB churches to attend. Drawn to such churches by their need for doctrinal purity, certainty, or a safe haven from the world, they are thrilled to find churches that believe the Bible from cover to cover (even though, as anyone who has studied the IFB church movement knows, IFB preachers and congregants pick and choose beliefs just as non-IFB Christians do). Perfectionists, in particular, find IFB churches quite appealing. If IFB churches and their pastors are anything, they are certain that their beliefs and practices come straight from the mouth of the Christian God (God wrote the Bible, so its words are his). Perfectionists — as I know firsthand — love structure, control, and order.

Perfectionists make the perfect members. They joyously buy into the go-go-go, do-do-do, work-for-the-night-is-coming-when-no-man-can-work, better-to-burn-out-than-rust-out thinking that permeates IFB churches. There’s no time for rest and comfort. The Bible is true, judgment is sure, hell is real, and there are billions of lost souls who need to hear the IFB gospel. How dare anyone who truly loves Jesus live a life of ease while sinners are dying in their sins and going to hell. On and on go the clichés. I suspect that most successful IFB preachers have perfectionist tendencies.

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Some IFB church members were once members of Evangelical or mainline churches. Concerns over perceived liberalism drive them to seek out churches that still believe in the Book, the Blood, and the Blessed Hope. Tired of pastors who refuse, they believe, to preach the whole counsel of God or to stand against worldliness, these disaffected Christians often find that IFB churches believe what they believe, so they leave their churches and join with the Baptists.

While I could give other reasons people attend IFB churches, those mentioned above cover the majority of people who attend Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Do Evangelical Preachers Plagiarize the Sermons of Others?

plagiarism
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Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama was recently elected as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest Protestant Christian sect in the United States. While Litton is a Fundamentalist, evidently he was not Fundy enough for extremists within the SBC. Outraged over his election, these keepers of Baptist purity scoured the Internet looking for evidence to smear Litton. And sure enough, they found it.

Litton is a serial plagiarizer. Scores of online sermons were found where Litton had ripped off the material of others and presented it as his own. In other words, Litton is a thief. He took that which belonged to someone else, failed to provide proper attribution, and presented it as his own. In any setting, this is wrong. I have had numerous bloggers over the years quote my writing without giving attribution. Some Evangelical bloggers quote my work but refuse to link to this site lest their readers are tempted to read my writing for themselves. You know, I work for Satan and my calling in life is to lead people astray.

As I have followed the Ed Litton saga, I have noticed the outrage among Evangelical preachers over Litton’s thievery. While pointing out how dishonest and unethical it is to not provide proper attribution, some offended preachers believe such behavior is rare. As I shall show, it is not.

I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I preached my first sermon at age fifteen, my last at age fifty. All told, I preached 4000+ sermons. While I bought several sermon outline books early in my career, I never used them. Every sermon I preached was my own. I worked hard at crafting sermons that would speak to those who heard me preach. Having OCPD (Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder) drove me to be exacting in my preparation. I was a consummate outliner. Whatever people thought of my preaching, there was no question that my sermons were my own. When I quoted a preacher or an author, I ALWAYS gave proper attribution.

The first church I worked for was a GARBC church in Montpelier, Ohio. While I was there, one of the deacons accused the pastor of stealing material from the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) rag, the Sword of the Lord. This was the first time I saw plagiarism firsthand. The pastor won the battle, and the deacon and his family left the church.

In 1983, I started Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. I pastored this church for eleven years. Before purchasing an abandoned brick Methodist church building, Somerset Baptist used the upstairs of a facility called the Landmark Building. The aforementioned plagiarizing pastor had left Montpelier Baptist by then, so I asked the new pastor to come preach for me. This pastor asked me if I had anything specific he wanted me to preach on? He told me that he had memorized a number of sermons that had been published in the Sword of the Lord, and he could preach several of those if I wanted him to. One such sermon was Greg Dixon’s sermon titled “The Sinking of the Titanic.”

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I replied, “why don’t you preach something original?”

In the mid-1980s I managed a Christian bookstore owned by a family that attended Somerset Baptist. Evangelical preachers came to the store to purchase books of sermon outlines. I was surprised by how many preachers wanted these books. While I was happy to sell the books to them, I silently wondered why they weren’t crafting their own sermons. I concluded that these preachers were either poorly trained, lacked the requisite skills necessary to write a sermon, or were just downright lazy. (The ministry is a perfect place for lazy men to hide.)

From 2002-2008, my wife and I, along with our children, visited over 125 churches. Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT! for a list of the churches we visited. We heard lots of sermons — good and bad. We heard preachers who had no public speaking skills. And I mean none. These men were atrocious speakers who had no business preaching. I was taught in Bible college that whom God calls, he equips. These preachers may have been “called,” but they most certainly were not equipped. My wife’s father graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in 1976. He started an IFB church in Buckeye Lake, Ohio in 1981. I was his assistant for 2 years. Dad was loved by the church, but he couldn’t preach. Dad took speech and homiletic classes in college, but what he was taught didn’t stick. His sermons were often rambling and incoherent. Dad turned chasing rabbit trails into fine art. I tried to help him. I remember sitting down with Dad and showing him how to craft an outline. Sadly, my instruction failed. We heard many Dads over the years; good men who lacked basic public speaking skills.

We also heard a handful of gifted orators, men who knew how to craft sermons. What was surprising was the number of men, regardless of skill level, who “borrowed” the work of others without attribution. I will admit that I was a sermon critic. I could spot theft from a mile away. Let me conclude this post with a story about a new church plant in Bryan, Ohio.

We attended this church for several weeks. After hearing the pastor preach a few times, I came home one Sunday and told Polly that there was something not right about his sermons. His words had a familiar ring to them. After doing a bit of sleuthing, I determined this pastor was using the sermons of Rick Warren word-for-word. He wasn’t even trying to disguise his theft. The tell? He quoted a lot of different Bible translations, a classic Warren trait. Busted!

I am not suggesting that all Evangelical preachers are thieves. However, it is clear to me that plagiarism is far more common than Evangelicals are willing to admit. There’s nothing wrong with quoting the work of others as long as you give proper attribution. Doing so is not hard — “Rick Warren recently said _______.” Easy-peasy.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Dear Pastor Greg Davidson, You Might Want to Ask Outsiders What They Think About the Southern Baptist Convention

southern baptist child abuse
Cartoon by Clay Jones. Please check out his awesome work at Claytoonz.

Greg Davidson, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Vacaville, California, has a sheltered, out-of-touch view of his beloved Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Writing for SBC Voices, Davidson stated:

I love Southern Baptists. They are some of the most compassionate, forgiving, and understanding people on the face of the earth. I love the fact that there are so many that hate injustice. I like others have felt the cruel tentacles of injustice.

….

I believe it is encouraging that an overwhelming number of messengers stood against discrimination and abuse in our convention.

What does that mean going forward?

We need to unite around the fact, that whether we are supporters of Randy Adams, Al Mohler, Ed Litton, or Mike Stone, the overwhelming number of us agree on the major issues expressed by a total disdain for abuse, discrimination, and injustice as the Bible demands.

We also need to realize that we all can bring different significant contributions to this conversation that will help us to develop better solutions.

The overwhelming number of us agreed that we do not want fine, godly, and good people to be divided by godless worldly philosophies that are designed to divide us, but to be united instead around the truth of the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Word of God.

To realize that since the convention overwhelmingly voted for the truth to be discovered concerning the Executive Committee’s actions on abuse, it can logically be concluded that all sides want the truth to be known. Yet knowing that the vote for president was separated by less than 600 votes, there is clearly a difference of opinion about what the truth is. For the sake of unity let us not jump to conclusions and let the process work.

This is a moment when the best that is within can emerge, and we as Christian statesmen can rise above the bickering partisanship, and instead be used of God to heal the wounds and fractures in our convention with kindness, grace, and understanding. God bless us as we experience, by His grace, our finest hour as the people of God known as Southern Baptists.

Speaking of Southern Baptists as a whole, Davidson glowingly and effusively says:

They are some of the most compassionate, forgiving, and understanding people on the face of the earth. I love the fact that there are so many that hate injustice. I like others have felt the cruel tentacles of injustice.

While Davidson may sincerely believe this (I don’t personally know him), to those of us outside of the SBC, Southern Baptists are anything but “compassionate, forgiving, and understanding people [who] hate injustice.” Take the latest national convention, a time when Southern Baptists get together to argue, pass resolutions, and pretend that their denomination is not in numerical and moral free fall. What did we learn from the latest convention?

  • Southern Baptist love talking about sexual abuse, but don’t plan on doing anything meaningful to put an end to predators roaming the halls, sanctuaries, restrooms, and offices of their churches. Resolutions accomplish nothing. How about a national searchable database of pastors and other church leaders accused/convicted of sex crimes? How about excommunicating churches that hire or continue to employ pastors who have been accused/convicted of sex crimes? How about requiring annual comprehensive background checks on all pastors, church workers, and anyone who will come in contact with children? How about firing the executive board members who have protected criminals and covered up sex crimes? Nope, nope, nope on all of these things, yet we are expected to believe that Southern Baptists are really, really, really serious about sexual abuse THIS time.
  • Southern Baptists made it clear that they are opposed to teaching critical race theory (CRT). In doing so, it is hard to not conclude that Southern Baptists remain true to their racist roots.
  • Women will continue to be treated as second-class citizens.

Let me share with Pastor Davidson how Southern Baptists are viewed by outsiders:

  • Southern Baptists are anti-science
  • Southern Baptists are anti-abortion
  • Southern Baptists are anti-LGBTQ, anti-same-sex marriage
  • Southern Baptists are exclusivists, believing their sect’s doctrinal beliefs are the faith once delivered to the saints
  • Southern Baptists are culture warriors
  • Southern Baptists overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, a godless, immoral man who caused great harm to our country
  • Southern Baptists hate atheists, humanists, and secularists (and Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, and LGBTQ people)
  • Southern Baptists promote social policies that impede progress
  • Southern Baptists pine for the 1950s, the golden era of American life (gays were closeted, women stayed in the kitchen, and blacks knew their place)
  • Southern Baptists view their unbelieving neighbors strictly as targets for evangelization

Evangelicalism, of which the Southern Baptist Convention is a part, is the most hated sect in America. I have deliberately painted with a broad brush in this post. I know (so you don’t need to tell me) that what I write above doesn’t apply to all Southern Baptists everywhere. That said, the picture I painted accurately portrays how Outsiders view Southern Baptists (and Baptists in general). If Southern Baptists want to change how outsiders view them, they must change their beliefs and practices — and that ain’t going to happen. Fundamentalists control the denomination. It’s improbable that the Baptist Faith and Message will be revised, nor is there a chance in Heaven that conservatives will willingly relinquish their stranglehold on SBC boards, colleges, and institutions.

Davidson presents himself as a voice of reason, but he gives away his hand when he says:

The overwhelming number of us agreed that we do not want fine, godly, and good people to be divided by godless worldly philosophies that are designed to divide us, but to be united instead around the truth of the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Word of God.

Am I the only one who smells a Fundamentalist? Godless worldly philosophies? United around the truth of the inerrancy of the Bible? Davidson sounds like a Fundamentalist culture warrior. What next? Telling us that the earth is 6,023 years old? Believing that Bible is in any way “inerrant” ( an indefensible, irrational belief) allows Southern Baptists to continue to live in the dark ages. For all I know, Davidson may be a great guy, but his view of the SBC is out of touch with how things really are.

I am sure SBC faithful will view me as an ill-informed atheist. But marginalizing and dismissing people who are critical of the denomination only further serves to hasten their demise. Unless Southern Baptists recognize how out of touch they are with our culture and make the necessary course corrections, numerical and financial decline is sure to continue. While the SBC says it has 14 million members, over half of those card-carrying Southern Baptists are nowhere to be found on Sunday mornings. Baptismals are empty, used to store Christmas decorations. Older members are dying off and younger adults are fleeing in droves. These are facts, and thirty years from now, Fundamentalists will still be passing resolutions at the national convention, wondering what happened to their denomination. It’s too bad I won’t be around to tell Southern Baptists I told you so.

For the record: I attended several Southern Baptist churches as a child. I pastored a Southern Baptist church in Michigan, candidated at several Southern Baptist churches in West Virginia, and visited with my family a goodly number of Southern Baptist churches in Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, and California. Since deconverting in 2008, I have interacted with scores of ex-Southern Baptists (including pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and youth directors).

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Trent Holbert Charged with Sex Crimes

pastor trent holbert

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Trent Holbert, pastor of The Ridge Church (its website is currently down) in Black Mountain, North Carolina, was charged last week with one count of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense. The Ridge Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Kentucky today reports:

Trent Holbert, 41, former pastor of The Ridge Church, was arrested last month and has been charged with one count of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense, the Biblical Recorder reported. He was previously the pastor of Epoch Fellowship Church in Owenton, Ky., as late as 2017.

….

Both The Ridge Church and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina have released statements condemning Holbert’s alleged actions.

“Trent Holbert has resigned from his position as the head pastor of the Ridge Church,” said a statement released Friday from church elder Drew Wheeler. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of our former head pastor and the families of all of those involved. The care and protection of children and minors is a biblical and moral mandate that is taken seriously by the Ridge Church. We do not condone such actions as the alleged, and our prayers are with the victims of any such abuse.”

The North Carolina convention’s statement, released Thursday, said leaders were “deeply grieved” by the charges.

“As a pastor, Trent has been a speaker at convention-related events for adults in the recent past,” the statement said. “He underwent background and reference checks prior to his participation in those events. We are not aware that he had any contact or dealings with minors as part of those events. The care and protection of children and minors is both a biblical and moral mandate that we take very seriously. We are praying for everyone who has been impacted by these alleged heinous crimes. N.C. Baptists are offering support to the local association and the church as they face these challenging times, as well. We stand with any and all victims of abuse and are committed to cooperating with authorities during their investigation. We encourage you to contact the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office if you have any relevant information.”

According to WLOS news, on May 18, detectives with the Special Victims Unit of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at Holbert’s residence. During the execution of the warrant, Holbert was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, and electronic devices were seized from the home.

Oh, the Southern Baptists are “deeply grieved” by Holbert’s alleged criminal behavior. Yet, these same Southern Baptists refused to seriously address clergy sexual abuse at their latest national convention. Further, Southern Baptists refuse to establish a database of church leaders who have been accused of sex crimes. What Southern Baptists should be deeply grieved over is their immoral inaction on clergy sexual abuse.

Holbert’s church bio page (which has been scrubbed from the church’s website) states:

Pastor Trent is a gifted communicator and a relational junkie. He loves people and gets his fix from being a positive part of their lives. His ministry mindset is holistic. He believes that God’s plan and design for humans doesn’t stop at spiritual needs. He holds a degree in theology, but as a certified personal trainer and holistic health coach, Trent teaches us how to know our Creator better through optimal physical, emotional, and spiritual health. You can hear him weekly on the Fit For the Kingdom Podcast.

If convicted, Hobert’s bio can be updated to say “gifted communicator, relational junkie, and child molester.”

Black Mountain News article on Holbert starting The Ridge Church.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Why Evangelical Christian Robert Aaron Long Murdered Eight People in Georgia

robert aaron long

Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia, stands accused of a string of Asian massage parlor shootings that left eight people dead. Long, a devout Southern Baptist who frequented massage parlors, felt guilty over his “sin” and decided to atone for his sins by murdering eight people.

Long attended Crabapple First Baptist Church, a Fundamentalist Southern Baptist congregation in Alpharetta, Georgia. The church has made its website and social media accounts private. Last Sunday, First Baptist’s pastor, Jerry Dockery, had this to say in his sermon:

We’ve had, what, 45 presidents in our brief history as a nation? How many other kings around the world? How many other rulers have sat upon thrones, claiming to be in charge? The King is coming again.

When Christ returns, he will wage war against those who have rejected his name.

There is one word devoted to their demise. Swept away! Banished! Judged. They have no power before God. Satan himself is bound and released and then bound again and banished. That great dragon deceiver — just that quickly — God throws him into an eternal torment. And then we read where everyone — everyone that rejects Christ — will join Satan, the Beast and the false prophet in hell.

This sermon has since been deleted. I wonder why?

First Baptist is a member of Founders Ministries — a Calvinistic group dedicated to reclaiming the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for the glory of John Calvin’s God and five-point Calvinism.

According to Ryan Burton King, a Calvinistic pastor, Long is a:

guy who was very active in his Baptist church. He prayed a prayer and was baptised at 8 but later confessed that he had been a false convert, who was now truly regenerate. He was baptised in 2018 and his testimony circulated online.

Most news media sites have focused on the victims’ race, treating these murders as a racially motivated hate crime. Long has already disputed that claim, but that narrative continues to drive discussions about his crimes. I want to posit a different motivation for Long’s murderous rampage: Evangelical teaching on sexuality.

Long frequented massage parlors, I assume even after he really, really, really got saved. Getting re-saved is common in churches with Calvinistic leanings, especially Southern Baptist and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregations. People who walk the aisle, pray a prayer, and are pronounced born again, often have second born again experiences later in life after hearing the TRUE gospel of sovereign grace. I recently read a book about a Sovereign Grace congregation in Texas (which I pastored for a time in 1994) that detailed some of its members’ conversion stories. Almost to the man (and women), the members testified that they had made false professions of faith, and upon hearing the TRUE gospel, they repented of their sins, and Jesus saved them. This happens so often in Calvinistic churches that I think it is fair for me to conclude that this is the norm.

Despite Long’s latest conversion experience, he still struggled with what new reports are calling “sex addiction.” While I know nothing about Crabapple First Baptist Church and its pastor, I think I can safely assume that Pastor Dockery preached the gospel of sexual purity; that he preached against fornication, adultery, homosexuality, premarital sex, masturbation, and pornography. As many Evangelical teens and men do, Long struggled with staying on the straight and narrow sexually. Instead of being taught to embrace and own his sexuality, Long likely heard guilt- and fear-inducing sermons about how the thrice-holy God viewed sexual “sins.” While I am in no way justifying what Long did, I can envision how overwhelming guilt drove him to massacre those he believed were the locus of his sin problem. Long planned to murder more sex workers, but fortunately, he was stopped before he could. Imagine how great a blood atonement he planned to make to Jesus to expiate his sexual sins.

Evangelical church leaders are falling all over themselves to “explain” Long’s heinous behavior. I wonder if they will take a long, hard look in the mirror and see that their “Biblical” teachings and preaching are the problem? Evangelicals will distance themselves from Long, deconstructing his life, and even saying that he was never a REAL Christian. However, the evidence suggests that Long was a Jesus-loving man who took his faith seriously. A man who attended high school with Long had this to say about him:

He was very innocent seeming and wouldn’t even cuss. He was sorta nerdy and didn’t seem violent from what I remember. He was a hunter and his father was a youth minister or pastor. He was big into religion.

Let me conclude this post with Long’s own words about his life:

“As many of you may remember, when I was 8 years old I thought I was becoming a Christian, and got baptized during that time. And I remember a lot of the reason for that is a lot of my friends in my Sunday school class were doing that.

And after that time, there wasn’t any fruit from the root that is our salvation.

[Long goes on to say that when he was in seventh grade he attended a youth group and a speaker was discussing the biblical story of the prodigal son.]

“The son goes off and squanders all that he has and lives completely for himself and then, when he finds he’s wanting to eat pig food, he realized there’s something wrong and he goes back to his father and his father runs back to him and embraces him. And by the grace of God I was able to draw the connection there and realize this is a story between what happened with me and God. I ran away living completely for myself, and he still wants me, and so that’s when I was saved.”

There’s little doubt that Long was a born-again Christian, that he truly loved Jesus. There is also little doubt that he had problems with his sexuality, and this led to the deaths of eight innocent people. While race and misogyny played a part, they were secondary to his religious beliefs.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce Gerencser