Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio Circa 2000
Excerpt from Our Father’s House website, circa 1998.
Often I am asked “what does your Church believe about__________?” This is not an easy question to answer because our Church is a body made up of individuals, and even in a smaller Church like Our Father’s House, there are “differing” views on what the Bible says about some things. We do not set any particular creed or statement of faith as a requirement for membership in the Church. Rather, if a person has repented of their sins, and by faith trusted Christ for Salvation , AND has a desire to be taught the Word of God , we encourage them to become a part of our assembly. We accept the Apostle’s Creed as a summary statement of belief. Please see our Church constitution for further information.
So, when asked “what does your Church believe about__________?” it is better for me to say what “I” believe and to share the viewpoint that “I” teach from.
I am an a expositional preacher. The primary Bible version I use is the KJV. Some Church members use the NKJV. Usually I preach on random passages of Scripture, and at times will preach through books of the Bible. I believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God. It does not just contain the words of God, it IS the Words of God, every jot and every tittle.
I am an Evangelical. I willingly embrace all those who claim the name of Christ and walk in His truth. I believe the denominational fragmentation that is seen today is a dishonor to the God of Heaven. The world will know we are Christians by the love we have for one another. One of my desires is to promote love and unity among God’s people. Lest someone think I am an ecumenist, I oppose the Evangelical and Catholics Together statement. While I readily grant that there are many Roman Catholics who are Christians (and I embrace them as such), the official doctrine of the Roman Church is salvation (justification) by works. In the name of Christ, I embrace God’s people wherever they may be found, but I strongly oppose the false gospel of works taught in many Churches . A sinner is saved (justified) apart from the works of the law. (or any other work like baptism, joining the Church, being confirmed) Sinners are not saved by works but UNTO good works. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
I am a Non-Cessationist. I believe that the spiritual gifts are for today and that they are in operation today. While I would not call myself a charismatic, I do find a common bond with men such as John Piper and Martyn Lloyd Jones and ministries such as People of Destiny. I do not believe that many of the so-called charismatic gifts exercised in many Charismatic/Pentecostal Churches are of God. Such Churches preach a gospel according to the Holy Spirit not a gospel that finds as its foundation Jesus Christ. Any gospel that requires a person to speak in tongues, evidence the fullness of the spirit, etc. is a false gospel. I also stand opposed to the modern prosperity gospel preached by men such as Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Freddy Price, etal. The modern charismatic movement is an admixture of truth and error and is best described like a mixture of the Corinthian and Laodicean Church. I also stand opposed to most of the teaching regarding demons, territorial spirits, and demon/spirit possession. There is a real devil who can and does possess his children (John 8:44) and our battle is with him, but much of the spiritual warfare teaching is according to the philosophies of men and not of God.
I believe in the validity of the law of God. God’s law is pure, holy, and true, and man is enjoined by God to obey. I emphasize that the believer is to progress in sanctification and holiness. Saved people LIVE like saved people. I find much in common with the good men and women. of the Chalcedon Foundation. They are a small voice in a large wilderness declaring the validity of the law of God.
I am a Calvinist. I believe in the Sovereignty of God and that salvation is of the Lord. No man can save himself. I do not believe man has an innate ability to believe. Unless the Father, by the power of His Spirit, draws a man to salvation, that man will never be saved. I believe in the perseverance (preservation) of the saints. God keeps His own until the day of salvation. I consider the doctrine of eternal security preached in many Churches to be a perversion of the truth because it denies a connection between the saviorship and lordship of Christ in a man’s life. There is a direct connection between a man who is saved and how he lives. The same God who saves a man has also ordained that that same man would live a life of good works. No holiness, no heaven! While I consider myself a Calvinist, I stand against hyper Calvinism and its denial of the free offer of the gospel. I also reject double predestination as a doctrine rooted in the philosophies of men and not the Word of God. As a minister of the gospel, my desire is not to convert Arminians to Calvinists, nor is it to promote a system. I preach Christ. Calvinism is the best description of how and why God saves a sinner. I, without hesitation, affirm the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith as an accurate statement of that which I most surely believe.
I am post tribulational, and a-millennial. I believe the Church will go through the tribulation and that there yet awaits a day when Jesus Christ will come again and judge the world.
I believe in the Lordship of Christ. We do not make Him Lord, HE IS LORD. Because He is Lord, we are called on to live holy, separated lives. The standard for such living is the Word of God. I reject all man made standards of living, for God has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. Legalistic standards of touch not ,taste not are rejected as the philosophies of men.
My favorite theologians and authors are JC Ryle, Wayne Grudem, Donald Bloesch, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Watson, Gardiner Spring, John MacArthur and most anything written during the Puritan era. Truly a minister is known by the books he reads. My favorite bookstore is the Cumberland Valley Bible and Book Service. They are an excellent source of sound doctrinal books and of course they carry a large supply of Puritan books
So there you have it……….this is not all I believe…………but I have given you enough so that you can decide what kind of preacher you think I am. After you decide……..if you are still interested, please do stop and visit. We will be delighted to have you as our guest. If you have a question please e mail me and I will promptly reply.
Nathan, Jaime, and Jason Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1989
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (I Corinthians 11:14)
According to many Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers, 1 Corinthians 11:14 is clear: it is shameful and against nature for a man to have long hair. The late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, made it his life’s mission to rid American men of what he considered effeminate long hair. In a sermon titled, Satan’s Bid for Your Child, Hyles stated:
God pity you people who call yourselves Christians and wear your long hair, beard and sideburns like a bunch of heathens. God, clean you up! Go to the barber shop tomorrow morning, and I am not kidding. It is time God’s people looked like God’s people. Good night, let folks know you are saved! There are about a dozen of you fellows here tonight who look like you belong to a Communist-front organization. You say, “I do not.” Then look like you do not. You say, “I do not like that kind of preaching.” You can always lump anything you do not like here.
In the booklet titled Jesus Had Short Hair, Hyles made the connection between male hair length and homosexuality. In Hyles’ eyes, men with longer hair were more likely to be sissified, weak homosexuals. Hyles wrote:
It is very interesting that as the trend toward long hair increases, the acceptance of homosexuality increases. This is not to say that long hair and homosexuality always go together, but it is to note the fact that both are on the rise in our generation. Several of the major denominations have now accepted homosexuals. In some cities there are churches for homosexuals pastored by avowed homosexuals. At least one major denomination has ordained a homosexual preacher and others are considering following suit.
IFB preaching against long hair on men found its impetus as men began to grow their hair longer in the late 1960s and 1970s. Hippies had long hair and were anti-establishment. IFB preachers viewed long hair on men as a sign of rebellion against parental and religious authority. As anyone raised in the IFB church movement knows, rebellion is considered a grave sin, one that is never to be tolerated by parents or churches. This view of rebellion led to the establishment of IFB group homes, places where frustrated parents sent their children to be cured of rebellion. Sadly, children sent to these homes often returned to mom and dad emotionally and mentally broken. In some instances, these rebellious children had been physically and sexually assaulted.
In the IFB church movement of the 1970s, the four big sins were: long hair on men, short skirts on women, pants on women, and rock music. Youth directors waged holy wars against these sins and pastors frequently excoriated church teenagers over their unwillingness to obey the rules. While the days of hippies, Woodstock, and free love have faded into the pages of American history, many IFB preachers still preach against long hair, short skirts, pants, and rock music.
There are numerous unaccredited IFB colleges and Bible institutes in the United States. With few exceptions, these institutions strictly regulate how men must wear their hair. I attended Midwestern Baptist College from 1976-79. Midwestern had a strict standard concerning hair: short, off the ears, no long bangs, short sideburns, no facial hair, and a tapered neckline. This standard was strictly enforced, and men who let their hair grow too long were told to get a haircut. Ignoring this demand resulted in suspension.
While some IFB preachers, churches, and colleges have adapted to the times, many have not. Midwestern Baptist College is one such institution that still thinks it is 1976. Here is Midwestern’s male hair standard, as published in their 2013-14 student handbook (PDF):
Men are to be neat in appearance and dressed properly at all times. The hair is to be cut over the ears and tapered at the back above the collar. Sideburns are to be no lower than the middle of the ear. Hair must be no longer than the middle of the forehead in front. Men may not have facial hair unless approved by the Dean of Students. Such facial hair must be neatly groomed at all times. Faddish, worldly hairstyles will not be tolerated. The final decision as to the appropriateness of a hairstyle will rest with the Administration.
As a loyal, faithful son of the IFB church movement, from the time I was a child until the late 1990s, I had short hair. As an IFB preacher, I thought it important to model the hairstyle God approved. While I didn’t preach very often on men having long hair, my short hairstyle made it clear to church members where I stood on the matter. Not only was my hair a testimony to the notion that the Bible condemned long hair, but so was the hair of my three oldest sons. Jason, Nathan, and Jaime spent many years looking similar to children who were either being treated for lice or recently released from a Nazi prison camp. Not wanting to spend money on haircuts, we bought a pair of clippers and periodically gave them buzz cuts. No protestations allowed. Sit down, buzz, next. I am sure, at the time, they hated me and I don’t blame them.
Charles Spurgeon, a 19th Century English Baptist Preacher
Over time, my views on hair began to change. In the early 1990s, I grew a beard, much to the surprise of my fellow IFB preachers. By then I had distanced myself from the more extreme elements of the IFB church movement, and I began fellowshipping with Calvinistic-oriented Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptist preachers. These men, refugees from IFB churches, didn’t have as many social hangups. While they were still quite Fundamentalist, these preachers spent little time preaching on things such as male hair length and facial hair. Charles Spurgeon was one of this movement’s patron saints and he had long hair and a beard. I thought at the time, if Spurgeon had long hair and a beard, it must be okay for me to do the same.
Last Saturday, Polly and I drove to Newark, Ohio to visit her parents. While there, my IFB mother-in-law asked me about my hair. Since last October, I have let my hair grow. It is longer now than it ever has been. Mom, who attends a church that is anti-long hair on men, asked, So you are growing your hair long? I replied, Yes. She responded, Why? And with nary a thought, I replied, BecauseI can. I am sure she is disappointed that I am letting myself turn into a hippie. She later asked if I planned to put my hair in a ponytail like my former brother-in-law does I told her I didn’t plan to let my hair grow that long.
As it stands now, my hair has quite a bit of curl on its extreme ends, an unexpected result. I am not sure Polly likes my hair this long, but we have a hard, fast agreement: we don’t criticize each other’s hair styles. While we do, at times, defer to one another, both of us are free to wear our hair as we wish. Now that we have cast off the shackles of Fundamentalism, we are free to do what we want. As I have mentioned before, Polly and I missed out on the freedoms of the 1960s and 1970s. Both of us were members of hardcore IFB churches that strictly regulated dress, hair styles, and conduct. Now that we are no longer emotionally and mentally bound in IFB bondage, we are, to some degree, living, for the first time, the 1960s and 1970s. On the plus side, we are much wiser than we were 40 years ago. On the negative side, we also have bodies that are 40 years older. Oh to be wise and young!
How about you? Did you grow up in a church that strictly regulated dress, hair style, and behavior? Were you compliant or rebellious? If you were rebellious, how did the church and your parents respond to your rebellion? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Three Calvinists checking to see who has the largest library
Calvinism is generally described as an adherence to five theological points (TULIP):
Total Depravity (total inability)
Limited Atonement (particular redemption)
Irresistible Grace (effectual call)
Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints
Simply put, Calvinism is a system of theological beliefs that states:
Every person, thanks to the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, is born a sinner, alienated from God, and deserving the wrath of God and hell. Every person is dead in trespasses and sin, unable to do anything about their sinful condition. Total depravity is also called total inability. An unregenerate (lacking spiritual life) sinner is unable, by his own power, to seek God and salvation. Unless God gives the sinner eyes to see and ears to hear, he can never understand the Christian gospel and be saved.
From before the foundation (creation) of the world, God determined to whom he would give salvation. Only those whom God gives salvation will be saved. God knows exactly who will be saved. Those not chosen by God will never be saved, neither can they be since God did not give them the means necessary to seek and find salvation. No one deserves to be saved, and there’s is nothing anyone can do to merit salvation. Those who are saved are given spiritual life only because of the unmerited favor of God bestowed on them when the Holy Spirit caused them to effectually respond to the gospel. From start to finish, Salvation is of the Lord.
Jesus died on the cross (shed his blood) to provide salvation only for those whom God, the Father has chosen to save (the elect).
Those whom God has chosen and Jesus died for, will, without fail, at a time appointed by God, be saved. God will save every person he intends to save. When the Holy Spirit begins to draw a person to Jesus, if the person is someone God intends to save, he will be unable to resist the Holy Spirit.
Those granted the glorious, wonderful Calvinistic version of the grace of God will persevere until death. God, by his almighty power, will preserve the chosen, regenerated, and converted sinner until the end. If someone falls away before the end, say someone like a Calvinistic preacher named Bruce Gerencser, this is proof that he was never were one of the elect (chosen).
Got all that? I’m tired just from typing it. The short version is this: God is Sovereign, Salvation is of the Lord, No others need apply.
For most Christians, Calvinism seems like word salad, loads of theological jargon that only those schooled in Calvin-speak can understand. Calvinism is what I call an intellectual man’s wet dream. Most Calvinists are drawn to the intricate and intellectual aspects of the Calvinistic way of thinking. Let’s face it, Brother Billy Bob down at the local Baptist church has neither the time or inclination to plumb the depths of Calvinistic theology or read John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. All Brother Billy Bob knows is that he was a drunk and Jesus saved him! Hallelujah!!
The men and women drawn to Calvinism tend to love intellectual pursuits. They love reading long, wordy books that purport to impart knowledge and understanding that most mere humans do not have. Most Calvinists end up building a substantial library of books. At one time, I had a library of over one thousand books. Once, a church member came into my study and, upon noticing my large library, asked me if I had read every one of the books on my bookshelves. He was astounded when I said, Yes, every last one of them. Years later, I came to understand that the size of a Calvinist’s library is akin to the size of a man’s penis. Size matters. The bigger the library, the greater the theological prowess.
Instead of just enjoying the grace of God and the wonders of unconditional election and particular redemption, Calvinists tend to spend an inordinate amount time making sure they are right. There’s always a new book to read, a lecture to listen to, or a new video to watch. They are like a man or woman watching YouPorn videos. Click, ooh, ah, click on another video link, ooh ah, ah…and so it goes. From video to video the porn-seeker goes, hoping to find a video that will stir his passions even further. This is exactly what many Calvinists do. They are always looking for the latest book that will provide them some sort of new insight into their depraved condition or the grace of God. Unlike the porn-seeker who finally realizes that once he’s seen one porn video he’s seen them all, Calvinists continue to seek that which they think are deeper understandings and experiences with God. This is why most Calvinists become intractable as they age. The longer they study, the surer they are that they are right.
At this time of year, there always seems to be an increase in the number of 2nd commandment violations we have in CFDD, so I’m pinning this post in the hopes that we can avoid having to take action by preventing such posts in the first place. In short, any posting of an image that portends to depict a member of the Godhead will be removed and may result in a temporary or permanent ban of the poster.
In other words, don’t post ANY artists’ renderings of Jesus. Such pictures are a violation of the second commandment:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20:4)
Instead of enjoying the holiday season, Schoenberger is more concerned about a blasphemous picture of Jesus being posted to the forum.
Those who frequent the Calvinism Fellowship, Debate & Discussion Online Discussion Forum seem to be focused on the minutest detail of proper doctrine, who is and isn’t saved, and attacks on the evil theological belief called Arminianism. There’s also a good bit of self-flagellation and groveling before the thrice Holy God of Calvinism. Calvinists are experts at not only pointing out the sins of others, but also digging down into the depths of their own souls (minds) to find long-buried affronts to God. Is it any wonder that many Calvinists have doubts about their salvation? They see little niggling sins in their lives and this causes them to wonder if they truly are of the elect. Of course, if Calvinists are true to their doctrines, they cannot really know that they are saved until they die. Remember, Calvinists must persevere unto the end to be saved.
Calvinists, in their never-ending pursuit of intellectual nirvana, often lose sight of humanity. They become so infatuated with intellectual porn that they fail to notice that real flesh and blood people surround them. They metaphorically equate the porn they see on the screen with sex with their spouse or significant other. As Calvinists continue down the path to theological perfection, they become like Elijah who believed that he was the only remaining true prophet of God. It’s hard not to picture the lone Calvinist in a room masturbating to his own theological thoughts. Instead of drawing Calvinists towards inclusion, their beliefs often lead them off into closed minded exclusivism. Calvinist Henry Mahan told me years ago, when I asked him about the other churches in Ashland, Kentucky, Well Bruce, God doesn’t need more than one true church in town. In other words, Thirteenth Street Baptist Church, the church Mahan pastored at the time, was the only church God needed in Ashland. They alone preached the true gospel of Sovereign Grace. Pity all those other Christians in Ashland who just so happened to attend the wrong church. Of course, if God wanted to save them he would lead them to visit Thirteenth Street Baptist Church so they could hear Mahan preach to them the true gospel. (And I’m sure some Calvinist is going to read this and say to me that Mahan isn’t a true Calvinist; he is an Antinomian.)
God’s chosen ones will likely find this post offensive. How dare I equate their beliefs and their quest for understanding the “deeper” things of God to pornography, a devotee of the doctrines of grace will say. Yet, for those of us who at one time pulled up a stool at the John Calvin Pub and drank deeply of Calvin’s predestination brew, the pornography connection is, on one hand quite humorous, but also quite depressing. We are reminded of a day when we valued theological purity over people. Our thoughts hearken back to a time when we were willing to eviscerate anyone who did not hold to the same “truth” that we did. We are painfully reminded of good people who left our churches because they could not or would not accept the five points of Calvinism. While Calvinists roundly dispute the notion that the five points equal the gospel, if you attend their churches, read their blogs, or peruse their forums, such as the one mentioned above, you will find that significant verbiage is expended disparaging non-Calvinists. The fair-minded observer will quickly discern what message Calvinists are trying to convey: believe like us or you will go to hell. The only qualitative difference between the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church and the Calvinistic Baptist church is the matter of free will. When it comes to exclusivity of their beliefs, both believe that they are the purveyors of the one true gospel. (An interesting fact is that many Calvinistic Baptists were at one time Independent Fundamentalist Baptists. While their soteriology changed (the doctrines of salvation) their Fundamentalism remained.)
The primary focus of this post is on Evangelical Calvinism, the belief system of men like John MacArthur, Al Mohler, John Piper, and Mark Driscoll. I’m well aware that there are many shades and nuances to Calvinism. Writing a post that covered all of them would result in a document with more words than the Bible.
Pastors Joe Maldonado, Bruce Gerencser, and Pat Horner, Somerset Baptist Church, Fall of 1993
Pat Horner and I had a common theology: Calvinism. Outside of that, we were very different from one another. From the way we preached to how we interacted with parishioners, we were as different as night and day. I thought it was important for me to get to know each family in the church, so I did a lot of in-home visiting. When someone was in the hospital, I would visit them. When someone had a family member die, I would attend the funeral. Pat did none of these things. He was much more standoffish than I was. This is not a criticism of him as much as it is an example of how different our personalities were.
This difference began to be a problem when parishioners started to favor me over Pat. After services, I would talk theology with the young men of the church, and they found me easy to talk to. It wasn’t long before Pat began to criticize for being too familiar with parishioners. He told me that it was important to maintain a space between pastor and parishioner. I was told the same thing in college: the pastor can’t be friends with anyone in the church because it will hinder his ability to minister.
Both Pat and I preached expositionally (preaching verse-by-verse, in context), but our styles were very different. I tended to be more human, earthy, and at times humorous in my preaching. Pat tended to be more dogmatic and rarely used illustrations. To him, it was all about doctrine. While I thought it was important, I knew that it was also imperative for me to make a human connection with parishioners. More than once, Pat criticized my preaching for being too light or not doctrinal enough. Again, I suspect this had to do with the fact that, personality-wise, we were very different from one another.
After a few months, I gathered up a few willing church members and we started two new Sovereign Grace churches, one in Floresville, Texas and the other in Stockdale, Texas. Every Sunday morning we would hold a service at Floresville and then drive 20 miles to Stockdale and hold another service. During the week, I would take groups from Community down to Floresville and Stockdale and go door to door evangelizing and inviting people to church. While we worked hard to get the churches established, neither church did well attendance-wise.
I also started a street preaching ministry and a nursing home ministry. Being the workaholic I am, I was busy and I loved it. Later in the summer of 1994, I helped the church start a Christian school. There were fifty children in the school. Many of the church families homeschooled before the school was started. Several teachers were hired, along with a school principal. Once the school was up and running, I had little to do with it.
Community Baptist Church, Elmendorf, Texas, 1994
During this time, Community was building a new 10,000 square foot building. Pat had a construction background, so he was well suited for overseeing the project. A group of Calvinistic church builders came in and helped frame, roof, and side the building. The concrete slab was poured by a group of undocumented immigrants, and various men in the church took care of the plumbing, electric, and HVAC.
The busy-ness helped to distance me from the increasing conflict between Pat and I. It seemed like every time we got together there was conflict and we bickered like two old married people. Neither of us was a shining example of temperance, deference, or respect. In the fall of 1994, I realized that things were not going to work out for me at Community, so I talked to Pat and the elders about it. Things quickly went south, like Mexico-City-south, and it became evident to me that Pat and I were headed for a messy divorce.
I told Pat that they we needed to sit down and talk. I asked John Sytsma, one of the elders, to join the meeting. John did his best to bring peace, but it was not to be. We got into an angry shouting match and I finally told Pat to leave my office. The next day or so, Pat gathered the elders together at John Sytsma’s house and had a secret meeting where I was the topic of discussion. I found out about the meeting and crashed it. I was still a pastor and I should have been included in the meeting.
Bruce Gerencser, preaching at Community Baptist Church, Stockdale, Texas, 1994
Pat and I exchanged angry words and he told me that I had to stop pastoring the churches in Floresville and Stockdale and come and sit in the services at Community for a while. He told me that I was not fit to be a pastor. I suggested that I was willing to leave the church and pastor one of the new churches I started, but Pat would have none of it. Finally, when it became evident Pat had his mind made up, I said, Fine, I resign. Pat replied, You can’t resign without our permission. My last words to him were, Really? Watch me. A few days later, Polly and I packed everything up in a U-Haul truck and we moved back to Ohio. As we were driving down the lane from our home, the church was holding a special meeting to deal with the “Bruce Gerencser problem.” Of course, Pat was the moderator of the meeting.
Several church families begged us to stay. Some even suggested that Pat should be the one to go. But, I was not going to be party to a church split. Besides, all those that were in my corner when we moved later went over to Pat’s side. I knew that nothing I said or did would make a difference. As the old gambler said, You got to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them. It was definitely time for me to fold my hand.
I am often asked, What happened? I think what happened was that two strong-willed men with very different personalities wanted to own the same piece of real estate. Due to the fact that we both were quick-tempered, conflict came easily. I regret the conflict, but my time as co-pastor of Community Baptist Church taught me a lot about myself and I left Texas a very different man. For the first time I saw what I had become, and I didn’t like what I saw. It was at this point that my fundamentalism began to die. It was a slow death, but this was the moment when I saw what fundamentalism had done to me and I knew that I needed to change. Pat, however, is still a fundamentalist Calvinistic Baptist. He later left the church, started another church, and last I heard was working a secular job and doing mission work in India.
In my final post in this series, I want to write about how the church dealt with the “Bruce Gerencser problem.” I also want to write about the vicious discipline the church (Pat Horner) used to manipulate and control parishioners.
Pastors Joe Maldonado, Bruce Gerencser, and Pat Horner, Somerset Baptist Church, Fall of 1993
Our family arrived in Elmendorf, Texas the first week of March, 1994. I had resigned from Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset, Ohio, and after closing down the church and Christian school, I packed up my family and moved us to Elmendorf so I could become co-pastor of Community Baptist Church.
Community Baptist Church was an Sovereign Grace (Calvinistic) Independent Baptist church started in the 1980s by Pat Horner. The church worshiped at a ramshackle former Southern Baptist church building on Labus Road outside of Elmendorf. The church property included several acres of land that housed a double-wide mobile home in which Pat Horner and his family lived, an old mobile home where Joe Buitron, the groundskeeper/handyman, and his family lived, and a brand-new 14×70 mobile home the church purchased for my family.
Our girls playing in a sand pile near our mobile home. This was before we learned what fire ants were!
This enclave of mobile homes was called The Compound. Each mobile home was close enough to the other two that the occupants could easily see what was going on at each mobile home. When we moved to Texas, we did not watch TV. I remember how judgmental I felt when I saw the glare of a TV in the bedroom window of Pat Horner’s home, late on almost every Saturday night. I thought then, why is he watching TV? Shouldn’t he be praying and preparing for the Lord’s Day as I am?
The church was quite welcoming and we were excited to be there. Community Baptist Church was a vibrant church, filled with young adults and their children. There was an air of excitement in the church, a hunger for the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. I spent many a Sunday evening after church talking theology with the men of the church. They had questions and I was delighted to dispense to them what knowledge I had about the Calvinistic interpretation of the Bible.
Tim Conway, preaching at a nursing home. Conway is now pastor of Grace Community Church in San Antonio.
There was quite a bit of movement in and out of the church membership. Not long before I became co-pastor of the church, two men from Kalamazoo, Michigan moved to Elmendorf so they could be part of the church. Their names were Craig Mussulman and Tim Conway. Conway is now the Calvinistic Fundamentalist pastor of Grace Community Church in San Antonio, Texas. Mussulman still live in San Antonio, but I do not know where he attends church. Joe Maldonado, who had preached for me in Somerset in 1993, had left the church by the time I got there. He became the pastor Hillburn Drive Grace Baptist Church. A few Hispanic families from the church, with Horner’s blessing, joined with Maldonado at the Hillburn Drive church.
When we moved to Elmendorf, a family from Ohio moved with us. Larry and Linda Johnson were members of Somerset Baptist Church, and when we decided to move they packed up their belongings and moved to Elmendorf a week or so later. Larry and Linda had three children and Larry was a heating and air conditioning contractor.
The Gerencser’s first act as co-pastor and family was to officially join the Community Baptist Church. The church, a Sovereign Grace (Calvinistic) church, had strict membership requirements. The church’s Covenant had this to say about church membership:
…In recognizing the church’s authority to receive me into, and dismiss me from, its membership, I purpose when seeking to remove myself from her membership to seek the counsel, the approval, and the blessing of the church in seeking to join myself to another church of like faith and practice…
…If, however, the church does not agree with my reasons for leaving, I recognize that the church may release me from its membership disagreeing with me and expressing their displeasure of my actions but, at the same time, allowing me the liberty of conscience to leave…
…Finally, in the event of sin on my part with regard to any biblical matter, I recognize the church’s biblical right to take disciplinary action toward me, which seeks my restoration…
As I would later learn, church members were routinely disciplined for violating the membership requirements.
One requirement stood out above all others. Since people had to have the church’s permission to join the church, they also had to have the church’s permission to leave the church. Members could not just leave and go somewhere else. If they did not ask for the church’s permission to leave, the church (Pat Horner) would call a meeting and discipline the errant church member. I would suffer this same fate when I resigned and moved back to Ohio.
Larry and Linda Johnson, a couple from Ohio that moved to Texas when we did. They still live there.
A week or so after we joined the church, the Johnson family arrived in Elmendorf, and as we did, they joined the church. However, before the Johnsons joined the church, Pat Horner and I had our first conflict. Before potential members could join the church, they had to meet with Horner so he could grill them about their salvation experience and what they believed. Larry Johnson met with Horner and afterward Horner came to me and said he doubted Larry was a “real” Christian. The reason? Larry talked too much about God and not enough about Jesus.
I was able to convince Horner that Larry was a “real” Christian and he permitted the Johnsons to join the church. I was quite sad when the Johnson family, convinced by Horner that I was a bad man, later turned against me.
Every year, in March, Community Baptist Church held a week-long Bible conference. I preached several times during the 1993 conference and I was scheduled to preach several times during the 1994 conference.
The conferences were housed in a large tent that held several hundred people. Calvinistic Baptist pastors from around the state of Texas would come to the Bible conference, and Calvinistic Baptist pastors from as far away as Ohio and Louisiana would preach during the conference. The women of the church would provide meals each day for everyone in attendance. The food, music, and preaching were outstanding.
The 1994 conference took place a week or so after we moved to Elmendorf. After we settled into our new mobile home, I began helping with conference preparations. Along with John Sytsma, a wealthy owner of a nearby ostrich farm, I set up the sound system for the conference. Our “work” would fuel the second conflict I had with Pat Horner.
On the first morning of the conference, the sound kept cutting in and out. John and I could not figure out why this was happening. During lunch, Horner angrily lit into me about the sound problem and he let me know that I had better get it fixed. I had never seen the angry side of Pat Horner before, and I would see a lot more of it before I left the church. Horner must have realized that his angry display was inappropriate because he came to me later in the day and apologized. This would be the first and last time Horner apologized for anything. John Sytsma later left the church and is now an elder at Tim Conway’s church, Grace Community Church, San Antonio, Texas.
Over the next seven months, Pat Horner and I would have skirmishes that became increasingly combative and angry. I do not blame Horner for this. Each of us was temperamental with aggressive type-A personalities. We were both in charge of the same real estate and this led to frequent conflict. Sometimes I would win these battles, but most of the time Horner was the victor.
We argued about everything from my dog getting under the church and chewing the phone line to whether or not it was okay to shoot the neighbor’s feral pig. Horner threatened to shoot my dog if it ever did any like this again, and he wanted to shoot the pig, but I was able to convince him that it was wrong to shoot the neighbor’s pig.
We argued over the church budget and the church bulletin. I was of the opinion that the church needed to know everything about church finances. Horner took the position, How much do they need to know? I won this battle and the church was provided with a complete statement of income and expenses each month. This exposed the slush fund Horner had used for years to give money to preachers and families in the church. I am in no way suggesting he was dishonest. Our disagreement was over whether the church should know about the fund.
Since I was quite proficient when it came to computers and desktop publishing, I took on the responsibility of the church bulletin. Horner was a micro-manager, and he refused to let me print the bulletin until he reviewed it first. Every week, I would get the bulletin back with things circled he felt needed to be corrected. His micromanaging quickly got under my skin.
Our conflict over the bulletin turned into open warfare and it took an English major in the church to settle it. Horner was a Texan and I hailed from the rural Midwest. Our speech and writing patterns were very different from each other. Let me give you an example: I would say “the barn needs to be painted.” Horner would object and say, no, “the barn needs painting.”
We frequently butted heads over things such as this. Finally, Rhonda Galaviz, wife of Mexican missionary Andres Galaviz, told Horner and me that my usage was technically correct and it was considered a colloquialism from the Midwest. While this settled the proper English debate, Horner would continue to have a problem with the way I did the bulletin. Not long after that incident, I gave the bulletin job to someone else.
Joe Buitron, the church handyman
Joe Buitron and his family lived on The Compound directly across the street from my home. Joe took care of the grounds and fixed whatever needed fixing. He was a jack-of-all-trades. There was nothing he couldn’t fix or repair. Joe worked long hours, especially when we began building a new church facility. The church paid him $200 a week and allowed him and his family to live in a small mobile home on church property. Joe was grossly underpaid, and making ends meet was a constant struggle. I finally brought his financial struggles to Horner and the elders, and after a bit of shaming, they gave Joe a pay raise.
The Buitrons were in need of a washer (and maybe a dryer). This need was brought before the church so they could “pray” about it. The praying went on for weeks, yet God had not yet directed the church to buy the hardworking family of six a washer. Finally, I had enough of all the praying and I bought a washer for the Buitrons. I never understood the whole praying thing when it was in my power or the church’s power to take care of a need. To this day, I wonder if some church members thought I played “God.”
In my next post in this series, I will discuss how my conflicts with Horner came to a head, and how I ultimately left Community Baptist Church.
Pastors Joe Maldonado, Bruce Gerencser, and Pat Horner, Somerset Baptist Church, Fall of 1993
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (Matthew 18:15-17)
Should church members be allowed to leave the church without permission? Bobby Jamieson, writing for 9Marks, answered the question this way:
…I think the biblical answer is a resounding “No.” Here’s why: When your church made that person a member, you were declaring to the world that this person belongs to the kingdom of Jesus. By regarding this person as a member, your church affirmed that he is indeed a “brother” in Christ…
…So what’s the problem? Hebrews 10:24-25 commands us not to forsake assembling together. Therefore, any professing Christian who quits going to church is living in habitual, unrepentant sin. And the way a church addresses unrepentant sin is not by merrily sending that person on his way, but by removing their affirmation of “member” and “brother”. When the player quits showing up on game day, the team has to take back his jersey.
So pastors, just as you pay careful attention to the front door of your church, keep a close eye on the back door, too. Make sure that the sheep can’t simply open the gate themselves and disappear from sight. Refuse to allow people to resign into thin air, both for the sake of your church’s witness to the gospel and for the good of every single sheep—especially those who tend to wander off.”…
The purpose of the aforementioned quotations will become readily evident once you have read this series. I had planned for this to be one post, but as I started writing, I realized I need to split it into several posts.
In July of 1983, I started the Somerset Baptist in Somerset, Ohio. I pastored the church until March of 1994. In the late 1980s, I became quite disenchanted with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I came to the conclusion that the IFB gospel was a bastardized, corrupt gospel that made no demands of those who said they were a follower of Jesus Christ.
Through the writings of Charles Finney, I came to see that repentance, a turning FROM sin and a turning TO Christ, was an essential component of the gospel. In 1989, I read John MacArthur’s book, The Gospel According to Jesus, and this fundamentally changed my soteriology (theology concerning salvation).
One preacher’s taped sermons really got my attention, and that was the sermons by the late Rolfe Barnard. Barnard was a fiery Southern Baptist preacher of the Calvinist gospel. I listened to his sermons over and over, and it became clear to me that I had been preaching a false gospel. I also felt that my college professors and mentors had lied to me. Why had they never shared with me the sovereign grace gospel? (Short bio of Rolfe Barnard)
…This generation would like to get to heaven, but they just haven’t got time. They had time to make a profession and join a church, but they just haven’t got time to seek the Lord. When I started to preach 36 years ago, people would come hear me preach and I could keep a crowd for a while, and in that way somebody would listen to the Word of God. And since no man has saving faith, and God has to give it to men, He gives it as men hear His Word, and after a while they say “that’s God talking”.
You must hear the law of God preached long enough for God to reveal to you that you are a guilty lost sinner before you will be interested in hearing the good news of the Gospel of Christ. If God can get you lost, He will save you. If God can get you to sit still long enough to let a little of His Word sink in and grant you repentance and faith, He will save you. If you don’t have time to seek the Lord till He is pleased to reveal Himself to you and speak peace to you, why you will just live on a little while, then go to hell. You haven’t had time to hear what is being said.
A personal confrontation of the soul by a gracious redeeming God; this leads to repentance and faith, this leads to the terminating of a self-centered existence, and the beginning of a Christ indwelled life. You will lay down the arms of rebellion and run up the white flag of surrender. That’s what it means to be saved. I don’t know how long it will take you to get there, but it would be time well spent if you got to Christ…
In a sermon titled, A Lack of Repentance Preaching has Filled Modern Churches with Hypocrites, (link no longer active) Barnard said:
…I am dead certain that the mess we are in religiously and spiritually now, the love-sick so-called “church” people, the sickly sentimental crop of so-called “believers” who are enthusiastic about a fair or a frolic but are conspicuously absent from prayer meeting — I am sure that this is due to the fact that our churches are full of people who are not born right…
Somehow or another they got into our professing churches without ever having come face to face with the holy demands of a Holy God, and being brought in the face of those demands to the place of throwing up all hands of self-effort and self-confidence and turning one’s self over lock, stock and barrel to the Sovereign Christ. Somehow or another they have missed the main business. Somehow or another they got in what we call the church without turning in abhorrence and in utter conviction against sin, without turning from their sin to obedience unto God.
And, of course, their lives fail! If we dodge this step [repentance], we miss out on salvation!…
As a result of the aforementioned books and tapes, I embraced five-point Calvinism. At the time, I thought God had taken the blinders off my IFB-darkened eyes. In classic, there is no middle ground, charge hell with an empty squirt gun fashion, I became a vocal proponent of Calvinism. This change of soteriology (doctrines concerning salvation), and a later a change of ecclesiology (doctrines concerning church polity, discipline) and eschatology (doctrines concerning end times), destroyed whatever connections I had with pastors and churches in the IFB church movement.
I spent the last five years of my time as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church radically changing and restructuring the church. I stopped giving altar calls and I went from preaching topical/textual sermons to preaching expository sermons. Instead of choosing a new and different text each week, I began preaching systematically through various books of the Bible. I preached over one hundred sermons from the gospel of John.
It was not uncommon for me to spend several full days studying and preparing a sermon. This study and preparation became the focus of my ministry. (Calvinism appeals to people such as myself who love reading and who enjoy intellectual pursuits.) I also came to see that I had a duty to reach the members of Somerset Baptist Church with the TRUE gospel, the gospel of sovereign grace. I feared that many of the church members were unsaved. I spent the first half of time in Somerset getting them saved and I spent that last half trying to get them unsaved.
I began traveling to preaching meetings at Calvinistic churches. At these meetings I met men such as Don Fortner and Henry Mahan. Mahan would later come to Somerset and hold a meeting. I also began associating with Reformed Baptist pastors. Men such as Al Martin and Walt Chantry were prominent voices in the Reformed Baptist movement, as were men associated with the Southern Baptist Founder’s Group. Al Mohler is a prominent member of the Founder’s Group.
Every month, I would travel seventy miles to a General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) church in Mansfield, Ohio, pastored by Mark Furman, a Calvinistic pastor, so I could attend a meeting of like-minded pastors. This meeting was called The Pastor’s Clinic. Several pastors would present a paper on a particular theological subject, we would discuss the papers, and then eat lunch before heading for home. I found the meetings intellectually stimulating and they helped assure me that the Calvinistic gospel was the TRUE gospel.
Under my leadership, Somerset Baptist Church began a tape lending library similar to that of the Chapel Library. We sent preaching tapes free of charge to anyone who requested them. I also began publishing a monthly newsletter titled, The Sovereign Grace Reporter. This newsletter was sent to hundreds of Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic pastors. The newsletter incited rage among my non-Calvinistic friends and their outrage ruined a fifteen-church Youth Fellowship I had started years before. I knew that the newsletter would provoke some of the pastors, but I didn’t care. I thought, they need to hear about the TRUE gospel.
I lost almost all of my professional connections, save a friendship I had with Keith Troyer and another with Polly’s uncle James (Jim) Dennis. At the time, Keith was pastor of the Fallsburg Baptist Church in Fallsburg, Ohio and Jim was the pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath Ohio.
Jim Dennis was not a five-point Calvinist, in the classic sense of the word, but his soteriological beliefs were closer to the Calvinistic position than the one-point Calvinist/Arminian position of the IFB church movement. Keith Troyer was a young pastor when I met him. I think I am about ten years older than he. I began to give Keith books written by Calvinistic writers, and, for a time, he was greatly influenced by me and the books I gave him. Many people believe that I had a negative influence on Keith. Whatever influence I may or may not have had, Keith is not a Calvinistic pastor. He currently pastors Grace Baptist Church in Greenville, Pennsylvania. With both of these men, I could freely talk about Calvinism. Both men would later come and preach for me, not only at Somerset, but at Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio (which was originally named Grace Baptist Church).
Through the publication of the Sovereign Grace Reporter, I came into contact with men such as Andy Sandlin and Pat Horner. Both Sandlin and Horner were originally part of the IFB church movement. Sandlin, for many years, was associated with Rousas Rushdoony and the Chalcedon Foundation. Horner was a sovereign grace Baptist pastor who pastored Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas.
While Andy I had much more of a casual relationship, Pat and I began to develop a friendship. Over time, Pat become comfortable enough with me that he invited me to speak at his church’s annual Bible conference in March of 1993. At this conference, I came into contact with numerous sovereign grace Baptist pastors. Both Polly and I were overwhelmed by the friendliness and vibrancy of Community Baptist Church.
Over the course of the summer, Pat Horner and I continued to keep in touch. Pat eventually asked if I would consider coming to Elmendorf to be the co-pastor of the church. He knew I was beginning to “feel” that my work in Somerset was done and that perhaps God was leading me to go somewhere else. He also knew I was gifted when it came to evangelism and he hoped I could help with planting new churches, along with starting a Christian school. After considering Pat’s offer for several weeks, I came to the conclusion that God wanted me to stay in Somerset. I called Pat and declined his offer.
A few weeks later, I was sitting in my office and suddenly a flood of emotion came over me. I began weeping uncontrollably. I began thinking about the church in Texas and Pat’s offer. And, in that moment, I changed my mind and decided to accept the offer to become the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas.
One of the trailers used to move our belongings to Community Baptist Church
I called Pat and asked him if the offer was still open. He said, yes, and a few weeks later Polly and I drove to Texas to meet with the church elders and the church family. They overwhelmingly agreed that I should come to Texas and become the co-pastor of the church. In March of 1994, men from Community Baptist Church came to Ohio, helped us pack up our furniture and goods, and we moved 1,400 miles to a new and exciting ministry opportunity.
What should have been a wonderful time for my family and me, over the course of seven months, turned into disaster that resulted in me resigning from the church and Pat Horner and the church excommunicating me.
From late September, 1994 to today, Pat Horner and the Community Baptist Church consider me a publican and a heathen.
In the next post in this series, I will discuss how we settled into Elmendorf and my conflicts with the church that ultimately led to our leaving.
Jose Maldonado. Bruce Gerencser, Pat Horner, Somerset Baptist Church
Bruce Gerencser again says, “Since I do not believe the Bible to be the Word of God, and I nolonger embrace the beliefs and teachings of the Christian faith, I am no longer a Christian. Mydeconversion came at the moment where I finally admitted to myself that I no longer believed the Bible to be the word of God.” He has consciously sealed his doom!
Pastor Jose Maldonado, from 2010 Sermon Series about Bruce Gerencser
Jose Maldonado is the pastor of Hillburn Drive Grace Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. I met Joe in 1993 when I preached at the annual Sovereign Grace Bible conference held at Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas. In the fall of 1993, Jose came to Ohio with Pat Horner, pastor of Community Baptist. The purpose of their visit was to hold a Sovereign Grace Bible Conference at the church I was pastoring, Somerset Baptist Church in Mt Perry, Ohio.
In late October of 1993, Horner called me and asked me to consider coming to Elmendorf to help him pastor Community. After a week or so of “seeking” the will of God on the matter, I turned his offer down. Several weeks later, in what can only be described as an emotional breakdown that I called, at the time, God speaking to me, I changed my mind, and in March of 1994, I packed up my family and we moved to Elmendorf, Texas.