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Tag: Stepping on Toes

Why Do Many Evangelical Preachers Think Causing Offense is a Virtue?

offensive preaching

For those of us raised in Southern Baptist, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), Freewill Baptist, and Holiness churches, we are oh-so-familiar with what is commonly called in such churches “hard preaching.” or “stepping on toes” or “calling out sin” or “naming names.” Hard preaching is almost always loud and animated, often with pulpit pounding and foot stomping. Preachers who preach this way — as I did early in my ministry, emulating (or imitating) preachers from my youth or big-name pastors/evangelists whom I admired — take pride in offending people. Calling out specific sins in the congregation or attacking preachers, colleges, and parachurch organizations by name often offends. But, that’s okay in the preacher’s mind, cuz he’s just preaching the Word. Jesus and the Apostles offended people with their words, why shouldn’t I?, Fundamentalist preachers think. Offending people gets their attention, or so the thinking goes, anyway.

Over the years, I have shared with readers numerous offensive emails and comments from Evangelicals. These so-called followers of Jesus could have been polite and respectful while sharing their disagreements with my writing, but having attended churches pastored by men who love to offend, they think the best way to reach me or get my attention is to use offensive words. When called out on their behavior, such people often say that they are just speaking truth; that their words are straight from the Word of God; that my being offended is a sign of conviction. Thinking the adage “you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is a conspiracy theory, abrasive, bombastic Evangelicals think “you will catch more sinners with offensive speech than kindness.” In their minds, if you leave a church service without broken toes, bloody lips, and bruised faces, the man of God ain’t doing his job.

Imagine growing up in such an environment, three services a week of hard preaching. Imagine fear, guilt, and judgment being served up at every church service. Imagine your pastor calling out your sins by name. Talk about a self-esteem killer, a wound that runs so deep that all you see in the mirror every morning is a vile, worthless sinner who would split Hell wide open if it wasn’t for Jesus saving him.

The purpose of the body of Christ is to love, show compassion, and extend grace. Certainly, preachers need to teach the Bible and help congregants apply it to their lives, but how they do so speaks volumes about the kind of person they really are. When the Bible is used as an offensive weapon, bloody carnage is left in its wake. Evangelical churches are filled with hurt and wounded people; people who sincerely love Jesus. Their spirits are battered and bruised, and the person who did this to them stands in the pulpit every time they attend church. And the sad thing is that people think this abuse is normal. How could they think otherwise? Long-term conditioning and indoctrination give them a warped view of “normal.” I know for my partner, Polly, and me, it wasn’t until after we deconverted that we saw, for the first time, how much psychological harm our five decades in Evangelicalism caused us. Counseling office waiting rooms are filled with people who have/had pastors who loved to offend.

It seems obvious to me that being an asshole is not a virtue, but sadly, for many Evangelical preachers, their “obvious detector” is not working. Either that, or they love being mean to people.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser