This is the one hundred and tenth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip of several child preachers.
This is the one hundred and ninth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip of Duffy Strode, the Boy Preacher on the Oprah Winfrey Show. This video is from 1988. Duffy, 10, was suspended from school for refusing to stop preaching to his classmates. Today, Ryan Duffy Strode is married with children of his own. His children have not followed in their father’s preacher boy footsteps. Based on a quick perusal of Duffy’s social media accounts, he no longer walks in the Fundamentalist footsteps of his father.
Please be aware that the following videos are heartbreaking. They are hard to watch, perfect examples of child abuse in Jesus’ name.
This is the seventy-seventh installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip from a sermon preached by Arizona street preacher Dean Saxton and another unnamed preacher in front of Bikini Beans Espresso. (link no longer active)
This is the sixty-fourth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip from a sermon preached by Kevin St. John. St. John is Canadian street preacher associated with a Calvinistic ministry called Calgary Peacemakers.
This is the sixty-second installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip from a sermon preached by California street preacher Ruben Israel.
This is the sixty-first installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip from a sermon preached by Arizona street preacher Dean Saxton. This video is a good example of how street preachers deliberately inflame passions by hurling insults and slurs at their audience. In this video, Dean got more than he bargained for when a student clocked him in the head with a baseball bat. While Saxton does have a constitutional right to do what he does, I do not feel one bit sorry for him. Sometimes, what asshole preachers like Saxton need is an ass-whooping. Sadly, the girl who smacked Saxton up the side of his head now faces felony assault charges.
This is the thirty-first installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip from a sermon preached by Portland Street Preachers.
This is the thirtieth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip from a sermon preached by OneChristianVoice.
This is the twenty-ninth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip from a sermon preached by OneChristianVoice.
A few years ago, several men from Calvary Chapel in Hemet, California went to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to preach to the captive audience lined up outside the DMV waiting for it to open. Not long after they started preaching, at the behest of a DMV security guard, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer was dispatched to the DMV to deal with the street preachers. After refusing to stop preaching, the obnoxious preachers were arrested. According to the CHP officer, they were breaking the “preaching to a captive audience” law. After finding out no such law exists, the charge was amended to “impeding an open business.” This charge was dropped and the district attorney then charged the street preachers with trespassing.
The arrested street preachers secured legal representation through the Advocates for Faith and Freedom (operated by Robert Tyler and Jennifer Bursch), a non-profit law firm “dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts.” According to a September 2015 update on the law firm’s website, the criminal case against the street preachers was dropped. Advocates for Faith and Freedom have since filed a federal lawsuit seeking “a federal remedy to further clear his (Mark McCay) name and to protect other individuals who seek to peacefully express their faith.” The update states the following:
Advocates for Faith & Freedom has filed a legal brief in support of religious freedom before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Mark Mackey, the Riverside man who was preaching the gospel when he was arrested outside the Hemet DMV for what a CHP officer deemed “interfering with an open business through obstruction or intimidation.”
Last year, though, a Superior Court judge absolved Mackey of the crime saying that the street preacher did not violate the law. During the course of the criminal trial, the judge also suggested that the law used by the CHP officer was unconstitutional.
Mackey and two other men were reading the Bible outside the DMV when Officer Darren Meyer accused them of preaching to a “captive audience.” The officer later amended the allegations, citing them instead for intimidation. At the time the men were approached by the officer, however, the DMV office was closed and the men were standing 50 feet from the entrance as citizens waited outside the door. The men never approached the crowd. After insisting that they were exercising their constitutional rights, the officer arrested Mark Mackey and Brett Coronado.
The federal suit—stayed while the criminal case played out in state court—alleges that there was no probable cause to arrest Mackey and that his First Amendment rights were violated. Even though our client has been criminally cleared, we are seeking a federal remedy to further clear his name and to protect other individuals who seek to peacefully express their faith. The federal district court found that the CHP officer did have probable cause. We will keep you apprised as this Ninth Circuit Appeal advances..
I first heard of this story through Defending Contending, a fundamentalist Christian blog. A man by the name of Bill Phillips wrote an article about the arrest of the street preachers. Here’s part of what he had to say: (link no longer active)
I discussed this with a couple atheists in the comments on this YouTube video. They are biased against anyone preaching about the Bible of course; they also believe these preachers broke the law. They say they support freedom of speech, but they don’t seem to understand that the whole point of the First Amendment is to protect speech you may find offensive or annoying.
I spent a number of years preaching on public street corners and sidewalks. I was accosted numerous times by law enforcement officers demanding that I stop preaching. While I was never thrown in the pokey, I was threatened with arrest numerous times. In every instance it was a local business owner who demanded the police shut me up. Try as they might to keep me from preaching, they failed miserably. One Saturday, knowing they couldn’t arrest me, four Zanesville, Ohio police officers parked their cruisers a short distance from me and got out of the cars. For the entire time I was there they stood staring at me, hoping that I would be intimidated into quitting. I wasn’t, and later I went to the police station and filed a complaint against the officers.
Having experienced the heavy hand of law enforcement officers who are ignorant of the law and the first amendment, I am sympathetic towards anyone who is harassed or arrested for exercising their first amendment right to free speech. When I read the aforementioned story on Defending Contending, I decided to leave a comment in support of the arrested street preachers. Here’s my innocuous, supportive, relatively non-offensive, non-argumentative comment:
Well, I am an atheist who supports the right for idiots to stand on public property and preach. This is America and the freest real estate in America is public property.
I preached on the streets for many years. I was threatened with arrest dozens of times. I have been harassed by police more times than I can count. I stood my ground because the first amendment matters…for Christians and atheists.
This means having to put up with people and speech I find offensive.
Yes, I called the street preachers idiots. They are. And they are also obnoxious, in your face, and offensive. While I support their first amendment right to free speech, it doesn’t necessarily follow that I like or support their message. I don’t. As a former street preacher, I know all the tricks of the trade. So when I come across street preachers haranguing the public with the “good news”, I tend to mock them. Just exercising my right to free speech, even if Polly wishes I wouldn’t. I tend to see harassing street preachers as fun and games. Polly just stands in the distance, alternately laughing and shaking her head.
In leaving my comment, I thought Bill Phillips and Defending Contending readers would appreciate an atheist standing up for the fundamentalist street preachers, especially since the blog post mentioned several atheist YouTube commenters who thought differently. I should have known better.
Jim, using the Flee Babylon moniker, replied to my comment with this:
“Well! I am an atheist who supports the right for idiots to stand on public property and preach.”
Bruce – There are many problems with your alleged testimony. Let me ask you a question. Were you truly born again (met Christ not in word but in reality and power) and now turned away from him or did you have a mental belief in Christ, earn a living from it, and now your mental belief is changed?
As you know, I have no patience for this line of interrogation. I have written about it numerous times. I replied to Jim:
Normally Jim I would use a few choice words to tell you want I think of your comment but I will respect the fact this is not my house,
Your use of the word alleged is offensive. It is my life, my story, my testimony and you don’t get to frame the storyline. I was every bit a Christian that you now are. I don’t care if that squares with your theology. It matters not to me whether or not you think or know I was never a Christian. I know. I give you this challenge…. Find one person who knew me as their pastor or a fellow colleague in the ministry who thought, at the time, I was not a Christian. Either I was deluded and an expert at deceiving people or your theological premise fails when applied to real life.
That said, what the **** does this have to do with the point of the post? I won’t discuss this further with you. Come over to my house and we can discuss it there.
And let the pile on begin…
Todd 3588 writes:
What’s an atheist?
Jon Gleason writes:
1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
Linda MacDonald writes:
Bruce Gerencser, GOD says you were never his and you nor I get to “frame the storyline” HE DOES. There’s no such thing as being A Christian and then no longer being one.
Jesus after talking about people who did great things in his name says-”Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ -”Mat 7:23
“I NEVER KNEW YOU” means never.
A person does not become born again of the spirit of God and become unborn. God’s word clearly says- “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”-1 John 3:9.
a person leaving and becoming a staunch atheist is evidence that you were one of the first 3 soils but never the 4th soil-good soil.
Satan has mental assent just like many people have but never a full commitment from your heart where GOD reaches down to YOU and saves you. It is God who reaches down to us not us reaching up to him.
No human decision saves anyone-John 1:13 only when we are born of God from above.
Mickie Merrie writes:
What astounds me is he sees it as a badge he wears to brag about it! Any remorse for the sheep he sheared?
Just wrote this the other day for another blog..sure seems to fit this one too!
“A man blinded by God…a man struck deaf by God…due to His perfect judgement of the heart, cannot be made to see or hear by man. We may not even yet see their blindness nor deafness, for it begins at God’s descretion (sic), due to sin in the heart, long before it manifest itself in their actions. This too explains the sudden change in the behavior of those who walked the path uprightly in days gone by. It’s not how you ran the race, but how you run the race, and finish a winner in Him.”
Having put his hand to the plow and looked back …
Perhaps this will help him and those who relate to him get a cleare (sic) picture, it is good for all of us to read…
Here are two thoughts….The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him.
Todd3558 also wrote:
Ah the “interpretation” arguement (sic) AGAIN. “That’s YOUR truth.” “This is MY truth.” Blah, blah, blah. “Your interpretation is wrong…if you were as smart as me, then your interpretation and understanding and (non)belief would be as ‘advanced’ as mine.” Blah, blah, blah.
Anti-Christian, A(nti)theists are all the same. Arrogant. Elitist. Dead in their sin. Blind to truth. Under the wrath of God. Destined to spend eternity in a place created for Satan and his angels. Just like all others who’ve not been given the gift of faith and conversion.
And finally Jim chimed in, giving me his email address and telling me what a wonderful guy he is:
“I was every bit a Christian that you now are”
That is my point, I could never say “I used to be married but now I dont (sic) believe that my wife ever exsited (sic)”. Such a statement would mean either:
A) I only imagined I was married, however popwerful (sic) that imagination was (like I bought a second car to keep in the drive way, drew a picture of what I thought my wife might look like, etc)
B) I was married and am now so angry or hurt that I deny my estranged wife even existed
Either you were a false convert all along or you are an apostate and walked away from truly knowing Christ. This has nothing to do with theoolgy, (sic), just reality. I am not impressed with what people thought of you as a pastor either – modern church people are the easiest to trick into believing anything. If there is one thing I applaud it is you leaving the professional clergy that scripture knows nothing of. Maybe you will find Christ in the wilderness if you have never truly met Him. If not, I pray you find healing from what ever pain the religious beast system caused to you.
Please do not be angry at me and treat me as someone who deserves a few choice words. I would actually meet up with you if you lived near Detroit? My email is email@example.com
Interspersed in the comment section are several comments by my friend John Arthur. John, always a polite man, tried to engage Defending Contending commenters on my behalf, but to no avail. What’s interesting is that there is only one comment directly related to subject of the post. Feed a fundamentalist dog an atheist bone and it will forget the filet mignon in its food bowl.
I suppose that it could be argued that I baited the Christian commenters by calling the street preachers idiots. I can see how someone might think that, but that was not my intent. I simply made a judgment based on their behavior. They acted like idiots and I said so. Why should my opinion be considered offensive? Shouldn’t God’s chosen ones view such criticisms as a badge of honor? Doesn’t Psalm 119:165 say:
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
Nothing shall offend them, the Bible says. Yet, one atheist uttering a six letter word causes some of the zealots at Defending Contending to feel offended. Man, they need to come over to the other side of the street and have a taste of the hate and maliciousness dished out by Jesus-loving Christians towards Bruce Gerencser, the preacher turned atheist.
I posted this to illustrate to readers how a comment of SUPPORT on a Christian blog turned into a personal attack. An attack, I might add that says far more about Defending Contending readers, their insecurities, and their religion, than it says about me.
…a retired, twenty-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (1987-2007). During his time in law enforcement, Tony served as a gang investigator, field training officer, drug recognition expert, and a DUI enforcement specialist. Tony’s law enforcement experience includes three days of chaos, during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, as well as being on duty only a few miles away from the epicenter when the 1994 Northridge Earthquake devastated the greater Los Angeles area. During his career, Tony received more than 60 commendations and citations for meritorious service, arrests, criminal investigations, critical decision-making, and community service…
…From 2008 to mid-2012, Tony served as Living Waters’ Director of the Ambassadors’ Alliance, as well as the Director of Conferences and Special Projects. Tony’s service with Living Waters included the supervision of 20 Ambassador’s Academies (the ministry’s 3 1/2-day evangelism training program), conferences, State Representative system, and large-scale evangelism projects. Tony also wrote and co-hosted almost 400 episodes of Living Waters’ live, web-based program, “On the Box, with Ray Comfort.”
Tony has authored the books “Take Up The Shield (Genesis Publishing Group, 2005) and“Should She Preach? – Biblical Evangelism for Women” (One Million Tracts, 2013).
Tony is a prolific writer, having maintained several personal blogs, as well as writing for several other ministry blogs, websites, and newsletters. Currently, Tony’s writing is featured on the Cross Encounters blog (www.CrossEncounters.us).
Tony has preached in many churches across the United States and in Canada. He has served as the keynote speaker at several different conferences. He is committed to expository preaching. He frequently addresses topics such as biblical evangelism, spiritual growth and personal holiness, as well as the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Presently, Tony is serving the Lord as an itinerant preacher and open-air evangelist.
Like the banana man Ray Comfort, Miano is known for antagonizing and attacking anyone who doesn’t worship his version of the Christian God. Our paths briefly crossed paths a few years ago on Twitter. I found him to be an asshole then and he is an asshole now. I wouldn’t have been friends with him when I was a Christian street preacher. Like Comfort, Miano has a devoted flock of followers. They adore his in your face style, imagining that Jesus, Peter, James, John, and Paul were itinerant street preachers just like Brother Miano.
No, I don’t hate Matt Dillahunty. I pity him. I pity him the way I pity every human being who denies the God they know exists (Romans 1:18-25). I pity Matt and people like him because the Dillahunty Delusion (an all-too-common malady) is simply a byproduct of an absurd worldview (one that searches for coherence and meaning without God), which is born out of a love of self, a love of sin, and a hatred of God (Romans 1:31-32).
I think it would be safe to say that Miano’s view of Matt is how he views all atheists.
Like many of his ilk who only care whether or not someone embraces their version of Jesus, Miano has little compassion for those who are suffering. Miana is a Calvinist, so any suffering in the world is according to God’s sovereign, unchangeable plan. No need to embrace the suffering of others. Just get them saved so they avoid the REAL suffering to come.
As many of you know, a massive earthquake hit Nepal, killing thousands and injuring thousands more. A compassionate, kind, loving human would attempt to empathize with the Nepalese and their horrific loss of life and home. Not Miano. Here’s what he had to say on Twitter:
Most of the retweets were from people who condemned Miano’s tweet, but 96 people thought that tweet was wonderful. Some of those who clicked favorite were the same who condemned Miano’s tweet, but there were some Christians who thought Miano’s tweet reflected their view. People like Jessica Lam, Seth Dunn, and Kevin McDonald, and a host of other Christians who don’t want others to know their name. Like the raised hand and the unspoken prayer request, these Christians want Brother Miano to know that they support and approve of his tweet about Nepal.
Miano is followed by thousands of like-minded churches, parachurch ministries, and Christians. I looked in vain for one tweet that rebuked Miano. I wonder how they would respond if I tweeted this after a natural disaster leveled their home and church and killed their children:
Ha! Ha! Ha! You Christians in Toledo,Ohio got exactly what you deserved. Repent of your stupid beliefs. I hope that none of your churches are rebuilt! #mygodrulz
I can only imagine how Christians would respond to me, and rightly so. Why are Christians silent when people like Tony Miano, Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Ray Comfort, John Piper, Al Mohler, and a host of other miscreants, use the suffering and loss of others to remind them of their need to repent and believe in Jesus?
I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Christian church. Baptized a Lutheran and later making a public profession of faith in a Baptist church at the age of fifteen, I had been a part of the Christian church most of my life. I preached my first sermon at the age of fifteen, attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college as a young man, and pastored churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.
I never went through the angst many people go through when determining what to do with their lives. At the age of five, I told my mother I wanted to be a preacher when I grew up. From the age of fifteen to the age of fifty, I was a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had no doubt that God had called me to preach to sinners the unsearchable riches of Christ.
I am an all in kind of guy. I have little tolerance for doing things halfway. When Jesus called to me and told me to leave my proverbial nets, I did so immediately. I was a devoted, committed, sold-out follower of Jesus Christ. My passion was for God, his church, and the Word of God. For twenty-five years, my life was consumed by the ministry and the work I believed God had called me to do.
Up until I started blogging in 2007, no one had ever doubted that I was saved, that I was a devoted, committed follower of Jesus. A person who years ago knew me quite well, was shocked when she heard that I was no longer a pastor and that I was now an atheist. She said, Butch (my family nickname) was the real deal. It is important to understand this point. NO ONE…out of the thousands of people I came in contact with, ever expressed doubt about my salvation. Not one teacher, not one deacon, not one evangelist, not one church member, not one fellow pastor, ever expressed doubt that I was a Christian or that I was a God-called preacher.
Those who now contend I was never a Christian or that I was a false teacher make their judgment based not on the evidence of the life I lived, but their peculiar interpretation of the Bible. For the Baptists, Calvinists, and many Evangelicals, the only way to square my life with their theology is for them to say I never was a Christian or that I still am a Christian Arminians have less of a problem explaining my life. While they are “troubled” by my apostasy, they recognize that I was a Christian. In their eyes, I fell from grace, and I am now no longer a Christian.
I realize that I am a rare bird. While there are many men who leave the ministry, few leave it as I did so late in life. Many of the notable preacher-turned-atheists, apostatized and left the ministry in their twenties and thirties. I left at the age of fifty. This does not make me special in any way, but it does make me an exception to the rule. And this is why Christian people have a hard time understanding how it is possible for a man to be a Christian for most of his life and to pastor churches for twenty-five years, to then just walk away from it all and renounce Jesus.
Those who know me personally have a difficult time wrapping their mind around Pastor Bruce being an atheist. To quote Nicodemus in John 3, how can these things be? But, whether they can understand it or not, here I am. I once was a Christian, I once was a man of God, and now I am not.
My life was motivated by the following verses:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me, For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:24,25)
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1,2)
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:15,16)
For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. (James 4:14,15)
These verses, along with my commitment to follow every command in the Bible, led me to a life of self-denial and economic simplicity. While most people around me were focused on earning a living, providing for their family, and accumulating material goods, I was focused on making just enough money to keep a roof over my family’s head. I took seriously the command to “learn in whatever state I am to be content.” I practiced a Baptist version of voluntary poverty, and as the head of the home, I led my family to do the same. I figured that whatever money and material goods we had was what God wanted us to have. To desire, require, or want more was a sure sign that I was in love with the things of the world.
Over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry, my family and I were economically at or below the poverty line. For many years we drove junk cars and for five years our family of eight lived in a three bedroom 12’x60’ mobile home. I paid $2,800 for the mobile home and parked it next to the church. It was a ratty old mobile home to which I had to do extensive work so we could live in it. As I look back on it now, I see this mobile home as a snapshot of my/our life of self-denial.
Somewhere in the late 1990s, I woke up one day, looked around, and realized that our family was the only one living this way. Everyone else, pastor friends included, were busy building their kingdom on this earth. Their focus was on their job, career, home, land, education, and retirement. My focus was on living a voluntary life of self-denial so that I might preach the gospel. I saw myself as following in the steps of Jesus and Paul. Why wasn’t anyone else living this way?
I still think my interpretation of the Bible was essentially correct. It wasn’t that I took Christianity too seriously, it was that most everyone else didn’t take it seriously enough. After all, did Jesus not say:
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (Matthew 6:24, 25)
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19,20)
My heart was squarely focused on Jesus. I treasured the Word of God and preaching the gospel. I saw the world neatly divided into saved and lost. As a saved man, one who believed in a literal hell, how could I idly sit by while knowing that most people did not know the saving grace of Jesus Christ? I spent most of my married life hustling for Jesus. Preaching, teaching, witnessing, preaching on the street, preaching at nursing homes, visiting prison inmates, knocking on doors, visiting bus routes, handing out tracts, and starting churches. Like the Apostle Paul, I believed, woe unto me if I preach not the gospel!
I took seriously Ezekiel 3:17-19:
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me, When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
I believed that God would hold me accountable for every soul that went to hell because I did not witness to them. I felt I was duty bound to warn sinners of their wicked ways and of the judgment to come. My preaching, methodology, and lifestyle reflected this. Even though I was more committed than anyone else I knew, I also knew I was far from perfect, that I was far from being as committed as I could be. I pleaded with God to give me more of his power, more of his Spirit, just like he gave to great preachers like DL Moody, Hudson Taylor, David Brainerd, John Wesley, Charles Finney, Adoniram Judson, and Charles Spurgeon.
I left the ministry in 2005 and I left Christianity in 2008. It is hard for me not to look back on my/our life of self-denial with bitter regret. Yes, I helped a lot of people and yes, in spite of our poverty, we had a good life. But, a lifetime of self-denial has put my wife and me in an economically difficult place. We are by no means poor. We have more than enough money to pay our bills and live a comfortable life. We still live simply, and outside of a 2015 Ford Escape sitting in the driveway, our home and its furnishings are modest. When we bought our home in 2007, we bought a fixer-upper and we have been fixing it up ever since. Our life is comfortable, dare I say blessed. But, I can’t help thinking about where we might now be if I had not been so focused on living a life of self-denial? In about three years, I will officially “retire.” I will draw a minimal social security check because I didn’t pay social security tax for most of the years I was in the ministry. I have no other retirement plan. Polly will likely have to work after she reaches retirement age. I deeply regret this, but decisions have consequences, and because I made a decision years ago to not pay social security tax and because I thought Jesus and the church would take care of me when I was old, I made no other plans for the future. After all, I planned on dying with my boots on.
Life is one long lesson learned. How about you? Were you a devoted follower of Jesus? Did you take seriously the verses I mentioned in this post? If so, what did your life of self-denial look like? Did you do without for the sake of Jesus and the church? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.