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Tag: Tithing

Stewardship Month and Faith Promise Missions Giving in the IFB Church

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This is mathematically impossible. 🙂

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers are known for preaching on money, particularly tithing and giving offerings above the tithe. For readers who don’t understand the “Biblical” concept of tithing, let me explain this money-raising scheme to you. The word tithe, in IFB parlance, means 10%. Church members are expected to give 10% of their gross income — God and the government get theirs first — to the church.

I heard countless sermons over the years on the subject of tithing. Preachers, with hands and pockets open wide, told congregants that God demanded at least 10% of their income. Even children were expected to give a tithe to the church from their allowances, yard mowing money, babysitting money, etc. These preachers knew it was important to indoctrinate children. Teach (expect) people to tithe when they are young, they will continue to do so when they are older.

Many IFB preachers threaten congregants with the judgment of God if they don’t tithe. They also tell church members that God will materially “bless” them if they do tithe. Some pastors check the giving records to make sure people are tithing. Those who don’t tithe are considered backslidden, rebellious, or out of the will of God.

Malachi 3:8-10 says:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Don’t want to rob God? Please make that check payable to Victory Baptist Church.

Unlike many of my Baptist peers, I rarely preached on tithing. I grew up in churches where my pastors constantly harped on money. Even in college, poor students were expected to give 10% of their gross income to the church affiliated with the college. These negative experiences affected me in such a way that I was hesitant to bug and beg church members for money. I just couldn’t do it. I grew up poor, and we lived at or below the poverty line for the first thirty years of marriage. The most I ever made in the ministry was $26,000 (with a family of eight). I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio for eleven years. The most I ever made in one year at Somerset Baptist was $12,000. I certainly wasn’t in the ministry for the money.

Many of the people I pastored were poor. I found it hard to ask people to tithe when they were barely keeping their heads above water. One year at Somerset Baptist, the highest paid man in the church made $21,000 (an auto mechanic). Appalachian economics applied to the church too.

Not only do IFB preachers preach on tithing, but many of them also preach on stewardship and faith promise missions giving. Polly’s uncle, the late James Dennis (please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis) would spend a month every year preaching on stewardship. The goal? To remind congregants that God expects them to give 10% of their income to the church; to remind congregants that God expects them to contribute to the mission fund, building fund, and any other “fund” the preacher cooks up.

IFB preachers are fond of humble bragging about how many missionaries their churches support. Instead of investing significant amounts of money in one missionary, churches will give fifty missionaries $25 a month. As a result, missionaries have to go to numerous churches on deputation hoping to raise $25 a month from each church. Many missionaries spend years on the fundraising circuit (the better the slide presentation of poor black people, the sooner the missionary makes it to the field). Some give up, never reaching their financial goal. Deputation is a cruel racket. It turns good people (regardless of what I think of mission work now) into beggars.

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Some IFB churches have annual faith promise missions conferences. Missionaries come to the church and present their work (priming the pump for the money ask). Congregants are asked to promise God, by faith, that they will give $xx.xx a month to the church to support the mission program. What if they don’t have the money? Church members are expected to give the money even if they don’t have it. After all, they made a “faith promise.” Remember, congregants are told that God promises to “bless” them materially if they tithe and give offerings above the tithe. I pastored poor church members who gave 20-25% of their income to the church. I was one of those people until I figured out late in my ministerial career that it made no sense for me to do so as long as the church wasn’t paying me. Giving to the church so they can give it back to me was just me paying myself with my own money. Silly, right?

In the mid-1980s, a missionary from Bearing Precious Seed — a KJV Bible publishing ministry of First Baptist Church in Milford, Ohio — came to our church to hustle for money. I told him about the economic status of many church members, warning him that promising congregants a Bible in return for a monthly faith promise missions offering was a bad idea. The missionary ignored me, offering church members a brand new leather-bound KJV Bible if they would give a monthly donation to Bearing Precious Seed. More than a few church members took him up on his offer. The church was expected to collect the money and forward it to Bearing Precious Seed every month. Sure enough, after several months, some of those who promised to make a monthly donation defaulted on their commitment. Not wanting to look bad, I had the church make up the monthly deficit. Guess whose pocket that came out of? Mine.

Do you have a tithing or faith promise missions story to tell? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

Dear Jesus, I Want a Refund

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Dear Jesus,

I was five-years-old when I remembered praying to you for the first time. My mother expressed to me the importance of praying every night before I went to bed, and for the next forty-five years, not a day went by that I didn’t bow my head, close my eyes, and utter one or more prayers to you. All told, I prayed tens of thousands of prayers, each uttered with sincerity and faith, believing that you, Jesus, would answer them.

For most of my life I believed, Jesus, that the Bible was your words — the Words of God. I believed you were a kind, loving, compassionate God who had my best interests at heart. When I prayed, I believed that you would answer my petitions according to your will, purpose, and plan for my life. There were times, Jesus, when you answered my prayers right on the spot, and other times when you answered after a short season of trial and testing. But most of the time, my prayers to you went unanswered. I wondered, did I say the wrong words or ask for the wrong things? Why, when it came to big-ticket prayers of life and death proportions, did you never say a word? I prayed and prayed and prayed, and all I got from you was silence.

As I read through the pages of the Bible, I came across promises you made to me and my fellow Christians. If we would have faith the size of a mustard seed — that’s a really small seed, Jesus, just in case you’ve forgotten its size — we could move mountains. You promised that your followers would do greater works than you, yet I never raised the dead, healed the sick, or fed five-thousand people with three Big Macs and a large order of French fries. Every dying person died, despite my prayers. Every sick person either died, stayed the same, or got better. Those who got better had doctors, nurses, and medications to thank, not you, Jesus. Yes, a lot of those sick people did give you credit for their healing, but everyone knew that without modern medicine they would have died. We all kept silent about this, not wanting to ruin your reputation.

I also read where you said that you would be with me through thick and thin; that you would never, ever leave or forsake me. Yet, why were you nowhere to be found during the darkest moments of my life? I wept countless tears, Jesus, calling out to you, begging you to please come to my rescue. I was devoted to you, an on-fire, sold-out preacher of the gospel. I lived and breathed the gospel. I tried my best to live according to what you said in the Bible, even when I found some of your sayings to be perplexing, stupid, or hard. Despite my devotion, you ignored me, choosing instead to help countless Christian grannies find their car keys or hearing aids. What gives, Jesus?

From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, I read about a hands-on God who was intimately involved with his creation, including with Bruce Duane Gerencser. I am the only Bruce Duane in the world, so I know you couldn’t have confused me with someone else. Verse after verse — your words, remember? — made promises to me. Surely, God keeps his promises, right?  And the biggest promise of all was the one where you promised that when I died I would receive a new/perfect body and spend eternity living in the snazziest city ever built — the New Jerusalem. Granted, no one has ever come back to earth to tell us what lies beyond the grave, but, hey, you are Jesus, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Surely, whatever the Bible says is true. You wouldn’t have just been making stuff up, would you?

All told, Jesus, I spent fifty years in the Christian church. Twenty-five of those years were spent gathering up disciples for you. I devoted my life to you, forsaking my family and harming my health. Hundreds and hundreds of people punched their tickets to heaven in the churches I pastored. While my colleagues in the ministry were busy golfing, taking vacations, or banging their secretaries, I was preaching on street corners, planting churches, and doing all I could to win the lost. Even when I decided you were a Calvinist, Jesus, I still did what you commanded me to do: work while it is yet day, for night comes when no man can work. Even though I knew that you had predetermined through some sort of divine lottery who would and wouldn’t go to Heaven when they died, I didn’t know who got the winning tickets, so I treated everyone as a potential golden ticket winner.

For most of my life, I lived in poverty, rarely making enough money to provide for the needs of my family. You told me, Jesus, that I would never have to beg for food, so it was good that Food Stamps didn’t count, right? The Gerencser family never missed a meal, but I do wonder: which of our meals did you provide? I worked and my wages helped buy groceries. For a few years, we received Food Stamps and made ample use of government food stuffs. And on more than a few occasions, kindly church members gave us groceries. It seems, to me anyway, Jesus, that you didn’t have a hand in feeding us. I know that you take credit for the sunshine and rain that causes crops to grow, but everyone now knows, Jesus — thanks to science — that you have nothing to do with where food comes from. Maybe, you should take those verses out of the Bible. Taking credit for something you didn’t do is lying. You don’t want to be a liar, do you?

My wife and I gave thousands and thousands of dollars to you Jesus, just like you commanded us to do. We gave tithes, offerings above the tithe, mission offerings, and revival offerings, along with giving money, cars, clothing, and food to people you told me to help. You never told Polly to do any of this giving, but she trusted that you and I were on good speaking terms. I wonder if I should tell her the truth, Jesus? Should I tell her that all those times I said you were talking to me, leading me, or prompting me, it was really just me doing what I wanted to do; that I wanted to help others, even if it meant hurting my wife and children?

You told me in the Bible, Jesus, that all my giving was being recorded and that every dollar I gave on earth was being stored in Heaven’s First National Bank of New Jerusalem; that someday, once I arrive at my heavenly mansion, I will have vast treasures at my disposal. I wonder, Jesus, would it be possible for me to get a refund? Since you never answered my prayers about my health problems, I have had to deal with chronic pain and illness. Twenty years now, Jesus, with no end in sight. I now know that you are never going to do what you promised you would do. The least you can do, then, is make a wire transfer from my Heavenly account to First Federal Bank of the Midwest, account number 6666666. I have lots of medical bills to pay, and now that my wife is having her own health problems, it would sure be nice if you would refund all the money I’ve deposited in your bank.

Bruce, Bruce, Bruce. Yes, Lord. I can’t give you a refund. Imagine what would happen if Christians everywhere started asking for refunds. Why, there would be a run on the bank and before you knew it, I would be penniless. How will I be able to give all my followers rewards and gift cards on judgment day if I refund everyone’s money? Besides, didn’t you read in the Bible where it says, ALL SALES ARE FINAL? Where does it say that, Jesus? Well, you kind of have to read between the lines. Remember when I was dying on the cross — for YOUR sins, by the way? Remember what I said? It is FINISHED! That’s Greek for ALL SALES ARE FINAL.

Thanks for nothing, Jesus. I hope you won’t mind if I let everyone know that not only are you a liar, but you also are a hoarder; that any monies dropped in church offering plates will disappear into the heavens; that any requests for financial help will be met with silence.

Thanks for nothing, Jesus

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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The Sounds of Fundamentalism: You Are Stupid and Don’t Know Your Bible by Perry Noble

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This is the forty-sixth 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 sermon clip of Perry Noble, pastor of New Spring Church, Greenwood, South Carolina.

Video Link

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: If You Don’t Tithe You Open a Door to Demons by Robert Morris

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This is the thirty-fifth 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 Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas.

Video Link

Bruce Gerencser