Fundamentalist Baptist pastor abandons his Christian Faith

Below is the very sad testimony of a Fundamentalist Baptist pastor who’s faith in God “burned out”, who abandoned his calling as pastor, abandoned Christianity, and now considers himself an agnostic.

Pray for this man that God will bring him back to him…just as he did me, another “burned out” fundamentalist.

Former Pastor Bruce Gerencser shares his deconversion story:
Those of us who grew up in a Baptist church are quite familiar with Sunday Evening Testimony Time. Church members were given the opportunity to give a testimony about what God was doing in their lives. Many great and wonderful stories of faith were told during Sunday Evening Testimony Time. Sometimes a new convert would be given the opportunity to tell their salvation story. While the details varied from person to person the basic storyline remained the same. The person was a lost, wretched,vile sinner before they trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Many new converts told wild stories about their life before Christ. Now that they were a Christian their lives were transformed and Jesus had made everything new. I have often wondered how much different the testimonies would have been if the new convert had been required to wait two years before giving their testimony. I suspect the story would have been very different. (if the new convert was still going to Church)
This post is My Testimony. I want to share, as briefly as I can, where I’ve been, what I’ve experienced, and what has brought me to where I am today. This is the testimony I would give if agnostics were allowed to give a testimony at the local Baptist Church.
I spent the first 50 years of my life in a Christian church. I attended the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church as a child. When my family moved to California in the early 1960s we began to attend a Baptist church. It was at this Baptist Church that I made my first profession of faith. I made several more professions of faith during my elementary school years. I was baptized by immersion several times. Most children raised up in the Baptist Church have multiple professions of faith(or rededications). My last profession of faith came when I was in high school. I attended a revival meeting at our Church. I felt convicted of my sins, so I walked the aisle during the invitation and knelt at the altar. While kneeling at the altar I prayed the sinner’s prayer and at that moment Jesus came into my life. I was baptized and several weeks later I told the church that I believed God was calling me to be a preacher.
A few weeks after being called to be a preacher I preached my first sermon. I was 15. I would preach my last sermon at age 48. All told I was a preacher for 33 years. I pastored churches for 25 of those 33 years.
From 1976 to 1979 I attended a fundamentalist Baptist College. I met my wife while in college and we were married in 1978. We had a singular purpose in mind. Our desire was to serve God in the ministry wherever he led us to be.(wherever eventually meant Ohio, Michigan, Texas, and Arizona) We were willing to burn ourselves out for God. We determined to make God the number one priority in our lives, even before family and friends.
I entered the ministry as a fundamentalist independent Baptist. I believed the King James Bible was the inerrant, inspired, infallible, perfect Word of God. I believed my calling in life was to win as many souls as possible and build a church up for the glory of God. I was premillennial and dispensational. I believed the rapture could come at any moment and that it was important to be busy serving Jesus when the rapture took place.
I left the ministry as a tired, worn out, abused preacher. When I left the ministry I was still a believer. I thought that the problem was the churches I pastored or perhaps me personally. If I just found the right church to attend the ship could be righted and all would be well. For four years, and five states, I looked for that one church that took Christianity seriously and practiced teachings of Jesus. After visiting over 125 churches, attending some of them for months, especially those in the community I lived in at the time, I came to the conclusion that no matter what the name was on the door every church was the same.
My crisis of faith did not begin as a theological struggle. It began as I looked at the Christian Church as a whole and came to the conclusion that, for the most part, the Christian church was a meaningless social club. While I certainly realized there were probably some exceptions out there somewhere I didn’t find any.
19 months ago I attended my last church service. I finally came to the place where I could no longer embraced the meaninglessness and the indifference of the Christian Church. I did not want to waste one more moment of my time doing something that didn’t matter. If I chose to, and if I could get everything I ever wrote erased off the internet, I could pastor again tomorrow. When I last thought about pastoring (2005) I was contacted by several dozen Southern Baptist churches interested in me coming to be their pastor.
During the time from my last pastorate in 2003 until today I have invested great time and effort in reinvestigating the Bible and the claims of the Christian Church. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Bible, as great of a book as it is, is not the inerrant, inspired word of God. At best, the Bible is a spiritual guide and a book of mythical stories written by men thousands of years ago. It is not a book that is overly relevant to the world that we live in today. The stories make for great reading but they offer little real practical wisdom for moderns in a 21st-century. I still enjoy reading the Sermon on the Mount, Ecclesiastes, and the Psalms. There is wisdom to be had from the Bible but it is certainly not a book that one can govern their life by.
I came to see that the Christian church’s attempt to prop up the Bible was a house of illusions. Instead of confronting the fallibility of the text and the many errors within that text, the Christian church instead developed convoluted and humorous explanations for the perceived errors and contradictions in the Bible. Explanations like….. inerrant in the originals.
Robert Price said that once a person stops believing that the Bible is the Word of God they are on a slippery slope where there is no natural stopping place. That’s where I find myself. For a time I was content to call myself a progressive, liberal Christian. As I continued to slide down the slippery slope I thought that maybe Universalism was the answer. And quite frankly, if I was going to have any religion at all it would be Universalism. But, at the end of the day, Universalism did not satisfy me and I came to a place where it was time to stop calling myself a Christian.
I believe the word Christian means something. In fact I believe it means something more than a lot of Christians I know. To be a Christian means you believe the Bible to be the word of God. To be a Christian means you embrace the beliefs and teachings of the Christian faith. Since I do not believe the Bible to be the Word of God, and I no longer embrace the beliefs and teachings of the Christian faith, I am no longer a Christian.
My deconversion came at the moment where I finally admitted to myself that I no longer believed the Bible to be the word of God. As I have often said, It really is all about the Bible. I am thoroughly convinced that what Christians say about the Bible simply is not the truth. I bear them no ill will. I firmly believe that every person has a right to believe what they want. As long as that person does not try to force their religion upon me or attempt to control the government or society with their religion I subscribe to the live and let live theory. Unfortunately we live in a day where many Christians feel called by their God to turn America into a theocracy and to establish the Bible as the law. For this reason I continue to fight Christians who have such an agenda.
These days I call myself an agnostic. I do not know if a god exists or not. I have room in my worldview for a God but I am quite certain that the Western, Christian, evangelical God, the God of the Bible is no God at all. Some people like to label me an atheist. I am not. Perhaps there is a God who created everything. Perhaps there is a God who put everything into motion. But even if this is true, God is nowhere to be found in the day-to-day lives of the human race. It’s as if God created everything and then said “there you go boys and girls have at it.”
I am comfortable with what I believe about the Bible and God. I believe I have investigated the matter sufficiently, and based on the information available to me, agnosticism is the label that best describes me. I don’t believe that reading another Christian book or listening to another Christian apologist will change my mind. As Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. I seriously doubt any new argument can be made to me that would make me ever want to embrace the Christian faith again.
I know a lot of you will find this disappointing. Some people think this is a phase I’m going through. Perhaps I have PTSD from all my years as a fundamentalist Baptist pastor. Others suggest I have mentally lost it. I have nothing to say to people who think like this. It seems they simply cannot accept that someone can walk away from Jesus. That someone can reject Christianity. That someone can weigh Christianity in the balances and find it wanting.
I have very few Christian friends these days. I don’t blame those who run or walk away from me. They find my testimony disheartening and threatening. They simply cannot bear to think of pastor Bruce Gerencser as an unbeliever. They can’t bear to think of me as a Bible denying, Christ denying agnostic. For those few Christians remain my friends I appreciate their friendship. We have learned to tolerate one another.
This is my testimony. This is my life and how I have lived it so far. While I know where I’ve been, and where I am today, I have no idea where I will be in the future. I continue to read and study. I continue to ask questions and seek answers. And I also remind myself that the day when the truth or lie of all this will be made known is inching ever so closer. When I draw my last breath one of three things will happen. Either God will take me to his heaven, send me to his hell or I will simply exist no more except in the hearts of those I have loved. I am content to let the ship go where it may.

Update 02-12-2014

I left this comment on Mr. Gerencser’s blog today:

Christ said to love your neighbor as yourself…that would include loving our atheist, ex-Christian neighbors.  Shame on “Denise”.  She does not represent true Christianity.

Unfortunately, she is not the first Christian to behave in this manner.  Many Christians have been hateful, judgmental,  and even murderous of those who disagree with them for the last two thousand years.  But did Jesus act like that?  No.  It IS possible to remain true to your Christian beliefs without being hateful.  Loving God and loving our neighbor should be every Christian’s highest priority, not beating people over the head with God’s Law.

A couple of months ago I left a comment for Bruce that I now wish I had worded differently.  It was more “preachy” than compassionate.  It was wrong.  I was wrong, and I ask Bruce to forgive me.

I am an ex-Fundie also.  We grew up in a very negative, judgmental, angry world.  It was not true Christianity, and the pastors and evangelists involved in the IBF cult should apologize to each and everyone of us for the literal hell they put us through.

I sincerely wish each and everyone of you who has escaped this cult peace and happiness.


16 thoughts on “Fundamentalist Baptist pastor abandons his Christian Faith

  1. Bruce's blog resonantes heavily with me since I too have left fundamentalist Evangelicalism and have a really bad taste in my mouth with regards to church. Even though I have found a new church home in an ELCA congregation, the games are the same and there are days I feel there is no point in doing the church thing anymore. For the most part, Christianity changes no one and at the end of the day it between you and God. working through and separating that out is a lot easier said than done. I know I feel pulled to give it all up and walk away too. Who knows it might be for good this time


  2. Dear Bro. Gary: I think I have heard of this gentleman and have seen his books in the bookstore I visit from time to time. I will offer a couple of observations. I appreciate your heart for his plight and I stand with you.

    This may sound strange to some, but the first thought that came to my mind is that in many Fundamentalist and even SBC churches there is no working theological understanding of unbelief. I went on Bruce's blogsite and perused it briefly. It seems as if through the nineties his political views shifted, which in turn influenced the shift of his theological convictions, which in turn continued the cycle.

    In our SBC churches I think one of the worse doctrines that is promoted throughout is the whole idea of “rededication”. I have instructed out staff that I personally do not like that phrase, being that it is confusing, makes some people think they are getting saved all over again.

    As much as we don't like unbelief or doubt in our Christian walk, reading authors such as Tim Keller (a PCA Presbyerian) has really helped me better understand why Christians go through seasons of doubt. According to Keller, doubt many times can function like a vaccine, a weakened form of the disease of full-blown unbelief. To not ever have to wrestle with doubt is actually detrimental to one's faith. I've had those seasons and have been confronted with atheists, Agnostics, Muslims. I for a period of five years embibed quite deeply in Big Bang Cosmology and have went through crises, loss and have even went through the turmoils that often assail the pastorate. Passages such as Jude 22 “have mercy on those who doubt” is an instruction for pastors to aid their people through such seasons.

    As I have commented in times past, there is a world of difference between the OSAS (Once saved always saved doctrine) and Perseverance. The biggest difference in this instance is that OSAS has no working theology of unbelief, it does not allow for it and so to compensate, folks have to introduce such artificial teachings as “rededication”.

    Perseverance, on the other hand, includes the idea that true believers will go through such seasons, and can even do things to impair their faith. Such seasons of course will not lead to ultimate or final failure. Why? God is the heavenly Father of the Christian and enacts fatherly discipline (Hebrews 12:5-6) to bring that person back.

    I for one would like to explore further the mechanics and Biblical development about how unbelief functions. I have some thoughts and I know you do as well. I'm not willing to push the typical SBC easy button of “maybe he wasn't saved to begin with”. I think us SBC'ers push that button way too often. Do I think Bruce Gerscner is truly lost or was never saved to begin with? Well, in not knowing the man and not knowing the specifics of what led him to his current position, I think I would need to talk to him, hear him out, see what fruit or lack thereof there is.

    Sadly his story is so often true of how no pastors or churches offer care and hope to those who are “drifting out there”. Pastoring is more challenging than what people are willing to admit. Unless a pastor has a network of friends and people he can talk to and even air his doubts, or shifts in theology, without the typical “knee-jerk” reactions, the outcome can be one like Bruce's G.

    I may not align myself completely with Orthodox Lutheranism's teaching on the possibility of one walking away from the faith to the point of them dying and going to hell, yet I will say this: Orthodox Lutheran's do have a far more robust theology in understanding unbelief than many typical SBC'ers.

    I would like to see what counsel you would give him. Do you think it would be worth the time to visit his blog and try to engage him in discussion? Just some thoughts.


  3. Christians are sinners, my friend. They don't magically become perfect once they are redeemed.

    This is one of the biggest pitfalls that Baptist/evangelical Christianity has created: “once I become a Christian, Christ is going to take over and make everything wonderful. He will “lead me, move me, speak to me” and if I just “let go, and let God” my life will be perfect.”

    That's not how it works.

    The Christian life is not one of “letting go, and letting God do all the work”. It is a life of daily obedience, a life of using the “talents” given to you.

    Take your eyes off of the (redeemed) sinners around you, my friend. They will fail you. Instead, look daily to Christ. He has promised you eternal life, not a perfect life. Cling to Christ. Only those who persevere to the end will be saved. Abandon Christ, and you abandon all hope.


  4. I tried to engage him and he became very angry.

    I think that the best thing Christians can do for this man is to love him. He has received some really nasty comments from supposed Christians. Maybe if you would like: Leave a comment letting him know that you also have had your doubts, so you understand how he is feeling, and that you are praying for him, and would enjoy an offline conversation with him if he would choose to have one.

    Being at all pushy will drive him away.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is true, as a Christian, I myself sometimes feel that trusting Jesus Christ has not caused me to cease sinning. But what it HAS done is to change my attitude about my sin throughout my life. While I formerly cursed out the Chinese for stealing US jobs, wishing to see Beijing in flames in the past, now I see the Chinese as fellow sinners in the same boat I'd be in without Christ. And in fact, I pray for the Chinese people, who now count among their ranks more Christians than Communists.

    Yes, there have been times when I couldn't “feel God's presence”, but that's the big problem with modern-day Evangelical Christianity. It's all about feelings. But as Lutherans we believe our faith and salvation come externally from Christ. He died and rose for us, whether or not we “feel it” or not.

    It seems incredulous that eleven Israelite men would give their lives propagating the message that they saw the risen Christ, with absolutely no political, material or social status to gain to further that message, except by nothing less than witnessing the risen Christ. The early Church Father Justin Martyr expounded on how the new Christian faith brought former enemies together as brothers.

    Lastly, consider this: Christianity is the only belief system in which one does not earn their salvation or nirvana. It is the only belief system that says men and women will always be slaves to sin who cannot free themselves, rather must trust in their deity for having fulfilled the requirements of righteousness in their stead. If a Christian feels as though they are not being changed for the better, it's a sign that they know they are sinners, and they can throw themselves on Christ's mercy. Christians who believe that their faith has made them better people often end up as legalists trusting in their own personal merits. Please don't base the efficacy of Christianity in its ability to change one's behavior for the better all the time. Christ came to save sinners, many who keep committing the same sin over and over again. It's our attitude towards our sin that trusting Christ changes. He makes us hate our sins rather than just to dismiss them.

    I highly recommend listening to a youtube video by Rod Rosenbladt of the LCMS. It is called “The Gospel for Those Who Have Been Broken by the Church”, and addresses the frustration which many evangelicals go through when they don't see their Christian faith producing increased personal holiness, or don't feel the peace and joy which other Christians seem to have. I watched the video, and now more fully appreciate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    My prayers are for you two brothers in Christ. Remember that He will always remain faithful to us, and we can't base our trust in Him on our sin-corrupted feelings.


  6. I would be interested in more details of what it is that has you discouraged in your faith, if you care to discuss them.

    Also, there are still many good churches in the ELCA but there are also plenty of liberal ones that only preach a Social Gospel. If you are attending one of these ELCA churches, I strongly recommend that you find a good Lutheran church that preaches Law and Gospel. We all need both. The Law to remind us why we need Christ, and the Gospel to bring joy to our hearts that Christ has redeemed our miserable, sinful souls.


  7. It's never easy to read about Brothers who have gone into apostasy. As I read, several emotions assailed me: grief, anger, confusion. Stories like these remind us that the devil is still among us, and we need to huddle around Christ for His protection.

    Pr. Mahlon mentioned the SBC's weak theology regarding unbelief. I certainly think that has a part in this, but I would also suggest that the problem stems from beliefs regarding the Office of the Holy Ministry.

    It sounds like what Mr. Grencser experienced the unfortunate side effect of Arminianism (which, unfortunately, seems to exert itself in some fashion even among the more “Reformed” branch of Baptist) and the modern Evangelicalism's church growth-esque ecclesiology. It seems like Mr. Grencser was under the belief that it was all on him, and he was directly responsible for the spirituality of every person who did or did not come to faith on his watch. That's a terrible thing to have to carry on your shoulders. I would wager that every pastor has looked out on his flock and seen apathy and despaired over it. If you labor under the belief that you are responsible for correcting everyone's failures, no wonder he burned himself out.

    I pray God will call Mr. Grencser back to Him; however, let this be a warning to the Church that we cannot afford to take the apostasy issue lightly


  8. Very well said Jacob. You hit the nail on the head and greatly improved my earlier statements. As a pastor I deal with those impulses every week. A pastor not only carries his people on his lips, but his heart. It is astounding how in the church one can see more inconsistency, worldliness and mean-spiritedness than in the world.

    I worked for a number of years on night shift at a plant in Pennsylvania and was at times one of three Christians on a shift of over 100 non-Christian men. I can tell you first hand that I got to see how the world thinks, acts and believes. Yet despite all that, as a pastor I see and hear things on occasion that can be equal if not at times greater in stupidity.

    With that said, I do think a pastor has to remember that outcomes related to spiritual change, growth and conversion among his people hangs on the effectual saving Word and the cross (I know you fellows would add the sacraments). I can't save anyone. (I know you fellows would agree with me on that)

    I think it is awesome that a mutt-Baptist (me, with my Reformed theology, Lutheran-esque views of Predestination and mystical leanings) and two Orthodox Lutherans are expressing a burden for this guy. The Spirit's providence is at work here and I would be willing to believe that if we commit to praying for Him, God's Sovereign work may bring this guy out of whatever he has fallen into. You're dead-on right Jacob, we cannot afford to take apostasy lightly.


  9. Greetings from Brazil. Yes, I will certainly pray for Mr Gerencser to continue on his path to open-mindedness. It's high time we start looking outside the box of religions. Not believing in every single word of the Bible doesn't make one atheist. We pursue a higher truth, something that lots of people still don't understand and prefer to hold fast to their bigotry. To make a long story short, once you read the Book of Urantia your mindset will never be the same! Let us exercise our God-given intelligence!


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