You’re Leaving?

I was minding my own business and doing some online research when I came across a shocking blog by a former Job-like pastor of an evangelical Baptist church. After 25 years of pastoring, he gave it all up. Not only that, he completely renounced Christ and is now a proudly (and I stress the word proudly) professed agnostic, humanist, and atheist. What? How? How does this happen? How does a man pastor a church for 25 years and come to the realization that everything he was teaching was a lie? I am bewildered. For 2 days, I have thought about this ex-pastor, his wife, their 6 children, and 13 grandchildren. He says he will never go back. Ever. Now, not only is he lost, but his entire family is probably lost too. I had to read on. (All the italicized words are his)

This ex-pastor grew up in a Christian home (although his parents divorced after 15 years of marriage, and his dad moved to Arizona which left him devastated, he says), [hurt #1] graduated from a well-known Bible college, became a pastor of various Baptist churches for 25 years, and turn atheist. Seems pretty drastic to me. Now, I could see a person with perhaps a relatively high IQ being skeptical and questioning the Bible, but come on! You can’t turn into an atheist simply by reading scientific books or humanistic blogs and theses. There had to be something else that led this person to pack up and walk away from the faith. And I mean far, far away from it. He says that apart from his family (minus the dad) moving all the time [hurt #2], his mom’s repeated suicide attempts [hurt #3], poverty [hurt #4], and other stressors [hurt #5] that affected him psychologically, he had a pleasant upbringing. Oookay. Perhaps he prayed for a sick child without receiving deliverance from God. I did a little more digging into this poor chap’s church experiences.

In a letter to his religious mentor, he mentioned his workaholic, Type-A personality that was good for growing a church but not so good for him or his family. Sadly, it took him many more years before he realized this. He explained in his Why I Hate Jesus blog that he doesn’t hate the flesh-and-blood Jesus that walked the hills of Palestine, nor does he hate the Jesus found in the pages of the Bible. He says he’ll leave it up to the historians to debate on whether or not this Jesus was real or fiction. I get the idea that it doesn’t really matter to him one way or anotherHe explains that he hates the modernized, Western Jesus, the American Jesus who had been a part of his life for 58 years. This Jesus is the one who has the power to affect his life, hurt his family, and destroy his country.  And he, with a vengeance, hates him. [hurt #6]

He mentions that the churches he pastored never paid him enough money to sustain him and his family. It became quickly evident that this ex-pastor had experienced both positive and negative results regarding his ex-ministry. Okay. That’s pretty normal. Churches don’t pay much; that I know from experience. He also said that he bore the scars and memories of much evil done in the name of Jesus. He said that what should have been a wonderful time for him and his family, over the course of seven months at a new church, turned into disaster (he didn’t supply the dirty details) that resulted in him resigning from the church and then the church excommunicated him. [hurt #7] A resignation AND an excommunication. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Well now, that explains it. This ex-pastor has been deeply hurt by his father, and probably by people in most of his ex-churches, but he disguises this hurt by saying he’s enlightened by these various humanistic views. Now that he’s a humanistic agnostic/atheist, he doesn’t worry about work, but is currently experiencing a lot of chronic physical pain. This, in itself, I find highly interesting, but really, are all these things God’s fault? Are these valid reasons to forfeit an eternity in heaven? Maybe he secretly wanted to leave and needed these other reasons. Maybe he was never a Christian to begin with, but only a Baptist.

Look. I know it isn’t easy. I’ve had my own hurt in the church. My family has suffered hurt. But people make mistakes. All people. Me, you, and that poor pastor. But none of it is God’s fault. When people get hurt by the church they either lick their wounds and remain, or they begin their journey away from that church and move on to another. This pastor chose atheism? Granted, most people don’t go to that extreme. These wounded people (pastors, elders, and church members) offer up all kinds of reasons for ending their relationship with the Lord like this ex-pastor did (he listed 16 reasons), when in reality, if you dig deeply enough, it’s the hurt they’ve received from humans that truly explains why they pack their bags. This hurt is only the symptom of a much bigger issue, the issue of pride. Please people, don’t make it about the Bible being full of errors or that it wasn’t Holy-Spirit inspired or that science is a better explanation for the creation of the world. Certainly don’t be so ignorant as to say that there is no evidence that God exists. Do you have eyes? Look around! The 16 reasons the ex-pastor gives aren’t really the reasons he left Christianity. They’re the beliefs he has now as a result of his pride.

I wish I could talk to him, but if you read his blogposts (and I hope you don’t), there is absolutely no use. He has renounced his faith and that’s it. He’s done. He even posted a list of Don’ts with regard to contacting him. Unless you want to love him in spite of his choices, then don’t bother. He has made up his mind. Listen, once you make a public declaration of your renouncement of Christianity like this ex-pastor has, you couldn’t go back if you wanted to, so you’d better think long and hard about it. Why? Because in Hebrews 6:4-6 is says: For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.(emphasis mineNot that he’d ever seek repentance, but just saying that if he did, it’s not happening. It’s over. I think the Bible calls it the unpardonable sin. Yikes…

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Suzanne Sommerville

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Christ-follower, daughter, mom, Mimi to 6 grandchildren, teacher, writer, and musician

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