A Pastor’s letter About What’s Wrong with the Church and Why He Quit

I ran across an article about a pastor that in one Twitter storm announced that he quit his job, his faith, his family, and his god. While this case is extreme, I don’t think this man is alone. I would like to look at his post and go thru it. The posts were assembled on a reddit page.

The Pastor, Dave Gass, ministered at Grace Family Fellowship in Missouri.

Grace Family Fellowship was founded as First Baptist Church of Pleasant Hill in 1867 with 18 charter members. God has been faithful to us for over 150 years! We are centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we desire to make disciples of all nations.

Gospel centrality not only means that we declare the gospel, but also that we demonstrate it with our lives. We do this by being good neighbors, befriending our coworkers, working for the good of our city, and caring for the least, the lowest, and the lost.

Link: Grace Family Fellowship: About

The church website does not list any background, biographical information, or qualifications of its pastoral staff; thus I don’t know the specific flavor of Baptist or seminary preference of this particular congregation. However, having spent many years of my life as a Baptist (ages 13-22), I know the distinctives of their beliefs.

The reddit page where the tweets were reassembled into an essay has some errors. The biggest error is that some paragraphs were repeated in their entirety which really disrupts the flow. Other errors are related to spelling and grammar-some purposefully done.

I will quote the pastor’s presentation without the repeated paragraphs and periodically insert my comments. I believe this topic has application beyond this particular set of circumstances and touches on the reasons that many youth are falling away from organized Christianity. Several of his accusations against the Church have been stated by others.

Oh, and as an added bonus, following my take on Pastor Dave’s Twitter storm, there is as Paul Harvey often said, a “Rest of the Story” moment which may make you reread this letter again, this time in a different light.

Note: Just for easier reading, I will show Pastor Dave Gass’ letter excerpts with yellow background throughout this post. Bible quotes in red and any other quotes in blue.

I’m not a Christian anymore: a thread. After 40 years of being a devout follower, 20 of those being an evangelical pastor, I am walking away from faith. Even though this has been a massive bomb drop in my life, it has been decades in the making.

When I was in 8th grade and I was reading greek mythology, it dawned on me how much of the supernatural interactions between the deity of the bible and mankind sounded like ancient mythology. That seed of doubt never went away.

The pastor makes many truth claims in this article which are either outright distortions or untrue. Equating the God of the Bible with Greek mythology is just the first. The God found in the historic Creeds which are a summary of the Christian Faith as found in the Bible are diametrically opposed to the Greek, Roman, Germany, Egyptian, Sumerian, or any other belief system in the world. Monotheism didn’t evolve from polytheism and he knows it. In fact history shows the opposite to be the case.

Gass also may be invoking a variation of the heresy known as modalism. Some falsely believe that God is portrayed in the Old Testament is petty, cruel, and harsh (thus the comparison to Greek mythology) but suddenly in the New, God is displayed as loving and compassionate. I have heard others express such beliefs from the pulpit but again this is not derived from Scripture but ignorance.

I was raised in a hyper-fundamentalist family, and it felt good to be in a system that promised all the answer and solutions to life. The problem is, the system didn’t work. The promises were empty. The answers were lies

We are not called to be followers of a system, a religion, or a set of rules. Baptists are really big on reducing Christianity to a set of negative propositions. The old saying about, “I don’t, smoke, drink, or chew and I don’t go with girls that do” is really true in some circles. Except you need to add prohibitions to dancing, rock music, mixed bathing, interracial marriage, smoking, Sabbath breaking, organized sports, etc. I have encountered all these rules at one or more churches in my lifetime; often in writing. The song line, “I was dealing with a system, now I’m dealing with the King” comes to mind.

As an adult my marriage was a sham and a constant source of pain for me. I did everything I was supposed to – marriage workshops, counseling, bible reading together, date nights every week, marriage books – but my marriage never became what I was promised it would be

The more times I read this paragraph, the more I get the feeling that he was trying to reduce marriage to a set of rules that could be followed to be successful. Marriage is a relationship that takes daily effort. The Bible makes a direct linkage between being a pastor and having a successful marriage.

For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?
I Timothy 3:5

There is a lot of “I”, “me”, “my” in this essay. This guy is as self-focused and full of hubris as President Obama.

Biblical Marriage is not about what I can get out of the relationship. Instead, it is about what I will do for my wife because I care for her. I put her first. I am commanded to love her as Christ loved the Church and gave His life for it (Ephesians 5). I put my wife and children first every day. That is my job as a husband and father. This is not always easy nor was it promised to be. We’ve had our struggles but when my wife knows that I put her first, then she is willing to follow my lead. At our wedding, she promised to “honor and obey” because that is biblically what she is supposed to do.

I was fully devoted to studying the scriptures. I think I missed maybe 12 Sundays in 40 years. I had completely memorized 18 books of the bible and was reading through the bible for the 24th time when I walked away.

Pastor Gass followed all the “rules” for being a good Christian. So what? Our faith is a relationship based in love not a spiritual checklist. He sounds like Saul of Tarsus.

Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Philippians 3:4-6

As Baptists are quick to point out, head knowledge and heart knowledge are two different propositions.

I devoured all the “christian apologetics” books that came out, and none of them answered my questions regarding the nature of god and the problems I found within the Scriptures. I found these books to be trite, dismissive, and full of pseudo science and evidence.

I don’t know what books the pastor is referring to, but the use of the word “all” covers more ground than he could possibly cover. Josh McDowell, Ray Comfort, Ken Hamm, Walter Martin, Greg Bahnsen, Henry Morris, Kenneth Gentry, Gary North, David Chilton, Ray Sutton, and Francis Schaeffer are just a few of the guys that I can think of that Pastor Dave has clearly not read. I have read much by these guys and there are many more. Yes, the selection at your average Christian bookstore—if there are any still out there—is lame but as a seminary graduate you should know better than I where to get such books.

There are defects in Baptist theology but that is not the Bible’s problem. Some apologetic books are defective in the sense that you can’t reason yourself to Christ. You can prove He exists because we already know that He does (Romans 1:19-21), but only special revelation can teach us how God restored our relationship with Him.

I think these comments by Pastor Dave also reveal a defect in the Baptist church model where the local pastor is not accountable to any other clergy. They are purposely and proudly left to fend for themselves as they shepherd their flock.

“We believe in the autonomy of the local churches, free of any external authority and control.”
–Grace Family website

If your church is independent, then who is your pastor’s pastor?

The more I read and studied the scriptures the more questions I had. Literally from the first chapter to the last, so many problems. And the more I learned about how the scriptures were canonized, the less I could believe in the “inerrancy” model that I had to espouse.

The Pharisees read the Scriptures and didn’t understand them either. When I was running around in Baptist circles we used to talk about nonbelievers being unable to understand the Bible because they were reading someone else’s mail.

I always marvel when a person claiming to be a Christian denies the authority of Scripture. The Bible is an all or nothing proposition not a cafeteria where we can only pick the things that we like.

We have more evidence of the truth of the Bible than any previous generation and more availability of copies of the Bible and this ironically has translated to a decline in the number of believers. We, as a people, have forgotten God and take for granted the blessings that he has given. We are not thankful for his blessings.

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Romans 1:21

I can see why Pastor Dave might have a problem with the cannon of Scripture when he doesn’t vest any authority in The Universal Church. The true Baptist knows only the local level and rejects the continuity of the faith. But the Church was created by Christ who rules and governs it. The Church is the only institution that will last forever. Christ commissioned first Apostles and then Bishops to oversee local congregations. It was those holding the office of bishop that met to discuss and decide the cannon of the New Testament. (The Old was never in dispute.) When Baptists reject the authority placed over The Church, is it such a leap of logic that they could question the cannon? (Although most don’t since the cannon was decided by the early and undivided Church.)

In 40 years I never witnessed a single event that was supernatural. Not one. Time and again I watched people die of cancer. I did funerals for 47 people from the age of 4 to 96. I prayed in faith with hundreds of people for healing to no avail. god didn’t answer prayers

This guy is really selfish, blind, and dumb. I see miracles all the time. No, not the quadriplegic picking up their bed and walking out to the parking lot kind but I know God could do it if he wanted. Seeing my son born, having the wife that I do, being alive, watching the fall of the Berlin Wall, getting safely to and from work each day, having a place to live, my marriage are all miracles. Miracles happen all the time but apparently this man of God thinks the world is governed by chance, coincidence, and randomness.

Dear pastor, none of us get out of here alive. We can exercise, eat right (whatever that is), get regular check-ups, take multivitamins, or whatever, but we will all die of something. You of all people know this to be true. You sir, are a most selfish and ungrateful person.

My devoutly christian parents were abusive, my marriage was a sham, prayer was never answered, miracles were never performed. People died, children rebelled, marriages failed, addictions occurred – all at the same rate as non believers. The system just doesn’t work.

Here is a summary of the above lamentations. He blames his parents, his wife, and God for failing him and his expectations. The bottom line is that his ministry made no difference to the people under him thus when it comes time to affix blame, it was God’s fault.

I pastored mega churches & tiny churches. I did college ministry, camp ministry, youth ministry, music ministry, preaching ministry, church planting – everything in the church except work in the nursery. And what I saw was people desperate for the system to work for them.

thousands of teenagers at a time, wrote blogs, was published, formed curriculum, taught workshops, was an up-and-comer reforming my denomination. The whole time hoping at some point it would click, and become true for me.

An inescapable reality that I came to was that the people who benefited the most from organized religion were the fringe attenders who didn’t take it too seriously. The people who were devout were the most miserable, but just kept trying harder.

Christianity for this man is a system of rules but notice that there is never a single word about a relationship with Christ. Christians are followers of Christ not followers of church.

A constant theme in this essay is that this man is trying to be good enough for God. He is pursuing salvation thru works not trusting in the grace of God. He is in the same place as Luther before comprehending grace in the book of Romans or Saul on the Damascus road.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Matthew 7:22

All the while, the experience I had within the church was that a lot (granted, not all) people use the church for power and influence. Many involved people in churches use it as their small kingdom for personal control and ego.

And the entire system is rife with abuse. And not just from the top down, sure there are abusive church leaders, but church leaders are abused by their congregants as well. Church people are just shitty to each other.

I spent my entire life serving, loving, and trying to help people in my congregations. And the lies, betrayal, and slander I have received at the hands of church people left wounds that may never heal.

I get the feeling reading to this point that the pastor views his office or calling as being more spiritual than being a plumber or carpenter. Yes, some people go to church to be seen or perceived as being spiritual without really knowing Christ. Read Machiavelli. In The Prince, he says people should appear to be religious but don’t really let it affect the way that you live.

Depending on the particulars, in a Baptist church, the congregation is ruled with an iron fist by either the pastor or the board. When things are good this seems to work but in the face of conflict, it can be very destructive.

One undercurrent thru this document is a sense of pride. I really get the vibe of an “I’m better or deserve better than I got” attitude. I also sense a real lack of thankfulness for the blessings that he has been given. It’s more of an “I deserve” sense of entitlement. Almost a strain of the prosperity gospel where it’s God’s will that we all be healthy, wealthy, happy, and comfortably upper-middle class.

Sorry pastor but last I heard, a church was a hospital for sinners. We all suffer from a fatal case of sin nature. Only when we look to Christ can we begin to overcome—by God’s grace—our propensity to wrong doing. As a congregation, we confess our sin and enjoy Communion with Christ on a weekly basis, something you seem never to have experienced.

This massive cognitive dissonance – my beliefs not matching with reality – created a separation between my head and my heart. I was gaslighting myself to stay in the faith.

Eventually I could not maintain the facade anymore, I started to have mental and emotional breaks. My internal stress started to show in physical symptoms. Being a pastor – a professional Christian – was killing me.

The pastor finally hit the wall and could no longer maintain the façade of a believer. Please note that he viewed himself as “a professional Christian” as opposed to the rest of us. Also, note that he admits to self-deception. You will see this again as you read further.

During this time I also found something amazing: I found a handful of people who were more Christian than any Christian I had ever met – and they weren’t Christian. I found love in places where love wasn’t supposed to exist. I found acceptance among people who were godless.

I learned that love is real. That acceptance is possible. That life is vibrant and full. But the church burdens people with fear, shame, and guilt, all for the purpose of maintaining control. I now see the church as a system perfectly curated to control people and culture.

I was a part of a system that enslaves people, and I was both a slave and a slave driver. We called chains freedom, and misery happiness. We had impossible standards that we could not meet so we turned the attention on others so the spotlight wasn’t on our own inadequacies.

These words sound familiar to many of us. Claims of finding acceptance and love outside of God, Christ, Christianity, and the Church are the same arguments that homosexuals use to try to prove they are not notorious sinners and should be accepted without the need for repentance. “…hath God not said?” seduced Adam and Eve into error and that refrain still does today.

Instead of God’s Law measuring us and driving us to repentance, we prefer using our feelings as the measure of all things. When comparing ourselves with others, we tend to do well on whatever scale we choose to utilize. However, God doesn’t grade us on a curve, we all fall short. Measuring others by our standards is simply a form of self-deception or as Romans says, exchanging the truth for a lie.

Love—be it God’s love for us or ours for each other—is beyond the scope of what this pastor discusses. Again, Christianity is not following a set of rules but a living relationship with our Savior. We can never perform well enough to gain God’s approval. The Bible says our righteousness, our best good deeds, are nothing but used tampons (flithy rags) in God’s sight. It is Christ that did the work not us.

As for enslaving people, Pastor Dave do you really want to go there? The Bible says in Romans that we are dead in our trespasses and sin. We are enslaved to sin. None of us are righteous. There is no hope. But then Paul writes about us partaking in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:22-23

Dave, the dark side seduced you. That’s not anything new or a George Lucas thing, it’s a Genesis thing. You are more comfortable being a slave to sin. Gary S Paxton called it “That prison called freedom.” Cue Keith Green singing “So you wanna go back to Egypt.Dylan was right, “You gotta serve somebody.” Our options are serving sin or God; there is no third option.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:30

Eventually I pulled the lever and dropped the bomb. Career, marriage, family, social standing, network, reputation, all gone in an instant. And honestly I didn’t intend to fully walk away, but the way the church turned on me forced me to leave permanently.

For those of you who want to yell at me, that’s fine. I know that many will call me an apostate, say I was never really saved, that I was a wolf in sheeps clothing, and that a hotter hell awaits me. And to you I say I love you. My heart is tender toward you.

To those who have been in my congregations or under my teaching/preaching I sincerely apologize. I thought I was right. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I could fake it until I made it. I was wrong. I’m sorry. I love you.

I have lost everything. I gave literally everything to serving Jesus. And walking away has cost me everything. All I can hope for is that the second half of my life can be full of love and genuine human relationships. I was wrong. I’m not faking anymore

So faced with a crisis of continued hypocrisy or getting out, the good pastor quit his job, his marriage, his reputation, etc. He flushed his whole life away to start over. This was necessary because “the church turned on me and forced me to leave.” It’s one thing to have conflict in a church which does happen but to be shown the door by the congregation, now that’s a new wrinkle in this tale.

He apologizes—well sort of—saying that he lost everything. Then curiously he claims that “I gave literally everything to serving Jesus”. This is the only mention of Jesus in the whole account.

Again, I get the vibe that he was trying to do good works to become acceptable to God but following the church playbook proved a fruitless and futile venture. And, now failed by his parents, wife, congregation, and God, with nowhere to go, the pastor gets booted from his own church and has nothing to show for it. Bummer!

But folks, the story doesn’t end here.

As promised, the Rest of the Story.

Paul Harvey

A Twitter user quote tweeted Gass’s thread, saying “There is something simply off in this thread…something about the language rings alarm bells, makes me skeptical. But at the least if it is truthful (background wise) it speaks to the foolishness of churchianity. Real faith lives in the real world.”

Justin Tuttle responded to the tweet, saying “Yes, he was my pastor when he ‘walked away.’ He actually just slept with a married women in the church and got caught. He never repented and they still live together.

“Last year all the information came to light,” Tuttle added. “The affair happened for almost a year before it was uncovered. So the whole, ‘I did everything right in my marriage’ part was kinda funny until I saw how many people liked his story.”

So now you’ve read the tale of Pastor Dave Gass; a man that literally threw it all away so he could roll in the hay with another man’s wife. I know Baptists stay away from the Ten Words but it’s funny that Pastor Dave followed all the manmade rules but not God’s. I think that his whole Twitter storm was just a tantrum on why he shouldn’t repent.

Dave, I have some bad news for you. Every clergyman that I know that followed his “little brain” to be with someone else’s wife, had his stay on the planet cut short. You may be seeing Jesus sooner than you planned on.