by Bruce Gerenscer cross posted from his blog The Way Forward
Ninth grade school picture, wearing the welfare glasses I got in 1971. It took me all of 4 weeks to earn enough money to get a pair wire rimmed glasses. I was so embarrassed to wear these glasses. Everyone knew our family was on welfare.
It’s September of 1971 and I am fourteen and a ninth grade student at Central Junior High School in Findlay, Ohio. It’s time for gym class and today we are going to square dance. Except I won’t be square dancing because the church I attended, Trinity Baptist Church, considered dancing a sin.
This is but one example of the “sins” I abstained from as good, dutiful Baptist teenager.
In the Fall of 1972, my tenth grade year at Findlay High School, Al Lacy held a revival at Trinity Baptist Church. One night I came under great conviction and I went down to the altar, confessed my sins, and asked Jesus to save me. (generally, children raised in the Baptist church make multiple salvation decisions) A week later I was baptized and not too long after that I publicly confessed before the church that I believed God was calling me into the ministry. I was fifteen.
My life changed dramatically after I got saved. I started carrying my Bible to school and I witnessed to my non-Christian friends. My non-Christian friends thought I had lost my mind and some of my Christian friends did too.
I have always been an all-in kind of person. I don’t do half-way, so when it came to being a Christian I was 100% committed to Jesus. I took seriously what I heard the pastors preach. In my young mind, I saw the pastors as speaking for God. After all, everything they preached about came straight out of the Bible, right?
Trinity was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship. The pastors preached against rock music, premarital sex, mixed swimming, going to movies, short skirts and pants on women,long hair on men, and dancing. Remember, it was the early 1970’s and mini-skirts and maxi-dresses were popular and men wore their hair long.
Like a good Baptist boy, I tried to follow the rules to the letter. The pastors at Trinity were against any kind of dancing. In a previous post I wrote about how the no-dancing rule affected me:
I came through the 1970’s with my Baptisthood intact. I never smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, or smoked dope. I didn’t listen to rock music, kept my hair cut short, and I successfully made it through high school with my virginity intact. Not the I didn’t want to have sex…I did…but I was afraid of what might happen if I did, and I didn’t think any of the church girls I dated were “willing.” (I found out a few years ago, after talking to some of the girls I went to church with, that they were more “willing” than this naïve Baptist boy thought they were)
I vividly remember ninth grade year at Central Jr High. The Phys Ed teacher decided to teach square dancing. I was all for learning to square dance. This would be my only opportunity to touch the cheerleaders. Unfortunately, Pastor Milioni put an end to my carnal desires. He came to school and made a fuss about the square dancing class. Next thing I knew, I am being forced to sit with the fags (talking as we did in the 1970’s, I do not use such language today) who refused to take Phys Ed. This was a punishment worse than death. (Pastor Milioni also came to my school to complain about the choir singing Jesus Christ Superstar. I had to quit choir)
The school held regular dances, social events that everyone attended, well everyone but this good Baptist boy. I went through a period of time where I was really upset about all the rules and restrictions, so I would stay overnight with a non-Christian friend and I would go to the dances with him. I did this numerous times. I don’t know if my parents ever caught on. If they did, they never said a word.
1971-72, was a year I will never forget. How about you? Is there a year in your life that stands out from the mundane and ordinary course of life? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
My parents were divorced in 1971 and both remarried later that year.
I came down with mumps and chicken pox in 1971-72. I also had swelling in my hips and elbows that the doctor called “growing pains.” I have often wondered if my health problems began at this time.
Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Way Forward blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have 6 children, and nine grandchildren.