As I go to larger sporting events to preach the Gospel, I am always reminded of the sad effects of the pelagian “preachers.” For those who are not familiar, basically, these folks are sinless perfectionists (the belief that you can get to a point where you never sin). Of course, that’s a very simple explanation and there is more to it than that but that is the aspect I will focus on. Below are some negative results that flow from this mindset.
- Self-righteousness and pride.
The notion that a person in and of themself can attain perfection is rooted in pride. All you have to do is have the discipline to not sin. If you can do that, you’re something else. It becomes less about what Jesus has done and all about what self has accomplished.
You get up in the morning, look in the mirror and think, “Man, I’m awesome! I can’t remember the last time I sinned. I have definitely arrived.”
- Pedestal Building
Suddenly you realize you are so much better than the lowly heathen that muddles through life sinning here, sinning there, and sinning everywhere. As you gaze around you lift yourself above the fray looking down on these pagans as you ascend to your thrown of righteousness based on your own merit.
So far, the damage is limited to the individual but can such righteousness be kept bottled up? No! You feel the need to go tell the heathen to STOP sinning or he is on his way to hell!
A disclaimer is in order here. NOT everything those in this camp say is incorrect but the truth they speak is mostly lacking in grace and hope. After one gets up on their pedestal and decides they need to let the world know, the fallout begins to start landing on others.
- No Grace Preaching
The preaching always focuses on sin. So much so that there is almost no grace, no Jesus, and no Hope. The message is, for the most part, “Stop Sinning.” This makes sense to the pelagian because individuals have the ability to attain a perfect sinless life, in their worldview. To tell someone they must have faith in Christ so His sacrifice on the cross will be counted as payment for their sin debt seems foreign to those I have heard..
- Name Calling
One of the worst practices of many open-air preachers that adhere to this view is name-calling. I have heard many times these guys call people, whores, perverts etc. without having any evidence to support it other than the way someone was dressed or because they were simply going into a sporting event, like the Kentucky Derby.
Speaking of the Derby, last week I was with 28 other evangelists doing evangelistic outreach in Louisville at the Kentucky Derby. A lady stopped who was almost in tears saying one of our guys back down the bridge had called her awful names just because she had a glass of wine. We assured her it wasn’t any of the men with us because they would never do that. I think that eased her distress a bit and hopefully, she went away at least understanding that all street preachers are not the same. We had to spend time undoing the damage done by the Pelagians that could have been spent having a Gospel conversation with this woman. On top of that, when people pass by these no-grace preachers they make the same assumption this lady made, that we are all together. That causes many people not to even give ear to what we say due to the stereotypes created by the other guys.
A bit later, a couple of the guys doing the name-calling came up with one of their pole signs, set up shop with us, and began to pass out tracts. After asking him if they called women whores and receiving a “yes, but we aren’t doing it here out of respect for you” answer, I respectfully asked him to leave. As he was leaving he informed me that I feared man more than I feared God. The next day a team member and I had another encounter with some of this group. One stated that he didn’t remember the last time he had sinned. He must have a very short memory because he just told a big fat lie. 1 John 1:8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Another in their group was asked if he honored all people, to which he replied, “I don’t honor sinners!” He was informed that he was in sin because the Bible says we are to honor all people. He replied, “It does not!” and “God is no respecter of persons!” I assumed he was referring to Romans 2:11 “For there is no partiality with God.” In context, Paul is making this statement after discussing how God will judge Jew and Gentile alike, not how we are to treat people on the street.
Pride that leads to self-righteousness, leads to self-deception. I am firmly convinced these guys actually believe they are sinless and have reached perfection. To be at a place where you cannot recognize your own shortcomings (sin) is very dangerous.
- Lake of Fire
These folks could be born again and simply deceived. Some will disagree but to say there is no way they are saved because of their actions, would be no different than what they do. However, if their Gospel is that you must stop sinning and keep yourself from sinning in order to be saved, there is a flaw in the slaw.
I cannot say they are or are not born again, but I can state what Scripture says about those who preach any other Gospel than the biblical Gospel.
Galatians 1:8 “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Now I do not claim to have it all figured out and certainly am not perfect, but I’ve never heard any of these guys share a kind word with any lost person. Do we give the bad news of sin and the wages thereof? Absolutely, but we also strive to give them hope by sharing the Gospel and pleading with them to repent and believe the Gospel. I must admit, I get angry at these guys. In my judgment, they do so much harm to not only street evangelists but dishonor the name of Christ. If you have to call people whores and perverts or homos to be out preaching, stay home. Being a whore, pervert or a homosexual is clearly sinful in God’s economy, but calling people out to be something you have no idea they actually are, for the shock factor is also sin. Is that not bearing false witness? I would say it is.
May God have mercy on a wicked world.
Until All Hear!