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!
We had Scooby flown in from Oklahoma when we moved to Arizona, from Alabama in 2004.
We had rehomed all of our pets when we left Alabama and wanted to get a family dog.
After researching Kim thought we should get a papillon, so we found Scooby at a breeder in Oklahoma and had him flown in.
We soon learned that Scooby was a bit stubborn, In fact for his entire 17 years on earth he NEVER did anything he didn’t want to do. For instance, it took us an entire year to house train him. At times he seemed more like a cat than a dog, even to the point of cleaning himself like a cat. He was also somewhat of an exibitionist. We bought him a small doggy-couch but he claimed it as his girlfriend. We would put it behind the couch to give him some privacy, but mostly so we didn’t have to witness the love affair, but he would drag it around between the couch and the television and proceed with demonstrating how much he loved his doggy-couch/girlfriend.
Scooby also began to train his humans (us) as soon as he arrived. We had planned on crate training him so he would sleep in his crate in our bedroom. Sounds easy, right? The first night he began to whine but I was determined to win this battle. Did I mention he was a stubborn dog? I can’t remember how long he stayed in the crate but it wasn’t long before he was in our bed, where he slept every night until he got too old to jump on the bed, just a couple years ago. That was lesson one.
Before Bed I would give Scooby a treat, but one night he decided he needed another. I refused to give in and that was that. I went into the bathroom to get ready for bed. When I returned Kim and Scooby were already in the bed. As I pulled the covers back I felt something wet. Yep, that Dog had relieved himself right where I slept. He sensed my anger and hid under the bed as we changed the bed. After that night if Scooby wanted another treat, he got it. That was lesson two.
Once Scooby got us trained we all kind of settled in and had some good times. Every night Scooby would get on the bed and we would wrestle before he got his TWO treats. He went with us to the Grand Canyon and flew back to Alabama several times with Kim to visit, with little or no trouble. Most of the time people didn’t even know he was on the plane. All in all he was a good dog. I hope we gave him a good life.
God used this little canine to show us a picture of loyalty, love, compassion and perseverance. No matter what, Scooby was always our buddy. He didn’t just get attached to one of us but he was everybody’s dog. He loved being with us and would even curl up in the base of our office chairs when we were working in our home office, just to be close to us. When one of the kids was sick, Scooby was always right there with them.
One of the most important lessons Scooby exhibited was perseverance. In the last few years his body began to deteriarate. He had arthritis in his back and hips and had to have an eye removed due to the lense becoming detached. Didn’t slow him down much. He still got up every day wagging his tail and playing the hand he was dealt. Everytime I would complain about my back hurting or some other minor ailment I would look at Scooby and it would make me back up and give thanks for the blessing I had instead of complaining about my ailments. Without saying it, Scooby was telling me to suck it up and move forward, because that’s what he did.
As time went on he lost sight in his remaining eye and became almost completely deaf. Even then he got up every morning wagging his tail and at times we could see that playful puppy again as he would bounce around and play for a few minutes. He did begin to sleep more and didn’t interact a lot due to the loss of two of his senses but he was still wagging his tail. We felt he had a good quality of life so we continued to take care of his needs, trying to give him a comfortable life as he neared the end.
At the end he was nothing more than a bony old man that couldn’t see or hear and we knew his time was running out. He showed his stubbornness to the end, living to be over 17 years old when the life expectancy of papillons is only 13-15 years. Some may read this and say, it’s just a dog, get over yourself. I am fully aware that Scooby was just a dog, but he was our dog that God gave to us to care for and enjoy. One of God’s many blessings to our family. Thankful for the 17 years with him.
Gonna miss that crazy little dog!
A righteous man regards the life of his animal, But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. Proverbs 12:10
A Belt, a Shirt, and Twenty Dollars
March has been a great month for evangelism. We have been able to share the Gospel in Athens every weekend with a lot of tracts being given away and many one-on-one conversations. There was also a lot of open-air preaching as the other activities were happening. For the last year or so as the sidewalks have been under renovation, so we have been sharing a corner with Ratio Christi. Ratio Christi is an apologetics group that meets on the campus of UGA. Mary and Rich Suplita, along with Seth, lead the group meetings on Monday nights. They usually come out on Friday nights with a few of the students and set up a whiteboard with questions that spark conversations. This is a great tool and it is always great to see these younger men out sharing the Gospel. Although we are not officially aligned with Ratio Christi, we do work closely together to minister on the corner.
Often we will get push back from people with their complaints being that we should help the homeless etc. These people typically fall into one of two categories.
- They feed the homeless or do some other sort of charity work thinking this somehow makes them acceptable to God.
- They do not lift a finger to help anyone, they just think we should. 🙂
In case you were wondering yourself, I want to share a little encounter we had a couple of weeks ago:
We will call this man Joe since I didn’t get his permission to use his real name. Joe was homeless and came asking us to give him $20 so he could get a hotel room for the night because he had been out on the street for a while and couldn’t wash his clothes etc. As anyone who has rented a hotel room knows, you’re not going to get a room for $20. His plan was to get the rest from other people. At least he didn’t ask us to cover the entire cost if that was his true intention. The man began to tighten up the clothes hanger he used to keep his pants cinched up saying he had lost so much weight that his pants were too big. One of us gave the man a belt and another brother literally gave him the shirt off his back, since he had two. He was informed about a church where he could shelter on their entry for the evening and get a hot meal the next day. We offered him food but he said he’d had plenty to eat and just wanted $20. He was also told about a shelter that he already knew about, but he had to arrive by 4 pm. One of our team members called the next day and set up for him to stay there that night but we do not know if he actually showed up. After all the kindness he was shown, he began to berate us for not giving him $20. I had to call him out on that and remind him of all the ways we had just helped him, emphasizing that one of the men had just literally given him the shirt off his back. He apologized and said he was just frustrated, which is understandable. I ended up giving him the $20 but reminded him it was God’s money and he was accountable to Him for what he did with it. The next day one of the ladies went downtown with a care package for him but could not find him.
I share this not to brag, but to illustrate that our team sincerely cares for people and their well-being.
Thank you for your prayers and support!
Until All Hear!
The highlight of February was the trip to LA for the Super Bowl Outreach. I was blessed to be a team leader once again and had a great team. You can read my post about the mystery team members here. Although the planning for this trip was a bit bumpy, it was relatively smooth when it came to execution. Bill Adams does an outstanding job with the logistics as far as accommodations, meals transportation, etc. The team leaders simply have to get on the plane, pick up the van and get our teams where they are supposed to be at the appointed time. It’s a little more complicated than that, but…
My team made my job super easy. I had seasoned evangelists, most of whom had been to at least one other Super Bowl Outreach so they knew what to expect. That doesn’t take away from the fact that they were all punctual and cooperative, even taking initiative when they noticed something that needed to be done. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for them! Waking up at 4:15 on Friday and Saturday and 3:15 on Sunday was a challenge after long days of teaching and ministry out on the streets, but they pressed through!
The team leaders all get to teach a 50 minute class. Due to my name beginning with the 2nd letter of the alphabet, I got to teach first on Thursday night. The theme this year was the responsibility/duty of the evangelist inside and outside the church. Each of us chose a book and filtered it through Ephesians 4. I read “And Some Evangelist” by Roger Carswel. It’s a good read that I would highly recommend.
The schedule for the outreach goes something like this for Friday and Saturday
6:00 AM prayer
7:00 AM Teaching
8:00 AM Breakfast
9:00 AM Teaching
10:00 AM Grab a box lunch and head to the ministry location for the day.
6:00 PM Head back to the Hotel from the ministry locations
Sunday everything was backed up one hour due to a 3:30 PM Kick-off time.
If you ever think evangelism isn’t hard work, you’ve never done much of it. While it certainly is a joy to do, it can be very tiring. It’s what I refer to as “good tired.” What a joy to be on the plane flying home knowing you have been able to focus on the Gospel and share the great news with so many people.
Here’s a short encounter I had with a man on Huntington Beach Pier.
The man was riding around in a cart he had built with decorations and a sound system. He was also wearing a mask. He stopped and informed me that he had 26 semesters of Seminary. Maybe he meant hours but I’m almost certain he said semesters. He began by telling me he believed we were all God. He continued with statements beginning with “I believe….” When I got the chance to respond I pointed this out and we had a discussion about whether I should believe what he believed or what God said. Trying to focus the discussion we dialed in on the “We are all God” statement. Since he would not accept that he was in error because the Bible contradicted his view, I thought I would try logic. I asked him if God could sin, to which he replied, “He could because He can do anything.” I rephrased the question to avoid a rabbit trail and asked him, if would God ever sin? He agreed that God would never sin. Then I asked him if he sinned and he admitted that he did. See the flaw in his belief? I asked him if God would never sin but humans do sin, how could we be God? He said, “You got me there. I’ll be back in a little while and have something for you.” I supposed he was returning with some sort of reasoning to support his belief but I never saw him again. Sometimes we get intimidated by people who announce they have some sort of higher education and think we will not be able to give a defense for the hope that lies within us. First, we do not have to have all the answers. Remember we are not here to prove God. We are proclaimers, seed sowers, and waterers. It is God who gives the increase. Secondly, just because someone has an education or is a good debater doesn’t mean they have a sound, logical argument.
Friday the 18th and 25th it was back to cold weather in Athens. After being in LA with temps in the high 80s, 40 degrees felt colder than normal. Foot traffic was a little light but we preached the Gospel and gave away some Gospel tracts for a few hours. It is good to have a consistent ministry location but I believe it is also good to get away to a different environment a few times a year. The change of scenery is a good way to refresh.
Thank you for your prayers and financial support!
Until All Hear!
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21
After five months of prayer and recruiting my Super Bowl Outreach team only consisted of 5 people, including me. Five may seem like a pretty good team, and it is, but the requirement is that I have at least 10 team members. I began with a list of over 20 past and possible team members and felt confident I would be able to fill all 10 slots. As time went on the list began to get shorter and shorter. Even those who I was certain would/could go began to drop off the list.
There were commitment conflicts, wives having babies, sickness and some who just didn’t want to go to the west coast. Not saying any of these reasons are invalid, it is just the way life and ministry works. I will admit I gave into frustration at times but ultimately was trusting God to send those He wanted on my team. I settled into the fact that I was going to have a 5 person team and became content with that because those on my team were all solid, seasoned evangelists.
Shortly before the trip I had a young couple and their 8 month old added to my team, bringing the total to 8. Yes, I am counting the 8 month old as a team member. Grasping? Maybe, but she was with us the entire time so she gets credit. With the team being set, off we go to Hollywood Blvd. on day one.
Scott got the team set up as Rich and I went to park the van. We were set up in front of the Metro station with the preaching rotation starting along with tract distribution and Gospel conversations. There was a woman that came up and listened for a long time. As one of the team members began to talk with her we found out she was in town for the Super Bowl and felt led to come down to Hollywood Blvd. but she wasn’t sure why, if I understood correctly. Naturally I thought God had this planned from the beginning. After praying for five months for God to send me team members and being a few short of the goal, here was Mona.
We didn’t know she was coming and apparently she didn’t either. Mona ended up staying with us for hours passing out Gospel tracts. You might say, that was just a coincidence, and I might have agreed until Day 2.
Day 2 was a nice change. Hollywood Blvd. can be a bit hectic and wear on you after an entire day so going to Huntington Beach Pier on day 2 was a nice change. Again, as Rich and I went to park, Scott got the team set up on the pier and began preaching, passing out tracts and engaging people in conversation. A man came up in a wheelchair who had asked God that morning how he could serve Him on that day (paraphrase).
Horice stayed on the pier with us for hours offering Gospel tracts to people and telling them he had some good news for them. Again, God had sent us a great team member.
God is faithful. As we prayed for 5 months for God to send us team members, He was working on these two saints and we didn’t have a clue. His ways are not our ways.
We were praying to 10 team members and that’s exactly what God gave us.
Until All Hear!
|The first month of the year is in the books and foot traffic in Athens is picking back up. With the semester beginning on January 10, the college students are back and out on the streets. We have been out preaching, passing out tracts, and talking to students on Friday nights. |
During the covid crisis, the bars were forced to close at 10:30 so we had begun to be out between 8:30 and 10:30 pm. Prior to that we typically would be out between 9:30 and midnight, or later. To be honest, as I am approaching my 58th birthday I have been enjoying the earlier nights but am considering going back to the later schedule to reach more students.
This year has already produced some fruitful conversations. I had one conversation with an atheist that he actually started. Another brother was preaching and this guy walked over and asked me what our purpose was. Any other time I would have thought this was just another snarky objection but it was obvious he was sincere. I explained to him our purpose was to get the Gospel message to people. He asked me if we were trying to force people to believe as we did. I explained to him that we were just the messengers and whether or not they believed was between each individual and God. I was able to tell him the Gospel about 3 times during our conversation but he would not take a Gospel tract as he was leaving saying, “I do not want any more information.”
As I was preaching one night 3 people walked up to me in a mocking manner. The boy had his phone out videoing himself in front of me as I was preaching. At some point, he told me he was a homosexual and asked me if I hated him because he was gay. I asked him why he would think that. He told me that another street preacher had told him he hated him. (That may or may not be true, by the way). I asked him if I told him living a homosexual lifestyle was a sin did he think that meant I hated him. He said he did not. After clearing that up we had a good conversation about his belief that he was born that way. I agreed with him to the extent that we are all born into sin qualifying that everyone’s sinful nature did not manifest in the same way. Trying to reason with him I used an analogy of a person that had a desire to sleep with as many women as possible even though he had a faithful wife. Did that mean that it was acceptable and right for him to do so? He insisted that he didn’t want to be gay but he couldn’t help it. The conversation went around in circles for a few minutes and we couldn’t seem to get beyond his belief that his desire for other men justified his homosexuality.
One of his friends began to talk and said she was a believer. Even though she also tried to defend her friend’s homosexual lifestyle It was obvious she had a church background. She moved on from that and began to talk about her own struggles. Her issue was not being able to recreate the excitement she felt at the Christian camp she had attended. She told me about reading her Bible, praying, and even journaling but she just couldn’t get that feeling she had at camp. I asked her how we walked, by feelings or by faith? She agreed it was by faith so I encouraged her to keep reading, praying, and journaling but not to look to her feelings for affirmation. We talked about how when we are at church or with a group of believers it is easy to be excited but the minute we step out into the world the reality of living in a fallen world tries to suck the joy from our lives.
Much of what we do is similar to the encounters above. We often get accused of standing on the corner and yelling at people. We absolutely do preach the Gospel but we also have many one-on-one or group conversations. Although every encounter is a bit different, our goal is to minister to people and get the Gospel to them.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support!
Until All Hear!
2 Corinthians 5:21
“How many people do you reach with this method?”, asked the young man on the street. When I hear a question like this I tend to go on the defensive. The question usually comes with a tone of sarcasm from those who do not like open-air preaching. Even a sincere question provokes memories of past conversations with people we refer to as “the but nation.” The question is typically preceded with, “I agree with what you are saying, BUT…” I was reminded by this encounter that not everyone who asked about preaching in the open air is being sarcastic or condescending.
As I finished preaching in Athens a young man asked me this question. After he sensed my defensive attitude he assured me he was a believer and was sincerely curious. After I apologized we had a great conversation. Explaining to him that preaching creates conversation, I used our own talk as an example. If I had not been preaching we would not have had our conversation. After talking about street preaching we began to discuss his walk with the Lord. He explained that he had drifted away from the Lord and asked me to pray for him.
Other questions I have heard include, “This doesn’t work”, “Nobody is listening to you” and my favorite, “You’re pushing people away from God.” Consider these questions in light of the above conversation. There are certainly Scripture passages to consider when pondering these questions but I want to look at them from a pragmatic point of view.
Did my preaching on the street work? From a secular position this must mean, did my preaching produce results? We have a saying, “Gospel preaching produces Gospel conversations. One goal of preaching, from a practical standpoint, is to get people to stop and talk to us, and that happened. Was anyone listening? This young man was, otherwise he would not have known enough to ask his question.
Did I push anyone away from God? Making this claim is like telling a fireman he is pushing the person in the burning building deeper into the fire as he yells for them to come to the exit, or telling the person throwing a life preserver to a drowning person she is pushing the victim under the water. In both instances, if the person stays in their current situation, they are doomed. While I acknowledge there are those who preach with such abrasive language and hatred they turn people off, standing in the public square and preaching the Gospel with love and pleading with people to run to the Savior and live, is never pushing people away from God. If the person walking around dead in their sin continues in that condition they are also doomed, for eternity.
Until All Hear!