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Rose Parade Preaching 2012: Belligerence or Blessing?

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I received a private comment from a concerned reader of this blog who supports street preaching. Here it is:

Steve, I found a comment on latimes.com about the street evangelism during the Rose Parade. (Read article here.) Just wanted to make you aware of it. Not sure if the poster is talking about your group. If it was another group, like Ruben Israel’s, I can see why someone might get upset. The sign guys are a little too brash.

Here’s a video of a three minute message I gave to the crowds at the Rose Parade. Judge for yourself if I’m too brash. Also, make sure you notice the audience’s response after I finished and determine if they thought I was too belligerent. After the video, read the L. A. Times comment and then my commentary.

Here’s the comment that my reader referred to:

I find it to be really lousy, slanted journalism that the LA Times is making an extra effort to point to the Occupy float as some kind of incident or controversy at the parade while at the same time you don’t mention AT ALL that there was a large group of right wing evangelical extremists marching up and down the parade route for HOURS before the parade harassing the crowd with hateful, threatening “Jesus is gonna get you” messages. They also reappeared immediately after the official Rose Parade (and before any Occupy people were seen were I was standing near the grandstands). Despite complaints, the police would not check to see if they had a permit to hold their own pre-parade and they were much more of a nuisance and of a controversy than the Occupy folks. Shame on you for ignoring this.

Here’s my response:

The Tournament of Roses Parade brings out every type of evangelist, quite literally, the good, the bad and the ugly. The photos to the left and right are great examples of the latter two descriptions. Not only do these types of people bring an imbalanced view of who God is, they promote false doctrine and ONLY ONE WAY. Of course, their one way is only through their organization. See for yourself at the 800HowTrue website. I reported on them in an article from 2009.

My reader mentioned Ruben Israel. The photo below (from his website), shows the type of message he and his group display.

I dialogued with Ruben a little over a year ago on Facebook discussing his style of evangelism with mine, then posted it to my blog with his permission. To see the marked difference between our methods, read my post called “Perspectives: Inside the Mind of a Radical Sign Guy.”

I suppose our group could be considered obnoxious though we try very hard to be winsome and appealing. We approach our task with good humor and a positive attitude. We also know that not everyone shares our views on eternity, so we attempt to be gracious. Very gracious.

So how should Christians respond to those who are not so nice in their evangelistic methods, or are out there with bad intentions and ulterior motives? It’s best to respond the way the  apostle Paul did, when he heard about the foolishness that was being preached in Christ’s name while he was under arrest.

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Phillipians 1: 15-18)

Read my 12 part series, “Evangelism Gone Wrong” to see the many errors evangelists have made in the field, including us, by clicking here.

15 Comments

  1. It’s like I always say, you want people to throw stuff at you, just walk around carrying a sign that says “Turn or Burn!” They’ll throw stuff at you. The fact that Jesus said there would me many trying to get into Heaven saying “See what we did for You Lord?” and Him telling them: “I never knew you.” gives me great comfort. Loving God is the most important thing we can do as Christians. Loving our neighbors as ourselves is next most important, that means we never set ourselves up to be better than they are. Good people do bad things, bad people do good things. The only one who knows our motives and can truly judge any of us is Jesus since He was given the right to judge us on Judgement Day. Sad thing is, the number one reason why people don’t attend church is Christians. The number one reason why folks do go to church is Christians. We are imperfect people, let’s stop arguing about who’s right and just admit that and we can move on, eh? None of us is going to “Save” another person. Once we are saved, we had best do our homework and try to figure out how to share Jesus with others, because He commanded us to do so. Street Evangelism has a long and interesting history. John Wesley used to go into bars and they would shut the bar down for him and they’d say “We’re going to have a little message now from the Preacher…” But most street preachers have had to put up with the crowds throwing stuff at them, it’s inevitable because if you want to give folks the “Good news” of Jesus, you must start with the bad news or they won’t have a clue why they need Jesus! The bad news is what people don’t like, what they would rather pretend didn’t exist. But, we must share that with them in order for God’s plan of salvation to make sense. If we do not, then their salvation may not be based on a real conversion. So, in the end, there are “Right” ways to do street evangelism, and wrong ways. If you are turned off by the preacher, you have to ask yourself “Is it because they are a bad person or is it because the message they are sharing is hard to hear?” I would argue that the truth is always hard to hear, but that makes it so much more important to try and listen!

  2. I agree that the comment doesn’t seem to be about your group, Steve.

  3. Steve,

    I wish I could have been at the Rose Bowl to cheer you on. I have watched your videos and the videos of other street evangelists. I think you are one of the best. You aren’t confrontational like some of them. You are there to preach the Gospel of Jesus and not to argue with people. Your presentation is short, sweet and simple.

    I hope many more evangelists follow your example.

    God bless.

  4. I would say the comment does not apply to your presentation as saw here. It is so true that people do not want to see the negative side of life. None of us want to be disciplined or chastised. In the end, we all realize it is for our good and we grow stronger as a result.

    • None of us want to be disciplined or chastised.

      Please, speak for yourself. I have no problem when being disciplined or chastised, when there’s a good reason for it.

  5. I was at the parade this year on Sierre Madre blvd. I think I saw you preaching there. I could not hear everything but saw someone preaching and the message was similar to the one you posted above. After the message the preacher and helpers? tossed what looked like dollar bills to the crowd and some really big dollar bills. Was that you? I also saw many people with signs who I thought were maybe in the same group – I saw one that says God kills and others with messages about Jesus saves and mercy. They certainly got attention but many were angry about the sign people. I am glad that people are bringing the gospel to the people one way or another, and I was struck by the feeling that the most important part of the day was what happened with the preaching and the signs rather than the “glory” of the floats.

  6. Very well done Pastor Steve! What a great crowd response! You don’t see that very often! But whether they love you or hate you preach on! PTL!!!

  7. Jim

    Ecclesiastes 12:7

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  8. I went to the How True website and scanned their believes and their rants. They do a lot, and I do mean a lot of “isogesis” and stretching scripture to mean something that is like, “How do they get that out of scripture”?

    It sounds like this crowd was a lot more friendly than the normal ones you encounter in the past.(i.e. beer garden crowd.)

    I had some Christian brother and sister tell me, “I should not bring up topics that will make the public angry and just preach on the love of Jesus” If they only knew times I did just read John 3:16, I still got cussed at and told to go to(down under and I do no mean Australia.)

    Yes there are times when God guides you to read certain scripture which will cause some to respond in a negative manner. Yet, sometimes in order for the Lord to operate on a person, the poison drawn out of a person will cause discomfort.

    I guess, Steve, that sometimes as an evangelist, the Lord will have us to perform a “spiritual” spinal tap on a person. It is not fun and is very painful, but if not done the person will continue to spiritually decay, without the “balm of Gilead” to apply after the incision is made.

  9. Steve,

    You are a real deal servant of God. I am sure that many people have been blessed by your ministry. Keep preaching.

  10. Jim,

    I’m praying for you brother. You might think that is silly but think of it as someone wanting something good to happen for you.

    Sorry for you loss.

  11. Looked at the page on you and Ruben Israel. Actually I think both of you are doing a work for the Lord. Yes Ruben is in our faces with the call to repent but it appears to me that this is a biblical way to share the truth as well as your way. I think of Stephen who was stoned because he was in the faces of the Jewish leaders about their sin and part in the death of Jesus, but he was ” full of the holy spirit”, so though we did not see anyone turn to the gospel because of Stephen his words were a witness to the truth. Also I think of Jesus who blasted the pharisees for their hypocrisy and I think of John the Baptist who kept drawing attention to the sin of Herod who had taken his brother’s wife. Your way of evangelism is gentler and maybe more will listen to you, maybe you are more like Barnabus whose name means son of encouragement and Ruben is more like Stephen – but I thank God for anyone who brings the message of the Bible to people who have either forgotten or never truly heard it before. May the gospel be preached to this world! I pray for more boldness myself to share His message. Amen.

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