Evangelism Gone Wrong? Part 2: Get Back on the Horse


So you blow it as an evangelist. You mess it up. Should you quit and head back to the pew never to stick your neck out again? Of course not. Quitting is never an option. (Click here to read my BIG mistake in part 1.)

My friend Steve Pivovaroff wanted to hang it up a few weeks ago when he (at my urging) preached to an unwitting high school band waiting to march in the Golden Dragon Parade in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Here’s how it went down:

Right in the middle of a wonderful presentation of the Law and Gospel, two older women took issue and shouted at him to stop though he was doing nothing wrong and had every right to be there. Being an apt pupil, Steve heeded my earlier advice to always continue with the message no matter who tries to interrupt you, unless of course, the interrupter has a gun.

Fortunately for Steve, these women had no guns.

Since they couldn’t stand being ignored by the big man they resorted to drastic measures. One woman took matters into her own hands and did something that shocked even me!

She reached around Steve and… and… unplugged him! Can you believe it? Right in front of everybody! Steve was undone, outwitted and dumbfounded by this devious and highly uncalled-for act of willful anti-evangelistic antagonism.

What did he do?

Like all willing and ready-to-learn evangelists, he made a mistake. A BIG mistake. “Don’t touch my stuff!” he shouted at the woman. “Don’t touch my STUFF! Hey! Hey!” he protested, trying to swat away the objectivist’s hands. “Don’t, DON”T! TOUCH! MY! STUFF!!!”

A hush fell upon the bystanders. The marching band’s tuba player blew an off-key note somewhere in the distance. The evangelist  was beaten. Silenced by feminist frustration.

“It’s over, Steve,” I said, gently tapping him on the shoulder to come down off the box. “They won.”

I explained to “Mr. Piv” that the customer is always right in a confrontation. If they unplug you, let them. If they hit you, ignore them. If they throw something, catch it in the jaw with joy. The last thing the world needs to see is another argumentative Christian. “Let them have the last word. Heck, they had to listen to you.”

Head down, Steve understood, then wanted to go crawl in a hole.

I wouldn’t let him.

“You got to get back up on the box, bro. Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t let that defeat you.”

“I can’t. That’s it. I have to wait awhile. I really messed it up.”

“No excuses,” I warned. I pushed him forward with my two bare hands. “C’mon. There’s another group.”

Reluctantly. Slowly. Cautiously. Steve Pivovaroff plugged his mic back in to the speaker. He then walked deliberately toward his preaching stool and took one step up. Then another.

He got back on the box.

R.A. Torrey said this in regard to some of the mistakes of open air preaching over a hundred years ago:

“Don’t lose your temper. Whatever happens, never lose your temper. You ought never to get angry under any circumstances, but it is especially foolish to do so when you are holding an open air meeting. You will doubtless have many temptations to lose your temper, but never do it. It is very hard to hit a man when he is serene, and if you preserve your serenity, the chances are that you will escape unscathed. Even if a tough strikes you, he cannot do so a second time if you remain calm. Serenity is one of the best safeguards. Don’t fight. Never fight under any circumstances. Even if they almost pound the life out of you, refuse to fight back.” (CLICK HERE TO READ PART 3)


  1. Way to get back on the box, Steve! You’re an encouragement!

  2. I am planning on Open Air Preaching soon. I am thankful for all your advice. Thanks to those who went before me. Maybe, I won’t make those mistakes.

  3. These stories are great. Keep them coming!

  4. two older women took issue and shouted at him to stop though he was doing nothing wrong and had every right to be there.

    Which brings us to the continued push by the evangelical community to prove that they’re oppressed – one of your continuing sins is this odd lust you have for the Martyr Complex.

    See, by that same token, these women had every right to be there. And had every right to shout you down. Those rights don’t only work one way, you know.

    • This isn’t an oppression issue, nor is it part of a Martyr’s complex, if I may respectfully disagree with you. We expect opposition to the message (and to our manner); this is simply an instructive on what to do when we are opposed. Of course, the women had a right to say whatever they wanted; they crossed the line when they unplugged him. No worries, we expect those things to happen at times. I just want our evangelists to respond in a gracious, tactful, gentle manner, like I do with you! 😉

      So, I think you are off point here.

  5. Yes, because comparing us to serial killers is so tactful.

  6. “Right in the middle of a wonderful presentation of the Law and Gospel, two older women took issue and shouted at him to stop though he was doing nothing wrong and had every right to be there.”

    No, he wasn’t doing anything illegal — but if he was rudely interrupting their practice, then, yes, he was doing something ‘wrong’.

    Could those kids have easily practiced elsewhere? Could you have waited til they were done practicing? Or, were you guys just taking advantage — again.

    They were doing something, he was interrupting by creating a disturbance. It had nothing to do with the message, only how that message was relayed.

    Again- the more I read here the more I’m convinced that your evangelizing is just a way for you to feel good about getting into people’s way, being rude, and creating conflict.

  7. Steve – what could those woman have said to get him to stop?

    • perdita,

      Actually, they were just standing around doing nothing. Some people were blowing their instruments. Think about it: How successful would our preaching be if there were a huge sound (practice) coming from the band. No, we go where we will be heard. Again, these kids were just standing around waiting for the parade to start. The vast majority of those kids, if they should die, would not have heard the Gospel. (A message, by the way, that lasts less than five minutes.)

      I appreciate your concern though.

      P.S. You being an atheist and all, where would you suggest we preach? Where would be the appropriate place in your eyes to preach the Gospel?

  8. Steve, I live in the south.

  9. You said ‘preparing’ – waiting around is different then preparing.

    “The vast majority of those kids, if they should die, would not have heard the Gospel.”

    Excuse me while I laugh. I highly doubt that.

    Appropriate places? Where your unwitting audience has a chance to move away, if they want.

    A few examples:

    Wrong Places
    Outside beer gardens, inside elevators, the DMV.

    When you do that, you’re just being a passive-aggressive bully. Yeah – and don’t preach to kids unless their parents are there and okay it.

    Appropriate places

    Your ‘corridor of conversion’, stop light evangelizing, or public places where people can stay or move if they want. Though, if your amp is loud enough that people can hear it in their apartments, it’s probably too loud.

    Steve, have you ever been asked to move because you were disrupting something and what did you do? Or do you just ignore the request?

    • perdita,

      Believe it or not, we have only been asked to move a few times, and we usually do. I can’t remember the last time we were asked. Again, for the most part, we are only in these venues a very short time.

      The band preparing was a wrong description. I’ll change it.

  10. Steve wrote: “it’s the atheist mindset that can create serial killers

    Asserted without evidence.

    Please show the following:

    1. That there even exists an “atheist mindset”, without failed attempts at mind-reading.

    2. That such a thing can create serial killers, more than any other “mindset”.

    Or you could retract the statement as being baseless, which is (in my opinion) the honest thing to do, since there is no such thing as “an atheist mindset”.

    Steve, the word “atheist” describes what I am not; not what I am. This is an extremely important distinction.

  11. Ted Bundy in no way shape or form speaks for all non-believers, just as Fred Phelps does not speak for all Christians. Can we agree on that?

    Sociopathy can create serial killers. Nihilism also, maybe. Atheism? Not so much. For example, while the word “atheist” describes what I am not, the term “secular humanist” describes what I am, and I think you’d be very hard-pressed to try to show how secular humanism leads to people being serial killers.

    Do you understand the distinction now?

  12. Steve, from now on, every time you talk about “the atheist mindset” or “the atheist worldview”, I’m going to copy and paste the following:

    The word “atheist” describes what we are not; not what we are.

  13. These women didn’t ask him to stop?

  14. “Fixed it!”

    Good on you. I appreciate it.

    “Most likely. So that’s one example.”

    Won’t comment.

  15. Thank you for the encouragement, Steve S. & Steve P.! Don’t quit! To God be all the glory!

  16. Wow, Helps me to learn from my mistakes too! We can learn together.

  17. I actually Other Steve was in the right here. Presuming you weren’t in violation of anything, you have a right to blather on about anything so long as you aren’t inciting violence or causing panic. As Other Steve said: it’s his stuff.

    Even if you were doing your thing in a place where you weren’t allowed, the ladies still shouldn’t have touched Other Steve’s stuff. A physical confrontation solves nothing. The wise course of action would have been to talk to the owner of the property or the police.

  18. Garrett said: I actually Other Steve was in the right here..

    I’m not saying he had no right to preach there. He also had a right to ignore the women when they asked him to stop. However, that doesn’t mean what he was doing was ‘right’ in the larger sense of the word. And yes, the women were wrong and stupid to have tried to pull the plug.

    Steve said: I just want our evangelists to respond in a gracious, tactful, gentle manner…

    This seems to mean: ignore, unless gun involved.

    Steve admits that they first asked Other Steve to stop. But he also states that the only reason to stop is if there’s a gun. That’s one of the things I find appalling — that he thinks that the only legitimate reason to move on is personal safety. Not surprising, but appalling. His ‘audience’ aren’t real people to him, they’re merely supporting cast in “The Adventures of Steve the Evangelist” and the sooner they learn to shut up, the better.

  19. No worries, Steve. The word is the bird, and everybody’s heard about the bird.

  20. I know you believe that. You think these people are drowning and the only valid reason to turn down the volume, shorten your spiel, or move on is mortal violence or the law.

    I don’t know if I can explain this well, but your belief that they are drowning is still unsubstantiated. I imagine it feels really real to you, but that feeling doesn’t make it true. And you seem so invested in this belief that it has become more important to you than the actual people you preach to – that’s why I call them a supporting cast.

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