“Cover Your Nudity!” Street Preachers and Bad Theology

fanaticism

Have you ever seen one of those crazy people standing on a street corner yelling about hell wearing a sandwich board?

Well I saw one a few days ago.

Or rather I heard him and his looming voice, carrying all throughout the downtown streets of San Antonio.

My mom and I had driven down to visit the Alamo and the riverwalk. As we exited out to the front of the Alamo I kept hearing a loud noise and couldn’t tell where it was coming from. I figured there was some kind of special event happening or music of some kind.

But as we kept walking I saw a man standing by some trees in the courtyard in front of the Alamo.

He was wearing a vest that read “Cover your nudity!” and shouting fire and brimstone religious rhetoric at the top of his lungs: “You all deserve hell!… God is against… God hates… Repent!…”

I’ve always heard about these kinds of people but I had never actually seen one in public that I can recall.

I kept looking over at him.

Trying to figure out what I thought about it.

And what I should do.

I was getting more and more upset as he kept yelling some really unbiblical things about how God hates people and certain kinds of people more. God may hate sin but he doesn’t hate people.

And everyone was staring. People were turned off. The poor workers stationed at the entrance had probably been listening to him all morning.

So after a few minutes of hearing this guy I couldn’t restrain myself.

I couldn’t stay put.

I told my mom to wait on me and then walked over to where he had stationed himself.

As I approached he said hello and asked me if I had any questions. Apparently he thought I was a potential convert.

I asked him who he was affiliated with and what his personal faith was. He said he was a born-again believer and affiliated with Jesus. I was surprised actually. I thought he might be with some kind of offshoot cult. And maybe he is. I didn’t get any further into his theological persuasion. I didn’t care. The way he had been acting the past several minutes of what I saw just wasn’t right. Now, I don’t want to question someone’s heart or salvation because that’s something only God knows. But I do wonder what kind of bad theology he’s chewing on to make him confident enough to go out there and yell out a bunch of bigotry.

So I told him I was disappointed in his methodology and didn’t agree whatsoever with what he was doing. He didn’t like that too much and went on to say some pretty rude things. I figured some kind of verbal attack was coming and ended the conversation by saying he needed to actually get to know people and talk to them about God in a personal way rather than ranting and raving on a sidewalk.

And I left it at that.

I don’t think anything I said made a dent as he kept on yelling.

But I couldn’t have walked by without saying anything.

What he was doing really got under my skin. And it takes a lot to make me mad.

I was very upset by his approach to “evangelism” and his judgmental, hateful tone which do not line up with what it looks like to follow Christ at all.

Not to mention all the surrounding people who could potentially be turned off from Christ because of this guy’s so-called conviction. He was turning people off to God and it flat out pissed me off. I have no respect for that. Sorry I just don’t. That’s one thing that gets me angry. That and a cold krispy kreme doughnut. Just why?

I’ve grown up in the church my whole life since my dad’s a pastor.

We’ve witnessed our fair share of legalistic fanatics and mean church people.

And at this point, I’m not even surprised by it anymore.

But when I see someone publicly acting a fool, turning people off to God and church I get really mad.

That is not what we are supposed to do.

Hell-fire and brimstone preaching just doesn’t work on a street corner. 

If you wanna talk about hell then that’s fine but you should know how to do it appropriately. A little common sense is all it takes.

Because ultimately, truth without love is vain. 

Actually it’s a stumbling block.

Causing innocent bystanders to be exposed to a false declaration of truth and really bad theology. 

And I’m not okay with that.

I’m not okay with arrogant religious fanatics turning away people from exploring the faith more.

I have a soft spot in my heart for those who have doubts about God or questions about the faith. I love to talk to people about God, their questions, my questions, what we still don’t understand and what life is all about in light of faith.

So when I witness someone, with zero regard for those who struggle to believe and follow God, who tries to condemn others as if he’s got it all together I am extremely disgusted.

Nobody has it all together. 

Jesus himself said in Luke 18:19, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Nobody is good.

We’re all messed up by sin.

We all need Jesus.

Romans 3:10-11 says, “As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;

there is no one who understands;

there is no one who seeks God.”

So none of us has the authority to act as if we are good enough and condemn others to hell.

Only God knows a person’s heart.

He alone saves.

Not us.

After all, John 3:17 points out Jesus’ whole reason for coming to the earth and it was to save the world not condemn it.

If anything, as Christ-followers we should be people who can’t help ourselves but to show others the love of God that we’ve already been freely given.

Not turning people away.

Not spewing bad theology.

Not displaying an inaccurate picture of Christ.

Not eliminating people’s desire to visit church.

And ultimately I know that God is bigger and He isn’t inhibited by a fanatic street preacher.

God can reach people despite the “Cover your nudity” man acting a fool.

But it still isn’t right and shouldn’t be taking place in the public or anywhere for that matter. It gives Christianity a bad name. Because that’s actually not Christianity at all. It’s a messed up religiosity is what it is.

I guess this is something that the Lord is gonna have to help me with. I know that I need to be more gracious to this street preacher. I really do. But it’s hard. Sometimes it’s harder to give grace to the one who I feel is causing others to see God in a bad light because I don’t want anyone to misunderstand who God is. But I have to realize that I’m not perfect either. And there will probably be things that I do that cause others to stumble, even though I would never want that. I have to remember how much grace I need so that I can also give grace to this man. So I’m asking God to help me.

Ultimately, we need to talk about God openly and humbly with those we know and those who ask.

Not with hatred.

Not with arrogance.

Not with condescension.

But with love.

Compassion.

Understanding.

And a willingness to accept the reality that we don’t know everything and we’re not perfect.

We all need Jesus just the same as any one else does.

So let’s just treat others with compassion and kindness…and just maybe that will share Christ far more than yelling on a street corner ever could.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.”

-1 Corinthians 13:2-

The Gospel Project: A Gift for the Holidays

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As the holidays are nearing and the season of baking and Christmas tree decorating ensuing, it is proper that we make time to think about how we can reach out to others during this season. All too often we can easily slip into the frenzy of Christmas consumerism forgetting that Jesus really is the reason why we celebrate. I know I can. So in effort to make Jesus the center of our celebration during the holiday season, is it essential that others know about Him and who He truly is. We need to tell others of His love, His grace, His justice, His radical sacrifice for us on the cross, and His desire to see all men come to salvation through Him.

One way we can contribute to the cause of furthering the gospel is by merging the practice of evangelism with one of great prominence during the holidays: baking.

For a class assignment, I had to create a “gospel project” in order to create a means by which to share the gospel with others more effectively. Thinking about what I should do, I finally realized that I should just stick to what I like doing. Why not share the gospel in a way that accompanies my love of baking, helping me to be more intentional about who I share the gospel with?

So, this is just a simple idea of making holiday bread mix in a jar while trying to connect its meaning to the gospel in a way that gives the sharer the opportunity to share Christ with someone.

I hope you will join in baking bread this season, sharing with friends the true bread of life who is Jesus. Let us share the gospel with those who have yet to hear the good news.

Below is the recipe for replicating this bread mix as a gift, as well as a summary of the purpose of the product.

Please make for your neighbors, friends and family!

Enjoy!

Product: Jar of Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bread Mix, as a gift to a non-Christian, with attached recipe for the recipient to make the bread and attached gospel paraphrase.

The jar reads “Jesus is the Bread of Life” as an introduction into the gospel, connecting the gift of the bread mix to the purpose of the gift: to share the gospel. The attachment to the Jar includes a short paraphrase of the gospel message. This is intended to be a conversation starter between the giver and recipient regarding Christ’s love for him or her and God’s desire for a real relationship with that person. This gift strives to reveal the connection between physical bread and the incarnate Christ as the bread of life. This further indicates that in our humanity we are in need of “bread,” or food, to function normally and how this basic need is only a shadow of our ultimate need –a spiritual need– which can only be satisfied in Jesus. Thus, our souls will die if we never eat of the eternal bread of life, which is Jesus Christ. We are in desperate need for Jesus to give us life that is only found in Him, and nothing else.

Purpose: This jar of bread mix is meant to be given as a gift to a non-Christian in establishing friendship and demonstrating hospitality, while initiating a way for the giver to talk to the non-Christian about Jesus in a non-threatening way. The giver will articulate the connection between the purpose of eating physical bread and the necessity of partaking of eternal, spiritual bread which is found in Christ. The giver will point out the gospel paraphrase which is attached to the jar, sharing the gospel with the non-Christian in his or her own words, even sharing his or her own testimony of salvation.

Recipe for the giver (who wishes to make this again for others): This product is meant to be repeated as many times as one wishes.

  1. Find or buy a tall mason jar or milk bottle.
  2. Gather the follow ingredients for layering in the jar or bottle:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Prepare a card/sheet with the Gospel Paraphrase given below. Attach with string or   ribbon to jar.
  2. Prepare a card/sheet with the Recipe for Recipient “Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bread” given below. Attach to jar.
  3. Prepare a top label reading, “Jesus is the Bread of Life.”
  4. Decorate further, if you wish.
  5. Give the final product and share the gospel with a non-Christian friend.

Gospel paraphrase: (attached to jar in the following format minus the ending verses, which are for the giver/sharer’s own reference):

Opening Question (only on the jar): What kind of bread do we have in our life?

Our Problem:

Humanity has fallen short of God’s holiness by trying to satisfy our needs in ways that just don’t work. This results from our innate sin that separates us from a holy God. The “bread of our own efforts” will never satisfy and never complete us.

*Verses for reference: Romans 3:23, Genesis 3:22, Romans 1:18, Isaiah 64:6, Psalm 51:5, Isaiah 53:6, Ephesians 2:9

God’s Solution:

God provided a solution to redeem us of our innate sin and bring us into eternal union with Him by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. Because Jesus Christ is “the bread of life” that satisfies and the perfect sacrifice, Jesus can satisfy our separation with God, even despite us causing the separation to being with. Jesus can and will save us if we choose to respond to Him.

*Verses for reference: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 2:17, Isaiah 53:5, & 10, 1 Peter 1:20-21, Romans 6:23

My response:

God will redeem my sin when I acknowledge that I indeed am separated from God as a result of my own sin and need Jesus to cover my sins. I must acknowledge that “I cannot live on physical bread alone” but “I need the true bread of life,” which is Jesus Christ. I can choose to surrender my entire life to Jesus Christ, choosing to let Him alone be my Lord and sustainer, abandoning all other false sustainers in my life. Then God will be faithful to forgive me and bring me into eternal union with Him.

*Verses for reference: Romans 10:9-10, John 3:16, Deut. 8:3, Romans 3:24, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 6:35, Exodus 20:31 John 1:9

Recipe for Recipient (attached to jar):

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bread

  1. Mix together the contents of this jar:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Beat together 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 2 large eggs, and 1/4 cup melted butter.
  2. Stir this mixture together with the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Scrape into a buttered and floured 9 X 5-inch loaf pan.
  4. Bake at 350° about 50 minutes (until you can test with a toothpick or knife and it comes out clean).
  5. Enjoy!

And yes…I will gladly bring out the Christmas music! Enjoy, friends.

“Joy To The World” by Jeremy Camp