Angry Preachers or Gospel Musicians?
What types of witnesses are our churches forming?

There wasn't much that could have distracted me on the way to the train station on a recent Saturday evening. After two days at an outdoor music festival—in the rain one day and under the blazing sun the next—I wanted nothing more than to return to our apartment for a long shower and some blessed quiet. Lollapalooza was a blast, a great opportunity to see some new bands and observe Chicago's diverse youth culture. I might have stayed for the day's final acts, but I'm a pastor and my ringing ears and tired legs needed a good night's sleep before Sunday morning.

Before I'd walked even a block from the festival, I bumped into a small crowd whose attention was fixed on two men speaking loudly to the bedraggled onlookers. One held a handmade sign that read—I kid you not— "TURN OR BURN!" He spoke into a bullhorn, warning the young people of God's coming judgment and listing in vivid detail the sins that would lead them to an eternity burning in hell. The other man held an open Bible and vigorously debated anyone who disagreed with his companion's portrayal of God.

For the past two days, I'd watched these young people pursue beauty and friendship and community. Groups of sunburned 20somethings had made their way from one stage to the next, avoiding mud puddles and speaking with awe in their voices about their favorite musical experiences of the weekend. And now, as they left the safety of the festival grounds, they were immediately confronted with Jesus. Or at least two of Jesus' representatives.

A few in the crowd poked fun and tried to fluster the preachers. What really caught my attention, though, what overruled my fatigue, was another response. Despite this generation's reputation as cynical and sarcastic, many of the young wore visible sadness on their faces. Some pleaded with Bullhorn Man for a different portrayal of Jesus. A few people asked Bible Man if his God had any love for them. One young man was on the edge of tears as he tried to convince the men to lower their voices, to show kindness in their words about Jesus.

Ten minutes of this street theatre was enough and, quenching my desire to punch Bullhorn Man and Bible Man, I continued toward the train. As I often do after encountering this version of Christian witness, I angrily questioned why these men did what they did. How could they possibly think their language and posture was helpful? Is this what Jesus had in mind when he felt compassion for the harassed and helpless crowds—sheep without a shepherd—and asked his disciples to pray for more workers for the harvest? My irritation only increased as I thought about how the irreligious and marginalized of his day were attracted to Jesus. Whether or not they would have accepted his easy yoke, certainly these festival goers would have been intrigued by the alternative life Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated.

November 19, 2009

Displaying 1–10 of 42 comments

Jim

January 18, 2010  7:51pm

A quick interview with a street preacher to divert attention away huh? Come on dear "pastor", why not come an answer for your worldliness and profane deception used in this story? Because you are a minister of satan and hate the light maybe? Repent pastor... turn from your worldy lusts and idolatry or you will burn in hell and have the greater condemnation. You care more for looking hip in front of men then you do for God. You are the new seeker emergent stlye pharisee... www.fleebabylon.com

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Jim

January 14, 2010  1:36pm

above post should read 1 John 2:15

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Jim

January 14, 2010  1:33pm

Wow - The "pastor" who wrote this probably didn't like the bullhorn guys becasue he appears to be just as lost as the other unconverted people leaving the music festival. Lets look at how our dear "pastor" condemns himself with his own words: "I wanted nothing more than to return to our apartment for a long shower and some blessed quiet. Lollapalooza was a blast, a great opportunity to see some new bands and observe Chicago's diverse youth culture" [Then according to the Apostle John you are a lover of the fallen things of this world and the love of God is not in you - 1 John 2:5] "For the past two days, I'd watched these young people pursue beauty and friendship and community. Groups of sunburned 20somethings had made their way from one stage to the next, avoiding mud puddles and speaking with awe in their voices about their favorite musical experiences of the weekend." [What a great way to paint depraved sinners who are on their way to hell, give me a break "pastor", most of these people are outside of of Christ and Gods wrath abides on them John 3:36] "Ten minutes of this street theatre was enough and, quenching my desire to punch Bullhorn Man and Bible Man, I continued toward the train. As I often do after encountering this version of Christian witness, I angrily questioned why these men did what they did." [The reason you are so angry is because you appear to be a compeltely unconverted hireling, or as isaiah the prophet would say, a dumb dog, and they trying to actually serve the true living Christ are a reproach to you - isaiah 56:10] Beware of the this worldly wolf (I mean holy pastor) true body of Christ, I say that with a broken heart. Please do not bother trying to track me down so that you can "punch me" dear "pastor", rather turn from your idolatry and worldliness to the Christ of the Bible with your whole heart. -Jim

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kyle joe hicks

January 04, 2010  10:09pm

AMOS 5:10 "They HATE him that rebuketh in the gate,and they ABHOR him that speaketh uprightly." Isaiah 30:9-10 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who WILL NOT HEAR the LAW of the LORD: 10. Which say unto the Seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things,speak unto us SMOOTH things, PROPHESY DECIETS: My the things change the more they stay the same Huh? www.kylejoeandlisahicks-outcryministries.com

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Rob Haskell

January 04, 2010  12:07pm

Hi David - While my emotional reaction would not doubt have been the same as yours, I would question it on a certain level. Those street preachers are extremely annoying. BUT the premise behind your account seems to be that we ought to present the gospel in such a way that it makes non-Christians feel good. You were unhappy when it upset people, but you were happy when people went away with a smile. I applaud what the musicians were doing and it is good in and of itself, but the church culture that produced that also has a big flaw, which is that it has overreacted against the "turn and burn" approach and has a difficult time saying anything at all in public. We need to get past these extremes. In our response the to the inappropriate judgmentalism of the street preacher we need to remember that public proclamation is a very important aspect of the biblical model. Contemporary evangelicalism is less and less interested in proclamation; perhaps because in our culture the greatest sin is to make others feel bad because of what we believe.

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kyle joe hicks

December 21, 2009  7:07pm

Hey folks I came across this article and all the remarks.As a missionary- Street Preacher for 33 years to the street people of Detroit/inner city youth minister/ biker rally preacher. (And just about any other crowd we can get at.) I think ya'll are fighting about two ends of the same thing. There is the whole Grace and Truth" thing.(Kind & Brutally honest) And crowds and situations are all different too. The Lord Jesus Christ Comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comforted. Ya' see Grace & Truth! I,m sure that David Swanson is a nice guy, So am I and I'm a street preacher who feeds homeless men and women, is pastor and father figure to inner city teens and kids, BUT I am also a Hell fire and Brimstone Street Preacher too. I can match the GRACE of the grace folks and can out Hell Fire & Brimstone that crew too when and IF needed. Ezekiel 33:8 " When I say unto the wicked O wicked man thou shalt surely die. IF THOU DOST not SPEAK to WARN the wicked of their way, That wicked man shall die in his iniquity; BUT HIS BLOOD WILL I REQUIRE AT THY HAND." In our ministry we are very loving and kind but still honest with the down trodden. But can still preach to the Hells Angels in Sturgis or the Outlaws in Daytona. If you try the "Nicey Nice" stuff with those rough necks they'll think exactly what they think about most Christians... (they think we're cowardly sissies, patsies and do gooders.) But IF you stand up and "PLAY THE MAN!" They'll respect you and your message. Our Homeless & Hardcore Street people think we're the nicest people around. (And we are!) See that's GRACE. The Biker Dudes think we're "Bad to the Bone." And we are??? Nah lets call it GUTS! That's preachin' the Truth! Like: "Your gonna split Hell wide open if you don't get saved!" Many "Hell Fire and Brimstone" folks have more compassion than some of you folks think, And SOME don't. And some of you who have "Grace" would let a whole generation "Bust Hell wide open!" And never once open their compassionate traps. (And we too have compassion in our Street & Youth Ministry.) Here's acouple of hints for eveyone... #1. No one ever gets SAVED until they get LOST. Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the Law was our school master to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." #2. Jude vs.22-23 "And SOME having COMPASSION, making a difference: 23. And OTHERS SAVE WITH FEAR, pulling them out of the FIRE; hating even the garments spotted by the flesh." That about sums it up does n't it? Who is right??? The "GRACE crew or JUDGEMENT-Hell Fire and Brimstone crew??? BOTH ARE! #3. TRUTH IS ONLY HATE TO THOSE WHO HATE THE TRUTH! So you "Meanies" cheer up and you "Weenies" Man Up! HA! (Sorry bout' that remember I'm one of those terrible Street Preachers.) Wanna see both Grace & Hell Fire and Brimstone in action? (Can you handle it???) Check us out at: www.kylejoeandlisahicks-outcryministries.com

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Patrick Burwell

December 20, 2009  10:56pm

Street Preach The Way Jesus Did, David Swanson http://onlyjesussaves.com/blog/archives/917

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Patrick Burwell

December 20, 2009  7:04pm

HELL is pretty scary, right? Wouldn't you like to see someone AVOID Hell? David, all the rest here, and those from Christianity Astr... uh, TODAY...should come here and read my reply to this article (and posts on ChristianityToday.com)here: http://OnlyJesusSaves.com

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Gemma

December 11, 2009  4:40am

I don't get it Jesus doesn't want us scaring people into believing in him he is kind and right and doesn't want us to be scared of him. We must remember one name we give Jesus IS "The Prince Of Peace".

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ktblalock

December 10, 2009  12:08pm

A pastor on Saturday night at Lollapalooza. The question is who was in error, you or the real preachers. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; Which are you preacher or teacher???

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