Asking Them To Leave: Conversation With a Street Preacher Part 1

The earliest I can remember the Street Preacher downtown Sarnia was back around Halloween of 2011. We were having a pirate themed Murder Mystery Party at theStory and some friends dressed as pirates came running in to tell me that we had a street preacher half a block from theStory. I ran out, looking like an idiot and a Pirate, and tried to figure out who they were and what they were doing. There was an old man and a few children. They jumped in their van and drove away. The crowds from the local theatre had fizzled out so their mission was done.

I had ran into him a few times since, and he usually told me he was going to come check out theStory sometime. Which means to check out our gathering on a Sunday morning. Finally, he showed up. On May 27th we had two guests. Harry DeBoer and Melissa (the owner of the Messianic Jewish (but not Jewish) Coffee Shop downtown called Honey and Locust) both showed up for their first time. They for the most part stayed quiet and kept each other occupied with their stories of God moving and how God was going to move. At the end of the service, once potluck was over, there was only a few of us left, we were asked by Harry if we would like to sign a petition against abortion. That was my cue. I got up and went over and talked to them.

The conversation took a bunch of turns but numerous times in the conversation I stated to him that I have been meaning to speak to him in person and ask him to stop coming and preaching downtown and handing out tracts. I told him it was irrelevant and unhelpful and was certainly not accomplishing the goal they are setting out to accomplish. I said he was driving more people away from Jesus then to him. I also told him that he focuses way too much on the ‘bad news’ and I barely hear anything about the good news. I encouraged him instead, if he must be down here, to just stand on a soapbox and tell everyone that passes him that Jesus loves him.

Harry is a quieter man in conversation. Which was surprising. So I feel like he didn’t get a chance to say much of what he was thinking. So when I got to the space the next morning there was a nice four page handwritten letter waiting for me. I’ve asked Harry permission to post this letter on this site. So it is posted below. We are now about 4 letters in back and forth, so I”ll start posting them a little more frequent. I’ve typed it below, forgive all my errors and I tried to correct his. You can read the original on the link above.

Dear Nathan

In reference to our conversation on this Sunday with Melissa, myself and you it was most interesting and informative to be at theStory and you may have a point as to how we approach people with the gospel or tactic being used. It is something I’ll be pondering and praying about changing yet. The thought in no wise should the gospel message be toned or watered down; but as you related to me we might be scaring people off before they hear the good news. You right stated we (Fishers of Men) do tell people of first sin, judgment and hell which is the purpose to convict to lead one to Christ, but as you stated to me in our conversation, you see it as driving or scaring people off too soon, before hearing the good news. Do I understand you correctly on that point?

In other words shouldn’t it be between us a difference in tact (or approach) but not one of substance? In other words on the theology and doctrine we see eye to eye?

Or to put it this way if we agree on the fundamentals of the gospel as I suspect you would (or at least should) if you where a true adherent to Bethel Pentecostal Doctrine [disclaimer: i told him i grew up there] then you would have to agree that sooner or later an unbelieving individual has to be confronted with the ‘Truth’ of the gospel of one’s sin; need for repentance from sin (see my booklet “the most prevalent delusion of mankind” specifically the part of change of heart, attitude, mind and intentions and trusting Jesus alone to salvation.) If we are in agreement on that point (of either sooner or later) then you should have no objection if we reverse the order of sharing the so called ‘positive loving’ news first and then speak of sin, hell, judgment right after the good news?

Is it just a matter of timing that offends you or is it so much more with out (what we believe is the biblical approach) gospel presentation that you disagree with? When we meet again (or hopefully when you meet our leader guide of FOM Sam Guerrette) I’d like to here exactly more in detail what you or theStory believe.

Questions

1. Who is God?
2. Would you consider Jesus God?
3. How does one get to Heaven? Your take on the gospel?
4. Is the Christian faith restrictive or inclusive? Your opinion!
In other words do you believe that we all believe in the same God but only by a difference name – in Christianity God is Jesus; Islam-Allah, Buddah in Buddhism, new age-we are all gods etc.etc.
5. Are all religions the same in essence and they’ll al get us to hjeaven or whatever as long as we have Christian virtues such as being good, loving and helping other and even loving God whoever He (or maybe even she) is that sufficient to get us to Heaven on the basis that a moral virtuous love equates to the same or even is as ‘accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour!? That salvation is not so much as acceptance of a person but more (in your possible opinion perhaps) an acceptance of virtue or a positive lifestyle girded in a belief of some unique supernatural being-but not necessarily Jesus or the God of the Bible? Can a dedicated Muslim go to heaven in your opinion, who portrays a good moral lifestyle?

Remember if one could get to heaven any other way or in addition to Christ then is was unnecessary for Jesus to die for our sins, right?

Nevertheless if I suspect from our conversation that to lead people to a personal relationship to Christ we can skip sin, judgment, personal repentance, hell (negatives); instead, get people to realize their worthiness and realization of the Divine (whatever that is) we have to disagre with you that’s not biblical.

But if I’m wrong or that my suspicion are unwarranted, I now sincerely apologize.

So hopefully we are on the same page doctrinally and spiritually – one in Christ as brothers in the Lord – who is Jesus Christ!!! If only a difference of strategy, personally I’m going to consider for practical reasons to within the span of 5 minutes to articulate the positive side of the gospel first – salvation then close with the sin or ‘so called’ negative side. I can see the point of that as people are walking by many of them hear only the bad story and as you said not being able to hear the gospel-good side. Nevertheless there’s really not a big difference so that admittedly we as FOM still believe its only right and biblical to confront humanity of their sin on the soon side, not first (as you propose) to 1st build up a relationship (5 year period or so) and somehow automatically those you disciple will become Christians – or as you stated the Holy Spirit will see to that. Without them (the discipled) ever hearing the need of repentance and the reality of hell. etc.

Now it is true the Holy Spirit does make the change but not in a vaccuum (except for very rare occasions); but mostly He uses us as his spokesperson to declare the oracles of God in truth which includes the whole gospel of sin, hell to salvation – the whole bit – not a wishy washy make me feel good gospel leaving out the unpleasant truth. Furthermore for very practical reasons the gospel must be given as soon as possible, for as Bible says – now today is the acceptable time for salvation – for we don’t know if we’ll have tomorrow due to death and unprepared to meet our maker. So time is of the essence. Then Nathan, consider is it really going to make a difference whether one hears the bad news sooner or later? If they don’t receive the truth now, 5 years or so will likely not make a difference – their hearts will still be hardened. Time doesn’t necessarily change things – only God does! If one doesn’t accept 1st call – its not likely he or she will accept calls later on. Please consider the deceptiveness of your approach using or mixing paganistic concepts in Christianity as I noticed at your morning service of Celtic prayer [he was there with us during our monthly liturgical gathering where we do call and response prayer), a worship song with most confusing [he is speaking about this song we sing] and celebration of the Eucharist [we did nothing out of the ordinary during the Eucharist (but we do all the time)}which God forbids mixing Him up with other religions in some form or fashion. The Bible forbids borrowing or mimicking pagan practices. That what you see of good value (indeed there are some) or something of credance in other faiths has been borrowed from Christianity – faith in God of hte Bible is the original and oldest religion (so to speak) at the beginning of history at the creation of Adam and Eve. When Adam and Even sinned as Satan disguised as the serpent deceived Eve, from there Satan continued the deception even to this day questioning God on his concept of sin, judgment etc, and in stilling doubts about God particularlly the need for true repentance to avoid hell in order to go to Heaven. For it is not true, to withhold the preaching of hell from someone could be the very reason many are in hell today because no one warned them? We as from with the Apsotle Paul say also ‘Woe is us if we do not preach the gospel- that includes the whole gospel.

We are to preach it in season, out of season, whether one like to hear or even if they don’t – doesn’t matter, the Bible (or God) commands we must preach and it’s up to God to dislodge any cobwebs in the way of the hearers if they are to come to Christ. Also Nathan, you mentioned our culture today doesn’t accept the preaching og sin + hell. Generally speaking, no culture ever did, but to reiterate we are to preach in season and out of season regardless of sin and hell etc. are in style or out of style. Jesus said to enter the narrow+straight gate that leads to eternal life an that He was the door for the sheep, anyone trying to enter by another way to life eternal is a thief and a robber.

Examine yourself, if you might be trying to get your sheep or disciples to enter into God’s presence by another door away to bypass the cross and Jesus. Hope to talk more or inquire from Sam (and other also) as well for I’m sure He to would really want to share with you as well. God’s richest blessing fully yours!

3 Comments

  • From following this, I have found it fascinating how you both approach the discussion on evangelizing in the same way you would go about it: opening up dialogue for spiritual space vs challenging people to agree to stated truths. I hope your future discussions have gone well, but I would suspect that unless you dig much deeper into they will lead no where.

    My prayers are with you in Sarnia – I always love the challenges The Story are wrestling with.

    • Well put Dan… I’m seeing a trend in ministry leaders challenging eachother, or the growing generation, this opens the floor for future conversations as example. I hope if nothing else comes from this, it becomes a witness in its own right to the reader.

  • My prayers are with both of you as you continue listening to each other. Thanks for taking the time to do this… it will likely be a long conversation. It’s so important that we never write each other off but even when we deeply disagree, we listen and make space for that. I know Harry burns to spread the gospel as he sees it and has experienced it and I admire his persistence in doing so. I’m glad you opened up the door for conversation, Nathan.
    Blessings,
    Thea

Join the Discussion