A student by the name of Nate Lake recently posted an apology letter addressed to his Colorado State University campus for open-air preachers there. Although I will be responding to most of his points, I will post the link to the letter here:
Before I do that, allow me to set the stage. I almost wrote this blog as an open letter to Nate personally. However, Nate is only a reflection of a very large majority attitude of the Christian church in America, so it seems needlessly provocative to make it too personal. I will, at times, be responding to Nate, but the message needs to be heard by all.
It also became irrelevant to make this an open letter because if my sources are correct, the people Nate is addressing are indeed outside of the Christian community and deserve condemnation and apologies. I will address that later. Let me first summarize this majority position.
Douglas Wilson recently said something in a sermon that may serve as the quote of the year. To paraphrase Pastor Wilson, he essentially said that it’s easy for us today to applaud the troublemakers like John the Baptist because they are dead; they are no longer causing trouble. In other words, so many of the men of Scripture would embarrass us today. They are troublemakers. The apostle Paul and John the Baptist were not known for community outreach, discipleship programs, buying their neighbors lunch, or inviting co-workers to friendly Bible study environments. That’s in no way a condmnation of those things, it’s just simply a look at the difference in prefferred methodology from between those men and the Church in America. John the Baptist preached sin and repentance to the masses. He was later so persistent and judgmental his head was cut off. I repeat: he was beheaded because he refused to not rebuke and judge someone else’s blatant sin. The apostle Paul’s ministry can be summed up by walking into the synagogues and reasoning/debating/arguing for multiple consecutive days with all those who would listen. It consisted of Paul judging their objects of worship and rebuking their idols to the masses (Acts 17). Loudly, publicly, and boldly, many New Testament heroes preached the Gospel and rebuked sin. We can clap; they’re dead now. We must however, crucify all those who continue to reflect that apostolic/prophetic behavior (or at least apologize for it). With all respect for my brother in Christ, I do not believe Nate would be a fan of John the Baptist, Paul or Isaiah if they were around today.
What the issue ultimately comes to is our inability to properly discern and distinguish what specifically needs to be apologized for without huge broad strokes that disregard Godly behavior along with the undesirable. The fact remains that there are plenty of street and campus preachers that don’t represent biblical Christianity. I can make that claim on the basis of theological exegesis; not methodology. When we disregard the methodology, we disregard the apostles and the prophets. If Nate ever reads this, that is my brotherly suggestion. Condemn the theology. Prove your criticisms exegetically. Yes, some behavior like name calling should be condemned, but rebuking sin is not name calling. When you simply apologize for their tone or their preaching in public or their judgments, you condemn Godly men in the process. We have been so embarrassed by the Godly men who boldly bring the Gospel to the streets that we have given believers and unbelievers alike the excuse and permission to disregard and judge any and all who stand in the public area doing what the apostles did. Every time we condemn “street preaching” as a whole without specification, we do condemn “brother Jed”, but we also condemn Paul Washer. We are glad to condemn Reuben Israel, but we then also condemn Sye Ten Bruggencate. We love to condemn Kerrigan Skelly, but we then condemn Jon Speed. Apologize for Jesse Morrell, but simultaneously and needlessly apologize for Chris Sipply. Men like Washer, Bruggencate, Sipply and Speed along with men like Jeff Durbin, Tony Miano, Mark Spence, Ray Comfort, Mike Stockwell, Robert Gray and many others are boldly and lovingly bringing the Gospel to thousands of people. But so many in the church are so vehemently against open air preaching that they carelessly lump all preachers into this nasty category and all of their works are stained. Tragically for the wicked, these men are stained. The people who hear the Gospel and need it have been given permission to dismiss Godly preachers as nut-job haters because the Church itself so strongly despises the Biblical model of reaching the world. I can condemn Kerrigan Skelly, Brother Jed and the likes on the basis of their theology. Their denial of Lordship salvation, original sin and the sufficiency of grace, along with their acceptance of sinless perfectionism give me a Biblical means to apologize for them without rebuking Gospel preachers. I do not say this for Nate. I don’t know his heart. But I do know my own. I used to hate public preaching as well. However, I can reflect now an see that I did so because I needed to justify my own lack of urgency and my own unwillingness to bring the Gospel to the lost. Not many people heard the Gospel from my couch. I fear many people today are emblematic of that same jealousy.
In part two of this blog series I will make comments on the content of the letter for the purpose of establishing the errors of our church’s new take on the “gospel of love” which has infiltrated the pews. It is vital to read that part. That is where I will make my complaints specific and I will clarify my concern. It is not disrespectful to criticize a brother in Christ without a willingness or ability to offer practical, tangible advice. Criticism without remedy is gossip. I believe Nate is a believer. I would like to lovingly suggest he change his outlook and adapt a new method of how to apologize for people who misrepresent the Lord we both adore, along with many Godly and judgmental street preachers.