My review and critique of J. Warner Wallace’s article “When evangelism looks like a protest”

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A colleague asked me to read and comment on J. Warner Wallace’s below article, which he published on April 24th, 2017. After reading this article, I decided to make my comments public. I have much more to say, but to avoid being too critical, I will refrain from many comments. But first is Wallace’s article.

“Recently, while visiting a local beach city here in Southern California, I watched a group of street evangelists as they talked to tourists in front of a liquor store. I’ll admit that I’m not usually involved in street preaching. It’s definitely an acquired skill; some people are really good at it (Ray Comfort comes to mind immediately), but others are not as gifted. This particular group of Christians was walking back and forth on the sidewalk carrying signs displaying Bible verses and proclaiming the wrath of God toward those who won’t repent and toward those who refuse to accept Christ’s offer of salvation. While the messages were Biblically accurate, I couldn’t help but think that their approach was a bit “off-putting.”

Many years ago our youth group encountered a street evangelist who took a similar approach. His efforts were often met with great resistance; his signs were brutally direct. I wondered if the message was the problem, so we tried crafting signs that were more “inviting” and less provocative. Our efforts met with the same response. We were heckled, resisted and abused. Even when our signs were worded so carefully that we nearly lost the exclusive truth of the Gospel, people still found our efforts offensive. Finally a young man on the street asked the question that illuminated the problem: “What are all you people protesting?” The question caught me off-guard. “We’re not protesting anything,” I said, re-reading our signs carefully in an attempt to understand how he could misinterpret our efforts. But his question made perfect sense.

Even though our “words” were not “words of protest”, our “actions” were “actions of protest.” Think about it for a minute. If I told you I saw a group of people walking back and forth in a limited geographic area carrying signs and talking to anyone who was willing to engage them, what would you think I was describing? A picket line? A protest event? We have a cultural context for this kind of behavior; it is the behavioral language of protest. Before I even get close enough to see what’s written on those signs, I’ve already started to interpret the behavior of the group and it’s not a favorable interpretation. Protestors are generally regarded as angry people who want an injustice to be righted. Most of us want to avoid protestors and few of us think of picket lines as the location where winsome interaction is likely to occur.

As I watched the efforts of that local Christian group of street evangelists, I couldn’t help but believe they limited their impact by using those signs. They took the time to carefully craft the language of the text on the placards without considering the language of their actions as sign holders. After my own experience using signs to proclaim a message on the streets of Utah, I’ve decided to think carefully about the perception created by this approach. While I never want to sacrifice the direct, exclusive and honest message of the Gospel, there’s no sense in adding offense. I don’t want my evangelism to look like a protest.” [1]

The following is a synopsis of my observations of Wallace’s above article.

In this article Wallace wrote about an observation that he made, when he observed some evangelists standing outside a liquor store in Huntington Beach, holding signage with Gospel messages. In his article Wallace complained about their signage, that it looked more like a “protest,” and he was very critical of their methods.

First let me begin with this compliment to Wallace. I can appreciate that Wallace is defending the faith as an apologist. Some have stated that Wallace is a great speaker, and after watching one of his presentations (online), I would agree that Wallace is very well-spoken. However as the Prince of Preachers Charles H. Spurgeon said, “Let eloquence be flung to the dogs rather than souls be lost. What we want is to win souls. They are not won by flowery speeches.” In other words, the content of the message is more important than the method.

First and foremost please understand that I do not know the Theology or Doctrines of the aforementioned evangelists that Wallace spoke ill about. Therefore I cannot endorse them. However it would be equally wrong for me to criticize them.

Secondly, it’s a shame that in just one day Wallace’s article has received 2,499 views. I say that because Wallace is training (or discipling) the church away from orthodoxy, and he is moving many progressively forward via the emergent, purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, user-friendly movement. By his own admission, in previous posts Wallace admits to being heavily influenced by Rick Warren (which includes being on Staff at Warren’s church).

My critique of the article:
My first observation is the photo that Wallace chose to use for this article. It is deceiving as it gives the impression that this is what the Christians looked like. In other words, Wallace is publicly defaming Christ’s bride for doing the work of an evangelist.

Wallace admits these evangelists were “talking to tourists” in front of a liquor store. Therefore they are not just “Protestors,” but evidently they are doing the work of an evangelist.

Wallace admits that he lacks knowledge of, and experience in street preaching. Therefore we have a ‘novice’ judging those that are perhaps more experienced.

He then stated “It’s definitely an acquired skill; some people are really good at it (Ray Comfort comes to mind immediately), but others are not as gifted.”

This is not a man-centered “skill” or vocation that men become merely “good at.” Evangelism is a calling and a commandment. And if they are preaching and/or teaching the Word of God, then it is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Wallace appears to be man-centered, and if anything we do is “good,” it is only by the grace of a sovereign God. As the Scriptures warn, we must always give all the glory to the Lord, and never to man.

And who does Wallace refer to as the person that does evangelism right (according to Wallace)? Ray Comfort. So here we go again. Another Christian claiming that Ray Comfort is the model for doing it the correct way, and just about everyone else is wrong. Yes the Lord has used Comfort in great ways, but Comfort has also caused many to stray away from orthodox evangelism. Regarding some of the methods Comfort uses, I would encourage you to read my blog post entitled “A Christians Critique on Ray Comforts “180” Movie,”  In the footnotes, of this same blog post, I also included Jack Hibbs 2014 interview of Ray Comfort, which is full of unbiblical and/or extra biblical methods.

In his article Wallace also complains, “This particular group of Christians was walking back and forth on the sidewalk carrying signs displaying Bible verses and proclaiming the wrath of God toward those who won’t repent and toward those who refuse to accept Christ’s offer of salvation. While the messages were Biblically accurate, I couldn’t help but think that their approach was a bit “off-putting.”

For the record it’s important for me to say that probably 98% of the time I evangelize, I do not use signage, but I’m not opposed to those that use Gospel-centered / Christ-centered signage. It’s been proven to be very effective. There are some signs out there that I am opposed to, but if they are Bible verses and Gospel warnings, then praise the Lord. Wallace even admits that the signs these evangelists use are Scriptural, but he complains that “their approach was a bit off-putting.”

Regarding the “wrath of God” the Bible is very clear in verse 36 of John chapter three, that everyone who is not born-again according to verses 3-5, are clearly under the wrath of God. And Jesus warned “repent” or “perish” (Luke 13:3). At least these men loved the lost enough to warn them of this Biblical truth. Wallace admits they are Biblically accurate, but complains they are “off-putting.” Perhaps by his own admission he is opposed to Biblical evangelism.

Wallace is a retired police officer, therefore I know that he knows what a “dying death declaration” is. Has he forgotten about the dying death declaration that the Apostle Paul gave shortly before he died? Just before the Apostle Paul was martyred, in Acts 20:25-31, he gave the following dying death declaration.

“And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the ‘whole counsel’ of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”

We are commanded to teach the whole counsel of God, which would include the wrath of God. Therefore the Apostle Paul does not have the blood of men on his hands, and perhaps neither will these evangelists outside that liquor store. But it doesn’t look good for Wallace.

Wallace needs to get his eyes off of men, and back on Christ and His sufficient Scriptures.

Regarding these men allegedly being “off-putting.” There’s nothing we can do to push the non-saved further away from Christ. It says in Ephesians 2:1-9, that before we were saved, we were “DEAD” in our trespasses. That word dead is the Greek word “Nekros” which is where we get our modern words necrophiliac, necrophilia, and necromancer from. Men that are not saved are Nekros, they are as dead as a corpse in a grave, and they are unable to rise from their grave. Unless the Father draws them, and the Son redeems them, and the Holy Spirit regenerates them, dead men can do nothing, nor can the dead be pushed further away.

As I’ve stated before “Salvation is a supernatural ‘miracle’ and work of the Lord, not of ourselves. To be more specific, salvation is the Divine work of the Holy Trinity. Salvation comes to others as the Father draws (gives) them to His Son (John 6:37-44; 17:2, 6, 9, 24), through the redemptive work of Christ (John 10:15, Heb 9:11-28, Eph. 5:25b), as the Holy Spirit regenerates their heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 3:5-8, Titus 3:5-6, Rom 2:29; cf 2 Tim. 2:25, 2 Cor. 4:6, John 10:27, Acts 16:14, John 1:13).” And this is accomplished by the preaching (or reading) of the glorious Gospel (Roms 1:16).

Wallace stated, “Many years ago our youth group encountered a street evangelist who took a similar approach. His efforts were often met with great resistance; his signs were brutally direct. I wondered if the message was the problem, so we tried crafting signs that were more “inviting” and less provocative. Our efforts met with the same response. We were heckled, resisted and abused. Even when our signs were worded so carefully that we nearly lost the exclusive truth of the Gospel, people still found our efforts offensive.”

What’s wrong with being “brutally direct?” In Revelation 21:8, our Lord Jesus brutally warned the lost, that they will spend an eternity in the lake of fire. It warns in Revelation 20:14-15 that Jesus will cast (ballō  them with intense violence) them into the lake of fire. But Jesus doesn’t stop there, He brutally tells them that this will be their second death. There are many articles and videos out there that display just how brutally direct Christ was and still is. Do you suppose that when Christ returns on His white horse, that He might be “brutally direct?”

We must be careful to not form Jesus into a figment of our own imagination, rather we must submit to the image of Jesus as the Christ (according to the Gospel).

Where in the Bible does it say that we are to be more “inviting” and less provocative” as Wallace states?

Wallace then complains that when he once used signage, he was “heckled, resisted and abused.” Wallace’s web site states he has a Master’s degree in Theology, but this article gives the appearance that he has never read the book of Acts. Has he not read how our heroes of the faith in the Bible were “heckled, resisted, and abused?” Oh and I forgot – they were KILLED as well. Has he not read Foxes Book of Martyrs? Does he not know that today a Christian is martyred every five minutes? Does he not know that Biblical evangelism, produces hecklers, resistance, and abuse? Does he now know that Jesus foretold that the world would hate Christians (John 15:18-27).

Wallace shares a memory of when he did evangelize using signage, that a person asked him “What are all you people protesting?” I will agree with Wallace that some signage does look more like a “protest.” When I think of Westboro, or a few other street preachers, that truly are more like ‘protesters,’ rather than ‘proclaimers’ of the Gospel. Nonetheless, as long as they are preaching the true Gospel, I don’t care what the world thinks.

Wallace then writes about the “behavior” of these evangelists, that their Gospel centered signage displays a negative “behavioral language.” That is a bunch of psycho-babble. Is Wallace a psychologist or a Christian?

I do agree with Wallace’s following statement. “While I never want to sacrifice the direct, exclusive and honest message of the Gospel, there’s no sense in adding offense. I don’t want my evangelism to look like a protest.” However Wallace does not set the standard, Scripture does. And our heroes of early church history have set a good example.

Jesus said that if we love the things of this world, the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15-17). James said that friendship with the world is enmity with the Lord (James 4:4-5). Paul said that we’re not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12). I choose to follow Christ, not Wallace’s purpose-driven ways.

Biblical evangelism is not pretty, sometimes it gets downright ugly and dirty.

In closing, as one dear friend said to me this morning, “Professional, polished speakers of the Gospel in air conditioned, comfortable churches are in a whole different world than street preachers. That’s just reality. It isn’t book of Acts Christianity, though. And that’s what American Evangelicalism needs to return to. But at this point in history, I don’t think it will. We are in His hands.”

And as I’ve said before, it is the Heralds or boots in the streets that work in stressful, unsafe, unpredictable, uncontrolled, unrehearsed, and even dangerous work environments, all of which is done free of salary.

Lastly the most important remark or contribution that I can give to my colleagues inquiry, is what the Scripture says about agreeing or disagreeing with some preachers. For that article and video, click here.


[1] Cold-Case Christianity with J. Warner Wallace, When evangelism looks like a protest, http://coldcasechristianity.com/2017/when-evangelism-looks-like-a-protest/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20ColdCaseChristianity%20(Cold%20Case%20Christianity) (Accessed on April 25th, 2017)

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Video of my friend Ronnie being attacked while preaching at the March for Science in Seattle: Preacher hit from behind & Satanic Temple marching but THE LORD REIGNS! (Warning profanities)

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In the first 30 seconds you will see a Satanist wearing Easter bunny ears aggressively assault my friend Ronnie Cardiel. Take note that as soon as Ronnie recovers from this attack, he rejoices saying “Oh praise God, thank You Lord!” This is the book of Acts in action. Recover – Rejoice – and Regroup. This is a good example for other street preachers. This is Biblical love in action (Eph 5:1-21), and Biblical meekness (Matt 5:5 – power under restraint or control).

Moreover, you won’t see Ronnie on Facebook later crying “I’ve been persecuted.” I’ve seen one street preacher from my So Calif area consistently complain on Facebook, even to the point of crying “I’ve been persecuted,” when receiving a traffic citation from the police.

Brother Ronnie is a good example of Biblical manhood. Having said that, I would never be disappointed in a preacher that decides to tactically retreat, as I’ve done before (Acts 17:6-7).

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Video of a smoking beggar asking for money for food

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Thankfully a brother donated a large amount of these McDonald’s gift cards to IPOC Ministries, and I’ve been parsimonious in distributing them. Don’t you wish our Government was that way with our tax dollars?

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Video open-air preaching Reconciliation & Christ’s Imputation at a Government facility

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I preached a message on ‘Reconciliation to the Father & the Imputation of Christ.’ The authorities ordered me to leave this location. However I was within the law, but they still called the police. Either way I was gone before the police arrived.

I confirmed via one witness (a crossing guard), that the sermon was heard at the end of this very long line. That is good to know as I am very careful to not use too much volume. I managed to evangelize three locations this morning. Prayers up!

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The three disciplines of preaching, by Dr. Johnny James (a must watch sermon excerpt)

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This is a 5-minute excerpt from Dr. James sermon entitled, ‘How to preach and help nobody.” Dr. Johnny James preached this message back in 2001, today he is 87 years old, and is still doing the Lord’s work. I retyped his opening comments below, it is Theologically brilliant.

“I want to preach about preaching. Now there are three disciplines under the umbrella of Theology that deal with preaching. These three disciplines are hermeneutics, homiletics, and apologetics. Hermeneutics is the science of preaching. Homiletics is the art of preaching, and apologetics is the proof of preaching. So a preacher should be hermeneutically accurate, homiletically natural, and apologetically convincing. In other words, the preacher should exegete the Scripture correctly, use their own natural style, convince the saints to straighten up, and fly right. And convince the sinner to come clean, or stay away dirty. That’s what preaching will do.” – Dr. Johnny James (aka The Walking Bible).

I appreciate that he said the preaching should “convince the sinner to come clean, or stay away dirty.” Today under the pretext of “evangelism,” a majority of churches are going out into the world, inviting the lost worldlings to their church, and then they claim that their church is “growing.” Consequently their ‘church’ becomes unhealthy, and more like the world, rather than more like the bride of Christ.

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Video Defining a Healthy Church, by Dr. J. I. Packer

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Though Dr. Packer’s list is not exhaustive, I say amen. A special amen on “holiness,” and “to share the Gospel,” and “an outward look worldwide.” However I do not believe that ‘outward’ is going out, to invite worldlings inside your church, and I’m sure Dr. Packer would agree. Lastly, one of the reasons why we have so many parachurch ministries today, is because many churches are not healthy. Hence, many parachurch ministries are doing what many local churches will not.

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Video of an exhortation to study the Word of God on your own

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In this video I share some of my Bible study tools, and an exhortation to study the Word of God on your own.

Correction: I truly chopped up the years / centuries. My commentaries go back as far as the 1500’s.

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Video evangelizing a nude bar offering Easter specials & an atheist bouncer

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This was from last weeks week long ‘ABC & VICE enforcement’ Gospel campaign. Frankly I spent too much time talking to this bouncer, and this is the short version. But then again, there was not a lot of customers coming in and out, so at least it was not a waste of time. What I should have done, was just ‘stand and preach,’ but instead perhaps I fell on my own sword. As said before “I’m a Herald, not a negotiator.” There is absolutely no power in my apologetics, nor my reasoning; but the GOSPEL is the power of God onto salvation (Rom 1:16). Say a prayer for this man, and others that received Gospel tracts.

“Some talk of it as an unreasonable thing to fright persons to heaven; but I think it is a reasonable thing to endeavor to fright persons away from hell, that stand upon the brink of it, and are just read to fall into it, and are senseless of their danger; ’tis a reasonable thing to fright a person out of a house on fire.”- Jonathan Edwards

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of George Whitefield, “They must not wait for souls to come to them. They must go after souls, and compel them to come in. He [Whitefield] did not sit tamely by his fireside…. He dived into holes and corners after sinners. He hunted out people, and their sin, that he might present Christ to them.”

“We are not to preach merely to those who come to listen. We must carry the Gospel to where men do not desire it. We should consider it our business to be generously impertinent—thrusting the Gospel into men’s way—whether they will hear or whether they will not.” Charles Spurgeon.

At-least this Atheist bouncer didn’t have white supremacist tattoos on his arm, like the bouncer from this nude bar.

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Music video of ‘This week’s ABC & VICE enforcement (a Gospel campaign)’ – God’s gonna cut you down

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With the world nearing a thermo-nuclear war, as North Korea has placed California specifically in her target, the least and best I can do is sound the trumpet, and warn the masses of Gods wrath, and eternal hellfire. But sadly most people were just like in the days of Noah. They were eating and drinking, marrying, partying, sinning, and most did not consider the Ark (Matthew 24:37-39). These are exciting times to be a Christian. Remember the Bible doesn’t tell us to go out and invite people to church. We’re commanded to go out and preach (or share) the Gospel, and invite them to Christ.

This video depicts a week long campaign sharing the Gospel at ABC establishments, and know VICE locations. From bars, to XXX porno shops, to liquor stores, to nude bars, to psychics. It consists of an excerpt from one location of each above category. Sooner or later, God’s gonna cut you down.

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:8).

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:8-9).

“Some talk of it as an unreasonable thing to fright persons to heaven; but I think it is a reasonable thing to endeavor to fright persons away from hell, that stand upon the brink of it, and are just read to fall into it, and are senseless of their danger; ’tis a reasonable thing to fright a person out of a house on fire.”- Jonathan Edwards

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of George Whitefield, “They must not wait for souls to come to them. They must go after souls, and compel them to come in. He [Whitefield] did not sit tamely by his fireside…. He dived into holes and corners after sinners. He hunted out people, and their sin, that he might present Christ to them.”

“We are not to preach merely to those who come to listen. We must carry the Gospel to where men do not desire it. We should consider it our business to be generously impertinent—thrusting the Gospel into men’s way—whether they will hear or whether they will not.” – Charles Spurgeon.

The edited version one of the nude bars, can be viewed here.

Music by Johnny Cash, God’s gonna cut you down.

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Video ministering to a robbery – assault victim (graphic)

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While evangelizing I was the ‘first responder’ to assist them in an assault / attempt robbery. I was so concerned in getting to him, that I jumped some curbs to save time, but I then learned the suspect had already driven away. When I got to him, he was just coming out of unconsciousness. Later I began to witness to them, I then learned they are Christians (didn’t even read his Christian hat). Though he was in lots of pain, he never once complained, nor curse. When the ‘church’ is not congregating in our buildings, we need to be on the highways, the hedges, and in gutters.

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An audio sermon for the funeral of Betty Smith, by Officiant Bill Rhetts

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On behalf of this wonderful family, by the grace of God, the Lord gave me the courage to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:24-35), and both the goodness and severity of God (Romans 11:22). I began this sermon sharing the fruitful ‘life and legacy’ of this wonderful saint (Betty). I also shared some things that Betty allowed me to share at her funeral. I then preached the Sermon, which included both the Law (the bad news), and the Gospel (the good news). I called the lost to repentance, and to believe in the Gospel that I had just preached. I then closed with a particular Doxology.

So that I would not mislead any non-believers present, I explained to those in attendance that many of the Scriptures I would share, come with an exclusivity applicable only to Christians, and I reminded them of that, as those Scriptures were recited.

After seeing Betty during the viewing, and then seeing her large family gathered together, I told them something they did not know (except for one of them). That Betty’s husband (James) was the first person to ever share the Gospel with me. Therefore I am forever indebted to this great family.

The Lord pressed it on my heart to preach on some things that are not preached at most funerals. Therefore hell was mention 9 times, wrath 9, the word repent 12, and the words born-again 8 times. If my sermon pleased the Lord, then I know Betty would be pleased too. Please continue to pray for all of them. Soli Deo Gloria!

The Sermon in Mp3 can be heard hear, or preferably via the YouTube video below Betty Smiths funeral

Click here for Betty Smiths funeral - by Bill Rhetts     

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Video open-air preaching ‘I was an enemy of Christ,’ at the Train Station

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I’m learning to use new software, the video freezes, but only for a moment. Here I preached on the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, as He shed-out and bled-out His blood for those that would become saved.

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