Along with our desire to lift up biblical truth to a world that will do practically anything to flee its implications, we knew that there would be a big concentration of spiritually lost Catholics participating in the annual Corpus Christi procession (parade). I met my regular preaching partner, Ednilson, in the part of downtown Rio where we normally preach. We carried the two banners we alternately use in our weekly preaching ventures and a bag of evangelistic tracts to the sidewalk along the parade route - just in time for the arrival of the first batch of parade-goers!
I had assumed that an all-Catholic crowd would be less hostile toward us than the Catholic-Spiritist mix normally present at the St. George Festival we preached at in April. Boy was I mistaken! Now for the "play-by-play":
Ednilson held our "You deserve hell" banner - complete with Rev. 21:8 (to justify the affirmation above it) - while I held the 10 Commandments banner and preached with my bullhorn. Things were going pretty smoothly while everyone in the procession, including the archbishop of Rio de Janeiro (click here to see a powerful slide show depicting the deception present in Catholicism), had the opportunity to read our banners and hear our preaching. But as the procession passed us the crowd at the end fanned out, spilling over onto the sidewalk. Suddenly we were SURROUNDED! Ednilson had the tracts he was handing out knocked to the ground by an angry Catholic guy, while another man knocked our bag of tracts off a concrete shelf next to us. Later that same man tried to knock this bag of tracts out of my hand while I talked with a police officer!
Some women and other men started to get pretty hot under the collar over our being there - their faces were transformed with rage - so much so that the municipal guards came up to talk with us. I was thinking, "Okay, here we go! Time to pack it up and call it a day." Two guards began to pull our banners away from the crowds, insisting that we roll them up and put them away. I protested that we were on a public sidewalk and that the procession had already passed. I reminded them that if we had to pack it up and leave, our rights under the Brazilian equivalent to the First Amendment would be infringed upon. I tried to stress that their duty was to protect us from those who would deny us our constitutional rights as we exercised them. However, in our experience the authorities prefer to resolve this kind of problem by removing the source of it, especially since the source of the problem is usually in the minority.
While we were negotiating, three "higher ups" arrived and thankfully pulled the guards aside and apparently told them to back off. At that point two policemen came up to speak with me; I was expecting that they'd give us a hard time too. However, they were very understanding of our rights and only suggested that we move away from our spot to reduce the tension. I insisted that if we did that, it would be our rights that would be violated. They were cool.
Ednilson then reminded me that since the parade had already passed and the thousands in it had already read our banners and heard our preaching, we could pack it up. I agreed, so we moved to the side of a building to break down our banner frames, roll up our banners and put everything away. As we were packing our things another policeman came up and said he'd have to arrest us and put us in jail for "religious intolerance" if we showed up in the vicinity of the Corpus Christi rally at the end of the parade route. I asked him how our banners - with bible verses on them and being unfurled at a supposedly "Christian" event - could be considered "religious intolerance," but his response was just that it was, end of story! We decided not to test him since we had already been able to expose the whole crowd - several thousand people, including priests, nuns and Rio's archbishop - along the route.
Several "side shows" developed during the hour we were on the procession route:
1) We were joined by a Christian couple that was handing out tracts along the parade route. The woman told us later that she was punched and pushed by a Corpus Christi participant when things were getting heated.
2) Detecting my accent, one man attempted to silence me by questioning my being in Brazil legally; I assured him I was. It appears he has some friends in the Federal Police Department - which handles immigration issues - and he told me he'd be "keeping an eye on" me. I didn't give him my name or any other information, so I'm not sure how he plans on going about that!
3) My colleague, Ednilson, was jostled around a couple of times. Poor guy! In addition to being much smaller and skinnier than me, he preaches daily in that area, which makes him a natural target for abuse from the Catholics who don't have the courage to say or do anything when they're one-on-one with him. Being in the majority yesterday definitely gave some of them the courage to take their frustrations out on the smaller of the two preachers!
4) I was asked by a reporter to give my side of the story in light of the "confusion" we caused, but so far I haven't found anything online about what took place.
Although one may question the effectiveness of a confrontation over truth at a Catholic event, especially in light of the hostile reaction of some of the participants, I take a different view of this type of evangelistic approach. There's an old Indian proverb that goes something like this: "When you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps is the one that got hit." In other words, the more violent the reaction some may be having could indicate the level of divine conviction they're experiencing. Also, we cannot forget Isaiah 55:11, which affirms: "So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."
All in all the Corpus Christi preach went well. You can focus on the extreme reactions by a loud minority (only 20-30, tops), forgetting that the vast majority read, listened and kept walking. Even the Catholic leadership was confronted with the truth. The thing that stirred things up the most wasn't so much our message, but our presence. It's not politically correct today to attend events to protest against those events. Woe to the person who does so! I saw a video of 8 believers who silently protested with banners at the 2009 March for Jesus in SP. Their banners said "Let's Return to the Pure and Simple Gospel • The Show Has to Stop!" The "S" in "Show" was a dollar sign and the "o" was a one Real coin (i.e., the Brazilian currency).
The denomination that promotes this annual march all over Brazil is heavily into prosperity preaching, and its leaders had recently been in a U.S. jail for nearly a year for trying to take $56,000 into the U.S. without declaring it. How those protesters were booed, had things thrown on them and even had one of their banners destroyed! One leader was overheard egging the crowd on to attack and silence fellow Christians!
What is valued today above everything else is the avoidance of conflict over theology, doctrine and solid biblical exegesis. Yet Jude tells us to contend for the faith because what one believes has everything to do with his or her eternal destination. In other words, people's souls are at stake! Therefore, I feel compelled to confront erroneous beliefs and make no apologies about it. My challenge to fellow believers is to join a growing number of bold witnesses who "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints!" There's too much at stake, especially when one considers that Jesus' second coming could very well be right around the corner. Let's ask God for some holy boldness! Now is not the time to adopt the world's value of political correctness and its postmodern view of truth.
Do keep in mind that many will try to shut you up - even the Church! You'll hear things like, "You have to earn the right to be heard" or "You can't just preach to people! You have to become their friend first." You'll hear well-meaning but, may I add, fearful Christians tweaking the gospel to include social activism and justice. I'm all for justice, but I see no direct command to the Church to "Go into all the world and ensure that the poor are treated justly." I have yet to find a version of the Great Commission (c.f., Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:18-20, etc.) telling us we need to "Go into all the world and make the world a better place...." Besides, the world will become a better place as a result of bold evangelism. Take the Great Awakenings as examples. Profound social change inevitably accompanied gospel preaching. Why? Because genuine new converts took their new creation status seriously, righting wrongs, returning stolen goods, becoming more responsible at home, etc. It is a fact that the crime rate dropped so drastically in some municipalities that the city government had to find other things for the police to do! So don't tell me that the preaching of the Word along with a move of the Holy Spirit doesn't bring about profound social change. We must never deviate from keeping the main thing the main thing! The "main thing" is evangelism, and Satan will do anything and everything to keep the Church from doing what it's supposed to do.
You'll perhaps hear that you have to abandon biblical methods of evangelism, not to mention the biblical content of the gospel, in order to reach a postmodern generation. They'll ask you, "You don't want to scare them off, do you?" or inform you, "That worked back then, but not today." If that's true, then why are we commanded to preach the gospel? That is a method, not a principle! In other words, preaching the gospel is not only biblical, it's the biblical method for getting the gospel to people! You can argue all you want that Jesus was more concerned with getting the gospel out in any way possible vs. pushing a particular method, but what does the text say? PREACH! The burden of proof rests with those who try to explain away Jesus' clear teaching, but I'm sticking with the text. I believe “preaching” to be narrowly defined by the Word of God and the example of the holy men contained therein. The word “kerusso,” the most commonly used Greek word translated into the English word “preach” throughout the NT, literally means: a public crier, a herald, to proclaim and to publish. This is what the Prophets, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostles did, and likewise, it is what we should seriously consider doing (Prov. 1:20-33; Isa. 58:1). How about you? Of course, individual, one-on-one "preaching" is biblical as well (i.e., personal evangelism), as long as it takes the initiative to communicate the biblical gospel to an unbeliever. In other words, just as we cannot shy away from boldly preaching the gospel in the public square, we certainly cannot shy away from telling people individually of their true condition before a holy God (i.e., sinful, condemned), the consequences of that condition if they die in it (i.e., hell) and the provision God has made so that they don't have to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire (salvation through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior). After all, God is our audience, not men - especially a bunch of unbiblical, so-called "Christians" who seem more concerned about doing what is acceptable to the world (and the Church?) vs. pleasing God. We need to remember that we won't have to answer to the world or even to the Church at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We'll answer to God!
Here's a short music video by a Russian street preacher that is, in my opinion, a good apologetic for open air preaching (Click here if you'd like to watch it in wide screen.).
Excuse the rant, but I am becoming less patient with my critics. Maybe I should just be about my business and not bother, but I'm into truth, remember? And I see a lot of distortion of the truth going on in Christian circles. Let's just say I'm contending for the faith!