Asphalt Assault

In a recent blog article, Pastor Chris Anderson shared the contents of an email sent to him. It contained an interesting question and answer. “What do high flying BMX, skateboarding, and high powered rock & roll have to do with Christianity? Everything if you’re wanting to reach the so-called unreachable with the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The email was an advertisement for an event called Asphalt Assault which claims to have seen “almost 100 kids come to know Christ.”

Not expecting many to read our comments, another pastor and I made humorous comments about the event. Then came the unexpected. The organizer of the tour found the article and expressed his displeasure with our comments. After sparring with him about the questionable methods used by his group, one of his friends used Philippians 1:18 to defend the group’s method to reach the lost.

Andy, you quote Paul. I’m pretty sure this is the same Paul that wrote, “But what does it matter? The IMPORTANT thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” If then, the motive of these guys IS pure, who are you to mock?

That is a good question. Was it wrong for me to mock a fellow brother in Christ whose motives are right but his methods are questionable? In other words, if your motive is right, does it really matter how you go about your task? The answer to that question is very important. If a right motive is all that matters, then the method becomes irrelevant … or does it? Before we tackle that question, let’s take a look at the passage quoted above.

What was Paul trying to communicate?

Read Philippians 1:12-18, and you will see the full context of Paul’s words. He was writing the epistle while under house arrest in Rome. He wanted his readers to know that his imprisonment was not a negative thing. He rejoiced in what had happened because he saw the gospel being furthered by his imprisonment. And then, he gives two examples of good that happened as a result: the soldiers who guarded him were able to hear about Christ (13), and other Christians were now preaching the gospel with boldness (14).

But something bad also came as a result. Among those believers who were freely preaching the gospel were some with improper motives. Paul says that they preached “from envy and strife” (15). For some unspecified reason, they were hoping to make Paul feel worse than he did … by preaching the gospel. Whatever their personal rift with Paul, their plan didn’t work. Instead of becoming discouraged, Paul rejoiced that the gospel was being preached despite their bad motives.

The importance of the gospel and its proclamation so outweighed any personal considerations that he would not cloud the issue by insisting on settling personal grievances. … As long as the antagonism was only personal, Paul could rejoice that the greater purpose of disseminating the gospel was being served. Even when some of the preaching was actually a pretext, utilized to camouflage attacks on Paul, the apostle took the magnanimous view that affronts to himself could be ignored, provided that the truth of the gospel of Christ was proclaimed.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 11, p. 112

Paul had no doubts as to the message being proclaimed by his antagonists. If he did, he would have mentioned it right away (see Gal. 2:4-5). Hearing that the gospel was being preached caused Paul’s heart to rejoice. Because of that, any personal attacks against him were insignificant so long as they gospel was being faithfully proclaimed. His thoughts can be summed up by the following principle: Don’t allow personal attacks to take away your joy. It is important to note that Paul was not overlooking the sinfulness of bad attitudes, he was merely not allowing them to take away his joy that the gospel was being preached despite his imprisonment.

What was Paul not trying to communicate?

In the comments made about Asphalt Assault and its methods, its defenders seem to convey a troubling philosophy. By quoting Philippians 1:18, they seem to think that the preaching of the gospel is the key to determining the acceptability of any given method. As long as the gospel is preached in its entirety, the methods used are irrelevant. As mentioned earlier, their methods involve “high flying BMX, skateboarding, and high powered rock & roll” to draw in the “unreachable” to hear the gospel. And because over one hundred people came to Christ, they see this as evidence that the Lord has blessed their ministry. Are they right? I don’t think so.

Paul was not condoning the bad attitudes of his antagonists. In fact, if you continue to read the rest of the chapter he points out the need to live in a way that exemplifies the gospel.

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.

Philippians 1:27

Paul was not ignoring the need for a godly example when preaching the gospel. He was concerned with the attitudes and actions of the Philippian believers because he believed it was possible to live in a way that was unworthy of the gospel. As one commentator puts it, Christians “must conduct their lives in a manner appropriate to the gospel of Christ” (Expositor’s 118). Please note that the same Paul who disregarded the bad attitudes of certain men, also pointed out the need for a godly life that exemplifies what the gospel produces.

This is especially important because one’s life speaks as much as his message. For example, an overweight doctor is the wrong one to advertise a healthy diet and exercise. While his message may be exactly what you need to hear, his unhealthy lifestyle makes his message ineffective.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a life changing message. Through faith in Christ and repentance toward God, a sinner is forgiven and becomes a child of God. His life is completely changed by the Lord (2 Cor. 5:17). He has a completely different attitude toward his former life. He has a desire to please the Lord above all else. He longs to obey the commands given to him in the Bible. He wants others to know about the Lord Jesus. And the list could go on for a long time. I think you get the picture.

Unfortunately, the actions of certain groups such as Asphalt Assault present a mixed message. While they admit to preaching repentance and faith, their presentation of the gospel is wrapped in a package that says otherwise. Is rock music (known for its immoral rhythm and disdain for self-control) an appropriate vehicle with which to preach the gospel? I don’t think so. Turn down the volume and watch Freshman 15‘s keyboard player in the following video (0:49) as an example of someone out of control.

Conclusion:

I have no doubt that a presentation such as this will draw in many skateboarders. And from my interaction with Ryan and the team members, it is apparent that they desire to preach faith and repentance to their audience. However, I am still opposed to their show because of the mixed message it presents. In my opinion, it contradicts the message of a life change by using worldly (1 John 2:15-17) means to promote the gospel. And because of that, I do not rejoice that the gospel is preached in this way. Instead, I pray that the Holy Spirit will overrule and save some despite the methods being used.

6 thoughts on “Asphalt Assault

  1. Anonymous

    Is rock music an appropriate vessel? You might not think so…if that’s the case, you knock out pretty much any modern-day Christian artist. Skillet, Pillar, Relient K, Audio Adrenaline, even groups or artists like the David Crowder Band, Chris Tomlin, Big Daddy Weave or Michael W. Smith! You might want to think about that…

  2. Andy Rupert

    Anonymous,

    I used to listen to that kind of music. But as I compared the methods and philosophy to the Scriptures, I concluded that it was not truly honoring to the Lord.

    FWIW, I’ve expressed my thoughts about a band I used to listen to in this article.

  3. D HeMan

    What music did Jesus listen to?

    What method of evangelism is the RIGHT one? think context and culture here. In the dark ages, only chanting was allowed in churches…singing was forbidden. Do you sing today? why the change? then, music was only played in 5ths, 3rds were considered “evil.”

    If i walk into your church or ministry. Are there pews? Books? overhead projectors? Electrical instruments? (the Amish would applaud here if they owned a computer) A pulpit? carpet? a building? NONE of these were in Paul’s “Method” of evangelism.

    Andy, you love to study. we are different. We must agree to disagree. I too pray that the Holy Spirit can draw people to Christ through you. I just think you’re making it harder for God (that’s a joke…don’t waste 5 hours studying and refuting it).

    I leave again to reach broken people and turn them back to Christ. I’m an evangelist. I don’t disciple, the church does that. We each have our gifts and niche in the Body.

    God is the great physician, so let’s pray he cuts out what is ineffective and non-fruit-producing. We will all be judged for our works one day…I am not ashamed of spending my life preaching the Gospel in the methods, stages, public schools, and churches that i visit. I pray you too will stand ready for that same judgment.

    “Unkempt doo”

  4. Andy Rupert

    Several things need to be cleared up:

    1. The fact that I am opposed to an unbiblical method doesn’t mean that I am unconcerned about the lost. They still need Christ, but they need to hear him in a way that God approves. And contrary to popular trends, the Father must draw people to himself or any of our efforts are useless (John 6:44).

    2. While culture does change, truth does not. While history may be helpful in pointing out the beliefs of the past, it is the sure Word of God that gives us the inerrant foundation for our beliefs. If something today is leading people into a “worldly” Christianity (1 John 2:15-17), you can be sure that our Lord Jesus was opposed to it.

    3. I, too, have served as an evangelist and am currently serving as asn assistant pastor. We both know the need to study the Scriptures. Without the Bible there is no hope of knowing what God loves or hates. So, despite the heated conversation, do your best to answer opposing views with the Scriptures. It may take five hours as you suggested. But without that study, we have only “my two cents” to offer each other. What good is that?

  5. dale

    While I may agree to a certain level (a low level) with you, Mr Doo (I won’t say I totally side with your positions), Andy makes absolutely solid arguments from the Scriptures, and I would take it a step further. My question is, “Where do YOU draw the line?” Example (please, this is only an example)- “Let me get down and fire one up (ie- a doobie [marijuana cigaret], for those unfamiliar with the phrase) with you so long as I can win you to Christ”, or “Let’s get high and talk about God”?

    How far do we go: in music (and I listen to CCM and know all the groups to which are referred), in clothing, in styles (do we pierce ourselves, get tats, etc)? Do people really respond to Christ, the hipness of the method, or the entertainment? There has to be a distinction: holiness v the allure of the gimmick. Yes, the Gospel can be presented via the arena of entertainment, but to what degree? One that cheapens God or the message of the Cross? Many disagree as to where that line is, but, come on, do we really believe that teens and young adults are really seeing a difference in what you folks are doing and what they are already involved with apart from Christ? Huge diff, my friend. I’d rather get the Gospel from some one who handles it with care, holiness, and discernment; presenting Christ as the vicarious atonement for sin rather than as some hip dude who loves to board (nothing wrong with that, maybe Christ would be a skateboard kind of person, humanly speaking). But somewhere in the presentation, Christ gets de-divinicized (sorry, just made that up) and his atonement gets overshadowed by the entertainment value of what you are presenting. If there is no clear distinction between Christ and the world, what use does he have? I’m sorry. That’s just the way I see it.

    BTW, I love folks in the culture to whom you minister! They come to my Adult Ed/GED classes every day! In fact, some even come to my classes stoned out of their minds (gentle folk who are just stoned: can’t turn them away unless they become a threat). I love them, and every now and then (praise God more often than not) I get an opportunity to witness to them (it’s great to discuss Scripture, and some are eager to know about Christ), but they know where I stand on cultural issues (after last Halloween, boy, do they know!). But I don’t hang out with them “firing it up”, get myself a good tat, punk my hair, get a piercing, or blast metal, hip-hop or electronica while speaking of the holiness of God.

    Is this what we have come to in trying to lead folks to the Savior?

  6. dale

    One other thing (sorry). Jesus hung out with sinners (yes) so much the Pharisees called him a sinner. But he certainly did not act like one nor stoop to their level in his appearence or behavior. He was criticized for associating with them, not for behaving like them.

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