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.
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.
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.