Burning Man Reminds Us to Preach the Gospel

This week marks the pagan festival held in northern Nevada known as “Burning Man.” For those who may not be familiar with this local event, literally thousands of people from all around the country will descend upon the Black Rock Desert a couple hours north of Reno. They will camp out in RV’s and tents, they will bring assorted foods, music and the like. But this is no ordinary camp out. It is a festival in which every individual’s personal belief system is put on full display. Literally, from the most basic camp out to full on pagan worship, a small society of ultra post-modernity sets itself up for a full week of personal celebration and worship of whatever you choose. The event culminates in the burning of a wooden statue where everybody congregates and celebrates this most sacred event.

However, it is not the debauched, pagan style celebratory worship that drives me to write this article, well, not entirely anyway. As I said, the Burning Man festival is literally the hallmark event of post modernism. Virtually every lifestyle choice and belief system is represented at this gathering. And were you to ask those attending how they felt about the competing beliefs being in all in the same place, they would tell you how wonderful it is to have such a non-judgmental environment where everyone could live as they chose without fear of being told they were wrong. In other words, Burning Man is the utopia of post-modernism. And post-modernism IS the religion of the United States. Those who promote this religion would be overjoyed to see the Burning Man mentality exist in every corner of our society.

My motivation here is not to bemoan the leftist, elitist mindset that drives post-modernism. Rather it is to challenge every single Christian with this thought: how did Burning Man become the Mecca of American “religion” while the Church is viewed as its “anti-christ?” The answer is, I believe, is this, we have faltered in Christ’s command to go forth and preach the gospel to every creature. Remember when we first understood that we were vile wretches that were at war with God through our wicked works. How we realized that in His just punishment, God would rightly send us to Hell. Yet God, in His mercy, pulled us from the fire and punished His Son Jesus Christ at the cross in our place! His shed blood covered our sins and His resurrection paved the path to Heaven for us. Through repentance and faith alone, both merciful gifts from our gracious Father, we received the amazing salvation that promises us eternity with Him! And then Christ commanded us to take the story of that salvation and to preach it to everyone we came in contact with. And what a blessing it would be to share it! To lead the lost, blind and dying to the very salvation they didn’t even know they needed!

Somewhere along the way, we stopped obeying that command. Where we once would not have thought twice about sharing this glorious message with anyone, we reigned back, we slowed down and we gave in. We stopped preaching the hard truth that the law brings condemnation, that it reveals we are not good people and that we deserve Hell. We started saying “God has a wonderful plan for your life,” or we decided we would just allow people to “see Jesus in us.” In doing so, we have exchanged the amazing gospel of Christ, a gospel that should cost us everything to follow, for cheap grace and easy believism! We have become content that evangelism is a spiritual gift for only some and not a command for all. As a result, the culture has plunged head long into the morass of sin and debauchery, into false “religiosity” and personal fulfillment. All the while, we have stood by with the very words of life that can rescue these perishing masses, yet failed to heed the call of our Captain into action.

It is altogether possible that, as you are reading this, you have dismissed my conclusion. If so, consider this, statistics tell us that merely 1% to 2% of professing Christians go out of their way to deliberately share the gospel with someone. That is a very telling number, even if one were to believe the polls which report the high percentages of “Christians” in the United States. In truth, it is likely many of those polled are more cultural Christians than truly bathed in the blood of Christ, born again of the Spirit believers. So that 1% to 2% gets even smaller, which means that a very scant number of truly born again Christian are out there carrying the weight of the command that the entire church is responsible to obey. With these small numbers acting as the evangelistic force for the church, is it that hard to imagine why the church holds so little influence in our culture today?

Yet, there are Christians who would insist that they are very evangelistic. They would point the numbers of people they have invited to church regularly to hear the preaching of the gospel by their pastor. While it is good to bring unsaved friends and loved ones to church, we must understand, this is not evangelism. It is the abdicating of one’s personal responsibility to seek out the lost and share the life giving elixir that is the gospel. Local churches are the place where the saved come together in corporate worship. They are led by the pastor in prayer and praise. They are edified and equipped under his teaching so that they may go out and do spiritual warfare in the world. To leave our responsibility to be proclaimers of the gospel solely to the pastor changes the very nature of the church gathering from corporate worship and edification to seeker friendlyism which sacrifices the content of the word for entertainment to keep the unsaved coming.

But one may point to something that is overtly evangelistic, such as their involvement in the large christian outreaches that gather untold thousands of lost and unregenerate people in one place to hear the gospel. While it is wonderful to see the efforts of so many people to brig the gospel to the world, in many cases, it is simply a repeat of bringing someone to church. Rather than going out into the world preaching the gospel, Christians invite the lost into one place where they will hear preaching by a few, or maybe even just one preacher. The energy and effort put into this gathering is all about getting the people there to hear someone else preach the message. I’m not discounting the genuine desire, and even countless hours of prayer, that Christians pour into this. But in the end, we abdicate the responsibility to someone else. And in truth, many of these events become big seeker friendly attractions where big bands, light shows and celebrity Christians attempt to woo the unsaved to making a “decision for Christ.” But when we look at the statistics, most of those people who make professions of faith never get plugged into a local church. They run around with a “Christian-buzz” for a while, but before long, they prove themselves to be rocky ground with no depth, or a plant choked out by the weeds. In other words, a false convert. One who left us, because he or she never really was of us.

Or maybe those in the church really do desire to get out on the streets to interact with people. So they set up food drives, or head out to feed and clothe the homeless. They hope to show those who are in desperate situations that they are loved by the Church. A noble effort to be sure, but more often than not, it is devoid of the preaching of the gospel. Those they help may be aware of a physical, temporal love in the here and now, but they are rarely, if ever, told that they more desperately need peace with God through Jesus Christ, because their sinful deeds are causing them to be at war with Him.

That’s how post modernism and events like Burning Man are the hallmark of excellence in our society, because Christians have faltered in preaching that amazing grace that saved us from the depths of Hell. I say this because if we remembered that beautiful gospel daily, how could we not go running into the streets to preach it to everyone? How could we ever claim evangelism is not our “gift” when it is a command from our Savior? How could abdicate our responsibility to preach the entirety of the gospel and give a wishy-washy “God has a wonderful plan for your life” message? I can say we have faltered because the fruit of it is as apparent as the false worshippers running to the desert grounds of northern Nevada to worship as they please with no fear of ever being told they are wrong!

I am not saying that the efforts I described above should never, ever happen. If even one soul is saved because they were invited to church or an evangelistic out reach, praise God. If one person comes to Christ because he or she understood that the love of Christ compelled a Christian to reach out and help them, His name is glorified! What I am saying is that by and large, most Christians are either not engaging in the command to evangelize, or are trusting in efforts solely like these to abdicate their responsibility to do so. And because of this, more and more souls are being lost to the culture’s tolerant, post-modern ideas.

Christians, we need to wake up and realize our Captain is commanding us to action! We need to repent of our sin of failing to preach the gospel and seek His forgiveness. We must equip ourselves with the word of God and bend our knees in prayer. We must go out into the highways and byways preaching the truth that salvation is in Christ alone, through repentance and faith alone! We must do so at all costs, even if it means losing relationships, positions at work, or even one day, our freedom. For lives are lost everyday to the pits of Hell! Let us be about our Father’s business, let us preach the truth and let us point people not to a “Burning Man” made of wood, but to the God Man who was and is and is to come! Let us call them to Christ alone!

34 thoughts on “Burning Man Reminds Us to Preach the Gospel

  1. Regarding the statistic that 1% or 2% of professing Christians engage in evangelism: if the surveys are inflating the number of professing Christians, that makes the actual percentage higher, not lower. If the number of people who engage in evangelism is X, and the number of professing Christians is Y, then the percentage of professing Christians who engage in evangelism is X/Y. If, as you say, the number of “real” Christians is lower than Y, making Y smaller, then the percentage X/Y gets bigger, not smaller. Depending on how much lower you think the number of “real” Christians is, the percentage could easily get up to 90%.

    One possibility that you don’t mention is that perhaps Christians have evangelized extensively in America, but there aren’t any more people who care about their message. I’m not aware of any guarantee that evangelizing properly will result in the conversion of the entire country.

  2. The point I am making is that if the report is there are, say, 1 million reported Christians, then the number evangelizing is 10-20k. However, if the number is in actuality, say 100,000, then the number evangelizing is 1-2k. The actual number gets smaller. Granted, these are numbers that I am using strictly for illustration here in this comment; however, it demonstrates that a very small number is sharing the gospel when the entire church is commanded to do so.

    Additionally, while salvation is of the Lord alone, He has ordained that it is through the preaching of the gospel that people are to be saved. People cannot be saved by a gospel they have never heard. And they will not hear it if Christians are not about the business of obeying the command to preach it.

  3. My understanding of how the surveys that produce those statistics is that they’ll find, say, 1000 people who profess to be Christians. They’ll ask those 1000 people if they are engaged in evangelism. Say 15 answer “yes.” That’s 1.5%. However, if only 20 of those 1000 people are “true” Christians, and all 15 who are evangelizing are part of that 20, then the percentage goes up to 75%.

  4. While I confess my knowledge of statistical analysis is limited, the broader point of this article still remains that Christians are commanded to preach the gospel at all times and to all people. The fact is this simply is not happening. Those who commit in a church to regular evangelism is typically very small. Many, if not most Christians will claim it is not their gift, or will say they just show Jesus by their actions, rather than commit to sharing the truth by verbal proclamation.

    Those that do attempt to share the gospel often water the message down, avoiding the hard truth of the law which condemns us. They preach a weak message of “Jesus loves you” or “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” Or they may settle with abdicating their responsibility to the pastor.

    The effect of this is a culture that has become more and more enamored with itself and is increasingly at war with God. Therefore, this post serves as a clarion call for Christians to step up and be about the business of preaching the gospel.

  5. Excellent post Chris! In our church of 1500, there are 8 of us on the evangelism team and a few others that go out on their own.
    These words by James Boice from a post here at Def-Con a few weeks back should hopefully inspire the timid. God will use “all” who are willing to go and preach the good news to every creature!

    “But on the other hand, if God has elected some to salvation and if he is calling those elected individuals to Christ, then we can go forth boldly, knowing that our witness does not have to be perfect, that God uses even weak and stuttering testimonies to his grace and, best of all, that all whom God has chosen for salvation will be saved. We can be fearless, knowing that all who are called by God will come to him.”

  6. “how did Burning Man become the Mecca of American “religion” while the Church is viewed as its “anti-christ?” The answer is, I believe, is this, we have faltered in Christ’s command to go forth and preach the gospel to every creature.”

    I’m not sure this follows. I agree that Christians (or those who claim to be, anyway) have not been obedient. But if we go to the Scripture, we see that the heart of man is wicked, that Satan is the god of this world, and he has blinded their eyes. Man is depraved, so he will of himself turn to “Burning Man” rather than Christ every time, and the god of this world will push him that way as well. The only way the Church will be preferred to Burning Man is if God intervenes.

    So your conclusion is only true if we believe that fewer people have been saved as a result of Christian disobedience than would have been saved if Christians had obeyed. And that is an implicit denial of God’s sovereignty and the doctrine of election (not that you meant it as such, obviously).

    So while I greatly appreciate a much-needed challenge where Christians have been greatly remiss, I’m not sure this one small aspect of it is sound. The darkness of those around us should indeed motivate us to give them the Gospel, but we shouldn’t say that the darkness was caused by the disobedience of believers. It is caused by the rebellion of the unregenerate.

  7. The challenge I am presenting is that in the absence of actual gospel proclamation, our cultural is plunging further into its already sin darkened heart. As the church, we are faltering in the command of our Savior to take this gospel message into the world. It is my hope that this causes Christians to see the urgency to follow this command from Christ and to cease abdicating our responsibility to be about evangelizing the lost.

  8. If I may offer this in the way of an analogy (and I recognize all analogies break down at some point, so bear with me): when an Army Battalion of tanks is given the job of defending a position, we see several aspects at play. We have the command of the General to defend, we see the responsibility of the tanks crews to obey that order and we see the enemy who are dead set on taking that position. The enemy is completely responsible for their actions. The judgment the reap upon themselves is just. The General is sovereign over the battlefield as the commander. But the soldiers also bear responsibility. A battalion has roughly four companies of sixteen tanks each, so about 64 total. If only eight tanks willingly obey the command to defend (only half of one company) then they will be overrun and the position lost.

    As I said, there is much in the way of analogy that can break down here, but the illustration holds, because we as Christians are to obey our Lord’s sovereign decree to preach the gospel. Yet many choose to abdicate this responsibility.

    Yes, mankind is 100% responsible for the sins it commits in it’s unregenerate heart. Yes, God is completely sovereign over salvation. Yet, He has decreed that salvation comes through the preaching of the gospel. And how can man repent when he has not heard the gospel, or when he has heard only an adulterated version of the gospel. God’s word is clear that the world will seek after it’s own desires, but it also decrees that we are to be a light in this dark world. It is my belief that Christians are hiding their light under a basket rather than setting it on a hill for all to see. As such, we bear responsibility for what we see happening as we have failed to obey our sovereign Lord.

  9. Hi, Chris. I think this gets into exactly how the sovereignty of God works in interaction with the obedience and disobedience of believers and the rebellion of unbelievers. I believe the Scriptures don’t deal with that in great detail and so we can slip into unprofitable speculation quite easily. And I don’t want to risk distracting from the good challenge you’ve given us by risking crossing over into that, so perhaps it is best to just leave it.

    We as Christians need to obey the Lord implicitly and in all things, whether it has societal ramifications or not. On that, I am certain we are in entire agreement.

    Blessings to you.

  10. Valid points to be sure Jon. I have no desire to question the sovereignty of God, believe me. My desire is only to spur Christians to see the urgency of the need to preach the gospel.

  11. I agree wholeheartedly with the post. But I think the lack of witnessing is a symptom rather than the actual issue. I haven’t been able to put my finger on what the cause is.

    I’ve had men in my church tag along witnessing with me, and I thought for sure that after they saw what it was, they’d be enthusiastic supporters. But one guy said he couldn’t go anymore, because his 13 year old son was crying the whole time he was gone because he was concerned for his father’s safety. Another guy said we were going about it all wrong, though he didn’t offer to show us the proper way. Another leader in the church said we should go sit on a bench and wait for someone to sit down on the bench with us. My own Christian parents were so adamantly opposed to my witnessing that they decided to end a business we were involved in.

    I’ve thought maybe the cause is that the we men are a bunch of sissies, or maybe it’s greed in that we don’t want to risk financial loss for the sake of the gospel. Maybe the baby boomers were a warped generation, and they’re now supposed to be the leaders and elders of the church, and we’re suffering from a lack of leadership. I don’t know.

    Though lack of witnessing is a symptom, I’d say it would also be the cure. But I’ve long since given up getting anyone else to go.

  12. Bill, I think you are right. Jesus said if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. Lack of witnessing is symptomatic of a lack of love for Him, in general, and that problem has many other symptoms which are wide-spread in professing Christians today. Part of that, of course, is that many professing Christians have never encountered true discipleship. But there are probably many things we could think of that sap the love of Christians.

    I also think fear / lack of boldness is a factor. The Scriptures warned about this.

    I would say witnessing is not “the” cure, but it can be “a” cure. Obedience can warm the cold heart, as can seeing another soul saved for all eternity — what greater reminder of His love for us? And of course, being reminded of His love can stir ours. But there are multiple ways we can stir up our love, once we recognise the problem.

    Chris: Understood. It’s not a question of sovereignty, but exactly how it works in these situations. Never thought you were questioning sovereignty. :)

  13. Excellent post!!! My core group of Christian friends take this very seriously!! We get many many volunteers when we put on outreach events or go to church or visit the sick in hospitals – all good stuff. But mostly these people are a referral service to someone else who will carry the message of Christ – but the people who are the real leaders – the one who will introduce you to Christ themselves, we are the minority! I’m surprised at how many comments this post has received already with such a flavour of defensiveness and excuse making!!

  14. Ishiswoman – I would not necessarily consider the concerns raised as “excuse making”. Most have agreed that the church has greatly faltered in obeying the great commission. However, they have raised theological concerns that are certainly worth considering. But I would say that most are in agreement that this kind of clarion call is needed to get the church busy about evangelizing the lost.

  15. “theological concerns”? Seriously?!! When the majority of Chistianity is as watered down as it is all around us and that gets pointed out – and the reaction is to make sure the theology is “correct” I just don’t believe that’s the real motive!

  16. ishiswoman – I disagree that the motives of the majority of the commenters is in question. Most readers here are genuinely concerned about the lack of sound theology in churches today (a topic often written and discussed on this site). That being the case, some have questioned my overall premise that because we aren’t out there witnessing, society is worse off, and have stated their theological reasons for their disagreement. But as I wrote before, most everyone has been in agreement that the church MUST be about the preaching of the gospel and agree that my call in this article is much needed.

  17. I understand what you’re saying and I do appreciate some of the comments and questions. But the real motives behind some of them I don’t trust – the lack of real discernment to know that society is definately worse off because of the church’s lack of witnessing is disturbing to me. Unless they are new Christians – the fact that they have “theological reasons” for their disagreement is a troubling sign to me. The fact that it’s not obvious is a problem.

  18. ishiswoman – consider what has been offered by way of comments here: God is sovereign in salvation, so by suggesting lack of witnessing somehow diminishes His saving work is disregarding that sovereignty (I agree that we must be careful to not diminish God’s sovereignty); that Christians are responsible for the sins mankind committed due to our disobedience to preach the gospel (I agree that individual people are solely responsible for their sins); and that somehow we can know for certain things would be better or worse due to obedience or disobedience in evangelism (I agree that only God has that knowledge).

    As such I believe the commenters have raised legitimate theological concerns, which is why I used the Army analogy to clarify my position. I do not believe anyone here is looking to shirk their evangelism duties, rather they are seeking to firm up our theological understandings surrounding this discussion. Their viewpoints are welcome, as are yours.

  19. Thanks Chris, I appreciate your comments and the time you take to answer!! And I do understand the delicate balance you describe above, however what I discern has not changed.

    Thanks again for a great post!

  20. Brilliant article. So much truth,people worship the external and the material, worship false gods always seeking excitement and what they percieve to be happiness in an empty world void of spirit and truth and their efforts are vain and pointless because deep down within where the truth lives they are still not content so the pursuit goes on and on and the sad thing is they are not awake,they are not concious of this.The only real freedom we will ever experience is to experience a relationship with the one true God,the giver of all life the one called christ.
    Darren h. London

  21. Hello, ishiwoman. I don’t want to go too far down this path, but we should be careful about accusations based on our own “discernment”. I’m a pastor who supports my family with another job. Some call me a missionary pastor because I moved my family to another country where there was less Gospel witness than where we lived previously. We started our church twelve years ago. Almost everyone who has come to our church came either because they were saved in response to our Gospel efforts or because they were saved as a child, had drifted away, and came back as a result of our Gospel efforts. I’ve been assaulted, threatened with a gun to my face, bitten by dogs perhaps ten times while distributing Gospel literature in our town. We’ve taken the Gospel to every home in our town seven times. If God is gracious, we’ll complete the eighth soon.

    I speak as a fool, because I also am not as faithful in the spread of the Gospel as I should be.

    But unsupported accusations are always a bad idea, and we should be hesitant to trust our discernment when we don’t even know the person of whom we are speaking.

    I’m not particularly bothered about it — what you said doesn’t really have any impact on my life or my ministry. Life is too short and I’m too busy to be offended over people making mistakes, which is obviously what this was. :)

    I only took it up because I considered it to be a teachable moment on a matter that has been a great grief to me recently — the quickness of believers to make accusations, especially about the motives of other professing believers. That’s dangerous ground to tread.

    Blessings to you all, and may we all grow in grace and faithfulness to all of our Lord’s commands.

  22. Question………….

    When we refer to “evangelism” or “evangelizing” or “witnessing” here, are we specifically talking about the act of going out on the street somewhere and preaching and handing-out leaflets containing the Gospel message, OR are we talking about the type of witnessing wherein we share our faith with another person or persons in a more personal setting? There is a difference.

    Todd
    Texas

  23. Biblically, there’s no difference between evangelizing in public or private. In practice, however, there is a difference. I, personally, may not have difficulty speaking in a one-on-one setting, a one-on-fifty setting, or a one-in-front-of-20,000 setting, but there are many people who are much much more effective at one-on-one evangelism than “street” evangelilsm. I believe there is a place for both, but don’t credit one over the other relative to credibility or effectiveness.

    Chris, for example, has made mention in many of his posts on here that he has a burden to preach in the streets. Go for it brother! Go for it! Be the best street evangelist ever. I don’t have that burden though. I much prefer evangelism a little closer to home, if you will. I will let my light so shine before men that they glorify the Father, and I will always have the proper response if asked for the reason of the hope that lies within me, yet I do NOT believe I am compelled by the Scriptures to hand-out gospel tracts, carry a sign, wear a microphone, set up book/literature tables, go “door-knockin’,” “soul-winnin’,” or jumpin’ onto a tree stump to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

    Todd
    Texas

  24. If I made any statements that appear to place one over the other, please forgive me. I have long said that not everyone is called to be an open air preacher or street evangelist, but we are all commanded to evangelize. It matters not if we are witnessing to our family members, the neighbor next door, or a crowd of people on the street. What matters is that we are taking the life saving gospel to lost and dying souls.

  25. I appreciate what you’re saying Jon – but you’re wrong, I do think you are offended. I wasn’t speaking about the kind of personal opinion “discernment” you speak of either. God bless your ministry!

  26. ‘I have long said that not everyone is called to be an open air preacher or street evangelist, but we are all commanded to evangelize. It matters not if we are witnessing to our family members, the neighbor next door, or a crowd of people on the street. What matters is that we are taking the life saving gospel to lost and dying souls.”

    Amen Chris.

  27. “I do think you are offended.” Good to know, but I need more info. Please tell me how much offense I’m feeling, so I know whether to ask for an apology, or cry, or whatever. :)

    OK, I’m just having fun there, but this next is serious. Any more comment on my motives / feelings or your view of discernment is unjust to the message of the post, unfair to Chris, and not edifying / profitable. I’m important to my Lord, my family, and our church, but barely on the radar screen of DefCon readers, so your view of my inner thoughts profits them not at all. We can spend our time instead in real service, since we both have things to do for the Lord.

    Blessings to you.

  28. Wonderful Chris! And a very timely article indeed! Good observations Ishiwoman – you are absolutely correct that alot of the pontificating made by believers is an attempt to excuse their disobediance to Christ’s command, keep trusting the God given discernment that you have! However, I also agree with Chris that many of the comments here are an attempt to gain a deeper and clearer understanding of the truth. Jon, brother – if you were not offended by what she said and if you truly wanted to avoid taking away from the original message, you would have dropped it, seems to me you need to have the last word! I don’t believe her comments about what she’s discerned takes away from the original message of where the church is falling short.

    God Bless.

  29. One thing that would not be tolerated at this event is the preaching of the pure Gospel of the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus, for the Gospel itself condemns every religion known to man, and deems them useless idolatry. You might be the next “burning man” if you go there and proclaim that Jesus is the only way to heaven and that without him you’ll burn in a devil’s hell. That’s the one thing they won’t tolerate. EVERY preacher in the Bible preached in the open air, and yet we get just as much opposition from “christians” for street preaching as any other group. This shows us how pagan and worldly most “christians” are.
    Ask for the old paths wherein is the good way, and walk therein…

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