The Word on the Street

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Persecution. Many years ago, around the time I first became a Christian, I heard a preacher talk on this very issue. He spoke about our brothers and sisters around the world in places like Africa, Thailand, China, etc. were being persecuted daily, and as he spoke I remember thinking what a great message. However, my only thought after he spoke was, “I wonder what persecution would look like here in the Western World?”

Since that time there has been some persecution against the Christian church in the areas of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. For instance, some pastors and preachers have been arrested in North America, Britain, Australia, and Sweden, for speaking out against the practice of homosexuality. An example of this would be the Swedish pastor, Ake Green, who was arrested and charged with hate crimes. His hate crime? Calling homosexuality “abnormal” in a church sermon. He was subsequently sentenced to one month in prison. (Source here)

I came across a video clip a few days back that proved to be challenging, yet inspiring. It shows a team of street evangelists helping to feed the homeless (they took seven hundred hot dogs, three hundred eggs, hot chocolate, cookies, and Bibles to a downtown drop-in center) and preaching the Word of God to them. The video opens with the pastor and several members of Street Church Ministries being hassled by the police. It then shows them being forcefully arrested and taken to jail. And where did this happen? On the streets of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The following is taken from the Street Church Ministry website: “For several years Street Church Ministries has been in a battle with Calgary city authorities over its insistence on publicly preaching the gospel to people on city streets and in city parks. On February 7, (2009) members of the ministry were dragged from a preaching platform by police, and three members were arrested, one while he was videotaping police actions. Artur Pawlowski, lead pastor of Street Church Ministries, said the city’s “ruthless targeted attacks” threaten freedom of speech as well as the organization’s ministry to homeless people.”

I have posted the actual video of the arrest below. You know, most believers in the Western World wouldn’t know what real persecution is. Sure we might be called names and people might not invite us to their parties because we go to church and believe in Jesus, but for the most part we are free to worship when and where we want. And let’s face it, many Christians wouldn’t dream of sharing their faith outside of the comfort of the church environment like the determined and faithful believers in this video clip. So I am posting this video as a testimony - a testimony to the kind of witness that we read of in the scriptures, a witness that I’m glad to say is alive and active in our world today.

I’m sure you’ll agree that these guys are Hardcore, and that at the end of the day is what this website’s all about - real faith in a real world!

A follow up statement from the Street Church Ministry website: “In the middle of Louis’ sermon, five police officers physically removed Maurice Boyer, Wendy Osiowy, Azmy Yacoub, Louis Formaz-Preston, and Artur Pawlowski from the back of the Street Church truck. Artur and Maurice were unlawfully arrested and charged with obstructing a peace officer. Maurice was dragged by several officers, slammed face down on a car, like a common criminal. Artur was escorted by two officers and had his hands cuffed behind his back. At the same time, David Pawlowski was recording the behavior of the police officers, while standing on a public sidewalk, only to be arrested and slammed onto the hood of a police cruiser, his hands cuffed behind his back. The Street Church cross and pickup truck were towed and impounded. The three of us were taken to a police station and placed in three separate rooms. As I was sitting in one of the rooms, I heard Maurice shouting JESUUUUUS!

Then from the other room, I heard David responding and the only thing that I could think of was again Peter and John in prison singing and preaching. So we started singing. The echo from the concrete walls was so great that after the fourth song the door opened with great vigour. The same police officer that arrested us appeared saying that we are not allowed to speak or sing, to which I replied, “You’ve got here Street Church”, and started singing again. He slammed the door. Later on, I found out that he tried to scare Maurice as well. Maurice replied, “you’re not my boss, my Father is my boss”.

When we finished all the songs we knew, we started preaching. At first it was me, then came David, and finally Maurice finished it off the preaching very loudly. Then we sang some more. Then we prayed for all the officers, their children, their families, that God would bless them, keep them, save them, open their eyes and ears and that He would not count this sin against them, for they did not know what they were doing. Then we started singing a third time. When we were singing the song “King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus prince of peace…” the door opened again. The police officer was advising us that we were disrupting the whole building and that they couldn’t work. I kept singing. Five minutes later a young officer came saying that they were going to release us. Within about a half an hour all of us were out on the streets again. Praise God. God sent us there to let those officers know that there is a living God.”

Now is that Hardcore or what?

Christian St John M.Div, BChM, ACS
February, 2009

Picture and video taken from

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  1. These guys are hardcore and you’ve got to commend them for that. But they could also be accused of ’selling Jesus’. They were breaking the law to attract attention to themselves. Whoa! Could it be true? If you watch the video, the police officer asked them to move their truck because it was parked on the road, not in a proper parking spot. If my interpretation is incorrect, please stop reading and correct me and I’ll happily stand corrected. But, the police were enforcing the law and if I may add my comment, these Street Ministry folks in their irresponsible act, were calling attention away from real crime that should have been attended to. I think both sides have to examine their actions in this case.

    However, in our zeal to preach the gospel, we shouldn’t complain if we are persecuted for breaking the law. This is the natural and inevitable result of our actions. It’s not persecuting Christians as the video makers claim. This is stretching the truth and in my opinion, ’selling Jesus’ and falsely using His name to further their cause. Notice how much publicity this stunt will gain them.

    But you know, I don’t want to sound judgemental; I was cheering them on as I read, I’ve broken the law too to get the Word out, but all I’m saying is that we shouldn’t label something quickly as ‘Christian Persecution’, like other terms like Spriitual Warefare, and Fundamental Christians are all too quickly used and labelled in our society to categorize situations. We as Christians need to be careful to stay away from labels and be sure only to use them when it is really true.

    We may be persecuted as Christians in this country, but not in the case study shown in the video. Sorry folks, you break the law, don’t be surprised if you get arrested. But as long as you’re not complaining about your treatment at the hands of the police, then I’m not complaining about the video either.

  2. Rob, I would agree in part with you. They were breaking the law by illegally parking where they had parked. But in all reality this was a misdemeanor at best. The eye opener is when you realize that just blocks away while this was taking place drugs deals were going down, and someone was shot. All the while the police are concerning themselves with people who just want to help others. And if you go to the website you’ll see that this is not the first time they have had a run in with the authorities.

    I don’t know if I would agree with you when you say they were “selling Jesus.” At what point does evangelism become “selling Jesus”? I think when an evangelist or preacher uses Jesus to make money or to gain something then that is “selling Jesus.” However, these guys were just trying to help the homeless, to feed the hungry, supply them with clothing, and preach the Word of life to them. These guys are literally fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to go to the naked, poor, hungry, and to make disciples by proclaiming the word of truth. Who can blame them if they use this video to raise awareness of their ministry, and their “persecution”. How is this any different than the television footage that was shown all over the world of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested for making a stand against racism. It’s worth noting that many saw what Dr King did as illegal, but he did it regardless. There has to be a point when we say that God’s law is higher than man’s and make a stand.

    I’m sure that there were those who said that what Jesus preached and did was illegal, that he broke the law. But Jesus knew he answered to a higher law.

    As a side note, Concerned Christians Canada is launching a nationwide awareness campaign in support of Street Church Ministries in Calgary. They said, “t is ironic and hypocritical that the police were intent on arresting ministry members while ignoring drug dealers operating nearby.”

    As always Rob, your comments are very welcome, and make for an interesting dialogue :)
    Your bro, Chris


Jim Blake

All glory goes to the living God, maker of the heavens and the earth, for He alone is worthy of all glory and honor and praise. I consider the sufferings of this age not worthy to be compared to what is to come for those who place their faith in the King of kings and persevere in faith, day by day, until the end.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;

To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

Psalm 103:11-18

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