An Open Letter to Stephen Brock (and the visiting Street Preachers)

Dear Pastor Stephen Brock,

In 2010, you moved from North Carolina with your family to start True Gospel Baptist Church here in Salem, MA. I first came across you, when you were preaching on the street in October. That first year, your North Carolinian accent was so thick I could barely understand you when you spoke. I initially was happy to meet you, and know that had started another church plant in Salem, but it did not take much time, before I found you or your friends outside the doors of our church shouting on bullhorns and saying that, “The Gathering is a cult.”

Over the last five years, your accent has softened, but your approach has not. In 2014, you marched past the stage that The Gathering has sponsored for the last 17 years, and you led your little troupe of itinerate street preachers past chanting that, “The Gathering is a cult, and Pastor Phil is a heretic.”

I have offered to get together with you every year for the last 5 years. You keep saying, “I’ll pray about it.” And each year, you continue to talk smack about me, and our church. You’ve never sat down for a cup of tea to get to know me. You’ve never sat with me and discussed theology. Yet each year, you and your son, and a small crew of bold street preachers stand on the streets of Salem during Halloween yelling about The Gathering and Pastor Phil as part of your repertoire of evangelism. You say these things as though you know me, when actaully there is all kinds of false accusation in your words. In fact, you and your friends will say, as one did this year, “I don’t need to get to know you, I know what’s in your heart.” Somehow you make it seem that people must reject Phil Wyman in order to get to heaven. You have even told people in our church that they will go to Hell if they go to The Gathering.

This open letter is being posted in order to simply get your attention. You have neglected the basic etiquette and simple kindness of getting to know someone before you shout about the person publicly. You have neglected to do the wise thing, and learn what you are talking about before you shoot your mouth off. I have tried to make place for you in the public arena a number of times. Bill Legault offered to have the two of us on his local TV Show, and you turned down that invitation. I even defended you on that program, and of course, I never heard a thank you, or a simple acknowledgement.

In the beginning of each Halloween season, you sometimes will talk kindly, and even laugh a little with me. By the end of October, you ignore me, tell me I am going to Hell, or shout about me from a distance. None of this is acceptable or mature behavior. You and your friends may call this boldness, but I call it cowardice. You are hiding behind 80+ decibels of distorted noise driven by low quality amplification that hurts our ears. Even your teenage son has taken on the audacious behavior of getting in my face, and telling me I am going to Hell and that I need to repent. That is how he greets me each October now.

These are the words I said to you on Halloween Day this year, “I continue to believe in you, and to believe that you have a good heart, but the people you associate with are ruining your reputation in the city.” I want you to consider these words, and consider how you approach our city, and its people. You can yell about me all you want, but our city deserves better treatment from someone who claims to be serving it with the Good News of Jesus Christ. I am hoping that how you treat me is not indicative of your Gospel, which may be too narrow to let very many people in.

I continue to want to try and formally welcome you as a member of this city I love so much, but I am losing hope that you will learn what it means that our words should be “always with grace, seasoned with salt,” or that our Gospel is a “Gospel of grace.” I hope my fears about you are wrong.

Always open to meeting with you,
Pastor Phil
The Gathering

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