Published on August 21st, 2016 | by Jaycen Saab

How JesusFest Lost Jesus

Those who are afraid of offending everyone everywhere by boldly speaking the truth in love should not be in any Christian leadership position, much less a Christian festival president.

This is a post I hoped I’d never have to write and brings me no joy to pen.  It is one of those times when God has given man the opportunity to glorify Him for who He is and what He’s done, and man has failed miserably to cherish, embrace, and appreciate God’s favor.  With no doctrinal boundaries, man’s lack of effort and abundance of complacency has caused this opportunity to tailspin into the abyss of failed Christian endeavors marked by poor stewardship and, worst of all, religious pluralism.

In the beginning…

JesusFest was started in 2005 by a brother in Christ, Frank Jarman and myself.  Our goal was pretty simple.  We wanted to put together a Christian festival to share and promote the Gospel of Christ to all of Clarksburg and the immediate area.  The Lord showed us favor and we secured downtown Clarksburg on Main Street in front of the Harrison County Courthouse for 2 1/2 days.  Again, the goal was to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to those in a very accessible area.

Over the next couple years, we would continue to see the Lord’s favor and thousands fill the streets.  Our priority focus was Gospel-preaching local pastors, worship teams, and Christian bands (more on that in a bit). By 2007, finances were available to begin booking a couple bigger names from the Christian music scene.

Going astray…

It was after a couple years that Frank Jarman had to resign due to a law that states one is not able to sit on more that one board of non-profit organizations.  Due to his position as the director of a local mission, he stepped down from the JesusFest board.  I remained as Vice President for only one more year beyond his departure.

As my time as VP came to a close, I could see the beginnings of religious pluralism (the worst this year, noted below) begin to sink its claws in.  At first, it was only minor things, but quickly gravitated to much bigger problems.  JesusFest began down a dangerous path filled with potholes full of financial debts that were not payable, bands who were not specifically worship or Christian, women who considered themselves pastors, and allowing those who hold beliefs outside of Orthodox Christianity to take the main stage.  I was outnumbered in person and too downtrodden in spirit to remain on the board.

A house built on sand…

Anything we do in Christendom that lasts will only do so if it is faithful to glorifying God and rooted in the Scriptures.  All of us at one time or another, due to our fallen, sinful nature, have tried to rely on our own cleverness and strength to bring something for God to pass.  And sometimes, it works – but only by the grace of God and in spite of our efforts, not because of them.  Eventually though, God will pull His hand and blessing back.  When that happens, all of man’s self-reliant efforts are exposed and the fall will be great.

JesusFest continued to run year after year getting deeper and deeper in debt by the tens of thousands of dollars.  Some nationally known artists have never been paid.  Sound companies were even booked without any funds available to pay.  I remember being there a few years back when the president at that time (not the same person as the current president) remarked that the festival was still thousands short of what they needed and this was after it had started and hoped the money would come in (it didn’t).  None of this was a surprise to the watchful eye though.  After all, any fundraising opportunities throughout the rest of the year were non-existent as “leadership” ran it by the seat of their pants.

The worst was yet to come…

Castle builders hate Kingdom builders…

Anyone who has been in ministry beyond the four walls of the church for any length of time knows that just about everyone falls into one of two groups, Kingdom builders or castle builders.  Kingdom builders focus on expanding God’s Kingdom no matter the cost, pride being the most expensive.  Castle builders on the other hand are primarily concerned selfishly about their own standing, reputation, and agenda.  As the festival continued without any doctrinal boundaries, people came in and out of leadership for the following years.  Each cycle included more than a fair share of castle builders laying waste to the original purpose of JesusFest.

Castle builders were easy to recognize though.  Their churches and ministries were found in the spotlight most.  While they may have taken on a majority of work for a particular year, it wasn’t without some kind of reciprocal recognition.  This opened up the door to women “pastors” and bands that were not specifically Christian bands!  While some bands may have and members that were Christian, they were by and large secular.  I’m not condemning them for their music preference, but one would think that a festival called “JesusFest” would include only those bands who are Christian music bands not just during JesusFest, but the other 364 days of the year as well.  But it didn’t stop there…

Discernment checked out at the door…

JesusFest has constantly committed time and effort to be “relevant”.  That is, the festival feels the need to appeal to culture as much as possible to get big crowds.  Then, like an Italian chef checking the pasta by throwing it against the wall to see if it is done, once the crowds come, Jesus will be thrown at them to see if He sticks.

This was never more evident that a few years ago.  Brian “Head” Welch from the heavy metal group Korn supposedly came to faith in Christ.  JesusFest was all to eager to get him to headline.  I caught wind of this and began to do some research.  What I found was anything but something I would allow my children to be influenced by at a so-called Christian festival.  A quick search across the net found his testimony followed by links to his current hit.  I followed them to YouTube to be greeted with a video of two lesbians licking red powder off each other.  THIS IS WHO JESUSFEST WAS DESIRING TO BOOK FOR CHRISTIAN FAMILIES TO SEE…


As Paul’s spirit was provoked (Acts 17:16), I could not sit by any longer.  I attended a meeting open to the public and asked to address the board about his potential disaster.  By God’s grace they heard my case and for at least a moment realized their lack of discernment.  So much that the 30 seconds of silence that followed my rebuke was broken by a brother in Christ who was helping out and affirmed my statements.

More lack of discernment can be found in JesusFest’s dangerous staffing approach this year.  Just one day before the festival a call went out for volunteers.  Who in their right mind would give a general call to the public for help – especially  for a Christian festival?!  It’s not a novel idea, for example, that sexual predators prey on children in church surroundings.

I remember a few years ago when I saw 2 Mormons hanging out at the festival.  I then turned and saw 2 JesusFest staff standing (marked by their “Staff” shirts) who put their hands down  from “worshiping”, whispered to each other pointing at the Mormons while mocking and laughing at them, and then resumed their pompous “worship”.  How ignorant and hateful would a Christian have to be to see someone brain-washed by a false religion teaching a false jesus who will end up in hell if they don’t turn and laugh at them?  Just more fruit from JesusFest’s lack of discernment.

Continued loss of focus…

That was only a momentary time of sense when they heeded the warning about the previous Korn frontman.  The festival’s efforts continued to be self-defeating.  Rather than meetings where the concern was “Who can we get to preach the Gospel?” or “What about this churches worship team?”, they were filled with utter nonsense.  The priorities were fleshed out in arguments over ridiculous things like “Why is my puppet show not on the TV commercial and his car show is?!”  And this lapse in leadership has led to the horrific condition of this once Gospel-focused event we see today.

While denominations vary from this to that, we should be able to come into unity for the Kingdom.  HOWEVER, we cannot and should not forsake truth for love.  There are certain fundamental truths of the Gospel that ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE!  Doctrine should divide true Christianity from other religions and belief systems.

A tailspin into irrelevancy…

Fast forward to 2015.

WV4G had an approved application at the 2015 festival that clearly stated open-air preaching as one of the purposes of the organization. Within 5 min. after finishing a message, festival president Mike Gallo stopped by to voice his displeasure in a very “spirited” way and we were told to cease doing so.

In an effort to show forgiveness, I met with current festival president Mr. Gallo before this year’s festival. Unfortunately, open-air preaching was only allowed if it was censored. Basically, Mr. Gallo said he would not allow open-air preaching to explain John 14:6 in fear of offending Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.  His argument was that “Did Jesus specifically say that Mormonism or Jehovah Witnesses were false?”  I attempted to reason with him and explain that of course Jesus didn’t specify those false religions because they weren’t invented yet!  But Jesus unequivocally excluded every other false religion in John 14:6!

His response was that I could simply read the passage and leave it at that.  I asked if he was going to hold other preachers to the same standard, only reading Scripture, to which he would not answer.  I am not in favor of hatefully bashing someone’s religion.  However, to lovingly warn those caught up in such maladies is the most loving thing a Christian can do.  Those who are afraid of offending everyone everywhere by boldly speaking the truth in love should not be in any Christian leadership position, much less a Christian festival president.

Religious pluralism’s fangs firmly in the veins of JesusFest…

While denominations vary from this to that, we should be able to come into unity for the Kingdom.  HOWEVER, we cannot and should not forsake truth for love.  There are certain fundamental truths of the Gospel that ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE!  Doctrine should divide true Christianity from other religions and belief systems.

The president’s Biblical ignorance was further displayed as a Seventh Day Adventist Church (read about them here) was allowed to be represented there.  One only has to do a little research to see many of their unbiblical beliefs such as believing Jesus is Michael the Archangel, hell is not eternal, and its founding prophetess’ writings being held of equal authority to the Bible!  And it didn’t stop there.  A local member of a Roman Catholic diocese was invited to pray on the main stage as well.  This is a problem as Roman Catholics and Protestants have vastly differing views of salvation.

Standing at the gate…

I am called by God and commissioned by my local church as an open-air preacher.  Therefore it was clear what to do, preach the Gospel of Christ where others will not.  I took our church’s street team and setup across from the event.  I knew in my spirit this would be a living example of Amos 5:10 and boy was it…

They hate him who reproves in the gate,  and they abhor him who speaks the truth. (Amos 5:10)

We setup across the street from the festival and WAITED UNTIL NO ONE WAS SPEAKING on the stage as not to be rude. Nonetheless one festival goer wasn’t too pleased with the Gospel being preached. His accusation of disruption was fueled by a lack of desire to hear the Gospel message.  You can clearly see in the video below, there was no one on stage.  Teen Challenge just finished speaking and there was going to be some sound checks for the next band.  So we began.  I usually engage such folks as the hateful man who interrupted. However, I only had about a 15 minute window to preach the Gospel before the next band started.

Which Jesus would you like?…

Each year the festival falls further and further away from Biblical Christianity, this year being the worst.  This list is long including financial irresponsibility, religious pluralism, a lack of intentional Gospel-focus, twisted view of Scripture (affirming women “pastors”), non-Christian bands, etc.  The last few years the Main Street in downtown Clarksburg has been a ghost town, only temporarily filled as a church group may come to support a specific act, but nothing substantial.  Many churches have politely distanced themselves for many of the reasons in this article.

At the end of the day, all the foolishness that has crept in through the door of “lack of discernment” can be depicted by the image of this article.  The Jesus of the Bible has been lost.  However, JesusFest has many deficient, impotent compromises to put in His place.  You can have the “jesus of any religion goes” or the “jesus of prosperity gospel” or the “jesus of the latest cool trend”.

What JesusFest won’t give you is the Jesus of the Bible.  The bold, righteous King of kings and Lord of lords who will not cower in fear of offending someone with truth in love or worry about being relevant.


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