SAN FRANCISCO — Out to break the commonly-held notion that Christianity is about judging others, a group of San Francisco Christians braved the rain on Saturday to show only "Agape Love" to the city's needy.
The part music-festival, part-outreach "I AM LOVE…360" event mobilized dozens of youth volunteers from local San Francisco Bay Area churches to Civic Center Plaza to show the love of God in a practical way by handing out free meals, blankets and prayers to the homeless and needy.
"God's love is complete and worldwide. Christians should be the first to reach out to whomever, wherever," Living Grace Fellowship pastor Rodgar McCalmon, who organized the free event, told The Christian Post.
"San Francisco is just a starting point. Hopefully, people see what this event is and go into other towns," he added.
Among believers, the word "love" has become ubiquitous to Christianity. It is rare to hear a sermon in which the pastor fails to mention the love of Jesus and the love of God.
However, while many Christians say the most important thing in their faith is a relationship of love with God and their neighbors, non-Christians still hold negative perceptions of present-day Christianity. According to a 2007 Barna study, 80 percent of non-Christians view evangelical Christianity as judgmental and hypocritical.
Christians gathered at the I AM LOVE event on Saturday were out to change that perception. Although the Election is just a few days away, no one mentioned politics. Communicating — not just speaking about — love was their top priority.
Even though it rained, participants maintained a "rain or shine" attitude.
Actor Stephen Baldwin, who emceed the music festival, said in his opening remarks that he planned to stay the whole in spite of the weather.
"We are here no matter what. That's what I AM LOVE 360 is all about," Baldwin told the umbrella-covered and poncho-wearing audience.
"We are here to be obedient to the spirit of the Lord. Even if it rains all day, we are going to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to San Francisco."
Philip Bardowell, a former band member of The Beach Boys, performed the song "Day After Rain."
"All the rain will not quench this thirst today," said Bardowell.
Other Christian groups and musicians that took the stage included Todd Agnew, Seventh Day Slumber, Thankfull, Nathan Justin, Missing Piece, JB Blue and Richard Andrew.
As the crowd in front of City Hall swayed and bobbed their heads to live faith-filled music, volunteer Gloria Huerta was standing by the SF Rescue Mission tent, handing out food vouchers to the needy. The ministry was prepared to hand out 5,000 bagged lunches.
Speaking with The Christian Post, Huerta, a member of Raven Ministries in Santa Rosa, said anyone entering the tent for assistance was first was presented with the Word and asked if they needed a prayer. Those in need were also told how they could receive shelter and food other days of the week.
Although she acknowledged the outreach lasted only a day, she believed even a word or prayer given out of love can give them the hope they need to connect again.
"A lot of people are out here because of things that happen in their life. Some are here by choice. But we still need to love them anyway. And when the Lord is ready to pull them off the streets, He'll do it," said Huerta, who has worked five years in street ministry.
One of her first experiences was in San Francisco's Tenderloin district, which remains a reminder of how God touched her.
"The Lord broke my heart. He broke me so bad because I could have been one of them. I used to be a druggie," she shared.
As Huerta spoke, several people who had just received their blankets, coats and meal went over to the stage to enjoy the music.
McCalmon said San Francisco is usually not the first choice for Christians to engage in missions.
Christians have the "Sodom and Gomorrah mentality" when it comes to the city, he said, referring to the historical cities that, as recorded in the Bible, were destroyed as a result of sinfulness and sexual deviation.
So "there is not a warm welcoming for Christians in San Francisco," he observed, adding that people commonly perceive Christians as being too judgmental and not loving enough.
But he hopes the event will encourage more Christians to show their love in a city where the need is so great.
"There are over 8,000 homeless people in San Francisco. There are 3,000 unschooled kids in the Tenderloin," reported McCalmon.
In addition to Living Grace Fellowship, other local ministries including ByFaith Productions, San Francisco Rescue Mission and Emmausliving.com helped coordinate Saturday's outreach.
Huerta said that unless Christians engage in outreaches such as like Saturday's, they can't fulfill Jesus' command to be "fishers of men."
"Instead of sitting in the pews, Jesus wants us to get out there and do something," he said.