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On Being Embarrassed By But Secretly Admiring Street Preachers

Hidden Nuggets Series #76 – “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…” Philippians 1:18

(This story has nothing to do with personal finance. But last summer God taught me a lesson about questioning the motives and tactics of those who preach his Word. It’s not up to me to be their judge. Here’s how I learned that…)

“Hooo!”

street preacher The booming cry cracked the calm Saturday afternoon air as my family and I stood in line at Great American Ballpark. Startled, I turn to see if I have been transported through time and space into an episode of Thundercats. Nope, don’t see Lion-O’s cat signal in the sky.

“Good afternoon everyone!”

The piercing voice continues to be projected over our heads. Where is it coming from? Who dares disrupt our anticipation of afternoon baseball?

I peered through some bystanders to see the originator of the voice standing on a grassy knoll. My eyebrows squinted with curiosity. A flushed face and drooping shoulders of embarrassment quickly replaced my curious gaze. For in his left hand held proudly forward was a Bible.

Street preacher. Oh, boy…here we go.

I tried to appear disinterested by continuing to check out all the bronze statues of past ballplayers erected outside the ballpark. “Ooh look honey, isn’t the architecture of the stadium interesting?”

If I look his way and appear interested people may subconsciously connect my Christian faith with his. Then I’ll have to answer as to why I support this type of wacko street evangelism.

Of course my kids love it. “You go preacher! Woo-hoo…Yay Jesus!”

His rant of all things Jesus lasted just a few brief minutes. It’s the usual message you’d expect to hear – “Your life is tough…where can you turn?…He will help you with the pain…yada-yada-yada…”

He ended by saying “…and if you follow Jesus you will always be a winner at the game of life.” Ah…nice touch considering the venue. Putting a bow on salvation with some athletic lingo. That might stick with people.

A smattering of applause greeted his final words. I’m just glad it’s over.

I deflected a few questions from the kids about the incident. At some point I even mentioned to my teenage daughter that I didn’t think that type of witnessing was very effective. All was forgotten though as within moments the gates opened and we excitedly filed into the stadium.

As my waist hits the turnstile I happen to be drawn to another voice. Except this time it’s only audible in my head. It’s not loud and piercing like the street preacher. It’s calm and still and with a very different message directed only at me.

“Who says I can’t use him?” it says.

“Why are you embarrassed by Me?”

“How come you are not that bold?”

Outs passed into innings that afternoon. By halfway through the game I’m quietly repenting and reflecting back on what I’d heard.

The street preacher really had done a good job. His message was succinct. Heck, it was even uplifting. Positive. Call to action. Offering hope. All the things you’d expect and want to hear in a message about Someone who could save your soul.

I may never preach on the streets but I’m now a teeny-tiny bit envious for the character traits of those who do. I need to develop their passion and courage at a deeper level.

And when in the future if a momentary lapse of embarrassment hits me again when I see one doing their thing, I’ll secretly be saying deep down, “You go preacher…You’re a winner in my book.”

Question: What’s your reaction to the preacher on the street? Do you think they are effective? Does their approach matter?

Image by dick vos at Flickr Creative Commons

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Comments

  1. Unfortunately I think most street preachers take the gloom and doom / judgement approach to evangelizing. I do not think this is an effective strategy and I personally think that reaching out to others has to come from a point of love. You could argue that they DO love people for wanting to save them from hell, but let’s be honest: I don’t think many people are attracted to this message. I think people are seeking something deeper than just “avoiding hell.” Reconciliation has to be all-encompassing to be effective.
    DC recently posted…10 Productive Things to Do When BoredMy Profile

  2. Brian, I commend those people who preach on the street. They are passionate, determined, and courageous to speak in front and spread the word of the Lord. They know what they’re preaching and their mission is. Very impressive. I myself would take a leap of faith before I pull it off to do what they do.
    Jayson recently posted…Moving for Work – Is It Something You Would Do?My Profile

  3. I did a little street preaching as a missionary in Germany. No loudspeaker though. We put up a display, sang hymns, and we chatted with people who walked by. I felt like that was a lot more personal than yelling to a crowd. But I do agree with your lesson. It may not be the most effective way, but it could reach one person.

    In the LDS church, we have a scripture:

    “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!”

    Thanks for sharing these lessons, Bryan. Always good to have a spiritual pick-me-up 🙂
    Ben Luthi recently posted…5 Steps to Make Saving for College DoableMy Profile

  4. I had a similar experience in college that turned me off to the idea of street preaching. A few years later I heard about this crazy guy by the name of Ray Comfort who did street preaching, but in different way. He uses the law to reach people’s hearts, and then gives the good news of the gospel. Hearing his stuff has changed how I think about street preaching. It’s given me the same experience as you had, a conviction that I rarely step out of my comfort zone to reach out with the good news of Jesus.
    Janeen recently posted…Takeaways from February, 2015My Profile

    • I think I just realized that if the message of the gospel is getting out some how…anyway…then that’s a good thing. That seems to be what the Apostle Paul thought in the verse I referenced at the beginning of the post.

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