My Muse spoke to me tonight and told me that I needed to post. Lucky for her, I was already mulling this over…
One afternoon as we were walking along the heart of London, not far from Piccadilly Circus and the major shopping areas, I noticed something that I had only seen one other time since I had been in London. Standing on a street corner was a man who was passionately preaching to everybody and yet nobody in particular. Having been raised in the buckle of the Bible belt, I felt compelled to stop and listen. After all, you can’t just ignore the preacher, can you? That day, I listened only briefly as I flowed along with the rest of the human traffic.
During the portion that I overheard, the man seemed to be speaking truth. He pointed out that each and every one of us must die, and after that, we come face to face with our very Creator. He shared that Jesus did not come into the world to send anyone to Hell but to save all those who would listen. He reminded those who might be hearing his words that there is one God, and there is one mediator between man and God… Jesus Christ.
At this point, I became distracted. A rather tall man became very irate with what the street preacher was sharing. He didn’t become irate enough to stop; however, as he stood waiting for the light to change, he shouted back at the street preacher, “Stupid Americans! Go back home with your Jesus!” He continued on with his tirade, but the light had changed, so I didn’t hear him as he was walking away from me at a steady pace. (For the record, I didn’t notice that the street preacher had an American accent, so I think it is curious that the irate listener assumed that he was an American. He didn’t sound like one to me.)
Several things stand out to me about this experience that lasted less than a minute.
First of all, I agree completely with the content of the message. That street preacher spoke truths that day, truths that are simultaneously ancient and relevant. His message was one of love, of compassion. If asked, I am sure he could have backed up his words using the scriptures contained in the large black Bible that he was waving around. So could I.
While I agree with the message, I have to admit that his method is somewhat troublesome. I don’t know, maybe he has had great results on that street corner. Maybe on other days, many have stopped to listen. Perhaps he has had the opportunity to pray with countless people from countless nations. For some reason, I kind of doubt it. The only reaction I saw was one of annoyance and anger. The only man who responded was repelled after his encounter rather than attracted to the Savior the street preacher spoke of.
Is the street preacher responsible for the way people react? Of course he isn’t. He is only responsible for being true to the calling that he believes is placed on his heart. Let me be sure to state here that I am not judging the street preacher, nor am I questioning his calling. God Himself may have spoken from a burning bush with instructions for this guy… it wouldn’t be the first time. And God has called many men to do many things that have been considered foolish.
I just happen to think that if the street preacher was called to reach those around him with the good news, he could have picked a better method. The message is timeless, but the methods are not. Perhaps in another time or another place, preaching on a street corner would bring about positive results for the cause of Christ. I am not sure that is the case today.
I know that during my time in London, I made one friend whom I have already mentioned here. I showed an interest in Dalia because I genuinely was interested in her… it wasn’t hard to fake. I talked with her because I wanted to know her better. During a few short days, our lives intersected. I opened up about my life with her, and she shared about her life as well. As a result, I think she probably cares more about my thoughts on Christ than any one of the listeners of the street preacher. Why? Because she knows that I care about her as an individual.
So what is my point? Well, for starters, I think relationships are crucial. If you are a believer and you intend to have an impact on your world, you need to start loving people. Open up your lives, your homes, your hearts. Not so that you can win them over to your side, not so that you can take them to Sunday School, and not so that you can take them to fill up your pew on Bring a Friend to Church Day. Love them simply because it is the thing that you are called to do… you remember that little commandment that Jesus said was the biggest… “Love God and love people.” Love them purely, with no hidden motives. As you do so, you will have many opportunities to share with them the eternal truths that have impacted your life, and because of your love and concern for them, you will have credibility.
Secondly, be willing to compromise your methods. The message is timeless, but the methods aren’t. The world is a changing place, and if the church wants to reach the world, the church needs to change as well. Many of our churches are stuck somewhere in the 1950′s. Others label themselves contemporary and think they are trendy, but many of them are stuck in the 1980′s. You have to respect the Amish. At least they are honest when they say that they prefer the methods of a different era. The American church is like the Amish in denial. We think we are riding the wave of relevance, but all too often, we simply aren’t.
So what methods should the church embrace? To be honest, I am still working that one out. I am not really sure about what the church is called to do, but I am fairly confident about what I am called to do.
Love God and love people. In the end, isn’t that what matters most anyway?