So I had a little run-in this week with someone that calls himself a “street preacher.” Really, all I said was that I didn’t think he and I would make a good match because I didn’t think our evangelism styles meshed. I was polite. I promise. I didn’t even go into a short explanation of my feelings of street preaching, let alone a long one. Just said our styles don’t mesh.
His response to me was that
- I am not a Christian.
- My theology is off.
- Jesus called us into action (ie street preaching) in John 3:16 and I wasn’t doing what he said there.
- I am “religious” “God’s word, not yours.”
- I don’t read my Bible; and
- He (this guy) “lived it” and I “walked by”.
Yeah….I responded. I think I remained kind. But I was pretty direct in my response. I could have been kinder and possibly had an interesting conversation with him if he wasn’t so antagonistic. But here in a nutshell are the basics of my rebuttal….
- I am a Christian. He may not be aware of this since this is between me and God. But God knows it, as do I.
- I didn’t respond to the theology thing. Yeah, my theology probably is off in some places. But don’t think he had enough information about me to make that judgment.
- John 3:16 talks about me believing and what God has done so I can. Doesn’t mention any other action on my part that I can find.
- He says I am religious as God defines. So did he mean this as an insult? I hope I am religious God’s way….but I think I fall short. God’s religion is taking care of those who need assistance – widows, orphans, etc. I don’t do it enough. But I make an attempt!
- Yeah, I read my Bible. Not nearly enough. But I do. And I both listen to God….and talk back.
- For me evangelism is living my life in this world. As me, a Christian. A pretty imperfect one. Hopefully a pretty transparent one.
I’m admittedly not a fan of most street preachers. I think often it’s more about them being the center of attention than it is about God being introduced to people. I don’t like to be yelled at, don’t like to be taunted, don’t like people assuming they know who I am and where I stand when they have never bothered to try to get to know me. But I am not against them. I know people whose lives have been changed by street preachers. So while it’s not usually appealing to me, I believe that sometimes they are called and used by God. But it is not something that God has called me to do. Yet. If He does, there I will be.
God also hasn’t called me to go door to door and tell people anything. Just like when I hate when complete strangers yell at me in the street, I hate when people come to my door (unless they need something or have been invited.) I’m probably not always welcoming when they do. (OK….I seldom am.) I hope I don’t turn away angels in disguise….but I also trust that if it is an angel, if I am paying attention to God, He will let me know and my door will be open!
I also am not going to be handing out a lot of religious tracts. And not leaving them in restaurants. Especially if they are not accompanied by the waitperson’s biggest monetary tip of the day. Nothing wrong with tracts themselves (there are some great ones), but they’re usually a bit too canned for me. And I am still annoyed by the guy who just left me a religious tract when I was his waitress back in college. Since God had already given me the gift of salvation, and it was only God’s gift to give, he left me nothing! And I had lots of bills to pay. Not that tips are ever mandatory…but you would think my brother in Christ would want to help the poor college student, wouldn’t you?! (Yeah….it’s been about 30 years. I guess probably it is time to forgive the old guy, isn’t it?! I’ll work on that.)
I do believe in evangelism. For my friends who are not Christians (or who are and hate that word)….and who want to run screaming as I make that statement….don’t get too scared. I have believed in it for as long as you have known me. The center of my life is my faith. It’s hard for you to know who I am if I start hiding this. Just as it’s hard for me to get to know who you really are, and what you believe, if you don’t share it with me. Wherever you are in your journey, whatever you believe, whoever you are, you don’t have to clean up when I come around and become something you’re not. You get to be yourself. I love a lot of people who don’t believe as I believe and who aren’t very much like me at all. I like it that way. Gives us things to talk about. But we don’t have to talk about God if you don’t want to. All people believe in something. Some haven’t quite figured out what that is. Some have….and it isn’t the same God as me. There’s something driving your choices, the way you live your life, the way you reconcile this world in your minds. And whatever it is, it interests me. I hope that if I am your friend, what I believe interests you.
Seems to me that God in His infinite wisdom gave us all free choice to decide what we believe and how we live our lives. Whether we accept Him or not….it’s a choice. Would be a bit crazy if I tried to change it all to suit me…and I wouldn’t, because I don’t disagree with His decision.
I don’t have to go preach out on a street corner to believe in the power of John 3:16. I think Mr. Street Preacherman is kinda missing the point of that verse. Eternal life is a free gift. We have the freedom to accept it or reject it. But if I accept it, I don’t have to pay for it, I don’t have to be good enough for it, I don’t have to work it off, I don’t have to fit in any sort of little Christian mold. No matter what “he” says.