Just the other day I read a story about a preacher who got arrested. The reason was not what you probably think. He was not guilty of beating his daughter. He was not found possessing child pornography. No, the only thing he was guilty of was preaching – at a July 4th festival.
Is there anything wrong with preaching at a public festival? No, not really. Here in America our freedom of speech is still protected by the Constitution (for now). Then what was it that got this preacher into trouble? Well, I will get to that in a second, but first…
I have the utmost respect for anyone who can stand on a street corner and preach to a hostile crowd. I have stood on a street in eastern Europe and handed out Bibles, but I didn’t preach. Seeing soldiers with AK-47’s watching me was enough to keep my English to myself. So, don’t get me wrong, if you want to be another Ray Comfort, have at it. God bless you!
The thing that got the festival-crashing preacher in trouble was not the fact that he was preaching in a public place, it was because he was being rude. Yes, I said it. He was being rude.
Justifying Rude Behavior
There are some people in the Christian world who think making people angry is doing God’s work. Some Christians are convinced that they are fulfilling the Great Commission by crashing public events and barking out, “Repent! Repent!” In reality, many just come off as being inconsiderate, impolite, and obnoxious.
In defense of their actions, many street preachers and their followers (but not all) have suggested the following points:
- “The Gospel is more important than ______.” (whatever is going on that is being interrupted, such as music, fireworks, etc.)
- “We’re here to get sinners saved, not to make friends.”
- “100 years from now the crowd will forget [the event], but they will be happy they heard the Gospel.”
- “The Gospel (and Bible in general) is supposed to offend. Jesus said, ‘They hated me, so they’ll hate you.’ Jesus never held back when He talked to the Pharisees, did He?”
In response, let me share…
A Few Thoughts
First. In Mark 16:15 Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” But in Romans 12:18 we are told, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Even though we are commanded to preach the gospel, we’re not commanded to stir up strife.
Second. Paul told the Romans, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another (14:19).” Maybe that’s because Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek (Matt. 5:5),” and “Blessed are the peacemakers (Matt. 5:9).”
Third. Even though Jesus never pulled any punches with the Pharisees, it is never recorded where He went to a Pharisee picnic with a bull horn blasting out “Repent, you serpent-breathed, white-washed tombs!” As a matter of fact, as best I can tell, it was the Pharisees who came to Jesus in order to stir up trouble, not the other way around (Matt. 3:7; 15:1; 16:1; 19:3). It should even be noted that all the words Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 were spoken in the temple (Matt. 21:23), not on the street.
A Matter of Manners
Folks, it’s really a matter of decency, respect, and good manners. Emily Post said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.” A Christian should be the most mannerly person in the world! Jesus was never rude or obnoxious, so why should we?
The preacher that got arrested went where people had probably already “staked out” a good place to watch the fireworks display. One person told me, however, “He had the right to speak, and they had the right not to listen…they could have moved.” But really, what kind of message was that sending? Remember, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care (paraphrasing Zig Ziglar).
The English novelist and war correspondent Maurice Baring is quoted as saying, “Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude.” That should be a lesson to us. It doesn’t matter how great the message or how right the cause, rudeness is the great negator.