Then, around the corner I come and I saw it. A crowd of people with their iPhone’s filming a young 20 something white guy in a suit and tie, with a gold bound Bible in his hand and a mean temper yelling at the students to repent.
Something righteous in me snapped. I’ve been on this campus for a year now getting to know these students, loving them, getting honest with them, living life on life with them and I see this unloving, screaming madman trying to beat the sin out of them and Jesus into them.
I walked up to the young guy and I said: “Excuse me, you are not helping my cause. I’m a missionary on this campus and you are making my job harder and are in fact turning more of these young people away from the Jesus you and I know could save them.”
He then stops screaming and turns to me and asks: “What do you suggest I do then?”
I say: “Get to know them. Talk with them. Hear the struggles in their lives and offer Jesus as the hope. Don’t scream at them as if you know them and walk away from them as you are going to after you’re done ‘preaching’.”
He then says: “You’re rebuking me for the same thing you are now doing to me. Why should I listen to you?”
I respond: “Because you are my brother in Christ, I can rebuke you for this”
This is where it got totally weird for me. He looks right at me and asks: “Do you have sin in your life?” I say: “Yes, but I know the grace of God is pointing it out and by the Spirit of God within me I can have power to overcome”
His response was priceless. He says: “Well, I’m sinless. The only way to be my brother in Christ is to be as I am, without sin. There are two people: sinners and the sinless. You are a sinner, so we can’t talk”
He then continued to belittle and tirade folks. I asked a young man who was filming my interaction with this street preacher to come over and answer a few questions for me. In front of this sinless preaching guy I asked: “Which approach do you think would lead you to listen to my message of Jesus. His screaming or my method of talking to you and getting to know you?” He said: “Your way. I grew up Christian (and pointing to the street preacher) and this is not the way. He’s not helping Jesus right now”. I then thanked the young man and began to shake the hands of those around this preacher and apologized as a pastor for what they were experiencing and offered them free coffee and conversation across the street.
Some of you reading this may be upset at what I did, or confused as to why I did it, so I will give a couple bullet points as to why I yelled at a Street Preacher.
- Jesus came not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17)
- Jesus spoke of sin most harshly to the “religious” folks who thought themselves sinless
- Relationship is how young adults come to faith over 2/3 of the time
- Being yelled at rather than listened to is an automatic turn off
- This guy was going to yell and leave. We’re called to make disciples, not scare people into fire insurance
The face of missions and evangelism has changed. We have to be aware of the culture around us and learn to speak their language.
I as a missionary and pastor to these amazing college students (even if I don’t know them) will fight against anything that can hinder them from knowing Jesus and His Salvation. I pray that this experience allows these students to see Jesus differently. I pray we can be Christians who seek to carry out Christ’s mission of saving the world, and not condemning it.