Today I watched a stubborn street evangelist and his hecklers when I got off the bus at Seattle Central Community College. The preacher had a megaphone and a big banner that said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.” He was in his twenties, tall with a beard, and was staunchly quoting from the Gospel of John while two young guys cavorted around him like jackanapes, poking fun at his rigid, judgmental attitude. A big crowd had gathered to watch the spectacle.
I couldn’t decide if I was more saddened by the caricature of the Gospel that the preacher represented, or the meanness and emptiness of his tormenters.
I felt some empathy for the preacher, being a preacher myself, knowing that he was doing his best to fulfill the charge Paul solemnly gives Timothy in this Sunday’s Epistle, “Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage.” On the other hand, I don’t think his interpretation of the Gospel is accurate or helpful.
As I watched the spectators – mostly college students – I wondered what they got out of it. Entertainment, I suppose. I wonder if any of them saw the preacher and thought, “At least he believes what he’s preaching.” And I wonder, were any hearts or minds changed? Is God at work here? Or is God just shaking his head in frustration? What do you think?