A frequent atheist contributor to this blog has taken exception to the way we evangelize in public, and is also disturbed at some of the places we do it. This atheist is thoughtful and reasonable, but does she make a valid point? I answer her concerns afterward. (Read original comments in context here. Start at part 1 of the series by clicking here.)
perdita wrote: “[T]he more I read here the more I’m convinced that your evangelizing is just a way for you to feel good about getting into people’s way, being rude, and creating conflict.”
Wrong places to preach, according to perdita, were outside beer gardens, inside elevators, the DMV. “When you do that,” she explained, “you’re just being a passive-aggressive bully. Yeah—and don’t preach to kids unless their parents are there and okay it.”
She did offer a list of appropriate places: “…your ‘corridor of conversion’, stop light evangelizing, or public places where people can stay or move if they want. Though, if your amp is loud enough that people can hear it in their apartments, it’s probably too loud.”
Then another atheist (believe it or not) jumped in to defend us , saying, “Presuming you weren’t in violation of anything, you have a right to blather on about anything so long as you aren’t inciting violence or causing panic.”
Perdita then said, “I’m not saying he had no right to preach there…. However, that doesn’t mean what he was doing was ‘right’ in the larger sense of the word.”
I then explained that I just want our evangelists to respond in a gracious, tactful, gentle manner wherever we preach.
perdita would have none of it: “This seems to mean: ignore [them], unless [someone pulls a gun on you forcing you to stop.]
“Steve … states that the only reason to stop [preaching] is if there’s a gun. That’s one of the things I find appalling—that he thinks that the only legitimate reason to move on is personal safety. Not surprising, but appalling. His ‘audience’ aren’t real people to him, they’re merely a supporting cast in “The Adventures of Steve the Evangelist” and the sooner they learn to shut up, the better.”
I explained that it has nothing to do with “The Adventures of Steve the Evangelist,” but everything to do with getting the Word out. This is how she closed the discussion:
“I know you believe that. You think these people are drowning and the only valid reason to turn down the volume, shorten your spiel, or move on is mortal violence or the law.
“I don’t know if I can explain this well, but your belief that they are drowning is still unsubstantiated. I imagine it feels really real to you, but that feeling doesn’t make it true. And you seem so invested in this belief that it has become more important to you than the actual people you preach to—that’s why I call them a supporting cast.”
The best reason I can give to an unbeliever as to why we have to speak, regardless of the audience, is the urgency. I wrote an analogy sometime back called “The Drowning Woman” which likens the plight of the unsaved to a woman who doesn’t know she’s drowning. A former lifeguard attempts to rescue her anyway, though she fights and claws and protests. (Read it here.)
All unbelievers face a horrendous fate because of their sin against God: Hell.
The Moral Law, the 10 Commandments, stands in judgment of their actions, their consciences warning them. Because the Commandments are no longer thought of as valid in this post-Christian, anti-Christian culture, and since most people don’t know them, we consider it our sacred duty as evangelists to remind them of God’s standard: perfection.
If the unbeliever has broken one, just one Commandment, by lying, stealing, blaspheming, looking with lust, hating, or even dis-honoring their parents, they will be found guilty on the Day of Judgment of being lying thieves, blasphemers, adulterers-at-heart and murderers who do not honor their parents—and will end up in Hell to pay for their sin. One sin, one broken Commandment, and the punishment eternal suffering.
Unbelievers hate that message and will do anything to stop it from being preached.
We don’t care.
We do care that people understand that they are not good enough to make it to Heaven.
Unbelievers will protest that there is no proof.
We don’t care.
We do care that the truth of what God has said is delivered. No evidence necessary.
Unbelievers will complain, though we are in a public area, that we are being disruptive, even though we try to be gracious and keep our messages to about five minutes.
We do care—that they hear.
We also want them to know that Jesus Christ was born, a Savior who took all the punishment they deserve for their sin upon Himself, dying for them, being buried for three days and rising again to give them the hope of eternal life should they repent and trust in Him.
We do care.
An unbeliever’s temporary discomfort—their disruption—pales in comparison to what they will experience should they disbelieve our message—or never hear it at all.
That’s why we will continue to speak.
In the future another analogy: The Bridge is Out!