It was a simple excursion to the 3rd St. Promenade in Santa Monica. Little did we know that we would be found outside the law, violating a code that is reserved for the most scurrilous of scumbags… The police had surrounded one of our evangelists. What could we do? I reflected on the words of Prophet/Rock Star Tom Petty: “I fought the law and the law won.”
We have found it beneficial when witnessing in particular areas to begin a session by standing on a stool at the outset and preaching into the air, with or without listeners. We trust that the Word will never return empty; it has an immediate benefit, too: For some reason when we start out this way, people are more receptive to accepting Gospel tracts, and are more open to listening when we share our faith.
Tatsuo Akamine was our starter.
Tatsuo is used to being ignored. He preaches nearly everyday at our local Department of Motor Vehicles. After preaching there, he goes to the Social Security office where he is promptly ignored again. He’s been cussed at, fish have been tossed at him, someone has even pushed him off his preaching stool in anger. We thought that he would be a great candidate to begin our evangelistic session in ultra-liberal Santa Monica.
We trusted in the Spirit’s power and the fact that if killed, God could raise Tatsuo from the dead.
What we didn’t expect was that he would be under surveilance.
I snuck behind Santa Monica’s finest with my camera to gather evidence should things get out of hand. While Tatsuo preached, another policeman joined the first one.
What were they looking for? Was Tatsuo’s speech considered inflammatory? Is preaching Christ on a street corner in Santa Monica a ticketable offense? Or is it just plain offensive to warn of God’s coming wrath upon all those who sinned against a Holy God?
The code book was brought out and inspected thoroughly.
Tatsuo continued to explain that everyone who broke God’s Law, the 10 Commandments, would be found guilty on Judgment Day and end up in Hell.
“Excuse me,” I interrupted as the Officer looked intently upon the not-so-perfect law of the Westside. “Excuse me. It’s our First Amendment right to speak here.”
The Officer turned to me, and in a slightly exasperated tone replied, “Yes, sir. We are very well aware of that.”
Then they found something and rushed to get Tatsuo!
What did they find? Was it “narrow-mindednessness without a cause”? Could it be that they didn’t like the fact that there was only one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ?
They caught him red-handed!
The violation? Speaking on a stool. Seriously. The ordinance is called “Pure Speaking,” which allows a person to speak only when standing on the ground.
I tapped Tatsuo gently on the shoulder and signaled for him to come off the stool. The Officers watched silently. He stepped down and never missed a beat as he pleaded for all men everywhere to repent and put their trust in the Savior.
R.A. Torrey (1856-1928) said this in an article on open-air preaching:
Get permission from the powers that be to hold open-air meetings. Do not get into conflict with the police if you can possibly avoid it. As a rule it is quite easy to get this permission if you go about it in a courteous and intelligent way. Find out what the laws of the city are in this regard, and then observe them. Go to the captain of the precinct and tell him that you wish to hold an open-air meeting, and let him see that you are not a disturber of the peace or a crank. Many would-be open-air preachers get into trouble from a simple lack of good sense and common decency.