A FRIEND OF MINE WAS ARRESTED IN ENGLAND AND FOUND GUILTY for a heinous crime. Was it robbery? Assault? Murder? Nope. None of those. Mike Stockwell got busted, along with his compatriot Michael Overd, for speaking the truth!
I met Mike Stockwell back in 2008 when I was leading a team for The Ambassador’s Academy, an evangelism ministry started by Ray Comfort that teaches normal Christians how to share their faith simply and biblically by handing out Gospel tracts, having personal conversations and by street preaching.
I didn’t know it then, but Stockwell would continue to preach the gospel in streets around the country and the world as a calling and vocation for the next nine years. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news”—and he obeyed!
Now he’s paying the price.
Preaching in the open air has been around since the beginning of time. God was actually the first open air preacher; in fact, he was the first “no-air” preacher. His first sermon? “Let there be light.” After him was Enoch, Noah, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, Jonah, et al. After them, John the Baptizer, Jesus, Paul, Peter, and on and on and on.
Street preaching was one of the primary means God used to bring about his Word after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. John Wesley, street preacher and founder of the Methodist Movement said “I look upon the whole world as my parish.”
Charles Spurgeon, known as the Prince of Preachers in England during the 19th century wrote,
“No sort of defense is needed for preaching out-of-doors; but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his [church].”
The first huge spiritual revival in America called “The Great Awakening” was largely brought about by “field preachers” such as George Whitefield, who is said to have preached over 18,000 sermons in the open air.
The word “preach” comes from the Greek word, “kerusso,” which means to be a herald, one who proclaims openly the message of the king. It was an official position. The herald was to preach loudly and openly so everyone could hear the message with gravity and authority that must be obeyed as an ambassador of the king.
Get it? Street preachers have a message from the King. The main message being that God sent his Son to save sinners. You can reach more people in 10 minutes with the life-saving Gospel message by street preaching than in a month of one-to-one conversations.
In the U.S. we are free to proclaim the Good News without harassment from the law. Sadly, England doesn’t allow for those same freedoms anymore as Mike and Michael found out when they were apprehended for their illegal message. Answers in Genesis reports,
“The men were found guilty under Section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 of using “threatening or abusive words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person . . . and the offence was religiously aggravated.” Although last year British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith, and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ,”2 this is obviously not the case.
The government prosecutor, Ian Jackson, said they were guilty of “intentionally alarming” the public with their open-air preaching. “To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth,” he argued.
According to the Christian News Network,
Jackson contended that Michael Stockwell and Michael Overd had crossed the line by stating that those not following Christ are on the broad path to destruction. [Stockwell preached that] people were on their way to Hell because of their failure to adopt the worldview of Christianity,” Jackson told the court.
Stockwell had explained during the outreach, “If you are trying to come through Catholicism, through Jehovah Witness, through Mormonism, the Bible says you’re a thief and a liar, and a thief comes to steal and destroy. But Christ came that we may have life.”
Jackson said that it was also wrong for the preachers to include homosexuals in a list of sinners that included drunkards and thieves, contending that doing so “must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter.”
But attorney Michael Phillips of the Christian Legal Center noted to the court that the men were simply citing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which reads,
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
The Daily Mail reported that Prosecutor Jackson
“told the court some of the statements made by the preachers may have been in the King James Bible, translated in 1611, but that did not mean they were acceptable in 2016.”
My, how far Britain has fallen since the days of Whitefield, Wesley and Spurgeon.
Please pray that they win their appeal.
See Mike witnessing to angry, surly surfers by clicking here.
See Mike evangelize unsuspecting volleyball players by clicking here.
Photo credits: Christianity Today, The Christian News Network, DailyO.in/AP