Since August 13, Tatsuo Akimine has preached everyday at the Torrance DMV. After he’s done there, he moves on to the Social Security Administration just up the street. He must preach from the sidewalk because the Security guard has banned him from the property. I went to the Social Security office this morning and stood in line incognito, notepad in hand, gauging the reactions of the “captive audience” standing with me. I was truly surprised at the comments I heard in response to this crazy evangelist.
At 8:40 AM, about fifteen people were in line. Tatsuo took this time to get a little encouragement from the Word and to pray. Only a few of the “regulars” knew what was coming…
At 8:45 he starts his 10 minute sermon (read it here) that takes his congregation through the 10 Commandments…
…warning them that if they have broken just one, then they will be found guilty on Judgment Day and end up in Hell for eternity. Then the good news of Christ’s forgiveness is offered, if they would only repent and trust in Him. He must compete with the deafening traffic on Crenshaw Blvd. behind him. I thought it was interesting that when he got to the 7th Commandmant, “Do not commit adultery,” someone honked his horn long and loud.
In line I heard a woman say to a friend, “I don’t believe in Hell.” And with a mild hint of disgust she huffed, “Everyone has their own opinion about this.” Overall, the line was quiet, either listening to the sermon or pretending not to listen by reading their newspapers and turning up the volume of the iPods.
The Security guard pulled into the parking lot on a bright red chopper. A burly man, he took his time taking off his helmet and jacket, thrust out his chest in an I’m in charge way, turned sideways just long enough to let everyone see the gun holstered menacingly to his side then… looked at the twenty or so standing in line, rolled his eyes toward the preacher, and walked away.
“Open the doors!” someone shouted. A few laughed at that one.
Tatsuo preached on and on.
I asked people what they thought of this man after his sermon was finished. Here are their various reactions:
“He has nothing better to do than preach!”
“I believe he thinks he’s doing what’s right. It’s his duty to try and save all our souls; he’s not doing it to be rude. It’s my duty to save my own soul. My relationship to God is my business.”
“I ignored him. There’s enough preaching going around; I don’t need it at the Social Security office. He believes in his cause; it’s not my cause.”
“If I wanted to hear a sermon, I’d go to church.
It’s not exactly how I want to start my morning.”
“He didn’t realize that he’s preaching to the choir. It’s a good thing.”
“I give him two thumbs up for coming out and preaching it.”
After the doors opened I went inside to ask Security guard, Tony Williams, what he thought: “A regular guy.”
Tony then addressed the line that was now inside the building shuffling papers and finding seats. “I let him stay out there for you guys!” he said with a knowing smile.
I asked a couple of black ladies what they thought. “He should get his own congregation. You don’t push Jesus on people.”
A man who claimed that he was an atheist wasn’t offended. “I don’t believe in God, so it goes in one ear and out the other. He’s just voicng his beliefs… nothing wrong with that.”
One person understood his purpose when she said, “He’s a modern-day Noah.”
And another appreciated his integrity by validating what he was doing: “I think he’s more real than the guys on T.V. asking for money. He said [in his sermon], ‘No money.’ ”
What do you think of all this open air preaching? Is it valid? Crazy? Should we do this in today’s modern society? Is this complete foolishness or what?
John Wesley (1703-1791) wrote in his diary about his own burden for open air preaching:
“I preached on the quay, at Kingswood, and near King’s Square. To this day field-preaching is a cross to me. But I know my commission and see no other way of ‘preaching the Gospel to every creature.'”
If you’d like to visit this modern day Noah and offer your encouragement, he preaches at the Torrance DMV at 7:45AM (I brought my men’s group there for our evangelism lesson), and he starts at 8:45 at the Social Security office.