It is one of the things which makes me cringe more than anything. I hate to see it done to others, and I rue the day it will happen to me. I do not see any good coming from it, but people continue to employ this strategy.
I am of course speaking about sidewalk preachers. Those persons who feel it necessary to proclaim to the world their message through large signage and an even larger voice. They shout such messages as “Repent Sinners!” and “Fear God and Obey Him!”
This scene is initially what I thought of when I heard Dave preach about “Go and Tell” as the response to Christ’s Ascension. I think of hateful speech being thrown at passersby with the hope they will turn from their “evil” ways. This can hardly be what Christ is calling his disciples, and by extension us, to do right?
Within the Acts 1 text, the disciples are told not to look heavenward but out into the world to do the mission Christ has given us. We are to go out and be witnesses to what Christ has done and taught in the world.
Certainly street preaching is one way to witness, but I do not think it is what we are intended to do. It just doesn’t add up with what Christ did in his lifetime. Certainly there were times Jesus stood up to those in authority, called out hypocrisy, and even preached on the Mount or Plain, but there were also times he was a healer, a teacher, a graceful guest and host, and one who worked with and for the poor (of which he was).
Admittedly, there are different ways one can “witness,” but for me, witnessing to the work God has done through Jesus Christ means more than just yelling at someone you don’t know. It means caring for those people around you, coming into relationship with them, and then having a conversation about Christ. It means doing the hard work of listening, being a good neighbor, and truly being authentic with another person.
This way might be the harder way, but Christ never said being a disciple would be easy. Nothing done well ever is. And for that, thanks be to God.