Wisdom from a “Religious Fanatic”
Last Sunday, a Facebook friend from New York City wrote on his wall about getting into trouble for preaching the gospel on a bus. A friend of his who I’ll call Bruce (not his real name) tried to discourage him from doing that. I posted a response quoting Jesus’ commandment to “preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15). During an ensuing exchange of emails, Bruce repeatedly labeled me a religious fanatic.
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, one definition of fanatic is “a person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, esp. an activity.” The fact is everybody gets enthusiastic about someone or something. It’s interesting to note the word enthusiasm originates from a Greek word meaning “possessed by a god” or “inspired.”
I pointed out to Bruce that whenever the Yankees win the World Series or the Giants win the Super Bowl, the streets of New York City become crowded with sports fanatics. Many of these fans are not ashamed to brag about their favorite team in front of strangers on the street, buses, subways, etc. So what’s wrong with believers openly proclaiming the ultimate victory we have in Jesus Christ? Bruce thought this was a terrible analogy because “sports fanatics don't try to convert people.” I disagree for I’ve seen diehard fans trying to convince others that their team is better. For some of them, sports have become their god.
Usually I just do one-on-one evangelism but I know other ministers who regularly preach openly in public places. Either way, persecution will happen but it can be minimized if one follows the leading of the Holy Spirit and not try to force the gospel down people’s throats. Years ago, I heard a minister named Bob Shattles who talked about getting a crowd’s attention by hollering, “I'm in love with a man...and I'm going to marry Him one day...and His name is Jesus.” He would then preach a short evangelistic message. Bob only did this when the Holy Spirit instructed him to and there was obvious fruit. One time at a Shoney’s restaurant, Bob led an audience of 37 people to get born again.
So if you decide to step out and do some open air preaching, let the Lord guide you regarding when and where to do that. I heard evangelist Dwight Thompson say, “I'm just the paperboy.” Our job is to share the Good News and leave the results up to God. But even if only one soul gets saved from your public preaching, then it's worth it from an eternal perspective.
“Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.” - Proverbs 19:2 (NLT)