I’d gone to the Festival for some fun but also to volunteer at a booth where local authors were signing books. I belong to a group called the AUTHORS CIRCLE and we gather twice a month to share ideas and support each other in our writing. When I arrived they had a full complement of authors so I thought it was a good time to wander around and visit the 200 booths as well as take in the entertainment at the First Tennessee Stage on the Public Square.
I approached the Stage and was distracted by a man with a wireless microphone who was shouting something about Jesus. I almost ran into another man in the middle of the street who held a large banner that said, “HELL FOREVER”; a third was handing out cards and videotaping.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to talk with anyone about God or Jesus at anytime or any place. And this street preacher seemed pretty sincere in his convictions. But you’ll never find me shouting, judging a stranger or forcing my beliefs on anyone else. I don’t see any examples in the Bible where Jesus stood on a street corner shouting at people, never stopping to take a breath. Instead, I see where Jesus’ loved people and took the time to engage them in two-way conversation like the woman at the well (John 4: 1-26). Jesus listened to her and answered her questions. He didn’t shout at the woman and demand her allegiance; instead he offered her a new life, a life of living water. Jesus’ offer of a new life was by invitation, not by force or intimidation.
I listened for a few more minutes and then walked up to the preacher and handed him my card with 1 Corinthians 10:13 written on it. I didn’t need to shout at him; in fact, I never said a word.
That evening I got an email from Brother Tracy and I responded asking if he would meet me for coffee or share a meal to compare our styles in spreading the Good News. But he can’t meet me, because they aren’t from Tennessee, they’re from Kentucky. They only came down to “preach” the Main Street Festival in Franklin. They don’t ever meet with people; they only correspond by email.
Since their ministry doesn’t involve actually meeting with someone, I’d like to offer these suggestions via this letter to Brother Tracy and his preachers if they consider “preaching” at next year’s MAIN STREET FESTIVAL in FRANKLIN:
1. Don’t yell and scream. I’m not deaf or stupid. You can engage me in a conversation at a normal tone of voice and we might have a meaningful encounter. Jesus is about relationships.
2. Take a breath. Jesus asks a person a question and then he listens for their answer. You weren’t concerned in learning what I know or how I felt, only spreading your message. That’s pretty self-centered and that wasn’t Jesus. Jesus only spoke in order to glorify God and he does that through our relationship with Him.
3. Don’t force people to listen to your message, block their path, or take tracts they don’t want. Remember, it is about willing obedience, not coercion.
4. Don’t compete with the scheduled entertainment. The secondary and high school girls from FRANKLIN SCHOOL OF PERFORMING ARTS look forward to performing on the stage and they shouldn’t have to compete with your broadcasting. Jesus loved little children. Don’t compete with them.
5. Rent a booth, it costs $275.00. If you want to talk about your faith, good for you---even hang out a sign. But let the people come to you---that is what Jesus did, he never forced himself on anyone. In fact, if he wasn’t welcomed, he’d shake the dust off his feet and go to the next village. Have a few chairs and some free coffee; invite people to engage in a two-way conversation about their faith.
It is good for Brother Tracy that I was not Jesus disguised as me last Saturday. Jesus would not be happy.
Don’t get me wrong; I still had a great time at the FESTIVAL! I enjoyed great food, arts and crafts, and fun with over 100,000 people in Franklin, TN for the weekend.
But what is your opinion? For next year, should the street preachers be left alone to preach again, or should the Franklin police give them a ticket for disturbing the peace? Should they have to pay the $275 for a booth and let people come to them if they want to engage in a faith conversation?
What are your thoughts?
I’d appreciate it if you would post your comments.
Blessings, my friend,