A Day in the Life of an Evangelist
and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Acts 5:40-41
Doin’ Some Ministry
I’d been looking forward to the day all week… actually if the truth were known I’d been looking forward to this type of a day for months ever since Tony arrived in Iowa. We’ve done some ministry together, mostly going to the abortion clinic, but we hadn’t really hit the streets for a full on day of open air evangelism. Street preaching and gospel tracting, hopefully leading to some decent gospel conversations.
I suppose in some circles Tony is kind of a “big deal” at least he’s achieved some notoriety among those “odd” Christians that engage in evangelism and open air preaching or “field preaching” as some like to call it. Called that because of the great ministers of old such as George Whitefield that gathered large crowds in the fields to preach when they were kicked out of their churches. Or the greatest field preacher of all time the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
I suppose Tony is sort of a big deal but he’s not really a big deal to anyone that gets to know him. He’s just Tony and he’s a dear brother in the Lord and a humble servant of the King. But at one time it was watching Tony’s videos that I came to realize that maybe I too could do open air preaching someday. Watching how he did it seemed so natural and so conversational, if you will, that I thought I didn’t need to be a “professional” to do this. Years later who would of ever thought he’d be a member of my church.
It’s funny how things go because as we wrapped up our teaching that Saturday morning on God’s Providence, and providentially it turned out that the email only went to me and not to the church so instead of their potentially being several men wanting to go it was only me and brother Tony that were going to hit the streets.
Heading to Galena
Nothing unusual about the day other than it was as gorgeous a spring day as I can ever remember and after Men’s Bible Study Tony insisted we stop for iced coffee before heading toward Galena, Illinois (okay a slight exaggeration). A small burg known for its intimate downtown, old American charm, and many visitors from all over the Midwest. The town U.S. Grant chose to settle down after his presidency and well after he helped secure victory for the North to keep the Union together. Galena is a fun place to go and for a couple evangelists it’s loaded with just what we need. Lots of people in a tightly confined space, ready or not, to hear the gospel of Christ.
After a quick lunch at Culver’s and paying the rent due on my coffee, we headed toward the downtown to scope out the most advantageous place to preach and pass out tracts. It didn’t take long to identify a good place. Main street is one-way and it’s tight and narrow with lots of shops and restaurants on both sides of the streets and as it turns out the acoustics are just what a street preacher wants. With or “without” amplification. I’ve preached a lot in the open air in the last several years but I’d dare say Tony has probably preached thousands of times in the open air and his skill is polished and refined. He has a great rhythm and yet it never sounds rehearsed. I learn from him every time I hear him and as I prayed for him and stepped to the other side of the street he strapped on the Aker Amp and began to speak. It was calm, sure and steady with a great deal of gentleness and love for the lost that flowed from my brother. It was very edifying to me as a believer.
Not so Fast…
As it was my turn to go and I was preparing to start I said “Good Afternoon”…. and the words no more came out my mouth and Galena’s Finest rolled onto the scene. I thought, “oh no… are they going to shut us down?” The officer’s were extremely polite and direct and said you have your right to free speech here but you can’t use amplification. Tony discussed it with them for a few moments and we gladly submitted to their request. Tony told him that we are required to submit to their authority as Romans 13 tells us. As a side note this would be quite advantageous to us later on in the day. And as a matter of evangelism technique whenever possible it is always good to agree quickly to the officers terms.
Tony came over and encouraged me to not allow it to effect my preaching, to stay within the power of my own voice, don’t strain, but preach with boldness and authority. Because the acoustics were so excellent, Tony later told me that my voice carried well down the street and he had no trouble hearing the gospel as I declared it. I don’t recall the length of time I preached, it is often a surreal experience as you concentrate on the glory of Christ and lose track of time, but I suspect it was 35 to 45 minutes.
Half way through an angry townswomen asked if we had a permit while interrupting my sermon and Tony came over to intervene that I might continue on. She was loud and boisterous, Proverbs 7 comes to mind, and would not easily be put off. She had a big voice and she began to try and yell over the top of me but after a short while she meandered her way back to whatever she was doing.
Tony went again next and that is when things really got interesting. Not sure how long he had been going but I suppose it was 20 minutes and as I stood on the corner across the street I heard Andy coming… I heard the horn…. You’ve heard loud and angry horns before, but you’ve not heard this kind of an angry horn before and as the big Dodge Ram Truck veered straight toward Tony he didn’t appear to be going to stop until Tony became his personal hood ornament. I stood and watched in semi-horror, and semi-confusion as to what was going to happen. Tony stood his ground, to my amazement, didn’t even budge an inch. Andy decided rather than face a murder charge, he best move to the side a bit and missed Tony by inches. The whole while keeping the angry horn on full blast. You can watch the video here.
Andy was not a “happy camper” as one might say and he was screaming through the window and calmly Tony told him to have a nice day…. It was comic relief in the moment of not sure what was going to happen next. After he drove away it was not the last we’d see of him that day. Moments later he was back and yelling at the top of lungs about his love for Zeus, Thor and Aphrodite. I’m really not sure what his point was but one thing was evidently clear was his hatred for the God he knew (Romans 1).
Our encounter continued for a while and Andy was not backing down and one point he said he had been a Catholic for 12 years and he almost calmed down to the point of normalcy. It almost appeared like he was going to have a rational conversation for a moment but not so… Moments later the Galena Police came onto the scene again. In hindsight, they knew Andy fairly well. When the officer asked him for his identification he refused and quicker than you can swat at a mosquito Andy had his arm behind his back and the officer was slapping on the cuffs and tossing him into his vehicle.
Providence had taken an interesting turn and after things settled down the officer’s asked Tony and I if we’d come make a statement. We gladly obliged and we began a short walk up the hill to the station and were chased down by three young kids probably around 10 years of age. They were telling us how thankful they were that we were there preaching the gospel. Their mom was in hot pursuit and as I handed them all tracts and thanked them mom offered a friendly wave and mouthed a big “thank you” to us.
Some Great Take-a ways
There is a lot to be thankful for in our time in Galena and I’d be remiss to not mention my conversation with Elliott and his wife Pam. Elliott thanked us and told both Tony and I that when he was saved God flooded his mind with every seed that had been planted along the way included hearing and seeing street preachers. He asked for my email and I hope to continue to encourage one another along the narrow and difficult path of Christianity. But along that path there is joy. Joy in the fellowship with a dear brother. Even if he is or isn’t a “big deal”. Joy in suffering for the sake of Christ and the joy of the gospel. Joy in a beautiful day in Galena Illinois. Joy that God provides for and protects his people in all circumstances. Even if it had turned out differently.
God is good and worthy to be praised.