In England we have the occasional street preacher and mostly they’re pretty wacky. Don’t get me wrong, I know some great street preachers out there but let’s be honest, they’re not the majority by any stretch of the imagination.
Usually with street preachers all you hear is “You’re going to Hell! You’re a sinner! God hates sin! Look at my nicely knitted jumper from the 80s! I have impossibly huge glasses and a beard! ohandbythewayjesuslovesyouandyoudon’tneedtoworryifyoutrustinhimbecauseofhisamazinggraceandforgiveness.
They generally just major on the bad news and forget the good or just write off all the good all together. Or just preach about a Jesus they’ve just made up.
So on our first day we were a little surprised to be given a chocolate bar and an invite to a church (more on that one later) and then, two minutes down the line, to hear a street preacher going for it in the middle of Manhattan – that must take some guts. We stopped to listen to whatever heresy he was cooking up but we were instead greatly surprised (or at least I know I was) to hear that the man with the scary beard was really sound. In fact, we stood there listening to him for ages it was that encouraging. We went for a walk along 42nd street and got a good encouraging gospel message all about grace. What more could you ask for?
The next experience was when we were walking to China Town and heard some really loud music. Naturally we went to investigate and found that a group of about 10 churches from across the state had come together to have a gospel and worship music service in the square. It was FANTASTIC! Never have I been so encouraged on a weekday in the middle of a city walking along the street. One of the girls who stood up at the front spoke about all Christians being the body of Christ and I really felt that I had a greater understanding of that being one of only two Englishmen in a crowd of a hundred or so New Yorkers all praising the same God and preaching the same gospel as us.
As for the Sunday, we didn’t get to see Tim Keller’s church but instead we went along to the church of the guy who gave us the invite on our first day. Now, not only was this church getting out onto the streets of New York to evangelise, not only was it extremely sound and contemporary (check it out at http://www.journeymetro.com ), not only were they starting a series on a topic both Luke and I were thinking about, and not only does it have a branch out in San Francisco which we will be dropping into when we get there but it was also named after one of my favourite bands – Journey. I almost died.
How’s that for encouraging? Not the me dying bit, the rest of the blog.
Not only does America churn out good preachers – it gave us this guy