"Oh, oh the places you'll go!"- Dr. Suess
I've said for years that a person who takes the gospel outside of the church walls will encounter every slice of humanity. Do it long enough and you will encounter every social strata, every income level, every race and every creed. Recently our adventures in publick ministry took us to a rather interesting subculture of America as we found ourselves at the Elvis Festival in Brunswick GA where otherwise rational people spend their leisure time disguised as the (probably) deceased singer. It's sort of like Halloween except everybody is wearing the same costume.
But our policy is to go where the crowd is and so we found ourselves on a very familiar corner while four separate Elvis impersonators belted out their best renditions at various points around us. Just past the throbbing PA system we preached to the crowds drifting from singer to singer. As one impersonator would finish his set, the next set of sideburns in the rotation would take up the mantle to a surprisingly large crowd of mostly older women. Since the number of Elvii (plural of Elvis, look it up) outnumbered the number of singing spots, there were lot of free-floating impersonators, and some of them invariably sauntered past us. We saw young Elvis and old Elvis. We saw an Elvis who was probably over 70, hunched over with age in a white jumpsuit and huge sunglasses. We saw a Spanish Elvis, and we saw one Elvis with a belt so big I assumed he had stolen it from Hulk Hogan. We watched Elvis pick his nose. Truly the experiences offered by the ministry are staggering in scope.
As far as crowds go, the Elvis fest crowd were remarkably friendly towards us. At one point we wandered towards one of the concerts and Elvis belted out mid-song "God bless ya buddy!"with a jeweled finger thrust towards my banner. Another Elvis (it gets so confusing, I know) broke into his rendition of 'Amazing Grace' at the sight of us. One Elvis wished me luck and another Elvis told me to keep up the good work.
Having said all that, they weren't particularly more receptive to the gospel than any other group we regularly preach to; they were just more polite about it. They weren't there to hear us, they were there to either pretend to be a dead guy from Memphis or they were there to listen to other people pretend to be a dead guy from Memphis. It was more than a little surreal to see women in walkers and oxygen tanks swoon and blush when young Elvis would flirt with them. It was equally surreal (but kind of impressive) to watch pot-bellied Elvis thrust his hips to a rendition of 'Sweet Caroline' without breaking something.
Two quick hobby horses, if you don't mind.
Often we in publick ministry are accused of being radical and perhaps that's true, at least by comparison. A common retort among the scorners is to tell us to "get a life". They call us silly, and they call us foolish. They tell us we are wasting our time. Then some of them go climb into a sequined jumpsuit and sing "I Did It My Way" to strangers. It's all in how you look at it, I suppose. But I've found that most people are obsessed with something. I'm just obsessed about something worth being obsessed about.
A man who only preaches to people inside a designated building who already agree with him only lives half a life, as far as I'm concerned. Real life, and real adventure is found in taking the gospel to people who don't necessarily want it. You never know where it will take you. You just might run into the man (or men) who would be King.