Monday, May 2, 2016
" I Don't Care What That Bible Says"
This time of year, I really have my choice of preaching venues, and usually the choice boils down to this; I can make a 12 hour drive to Memphis Tennessee and preach with several dozen of my dear brothers in the ministry at the Beale Street Blast ( an event I highly recommend), or I can drive 45 minutes down the road and help out a faithful man who labors alone most of the time. I chose the short drive this year.
As a result I found myself, along with my faithful partner, and 3 of my kids at the 53rd Annual Shrimp Festival. We were there to assist a man named Charlie who, as I said before, works these events by himself most of the time.
As you can see from the picture, the crowd was pretty decent, and we were located maybe 30 or 40 feet away from the nearest vendor booth. We took our position and began preaching. Some people stopped and talked to us, lots of people took our picture, and some even thanked us for our presence.
While I was preaching a man approached Charlie, and began to talk to him. I figured to myself, Charlie's got this, and I continued on. I saw the man grab Charlie's sign and begin to shake it. Charlie looked back at me and said "Brother Mike, I'll take over, can you talk to this guy?"
The man was probably in his late 60's heavyset, with a Panama hat and a button up shirt festooned with the festival logo. Charlie took up the mantle and began preaching while I tried to talk to the man. Below is my best recollection of the conversation that followed.
"Yes sir, what can I do for you?"
"Listen, I'm a veteran, and I understand what you're trying to do here. I want you to know that. I am not opposed to what you are doing here, I'm not against what you are doing here. I'm a retired minister myself. But, you need to do it quieter."
"If we did it quieter nobody could hear us."
"Listen, this is a festival. And the vendors here have spent a lot of money to be here, and you're hurting business."
"Well, I get your point, my wife is actually manning a booth at a separate festival, and.."
"DON"T INTERRUPT ME!! THIS ISN'T THE BAPTIST CHURCH AND YOU DON'T JUST GET TO TALK OVER THE TOP OF ME!"
"Sir, you don't need to yell at me."
"YOU'VE BEEN YELLING AT US FOR 20 MINUTES!! NOW IT'S MY TURN!!"
By now he is jabbing his finger into my chest to make his point.
"GOD DOESNT WANT YOU OUT HERE RUINING OUR LIVELIHOOD AND COSTING US MONEY!! GOD WANTS US TO MAKE MONEY AND YOU ARE INTERFERING!!"
As a quick note, let me say that , although sometimes this might be a valid concern, I had been carefully watching vendor activity all around us, and I can honestly say that traffic didn't even slow down the entire time we were there. We were far enough back to where we were not interfering with anybody, but we could still be hard. But I digress. The yelling continued:
"THIS IS CITY PROPERTY AND YOU CANNOT BE DOWN HERE DOING THIS!!"
"Sir, this is public property." I pointed towards what I was pretty sure was City Hall. "That is city property."
"YOU CAN'T BE OUT HERE! THIS ISN'T THE PLACE FOR THIS!! NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR YOU!"
"Well sir, the Bible says ..."
"I DON'T CARE WHAT THAT BIBLE SAYS!!"
"Yes sir, that's exactly the problem. Honestly, the best thing you could have done as a minster was retire."
Now I probably shouldn't have said that. It wasn't necessary. But by now he had been poking me in my chest (technically assault) for several minutes now and screaming at me. Now the finger went from my chest to my face. A crowd was gathering, and the preaching was still going on.
"I'M GOING TO GET THE COPS. I AM GOING TO WATCH THEM ARREST YOU. I AM GOING TO WATCH THEM REMOVE YOU."
"The Bible says ..."
"I KNOW MORE ABOUT THE BIBLE THAN YOU EVER WILL, YOU LITTLE HYPOCRITE!! I'M CALLING THE COPS!!"
"Go ahead , sir. We'll be here when they arrive.".
He stomped off into the crowd. The cops never arrived. We stayed for maybe another half hour and departed.
Now let me say this; I tend to highlight the confrontations we have, but our ministry is not a ministry of contention. We aren't rude, we don't insult people, or at least we try not to. But when you preach in public, your most devoted opposition will not come from the dope crowd or the prostitute crowd or the devil-worshiping crowd. Your opposition will come from professing Christians. Pastors will shun you, deacons will insult you. and people who claim to agree with everything you say will demand that the police arrest you for saying it.
Strange stuff indeed.