Union Square is a historic and lively outdoor space in Manhattan, known for its plethora of restaurants, live entertainment, farmers market, college students and — most infamously — skateboarders. It is a crossroads for all people; a place where the rich and poor, young and old, goth and suits meet for entertainment and leisure. Entrepreneurs, extreme sport enthusiasts and people watchers are not the only ones taking advantage of this unique space; street evangelists are too.
They are part of the two percent of Christians who share their faith, according to statistics released by the evangelistic organization, Crusade For Christ. These street preachers are spreading the love and message of Jesus Christ right in the middle of New York City, and adding religion to the mix at this outdoor Manhattan hotspot.
This sparks some questions. How do they have the guts to do what they do in such a city? Are they simply Jesus freaks who should be categorized with the other “crazies” that roam Manhattan? And, is anybody really listening?
I took several different approaches as I watched these street preachers on my biweekly visits to Union Square. As a Christian, I admired their willingness to spread the message and inquired about their motivation. As a minister, I admired their preaching boldness, analyzed their audiences’ responses, and learned some indirect yet valuable lessons about spreading the Gospel. And at times, while I respected their mission, I had issues with the message they chose to share (particularly in regards to judgment, hell, and dogmatism) and questioned whether the best and most relevant methods were being used to reach their audience.