Busted Halo
feature: religion & spirituality
September 16th, 2009

Street Preaching — Compassionate, Confrontational and Christian

A young minister reflects on her encounters with evangelism


A member of YMBBA Ministries preaching in Union Square

A member of YMBBA Ministries preaching in Union Square

As we talk, Shawn’s passion and conviction is obvious as he boldly and knowledgeably speaks about Christology and quotes from the Bible. I respect his passion and consistency and I’m somewhat inspired by it. However, I can’t help but think about the message itself.

Deep down, I wish he were selling “Heaven” instead of “Hell”. So I ask him about the message. He references the “fear of God”. This fear he speaks of really means “respect” for God rather than being “afraid” of God, but it is the literal meaning of this scripture and several Revelations passages that give him unequivocal purpose.

As people continue to pass by, he stands there wearing his sign and passing out tracts. There are no conversations with and no smiles shown to the busy people that pass by — just a man with a purpose spreading his message.

Though Shawn’s signs may spark fear in some and conviction in others, his passion and dedication should be applauded. It is his boldness and dedication that I admire. I am not always as bold in my Christianity as I should be; I only wish I could be as fearless as Shawn. However, I leave him wishing that there were less fear and consequences, and more love and incentives in his message.

Although I truly understand his zeal, I wish he would preach his miracle: that God can heal and give you life. That is what he experienced through his kidney ordeal. I believe everyone has a message that is based on the miracle performed in their live.

I am not one to say that his efforts are in vain, but I believe that it would be more powerful if he truly told his testimony, instead of believing that to be a preacher “on fire” one must warn against eternal fire. As long as people think this, we will miss out on passionate laborers with misdirected motivation; they will always be seen as loony because they have not fully realized that the Gospel is about something very important: Good News. Shawn teaches me to be fearless, but also shows me why Heaven is a greater selling point than Hell.

Ministering with a Microphone

A crowd is forming around a young man with a microphone where the skateboarders usually do their tricks in Union Square. At first glance, it is clear that this is no music performance, but traditional street preaching. About 75 people are noticeably agreeing and disagreeing with the message. The man on the microphone is saying, “There is no love outside of God; true riches are those that don’t perish.” He begins to explain how we will be judged on the last day. Ten people surround him, hollering and debating, others circle around and watch, some even comment to each other. The scene is very confrontational, yet engaging and intriguing. A man who is part of the silent crowd admits to me, “This is passionate… this is the reason I moved to New York.” I respond by saying, “Me too!”

The missionaries use apologetics as their method of evangelizing, and they and the crowd engage each other on homosexuality, baptism and the question of pagan influence on Christianity. These young preachers are not concerned about sounding or looking crazy to these New Yorkers.

The man on the microphone and about four others with him are missionaries from Texas, part of an organization called YMBBA Ministries – the acronym stands for “You Must Be Born Again .” The young preacher doesn’t have it easy here in Union Square. It is an in-your-face debate with people who disagree with him, yet he remains poised and gentle. He speaks and then allows an audience member to ask a question or comment. The missionaries use apologetics as their method of evangelizing, and they and the crowd engage each other on homosexuality, baptism and the question of pagan influence on Christianity. These young preachers are not concerned about sounding or looking crazy to these New Yorkers. Ryan Ringnald, one of the missionaries, notes, “A true Christian is taught by the Bible not to fear man nor live for man’s approval, but to Fear God and live before him.”

Mark Thrope, a 28-year-old Bronx resident standing on the outskirts of the circle, says about the preacher facing the challenging group: “If Jesus went through [opposition], he’ll go through it.” And he does go through a lot. The ten or so people who outwardly disagree with him are passionate and wild. One guy continues to shout “God is a homosexual” right beside the preacher as he ministers.

Twenty-one-year-old onlooker, Natalie Daniel, says, “He shouldn’t do it; it’s disrespectful.” (Later he would admit his motivation was that the missionaries’ right to free speech with a microphone in Union Square was annoying.)

The mic is unplugged because the scene becomes too chaotic. The missionaries believe it has gone too far, but the ministering does not stop. It is then that mini-discussions begin to take place among the crowd.

In a circle of six, one of the missionaries begins to tell his testimony. In a group of three, people begin to discuss theological issues, but this time the volume on both sides is turned down and, perhaps, listening is going on.

I decide to talk to people about the missionaries’ dialogue-preaching technique and ask if it is working.

Frank, a 32 year old from Queens, believes it is not. “There is nothing they can do here… People are not open and they are not welcoming the message. To do it, you got to be willing to respect other people’s views and philosophies.” Twenty-six-year-old Brandon disagrees: “This form of evangelism is making a difference. The people who were out here a couple of days ago are back, so their ears are open. Love is taking place; they are coming closer and they are starting to listen.”

In a church world where sermons are becoming “tell the people what they want to hear” messages, these missionaries showed me that with the gospel, it’s about the message, not about being popular.

I don’t know if the missionaries learned anything from the onlookers, or the onlookers from the missionaries, but there is no doubt that something was exchanged. And although deep inside I hoped that they would preach the gospel without adding a piece of the” traditional street preaching judgment sermon,” they stood firm on issues and themes with positions largely different from those debating them. And that is bold. In a church world where sermons are becoming “tell the people what they want to hear” messages, these missionaries showed me that with the gospel, it’s about the message, not about being popular.

But what will stick with me most was the young missionaries’ ability to maintain their cool, patience and meekness in the midst of adversity. I saw firsthand how this can gain the attention and respect of your audience and convert the ear of those who disagree with you. Maybe that was the main message God wanted them to share and show that day in Union Square. At least, it was the lesson I learned.

In church as I minister, I am used to people listening to me and taking what I say at face value, without disrespectful disapproval. What those missionaries showed me that day was that even if people try to disrupt the message that you seek to share, you should show love and patience, no matter how purpose driven you are. Just as I strive to be revelatory and articulate when spreading the gospel, I am now seeking to be stronger in patience and love, like those young men from Texas with a microphone.

Pages: 1 2

The Author : Myisha Cherry
Myisha Cherry, 30, is a literary artist, freelance writer and AME Minister. She lives in Brooklyn.
See more articles by (4).
Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Dave R

    Signs? What about these signs? Mark 16:17-18 “These are some of the signs that will accompany believers: They will throw out demons in my name, they will speak in new tongues, 18 they will take snakes in their hands, they will drink poison and not be hurt, they will lay hands on the sick and make them well.”
    You know the full gospel? Most of Jesus’ ministry was casting out demons, healing the sick,. Jesus said greater things you will do because I go to the Father. So instead of holding signs and preaching hate.

  • Scott

    Make no mistake who these people are . They are wolves in sheep clothing. And this is a cult of pride that reaches across this country.
    It isn’t that they are selling hell, it is that they have no understanding of grace and they use only bits and peices of scripture to stone others with.
    They attack christians the hardest wth their judgment and condemnation. In their worlds only they have the truth, and they distance themselfs from all else including family if they don’t fall in with the cult.
    I know these people well as our family has been ripped apart due to them once our son feel in with them. Because we didn’t fall in with them our grandchildren were ripped out of our live’s.
    The kicker is we are are christians,but with this cult you are either in or out. There is more, much more.
    Scott Campbell

    • Gene

      I just dealt with two of them today. I am Goth and this guy shouted angrily to me as I passed and we ended up snoot to snoot for several minutes with this yoyo condemning me as a servant of Satan and telling me he knew all about me because of the way I dressed. I pointed out my shirt with an angel on it and a bunch of crosses, but he yelled over me and told my my appearance was evil. I was amused, and I knew confronting him with the falsehoods of his angry judgementalism would go nowhere but I did it anyhow for fun. His assistant tried to order me off the sidewalk and called on Jesus to excorcise me but I stood and defied them for trying to command me. It lasted a few minutes. False ministers, losers, loudmouths, ignorant idiots and they gave me a good laugh. It’s probably on you tube, enough people filmed it.

  • Scott

    Beware of wolves in sheep clothing , these type of people have ripped our family apart , lets call them what they are , a cult

  • Tracey

    Hi Myisha,
    I found your article intrigueing and informative. I have been a believer my whole life, but until 3 years ago I never really knew my faith or even practised it. I moved home after 10 years of being away from home and I live on an indian reservation in Canada. Through a series of life altering events and making a decision to change the way I live my life, I started attending the local Word Church at the nudging of a devout christian cousin. When I first started attending there was conflict between myself and my husband because he preferred the catholic church than the this church…but being faithful in my decision to getting to know God and attending bible studies and church…my husband eventually came full circle, and is now…how some or most christian describe it “on fire” for the Lord!! Praise God for it because it saved us as a couple and our family. Well back to my main point…the reason I found your article so intriguing is because my husband feels like he is being led to do Street ministry in the form of…prayer booth. Kind of like the first guy you talked about. I was mortified when he first told me what he wanted to do! Really and I am beleiver in Jesus. My first reaction was, Oh great now people are really gonna think we are flakey christains…It was hard for me to beleive that he would actually do it. So I prayed for God to give me discernment and revealation on the whole issue because even the members of our church body seemed stand offish…when asked to join the cause, saying things like “Oh I don’t think I’m that bold but I’ll pray for you”. So thus confirming my worst case senerio thinking. Anyway I decided that even though it seems a little crazy to me, I would support him and go out with him!
    Your article helped me to see through objective eyes what “street ministry” is all about and what to expect! My husband is making his signs as I post my comment. So here in small town Saskatchewan, we will see what people responses are to “Street Ministry”. I have more I can say but right now all I have to say is thank you, for you views…it helps, it’s given me courage to stand by my man.

  • myisha cherry

    Hi Rich
    Great Question!
    I will try and respond. I think before I address the “approach” I think its important to address their “theology”. Exclusion and bigotry is not a theme in the gospels. And if thats not what Jesus preached, we should not do that neither. I think a way to respond to them is to become teachers of love ourselves. Perhaps with a combination of scripture, love, and prayer. Its their courage we need in preaching, just not their biogtry. So they are an asset, but they perhaps need to be gently taught themselves.

  • Rich

    Thank you Myisha! I can see that you enountered these particular street preachers with love and understanding.
    But you raised an interesting point that you didn’t follow up on–perhaps because the two folks you featured didn’t quite fit into the problem mode. But you did mention that you had “issues” with some of the more insistant preachers. I wonder what approach you would recommend to those deeply committed and faithful Christians who, as I believe, misunderstand the teaching of Christ by spreading a Gospel of exclusion and bigotry? Challenge them? Counter scripture with scripture? I don’t know. It seems fruitless. But, I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

  • Violeta

    I love street preachers. There’s this guy in the upper west side that is always yelling, “Jesus.” Such a sweet guy. Hey if God makes them feel like chanting, shouting, sharing, to me is all the living breadth of God. Plus, I’m up for a challenge if a discussion ensues.

  • Bobby C in DC

    Myisha, thank you for this insightful article. Very well written. I love that they are doing what God called them to do and not worry about what the audience may think. Afterall, JESUS was a street preacher!

  • Globals

    all good things

  • Mike

    Wow. I really like the article. I think you did a great job of showing the other side of the story. I still think “popular New York spots” was a good title. Great Article !! Keep it coming!!

  • David

    Thank you for this. It gives us all several perspectives to consider when pondering on such a hot, debatable topic. I love following your work!

  • Brian

    Excellent article! I too have seen street preachers, and even had them screaming in my ear that I was going to Hell for not stopping and listening to them. My response is always to continue walking away while telling them to have a nice day. Now I think I will stop and ask them what their testimony is, and if it is similar to Shawn’s, suggest to them that they share that instead of screaming at people.

  • SM Morris

    Pro 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

    Pro 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.

  • G R Feenster

    Well said. Of only the mainstream would recognize that you’ll gain more respect and admiration with spreading good news than fear.

    I appreciate the revelation….

    You go..

  • Quenesha McNair

    I love it! Great article!!!

  • chris brown

    great article! good food for thought

  • lily k

    I’ve often wondered the same thing when I’m at Yonge/Dundas square in Toronto and see these ‘soap-box’ preachers yelling about fire & brimstone to the crowd walking by. Is it at all effective or does it push people further away?

    I’m a YWAMer myself and remember doing street ministry in Honduras. We would perform a dramatic dance called Toymaker & Son. We would get dressed in our costumes and makeup and then walk through town to where we were performing. We didn’t have to advertise at all because by the time we had walked through town, we had a large crowd of followers who stayed to watch the performance. Afterwards, someone would share their testimony and then we would pray with anyone who wanted it. Many people committed their lives to Christ and then we connected them to a local church.

  • Shawna G

    Thank you for your perspective on this topic, Myisha! You’re an excellant writer! I really enjoyed this! Thanks!

powered by the Paulists