Personal Authenticity on the Clinic Sidewalk

Earlier today we posted this quote from John Stott’s book Christian Mission in the Modern World.

If we do nothing but proclaim the gospel to people from a distance, our personal authenticity is bound to be suspect. Who are we? Those listening to us do not know. For we are playing a role (that of the preacher) and for all they know may be wearing a mask. Besides, we are so far away from them, they cannot even see us properly. But when we sit down alongside them like Philip in the Ethiopian’s chariot, or encounter them face to face, a personal relationship is established. Our defenses come down. (71)

The lack of such authenticity is why I’m generally critical of ‘guerilla’ techniques in evangelism (raiding the world from our safe strongholds) and of the various methods of street preaching. But to every principle there is an exception. There is a man in the church I pastor, let’s call him John (for the simple reason that that is his name) who, finding himself out of a job this time last year, believed God was calling him to preach at an Orlando abortion clinic six mornings each week. He has been doing that for a year, and has seen a number of people come to Christ and a number of women decide to keep their babies.

Most remarkable to me, though, is this. Recently, John was laid up with surgery and a heart condition and was unable to make his daily trip to the clinic. When he was finally able to return, two of the nurses who work at the clinic, whom he has urged to repent and seek other work, came to him and told him that they were worried when they did not see him. They were genuinely concerned that something had happened to him. His message is dismissed by them, but he has established a personal bond with them.

John is unique. You cannot talk to him without knowing that you are loved. Even though he has been preaching a strong message of sin and repentance for a year, these women, while opposed to what he does, have been captured by his faithful earnestness. He has with these women established the kind of personal authenticity that is normally not at all possible for one doing what he is doing.

And so we pray for these two nurses, not only that they would turn from the awful work they are doing, but that they would respond to John all the way, not only to his love, but to the love of the One whom he represents.

One thought on “Personal Authenticity on the Clinic Sidewalk

  1. People like John put me to shame: it is pretty easy to preach at people from a safe distance. I know in B&E’s old church in Bloomington, they saw several babies born to believing mothers because of the ministry of of several godly women, praying and preaching outside the Planned Parenthood offices there every week for years. I am sure God loves these faithful witnesses. It reminds me what a coward I am. May God destroy my complacency, and make me willing to live dangerously for him.

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