Monday, July 25, 2011

Maybe If We Had Been Muslim or Jewish

Our time at Comic Con on Saturday was amazing. It made an afternoon of evangelism on Hollywood Boulevard seem like a quiet afternoon at the park. I think we quite literally smacked a demonic hornet's nest with the gospel, which would account for the over-the-top heckling and blasphemy.

Mike Stockwell (shown above) was the first to preach. The crowds were huge and constantly changing. When Mike had finished preaching, a young Hispanic man approached him, shook Mike's hand, and thanked him for preaching the truth of God's Word. It was obvious to those of us who were there that this was a brother in Christ.

The young man then placed his hand on Mike's shoulder and began to pray. The rest of us quietly bowed our heads and joined him as he prayed for Mike and for the continued proclamation of the gospel.

When we finished praying, a San Diego Police officer approached us.

And this is what he said.

He told us that he did not want us doing any more "prayer circles" at the corner. He said we were blocking the sidewalk. He said if we wanted to pray we would have to "do it over there." He pointed to an area that was clearly private property belonging to either the convention center or the adjacent hotel.

We spent three hours on that corner preaching the gospel, distributing tracts, and engaging people in conversation. We even used amplification. None of which seemed to bother the officer, who was maintaining a position about twenty feet from where we stood.

The corner was packed with hundreds of people. It was veritable sea of humanity.

As you will notice in the above photo, we did not join hands or link arms to pray. People were free to walk in front of us, behind us, and through us for that matter. The young man who prayed was not loud--certainly not as loud as our preaching or as loud as the responding hecklers. With the cacophony of noise in the area, it was a challenge to hear him when just standing a couple feet away.

Mike and I tried to explain to the officer that we had not organized a "prayer circle," as he called it. What took place was spontaneous and initiated by a passerby. We also tried to explain to the officer that the corner was clearly in a constant state of congestion. People were moving from place to place, and people were standing still and talking on the sidewalk. We weren't "blocking" the sidewalk any more than anyone else. But the officer didn't want to hear it. Obviously, there was something about a group of Christians praying that bothered him.

In order to keep the peace and to make sure we could continue preaching, we chose not to argue further and assured the officer that we wouldn't organize any "prayer circles" on the sidewalk.

As I made the 150-mile drive home that night, I thought much about the encounter with the San Diego police officer. And I began to wonder.

Would the officer had told us we couldn't pray on the public sidewalk if we were Muslims?

Or what if we had been a group of Jews who decided to stop and pray at that corner, on a public sidewalk? Would the officer's reaction had been the same? Sadly, I think not.

Remember, we were not a group of Christian missionaries in North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Iran, or Iraq. We were a group of Christian U.S. citizens, on a public sidewalk in San Diego, CA.

And if you are a Christian reading this and think this is an isolated incident, you are spending too much time cloistered in churches, Sunday school classrooms, or home Bible studies. It's time you get out and see what's really happening to your Christian brethren in your country.

Opposition to Jesus Christ and His gospel is growing in the United States. It's not simply happening "over there." It's happening right here; right now.

Yes, we struck a demonic hornet's nest with the gospel, during our time at Comic Con. And we'll be going back, next year.