There is a video of a confrontation between a smallish congregation and a collection of neighbours on an East-end Toronto and this video has sort of gone viral:
I don’t really know anything about Highfield Road Gospel Hall other than what I’ve read in the articles and posts online that I have seen about this group. Initially this story seemed to be about the churchgoers “targeting” a gay couple, but the gay couple themselves are insistent that that was not what happened at all. The real story appears to be that the residents of the street were just annoyed at the noise and disruption created by this group, and so, rather predictably, they asked them to leave.
My question here is: why do Christian groups do this sort of thing? What are you thinking you will accomplish by wandering up and down the street yelling at people?How many congregants of Highfield Road Gospel Hall joined the church on account of this sort of behaviour? What’s telling to me is that it appears that no one from the church lives on that road.
Now I know that some are going to point to out that there was public preaching in the Bible. Okay, let’s look at some of the more notable examples: There’s Paul at the Areopagus speaking at a location where people discussed “the latest ideas.” And the people of Athens brought him there specifically to talk about Christianity (or advocate for foreign gods as they put it). Before Paul there was John the Baptist – a voice crying in the wilderness – the wilderness! Not in front of peoples’ houses or anything, but out in the desert – one had to go to John to hear him excoriate them for their sins.
Ah, but what does Jesus say about people who won’t listen? Just leave. There really is no controversy about this in the Bible – if people do not want to listen then you should quietly be on your way. Now, the goal does not appear to be rejection, instead rejection is merely pointed to as something that one might reasonably expect when promoting a new or different idea. As to the approach that Highfield takes, it seems common-sensical that unsolicited shouting on someone else’s street is not exactly the kind of approach that engenders a receptive audience. Indeed this sort of tactic seems guaranteed to fail. What I imagine is happening here is that the group that heads out from this particular congregation can have these sorts of showdowns and then feel virtuous because they think they have persecuted for the sake of Jesus Christ. It should however be noted that when various Christian authors like Kierkegaard talked about the offense of the gospel they are not referring to the fact that the gospel is sometimes promulgated in annoying, self-defeating formats.