Last night I drove home after nine from a late dinner with some folks. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, still a novelty here, it was still light out, and it was warm. I rolled down my windows and cut through Broad Ripple, an old Indianapolis neighborhood known for its shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. I cruised down “the strip” past the nightclubs to soak in the atmosphere. Loads of twentysomethings were out clubbing, the women in dresses that portrayed their shape to best advantage, and the men in loose jeans and drapey, flowing dress shirts, untucked tails blowing in the breeze. There were smiles and laughter, shouts down the way and across the street to friends, and men picking up their pace to catch up to someone who caught their eye. I felt a little envious of their good time.
It would not make Eyewitness News that many of them were getting drunk and that some of them went to bed that night with somebody they picked up. I didn’t see any of that, of course. But even though I would have stepped out in fancier threads when I was twentysomething than the young dudes do today, some things certainly haven’t changed since then.
On the opposite corner from the Starbucks was a young man with a loudspeaker and a microphone preaching the Gospel. As I drove through the intersection, I heard him say that God’s was the highest name in Heaven. He was preaching in churchy, Bible-y language as the twentysomethings passed him by.
I wanted to stop my car, run over to him, and shout, “Stop it! Stop right now! Do you have any idea what you’re doing? Don’t you know you are pushing these people away and giving them something to laugh about? Did Jesus carry a speaker and a microphone and talk to the woman at the well from afar? Did Jesus talk in the language of the King James Version to the man who couldn’t walk? No! He went among the people and spoke to them in their common language, reaching them where they were physically and spiritually. He loved them in ways they could feel! How is it loving for you to lob these God grenades at these people? Go be among these people and let the light in your life shine through! That will bring souls to Christ; what you’re doing won’t, ever.”
I was a mile down the road, about to turn and take the bridge over the canal, when I realized I’d been angrily saying this in my mind to that would-be preacher, and that I had missed out on peoplewatching the rest of the strip. I felt sad for the clubbers in Broad Ripple last night for having one more reason to think Christians and Christianity are rigid and unloving. I pray that God will soften their hearts — and the would-be preacher’s.