Monday, November 7, 2016

'Those Crazy Street Preachers'

Steve and Laura Cliff
"When I first became a Christian, I was the one rolling my eyes and expressing how those 'crazy street preachers give Christians a bad rap,'" writes Greenville Seminary Student Laura Cliff in a new article on evangelism published in the latest edition of the Christian Research Institute's Journal.

"Yet ten years later, and after a good gut-wrenching turn through the humility press, I am now one of those [alleged] 'legalists,'" she says, adding that she has met some vicious opposition in her experiences of sharing the gospel with strangers in the streets.

Laura, a Master of Arts student at GPTS, discusses the experiences, joys and opposition she and her husband Steve have had as street evangelists and, in Steve's case, as an open-air preacher. The Cliffs, who hail from New Zealand, have made it a practice during their seminary years, along with other GPTS students, to regularly take to the streets and parks to share and proclaim the gospel of salvation. (See 2014 GPTS Online article here.)

In her article entitled "Confessions of an Evangelist: Stereotypes Don't Always Have To Be True," Laura recounts that the couple's experience with open air preaching began one night shortly after they were married. They were out exploring the streets of Auckland, New Zealand when they stopped at a Korean "prayer station" and a Christian man asked to pray for them. Afterwards, the man said he believed Steve would one day become a preacher.

"We weren't sure about that but it got the wheels spinning in our brains that we need be out sharing the gospel," she writes. "So Friday evenings became evangelism night in downtown Auckland."

She said this ministry put them in contact with the homeless, drug addicts, drunks, homosexuals, philosophers, professors, cult members of every kind, and many Muslims, to name just some of the people they encountered, many hostile to the gospel.

"We had our share of being threatened, slapped, targeted with liquid or flammable substances, and called every imaginable name — the most unique was 'deconstructionists' by Hare Krishnas," she writes, also recounting a confrontation with Muslims that ended with them suggesting the Cliffs should kill themselves since there is nothing one can do to earn God's favor.

Queen Street in Central Auckland
Laura recalls how much she and Steve grew spiritually through their witnessing in the streets, despite the fact that the vast majority of their listeners rejected the message they were sharing. She refers to this personal growth as "unexpected fruit."

"Then came the preaching," she writes. "Neither one of us was keen on it; we were perfectly content handing out tracts and getting into conversations with people. However, Steve found himself in the middle of it. Someone walked by and said something snarky, and then left instead of staying and defending his views. In response, Steve hopped on a bench and loudly shared the gospel as the man walked away. Since Steve had bolted through the door into open-air preaching and was now comfortable with the idea, we guessed this meant we had better get an amp with a mic and set up a second mic to give people a chance to engage with us.

"Engage they did!" she adds.

"Yes, the stories we have are crazy, and our experiences have brought me from tears of frustration and sadness to shouts of joy. But as for you, reader, and for every other Christian, the message is from Christ, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation....Go into the highways and byways, and seek out the unbelievers."

Laura Cliff received a B.A. in Communications/Journalism, with a minor in Christian Studies, from Grand Canyon University (2007). She and Steve were married in New Zealand in 2008. Raised a Roman Catholic she came to faith in Christ through a gospel tract given to her in high school. In her application to GPTS, she explained: "I desire a theological education first and foremost because I am the Father's daughter, and I want to learn as much about him as I can so I know him more intimately."