Today was one of those days. Typically evangelism at the University of North Texas is full of colorful people from all walks of life. We encourage folks to come and listen to the preaching, we try and answer any questions and or objections to the Faith and often supply a microphone for people who are willing to engage in public dialogue even if it means it could spill over into debate. However, there are some times where “hecklers” are just uncooperative and rude, interruptive argumentative for no good reason and once in a while you have individuals who can annoy you and truly test the limits of your sanctification. Today was such a day. A young man brought a personal speaker to the campus and proceeded to attempt and drown us out by blaring music in our face. Annoying! Although several admonitions by our team and several students, this particular person was simply unrelenting. So it brings up the question for any evangelist, “what do you do with a person that simply wants to serve no other purpose than to be an annoyance and distraction.” Here are some tips:
This is where the evangelism team needs to know how to spring into spiritual action. We have to recognize that our battle is not with the student but with spiritual forces of darkness (2 Cor. 10.1-5; Eph. 6.11ff.). So pray for the person to be removed by providence of God, pray that the other student will take it upon themselves and remove him/her, pray that they will not be allowed to return etc.
Another course of action is that we should try and persuade the individual to step away from the preacher and pressure him/her with several people who can try and engage them into a personal conversation that will take them away from his/her objective.
If the person will simply not be persuaded, we need to come up with a different strategy. While the team continues to try and deter him/her from their annoying task, the preacher should use the spectacle that he/she is created to one’s advantage and ultimately as a “springboard” for evangelism. This is better than getting frustrated, angry or getting personally emotionally involved and thus spiritually moved. I personally used this particular situation to my advantage and preached about trying to suppress the conscience by drowning out the truth of the gospel etc. Instead of ignoring the obvious, use it for your advantage. Today I actually had several student shaking my hand for what I was doing, calling on the student to move away so others could listen, and it gave me the ability to focus on meaningful talking points that could easily relate the gospel to the students who were present.
Someone on the team should also be ready to alert authorities. We did this and in fact, both police and security came out to discourage the young man from continuing, after about half an hour— he left. Sadly, his only comment to me was, “I’ll see you next week.” Getting authorities involved is always tricky but if they see that you are the one seeking to achieve a greater degree of calm; that usually goes a long way of showing them the value of helping you out.
Finally, hang in there do not be moved, do not allow the behavior to cause you to be distracted from preaching the truth. This entire incident reminded me of the demonized girl in Acts (16.16-18). She was a total annoyance (for many days), a distraction, and she annoyed Paul so much that he eventually turned to her and commanded the demon to leave her. While I am not ready to exercise a college student, we should also face the annoyance and issue a stern rebuke because the person who engages in such behavior has set themselves in direct opposition to the gospel and is being an agent of Satan.
The reason we have to persevere is that our reputation is also on the line. We cannot allow one bad moment to completely discredit our ministry by becoming angry and lashing out in ungodly behavior. Remember that people are also waiting to see how believers are going to hold up under pressure; this will go a long way in keeping a good name among outsiders (Col. 4.5; 1 Thess. 4.12; 1 Tim. 3.7).
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.