Street preachers in the UK are being arrested on a regular basis. One of them has been arrested no fewer than five times for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ on the streets. And each time he has been acquitted!
In his last run-in with the law earlier this year, Mike Overd was “preaching in Bridgwater town centre for around 20 minutes… when a member of the public complained that [he] was offending people in the crowd around him,” (article in Christian Concern April 4, 2019, www.christianconcern.com).
The police got involved and asked him to leave the vicinity. Mr Overd promptly refused on the grounds that he had a right to freedom of speech, and therefore, he was exercising it. He was arrested for “anti-social behaviour.”
Now, when has preaching the gospel ever been seen as anti-social behaviour? And in a Western country at that!
It is good that this is not the case in Barbados, a country that has a tradition of gallant souls who ventured into the “highways and byways’ preaching the Word of God. Many of us still remember waking up to someone preaching in our district about repentance of sin and turning to God.
Of course, the numbers have dwindled somewhat, but there is still a remnant of those brave souls who have taken up the legacy of yesteryear’s tradition. Indeed, the presentation of the gospel by street preachers and open-air services will always offend someone. But that is the nature of the gospel. It states directly that man has a sin problem; and the only way to correct it is by believing in Jesus the Son.
The gospel, therefore, does not sit well with the liberal philosophies of the age. And as the years roll on, things will become more difficult for preachers like Overd as they continue to “offend” the crowds. In fact, he claimed: “Compared to ten years ago, I am noticing that more and more people are denying the existence of Jesus. It’s getting worse with the police and there is more aggression from the public, some of whom I know want to harm me.”
And how does the police handle the situation when they arrive on the scene? For one thing, they do not address the crowd’s hostility toward the street preachers. Rather, they arrest the preachers. Furthermore, the police are now forcibly removing them, and driving them miles away from the preaching area.
Christian Legal Centre, Overd’s lawyers, stated that this is now a police tactic aimed at prohibiting the preacher’s freedom of speech. However, the street preacher’s right to freedom of expression is stoutly defended by the Centre. It has “a 100 per cent track record of getting street preachers acquitted, which suggests that police are overstepping their powers.”
It certainly seems that way! However, Overd vows to continue preaching on the streets. “I am reminded of a quote from John Knox that, ‘one man with God is in the majority,’” he said. “We need to go back to the streets, we need to take the hits, don’t worry about being popular, be popular with Jesus.”
It is true that Jesus is on the side of those who stand for Him and endeavours to do His will in whatever area of ministry He has called us. May we all have the conviction and strength of character of street preachers worldwide!