Of course, it’s more gratifying to cast these small acts of witness in a positive light. We’re just living out our faith, hoping that the fragrance of our message and its manifestations will be intriguing and enticing. But there are many who are far from eager to be touched by warm demonstrations of Christian piety. They’re tough guys who need some Gospel discouragement before they’re ready for Gospel encouragement. They need holy irritation before they turn to holy consolation.

In that vein, our church took to the streets, or more precisely the street, one Sunday afternoon recently. Having discovered that at least a dozen Evanston streets were named for serious, 19th-century Methodists, we decided to visit them one by one, letting the residents know about their namesake’s Gospel convictions. We started on Hinman Avenue, named for Clark Hinman, the first president of Northwestern University (unfortunately, he died before the first class was held). On our flyer, we ran a quote from one of his sermons, and, for good measure, we made reference to excerpts from John 1:14 (in Greek) and Philippians 4:8 (in Latin) on the Northwestern seal.

We didn’t expect full-scale revival to break out by supper, but we did hope to plant some seeds for inquiry. The response was warm since many Evanstonians are history buffs who are proud of their local university. But I know there was some offense in what we were doing. By quoting Hinman on the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, we were sure to trouble a number of our neighbors. And I couldn’t help but think of the relative affluence of Hinman Avenue, filled with grand homes not far from Lake Michigan. One can build a satisfied, secular worldview around firm possession of expensive real estate cooled by lake breezes and massive trees within easy walking distance of university lectures, dozens of fine restaurants and rail service to the splendors of Chicago.

It can be such a comfortable, godless existence. At least, that is, until some Southern Baptist shows up to give your insular materialism or vague “spirituality” a nick.

Mark Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church and distinguished professor of apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Reprinted from the Illinois Baptist newsjournal, online at www.ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist.
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