Does Evangelism Belong at Chicago’s Top Tourist Attraction?
Most Friday nights during the school year, a group of Wheaton College students takes the train into downtown Chicago together. Their purpose? To share the gospel with the people they meet that night in the city.
Last year, Wheaton’s Chicago Evangelism Team traveled to Millenium Park, home to one of the city’s most popular attractions: the Bean. When students began to approach people with pamphlets, a park employee told students they were forbidden from doing so. Similarly, when one student began preaching, they were told that they were breaking a Chicago ordinance. Read The Chicago Tribune’s report.
This account comes from the lawsuit four students filed against the city of Chicago last week, alleging that the city’s park rules improperly restricted their freedom of speech. The rules divided up the park into 11 sections and banned the public from “the making of speeches and passing out of written communications” in all but one of the sections. That section was not the Bean, which was where the students specifically wanted to evangelize.
The public’s strong reaction against evangelism comes as more and more companies are aggressively trying to sell you on their brands and products, says R. York Moore, the national evangelist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA.
“Now, as we see, people tend to associate proselytization with big tech companies or someone trying to sell you a credit card,” he said. “...It’s no longer unique.”
Moore joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss why evangelism can make us feel uncomfortable, what bad evangelism looks like, and what makes public proclamation of one’s faith beautiful and unique.