Memphis Beale Street Blast 2000 makes the AP Wire....
BY WOODY KAIRD
'When they're in the lake of fire burning, they'll wish they had paid
MEMPHIS, Tenn. Yes, they hope to bring sinners to the Lord, but that's not
the only reason street preachers take to the streets.
Primarily, they said during a gathering of about 200 street preachers from around the country, it's to tell sinners those "unfruitful works of darkness" that they're wrong.
Jesus Christ commanded his followers to preach, "and we're being obedient to that command," said Kenneth Lansing, who helped organize the preachers' pilgrimage, timed to coincide with Memphis' biggest annual music festival.
Working in teams of two to a dozen, the preachers took to the Beale Street entertainment disgtrict, which is lined with night clubs and restaurants.
Along with delivering their message to the unsaved, the group, some ordained and some not, held street-preaching seminars on topics such as how to deal with hecklers and to protect one's voice.
Preachers can't just go out and start yelling, not if they expect to last, said voice instructor Scot Heishman of Lincoln, Del.
"There should never be any . kind of tension or hurting in the throat," Said Heishman, a lay preacher who runs a custom embroidery shop. "You're going to do a lot of damage to the vocal system."
Preachers must learn to relax their necks and shoulders and draw air from deep down.
"Singing on the opera stage is very much like street preaching," he said.
Terrell Bear, a Decorah, Iowa, preacher who began his street evangelism with a group call the SWAT Team for Jesus, specializes in controlling hecklers.
Bear told the preachers they should always have at least one assistant. That way, when a heckler approaches, the assistant can step foward to absorb the negative vibes while talking softly with the heckler and handing him a religious tract.
"I've never been hit in 15 years and never would I hit any body," Bear said. "I absorb (the heckler's) anger and let him blow off steam. He may leave angry but he never stops the preaching."
Anyone who is a true believer can become a street preacher, Bear said, but it takes some preparation.
"You have to go out there with something to say," he said. "If you can't think of anything to say, quote the basic John 3:16. Quote that four times very slowly and then give your personal testimony how Christ saved you."
John 3:16 says God gave his only son "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Bear said he tries to tell people that even a life of good works the life of a responsible citizen, or a life devoted to helping the less fortunate isn't enough to win a place in heaven. Only faith in Christ ensures that place, he said.
Like many of his colleagues, Lansing is known in his hometown for standing on street corners shouting his message and waving large banners with religious messages.
For years, he has spent weekends preaching on Beale Street, warning sinners against the dangers of "sex music, alcohol am drugs."
If sinners stop their wicked ways they, too, may take the Lord into their hearts, he said.
But whether they do or not they must be told "they're wrong to live the way they live." If that bothers them, so be it.
"When they're in the lake of fire burning, they'll wish they had paid attention," he said.
Beale Street patrons appeared to accept Lansing with a mixtur of curiosity and bemusement but their reactions aren't what he's worried about.
"We may be just a little flicker, but we are light," said Lansing, a fundamentalist Baptist who works as an accountant.