A video has gone viral of a short-term missions worker preaching in the gate area of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Was her conduct appropriate?
The Amsterdam Airport Preacher: Woman Boldly Preaches In the Gate Area Of AMS
A young woman had just concluded a three-day missions trip to Amsterdam, where time was spent proselytizing to drug dealers and prostitutes in Amsterdam’s famous red light district. Before her flight back, she decided to offer one more sermon to those in the gate area at AMS:
Our girl preached in the airport on our way home from our mission trip and she proclaimed passionately, full of the Spirit and love! This is how we catch flights ✈️ pic.twitter.com/oyxP923QXK
— N I A – C E R I S E (@niacerise) August 16, 2022
Her sermon has now gone viral, with the internet divided on how to process her actions. I’m not a scholar of the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ constitution, but my understanding is that free speech and religious exercise rights are broad, so let’s assume, for this discussion at least, that her conduct was not illegal.
At first, this incident reminded me of the “prayergate” incident at American Airlines, in which a gate agent offered a Christian prayer over the loudspeaker at Washington National Airport. In that incident, I said a gate agent’s prayer was “beautiful, unoffensive, but inappropriate.”
“When religious expression becomes a mouthpiece (literally in this case) to which others are subjected, hostility and resentment grows and religious expression and eventually religious liberty suffers. This is true whether the speaker is the government (especially) but also corporations to captive crowds in public places.”
> Read More: My Thoughts On “Prayergate” At American Airlines
Here, though, we don’t have a government agent or an airline employee doing this on company time, but a passenger. There is a difference.
Part of me marvels at the courage of the young woman for expressing her faith so boldly and so openly. I also do not see the pride or obnoxiousness that often accompany soap box preachers. But part of me thinks that even though her intentions were above reproach and words unoffensive, subjecting a captive audience to any sort of speech is problematic (though I suppose here, unlike an airplane, people can walk away).
I Peter 3:13-16, an epistle of the Apostle Peter in the New Testament of the Bible, addresses the topic of witnessing to others:
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
Notice what is implicated in offering a reason for the hope that is within you? You are first asked. And it should be done with gentleness and respect.
We can certainly have a debate whether preaching in an airport gate area is gentle or respectful. I can see both sides of that issue. But one reason that I would hesitate to speak in that manner is because I would not ever want to be bombarded with preaching, religious, political, or otherwise, when I am trying to work or converse in an airport gate area.
I recently visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, which currently includes an exhibit honoring the late Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. This quote really made me pause and reflect:
“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”
Over the centuries, the Bible has been warped and misinterpreted to justify a number of atrocities. Furthermore, we’ve seen people justify heinous action in the name of God, which gets to the heart of what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain.
As I look at my own Christian faith, I realize my witness is meaningless if I do not live a life that backs up the faith that I espouse. Hollow words are far more damning than no words at all. And while I am willing and able (and will joyfully) attest to the hope that is within me to anyone who asks, I am convicted that building relationships first, then sharing the gospel in a “show don’t tell” way is the better strategy. Ultimately, I contend it is God who draws and God who gives faith, so it is actually not up to human cleverness to convince others to believe in Jesus.
And as a very brief aside, may I say that faith in Jesus is recognizing our brokenness and unworthiness and that His death and resurrection for our sins provided a way to be reconciled to God. It is not about living our best life now or living life to the fullest. It is not about a cosmic genie granting us the desires of our heart. It is about putting our faith, which will lead to a transformed life of goodness and healing toward others, in a God who is the creator, sustainer, redeemer, and friend.
I look with a certain degree of skepticism and yet a certain degree of appreciation for the young lady who preached in the gate area of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. That’s not something I would do…but I’m not ready to condemn her unlike a gate agent stealing time from his employer to do the same thing.
How about you? How would react to this? View From The Wing also offers his take on this issue here.