Should Tony Miano have liaised with the church in Dundee before preaching freely on the streets of that City? This question is raised in Dr. James White’s broadcast (listen below). The question is with which church would he liaise? The apostate unbelieving Church of Scotland? Pointless. Or the Free Church of Scotland whose concept of street work is music and drama (according to its Minister). A form of evangelism that many of our Reformed brethren have come to see as entertainment and have rightly rejected. And so too has one of the Free Church’s own and eminent Professors of Theology: “Part of the difficulty is that we live in a market economy, where people instinctively turn to market solutions. The church, they insinuate, is merely a part of the entertainment industry, which has lost its audience; or it is like a commercial company, which is losing its customers and needs to diversify. It must do some consumer research and find out what people want. Let’s abandon traditional styles of worship! Abandon old-style preaching! Bring in musicals, drama, dancing, the Internet. Take a soft line on Christian ethics. That’s what consumers want. Go for the sound bite: the 30-second advert. All over the world, there are signs of Christian capitulation to this kind of market-driven analysis. But these options are not open to the church. We have clear Rules of Engagement.” Prof D. McLeod). Obviously, his students weren’t paying attention at the time. So do we liaise with a church that’s cut loose from its moorings? Pointless again. Or perhaps some of the few remaining Free Independent churches who would be only too happy to give their approval (we don’t do it, we gave up on evangelism, but you go ahead, we’ll pray for you). Pointless again.
The Church in Scotland (those mentioned above too) has a long and chequered history of producing men, normally of the working class variety (bless them, my ain folk), who having found salvation and have taken to the streets of Scotland preaching freely, openly, even aggressively, preaching against the prevailing sins of the day (yes actually doing what the Bible tells preachers to do, reproving their works of darkness), or as the good Professor says, not “taking a soft line on Christian ethics,” and many, many a soul has been glad to hear them, having found salvation themselves through the bold, courage of these men. Many of these men faced prison too, some forfeited their own lives as a result. The Reformed publishers reprint the wonderful biographies that have so inspired many of us, the Wesley brothers, George Whitfield and many more. Ah! But they are all dead, the only good guys are the dead ones. The Publishers never intended or expected anyone like Tony Miano to actually go and do the same thing they were promoting. So what’s changed? Why are such men to be silenced now? Because Scotland’s prevailing sin has changed (from whisky-drinking wife-beating to Sodomy) and because the perpetrators of it happen to be State-protected? Or because a self-appointed ‘Bishop’ or is it ‘Apostle of Dundee’ disapproves? Have we all to report to him when entering the precincts of Dundee? This is the churches raison d’étre: “we exist for the benefit of those who spend their lives in the public-houses, betting-shops and nightclubs of our land; those whose lives are spirals into addiction, despair, and moral chaos; those who mock religion and spit on Christ” (Prof D, McLeod). The kind of people who wouldn’t darken the doors of Dundee’s churches or be the least interested in their music and drama. It is the bold, courageous preaching of the likes of our brother Tony Miano that has saved souls in the past and the only thing that will change Scotland today. The foolishness of preaching. But it is always opposed, and by whom, “the problem faced by many churches is that the moment they take up some proposal to reach the unchurched, they immediately find huge obstacles placed in their way. Where do these obstacles come from? From the world? From atheists and humanists? From those, they’re trying to convert? No! From fellow Christians! That is one of the saddest features of the church’s history in the last hundred years. We have so often let ourselves be held to ransom by fellow believers, who said, “If you evangelise like that, I’m going to disapprove (Prof D. McLeod). Again, “it seems to me that D.L. Moody had the perfect answer to such intimidation: “I prefer the way I evangelise badly to the way you don’t evangelise at all!” The challenge we face, particularly if we are Christian leaders, is whether “for the sake of peace” we are prepared to deprive the world of the gospel. The Christian evangelist will invariably find that the greatest danger he faces is friendly fire. The church is brilliant at turning its missionaries into Inoperative Combat Personnel, casualties to frustration, discouragement and spiritual intimidation” (Prof D. McLeod). We need to encourage the Tony Miano’s not criticising and abusing them, the church, Scotland needs them, “what I yearn for, above all, is enthusiasm for the gospel. There is much talk of evangelistic methods. People want courses and debate techniques. But the greatest evangelist of all is a man or woman who loves the gospel: who so loves it and is so thrilled by it and so sure of it and so overwhelmed with gratitude for it that he simply cannot keep quiet about it. There is no course on any campus in the whole wide world that can give you that; or make up for it, if you lack it. One of the men to whom the Scottish Highlands owe most is the itinerant 19th-century lay-evangelist, Finlay Munro. He wasn’t far removed from being a simpleton and in his later years, he suffered serious mental deterioration. But he knew the gospel, he loved the gospel and he couldn’t keep quiet about it. He was fully aware that the learned ministers despised him and that many, even of the godly, frowned on his quaint ways and bad grammar. But he wasn’t deterred. He trekked and trekked, sleeping in barns and preaching wherever he could gather an audience” (Prof D. McLeod). Finlay Munro didn’t need the approval of the “Bishop of Dundee” he loved Jesus and went with the good news to the people of Scotland whom he loved. I thank Tony Miano for loving my people of Scotland enough to travel from the United States of America to preach the good news of the gospel when the majority of Christians in our land wouldn’t cross the street to tell them the good news (too busy with their entertainment perhaps?). I hope he returns and that justice will be done, that he will be vindicated and freed to walk from that court in Dundee and walk through the precincts of the city and preach the gospel again, I’d be proud to come and stand with him. Let the learned Ministers despise us and the “Bishop” disapprove. We have a gospel to proclaim a Saviour who loves the people of Scotland. All who “Love Scotland” will tell Scotland the truth about their sin and the truth about God’s love for them (John 3:16)!
(James R Hamilton).