When dealing with the evangelist, one of their most famous methods to spread propaganda, is the use of open air preaching.
In this section, we will look at what makes a street ministry, the different roles and how they go about spreading their sales pitch.
Mouthpiece: The best known player of them all. He's loud, he's angry and he's going to let you know all about how he doesn't like your lifestyle and your beliefs.
The sole purpose of the mouthpiece, is to make NOISE. From Brother Jed smock, down to Ray Comfort, these guys are the fire and brimstone preachers that everyone loves to hate.
Handlers: Are the hands and eyes of the mouthpiece. They take care of the more physical leg-work of an open-air ministry. This role divides itself in three sub-categories;
Banner carrier: They will be the carriers of banners and signs depicting evangelical slogans.
Plant: They will infiltrate the audience and do one-on-one witnessing. Also when a preacher begins, they will act as stoppers-by in order to play on people's natural curiosity.
Plants are easy to spot, as they will often introduce themselves with their names and will try to ask for yours immediately. It's an attempt at making a cold call, recognize it as such and be prepared.
Goon: Their role is to physically protect the mouthpiece from any harm. They will often "disguise" themselves as one of the crowd, like a plant. As the name implies, they will put a heckler in check.
Also, the goon's role is also to distract any law enforcement agent that may surge on the scene, and serves to answer the officer while the preaching is still going on. Such delaying and distraction techniques are common. This serves as one of the many methods they use to skirt local by-laws.
According to their beliefs they are told to go where the people are at to pester them with their beliefs. This will include bus stops, parks, flea markets, unemployment lines, college registration lines, box offices for sports, fairs, carnivals, parades, fireworks displays, lunch hour traffic, beaches, public schools (before and after school), miniature golf courses, and college campuses
In other words, where there are people who gather and socialize, they will be there. Open air ministries are actually predictable in the way they will position themselves Look for these four factors.
1) Plenty of foot-traffic, as they want maximum sight. It's all about location
2) Acoustics. they will find the best place so they can be heard for at least a hundred feet as much as the Human voice can be allowed without straining the vocal cord.
3) Protection from the rear. They will go out of their way to make sure that their surroundings gives them as much physical protection. Look for walls and any coverage that will protect them from assaults.
4) The means for their "support team" (mostly family and kids and non-preaching members) to be within visual range, but far away from "harm".
Basing yourself on that alone, you can "predict" where an open-air ministry will come, and base counters on such.
The drawing of crowds is crucial to an open air ministry. However they will trick people into stopping there are four common methods that they use.
1) The plaster egg
This technique is named after the concept that some chicken farmers use plaster eggs in a fabricated nest to incite hens to lay their eggs in.
What they will do, is they have their plants form an audience and look as though they are listening to the preaching. This will encourage others to stop and listen, because they gave the illusion that someone was already paying attention. If there is a small crowd when the preaching starts, pay attention to the crowd, look for signs of them being clean cut, or listen for "Christian-nese". This will help you spot the plants when non-believers happen. this is used in combination with the next two methods.
2) Gathering "heat".
In professional wrestling, heat refers to both crowd reaction and real-life animosity between those involved in the professional wrestling business. In terms of crowd reaction, heat is usually either cheers for "the good guy" or boos for the "bad guy".
The same applies for open air preaching. A trained evangelist, especially for confrontational evangelism, will use the same method to not only gather a crowd, but to bring out hecklers.
The methods of gaining heat, are to blatantly insulting the crowd, a local sports team, or the town they are preaching in. This is called "cheap" because it is an easy way for preachers to receive boos and get crowd reaction.
Most common ones is to attack the GBLIT community, women's rights, and right about any issue that is sensitive, this is meant to push every button.
Not only it is to gather a crowd, but also to cause anger and to make people act in anger. This leaves people open to their plants, who will lend an ear, and answer their objections and therefore attack with one-on-one witnessing, using the emotional distress as a lever.
3) Show and tell
Like the name implies, it roughly a form of bait and switch, they will put on a puppet show, dance number, pantomime and the like to lure people into a crowd. Combined with the plaster egg, it's easy to gain a crowd, especially during the warmer months.
It will have, obviously, a Christian theme. But it will be "mild" as it a set-up for the "heavier" preaching that follows, and creates the gateway that the plants will use. Although not as effective as gathering heat, it makes for a more efficient ice-breaker in a more "family friendly" environment.
Hecklers are the reaction to the gathering of heat. While tempting to shut the annoying preacher up with a one-liner or two, you should avoid this.
Why? Preachers are now trained to take on hecklers and use them. This method that they use is based on a comedy technique known as a "double act".
It is a comic device in which humor is derived from the uneven relationship between two partners, usually of the same gender, age, ethnic origin, and profession, but drastically different personalities.
The preacher is the "straight man" which plays as moral, serious and reasonable. The heckler, finds himself as the "funny man" who is the dynamic opposite.
Of course in the case of preaching, an unfortunate transition occurs, as it becomes "roles reversed". It will be the heckler who feeds the preacher, giving him the lines to throw back at the audience.
In other words, your heckling helps them. Hence direct action towards an open air ministry is to be avoided. Strategies and tactics against an open air ministry will be discussed in latter chapters.
How they put it together:Edit
Now that we know the players and techniques, I will show you how they put it all together for one preaching session.
First, they will meet up at a "open-air friendly" church where they will meet, and have a bit of a mini-service to boost morale. This serves to erase potential "stage fright" and other forms of objections.
Second, they will often go and see the chief of police OR any authority figure (campus administration) and give a brief run-down of their intent. They will word their intent as to mask their tactics. Many campuses were tricked into having preachers spew their venom, and have them BANNED after for their misleading nature.
Then they will go down to the place they have chosen. Set up their "scene" and erect banners. Handlers will be sent out to distribute propaganda, and position themselves to be the 'plaster eggs'.
Then the skits or preaching begins. This will gather a crowd and depending on the amount of preaching done and how much cheap heat they are going for, they will gain a few hecklers.
Those hecklers will be worked on, to gain a bigger crowd. Then when a sufficient number has occurred, either the preacher will let another preacher take over OR he will quiet down and let his plants and handlers do some one-on-one witnessing.
After this, they will go back to some restaurant to wind down and replenish themselves, and later have another service where they can "report" the events of the day, the types of hecklers and issues that may have occurred like law enforcement showing up.
And such is the usual flow of their method.
Things To Keep In MindEdit
- As stated before, the only purpose the mouthpiece has is to make noise. The ones you REALLY need to worry about are those who are the handlers and the plants. They are trained in tactics that involve psychological manipulation. Their goal is to "plant a seed", in other words, to re-activate the judeo-christian world-view inside the human mind.
- When dealing with preachers, knowing who is the plant is useful, but often they will betray themselves. Look for icebreaker types of questions and the early giving of their names. Also look for body-language that speaks of a practiced stance, like a salesman or customer-service representative. Looks for signs that speaks of overly-friendly. Normal Human beings, aren't so open with people. An evangelist, seeks an emotional foothold.
- Many churches are divided over the use of open-air witnessing in the confrontational style. They don't mind the "publicity" but hate being associated with them because of the backlash that it brings. Exposing the Church sponsoring them, is a sure fire way of putting their supporters on the spot.