*** w88 5/15 p. 27 Insight on the News ***
Clowns for Christ?
"Gospel Clowns on the Road" was the headline that appeared in the Church Times, a Church of England newspaper. It was heralding the annual visit of the Church Army Roadshow to selected seaside resorts in England and Wales. Founded just over a hundred years ago as a wing of the Church of England, the Church Army was to evangelize "among the outcasts and criminals of the Westminster slums."
Today, Church Army leaders are still concerned that "evangelism should be given its rightful place." Their Roadshow aims to present the gospel in a "humorous way to people who have little previous experience of God, and who wouldn’t dream of coming to an event held in a church or church hall." The costumed "Gospel Clowns" in the roadshow hope that "their dedicated fooling about will at least make passers-by stop and listen for a while," notes the Church Times.
However, while their clown attire, buffoonery, and free balloons attracted many children, adults were left wondering what this approach had to do with the evangelism initiated by Jesus Christ.
True, the apostle Paul wrote: "We have become a theatrical spectacle to the world . . . We are fools because of Christ." (1 Corinthians 4:9, 10) But what did he have in mind? Clowning or "fooling about" to attract passers-by? No. Paul was illustrating how the world considers Christians to be fools, "exposed to public ridicule and shame," as The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology puts it, on account of their faith and teachings.
In contrast with the Church Army’s "Gospel Clowns," Jesus taught the crowds "as a person having authority." His ministry was straightforward and without gimmickry. As he explained, "Just as the Father taught me I speak these things." What was the result? "Many put faith in him."—Matthew 7:29; John 8:28, 30.