...I guess part of what has prompted the previous few replies of mine was that.... there was severe persecution going on at the hands of unbelieving Jews and Romans. In this environment, coupled with the absolute certainty that Christ WAS COMING within their lifetime, then yes, it's understandable that overt preaching was going on. In a situation like that, what other choice did they have?
But nowadays...we've realized that Christ didn't come back then. We await Him, no doubt...but we realize He may not return within our generation, or within a hundred of our generations. Or He may return tomorrow. We should prepare for the latter, while allowing for and understanding God's timetable if the former is the case.
Also, we are no longer under the life-or-death persecution of the first belivers...and I say that because 1) we are therefore obviously not as committed to Christ as the Church as many of the holy martyrs of the Church were (or are, in still-communist or radically muslim countries), and 2) it makes for a lot easier of a time for those around us and how they view our faith. And that's what witnessing comes down to: what is the most effective way to present our faith to others that is attractive, but not compromised? For Ss. Polycarp, Ignatius, and Peter and Paul, it was their total willingness to be martyred and joy and love for their captors that drew thousands to the faith -- a totally selfless act.
I'm just not sure that overt witnessing, while direct and more focused on "the message" (whichever one that happens to be), should be employed or relied on AS MUCH towards those who don't see our faith in the context of standing up to threat of physical death. In that context, yes, the direct message makes a bigger impact. But now, when the physical violence isn't present, we have to rely more on the "unseen warfare" of our own souls -- a "white martyrdom," in other words -- to produce the true holiness that will shine out to others and be the best witness available.
"The Word became flesh / And He dwelt among men / We have seen Him with our eyes / And we have held Him in our hands / But before you say whatever you will, I think you'd better do the best that you can / Or it won't do."
Pedro, we may not get thrown in prison (yet) for overtly preaching, as you call it, but there are nations in this world where life-or-death persecution is like in the days of the first believers - and in a way, they are first believers. For them everything is just like you say, and they are willing and "stupid' enough to go through with it - just like in days of old during the first centuries.
Please consider just one article of many in similar situations.http://www.persecution.com/basic/coach.cfm
Special Report: The “Stupid Evangelists” in Iraq
Following is a report received from our Arabic contact:
Two days after the Jordanian-Iraqi border was opened, we waited in a line of about 200 cars. We entered Baghdad at about 8:00 a.m. I went to the main evangelical church, which was open during Saddam’s reign. This is the largest evangelical church in Baghdad with about 300 members. I remembered how religious freedom was mentioned in the press. Pictures of the church and congregation have been printed in many magazines in the West.
There I met Pastor Ekram Mehani, leader of a Baghdad evangelical church, who once praised Saddam and stated, “We are the biggest church.” What would he say now that Saddam is out of power? I asked him about his vision now that Iraq was open. He did not answer this question. Instead, he described his meeting with the “top American official” and Iraqi Christian leaders. The Iraqi Christian leaders requested that no new churches be registered in Iraq, because their churches would lose members. They were more concerned of their own sheep being stolen than going out to find new converts.
I asked him if any groups, such as an “underground” church (a church not observed by the officials), were reaching out to Muslims. Seated on a brown couch, Pastor Ekram began angrily waving his hand and mentioned some names of house-church leaders in Baghdad. “They are stupid. They (police) put them in jail, because they don’t listen. They were evangelizing Muslims, working outside the church walls. They are troublemakers.” I could tell that he felt like they deserved to go to jail; they were placing his religious empire in political danger.
I left this meeting and crossed Baghdad to meet these “stupid evangelists.” There was no electricity. I tried to push the doorbell, but there was no sound, so I went in through the kitchen door. The Christian brother hugged me, “We are surprised to see you so soon!” His wife, son and daughter stood with him. This leader of a large house church group told me, “Ekram is the one who reported us to the police along with his chairman of the Board.” Many of Baghdad’s underground church leaders were frustrated members of his church and were warned not to go out and share Jesus, or it would “cause the church problems.”
The wife of a pastor who was imprisoned said: “We were in shock when he went to jail, because we thought we would never see him again. The police told my husband, ‘We need you for five minutes.’ No judge, three or four officers took his clothes and eyeglasses and blindfolded him and slapped him around. They told him, ‘You work with foreign groups to depose Saddam. Secret Christian meetings are illegal in houses.’” He was in jail for 39 days. “After they took him, two police came to our house to take our Christian books and papers. They asked us to turn on the computer but there was no electricity. After they left, the electricity came on, and I erased the emails.”
Five or six Muslim converts attend the illegal meetings. They find ways to work in universities where there are more conversions (of Muslims to Christianity), but the new converts don’t attend the large meetings. The house church Christians told me, “We sent nine Muslim converts to the evangelical church, but the church officials were afraid. They kicked them out. They wouldn’t baptize them, so we baptized them in the bathtub.”
I left funds with some of them. (Editor’s Note: We cannot describe all of our current literature programs, but you will find information on our Action Pack program in Iraq on the back cover. We send these Iraqi Christians Scripture materials on persecution. They will print them inside the country. They asked for such books. We must act now.) One Iraqi underground church leader told me, “We know that we won’t have a Muslim-style government. But most of the Cabinet will be Muslim. We will continue to be persecuted by the official church and by Muslims for reaching out.”
Attending a meeting of 80 people, I preached (in Arabic) from the encouraging writings of the prisoner—the apostle Paul. The congregation was happily singing and praying. I told them, “Many Christians, including Iraqis in America, are praying for you.” After two-and-a-half hours, nobody wanted to go home. They sat down and wanted more sermons.
During my 3,200-kilometer trip crisscrossing Iraq, I went to seven house-church groups. I met with leaders of these “troublemaker evangelists” from more than 12 groups in three cities and four villages. None of them are content to sit in churches and enjoy their religious freedom by staying inside the building.
An official pastor from another evangelical church in Baghdad said to one of these released Christian leaders, “Don’t think you were in jail because of Christ, it is because you were stupid, evangelizing outside the church walls.” I wish we had more stupid evangelists.