“Oye, oye, oye!” The gentleman in the tri-cornered hat clutched an unfurled scroll in his hand as the crowd outside of St. Mary’s Hospital in London waited for tidings of a royal birth. As the babble died down, the man launched into his announcement:
“On this day, the 22nd of July in the year 2013, we welcome, with honorable duty, a future king, the firstborn of Their Royal Highness the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the third in line to the throne…may he be long-lived, happy, and glorious, and one day reign over us. God save the Queen!”
The man shook a handbell, the throng erupted in cheers and the media excitedly reported the event. “The royal crier delivering the royal news,” CNN’s Anderson Cooper intoned. The crier even fooled fellow Brit, Stuart Varney, who reported on Fox News that the man was “the town crier making the official announcement in a very loud voice, all in his full regalia.”
And then they found out the town crier was a fake. Oh, he had all the talent and trappings: a bright red coat with yellow trim, hat bristling with colorful plumes, a booming voice, years of experience as a master of ceremonies. But Tony Appleton, 76, is not affiliated with Kate Middleton, Prince William or any member of the royal family. But he is a big fan of the monarchy.
“I’m a royalist. I love the royal family,” Appleton told the Associated Press in a phone interview from his home in Romford, a commuter town near London. But he was quick to admit that he had no official connection with Buckingham Palace. “I came unannounced.”
In April 2011, Appleton also waited outside Westminster Abbey so he could broadcast the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in traditional town-crier fashion. He has showed up for the London Olympics closing ceremony rehearsals. Though Appleton owns a small nursing home in Romford, it’s clear that his burning passion is public proclamation.
As a preacher and dramatist, I was taken by Mr. Appleton’s example. Imagine if our congregations were filled with Tony Appletons: men and women who proclaimed the news of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ, with verve and vigor! So many church members relegate the communication of the Gospel to their pastors. In their minds, only the “experts” can effectively preach and teach the Bible. But I am not talking about preaching and teaching; I’m simply talking about witnessing to your love of Christ. We all have stories of who God is and what He has done in our lives–and stories are meant to be told!
Recall that the early church was filled with “unofficial” criers of the the Good News. Peter and his brother, Andrew, were fishermen. Matthew worked as a revenuer. A physician wrote one of the four Gospels and a tentmaker named Paul penned most of the New Testament. Paul himself was instructed by a tentmaker couple named Aquilla and Priscilla, who became celebrated teachers of the 1st century church in Corinth.
The Bible clearly instructs us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Pet 3:15). You don’t have to dress up like Tony Appleton (or me, for that matter, when I slip into a biblical robe or crazy clown costume). We are not required to stand on a street corner and ordered to blast our testimony until our throat is raw and the ears of passers-by are bleeding. But we must have this:
A genuine, growing relationship with God.
A testimony of how we came to faith in Christ and how He makes a difference in our lives. (We don’t have to be perfect to share our testimony. We are simply witnessing to the One who is perfect).
A love for people and a conviction that people really do need the Lord.
If we have these things, proclaiming the Good News won’t be a burden or requirement; it will become our pleasure and passion. We don’t have to force people to sign on the dotted line of salvation or browbeat them to “accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.” We simply pray and look for opportunities to tell people about the source of the hope, joy, peace and love that is in us. We do it with “gentleness and respect,” leaving the results to God, trusting Him to grow the seeds that we sow.
So don’t worry about frills and finery. Don’t fret that you don’t have a degree in Biblical studies or walk around with a silver tongue in your mouth. Some of the most powerful and heartfelt testimonies I’ve heard have come from the inelegant lips of ranchers, repairmen and country grandmothers. They just shared how the story of Jesus meshed with their own stories.
Homemaker, be encouraged! Plumbers and mechanics, take heart! Those of you who will never step into a seminary should stand tall and treat your world as a pulpit. God enjoys recruiting “unofficial people” to reveal His grace and advance the purposes of the Kingdom. Soak in these words from the workaday man, Paul:
“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (I Cor 2:1-5 NIV).