People have probably heard a preacher on the side of the road with a mega phone preaching. Some people stop in listen while others carry on shaking their head. In modern times, most feel that it is not the best approach to evangelism. Some will go as far to say that it is too judgemental and pushes people away from God. But is that true? Is street preaching unbiblical, unnecessary, and harmful? First, we must always look to God’s word and see what his faithful servants have done in the various cultures.
First we can look at Noah. There was no church building to preach in. No temple to preach at. Just him and the world. Peter describes Noah as a preacher or Herold of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). Of course the world listened and laughed maybe even felt judged and offended as he told them that God was going to judge the world due to their unrighteousness. Next we can look at Jonah. He literally walked down the streets of the large city proclaiming that the city will be overthrown if they don’t repent (Jonah 3:1-5). Then we can look at John The Baptist. He came out of the wilderness open air preaching in public (Matthew 3:1-2; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). Jesus himself preached in public on a hill (Matthew 5-7). Apollos, a disciple of Jesus, explicitly preached in public (Acts 18:27-28). Paul himself didn’t always preach in churches or Jewish temples (Acts 17:22-34) even preached in the market place (Acts 17:17). Given these biblical accounts we can now dive into the important questions:
Is Street / Open Air Preaching Wrong?
Clearly the answer is NO. Jesus did it. Jonah was told by God to do it. The Apostles, lead by the Spirit, did it. In different cultures throughout history. The type of culture or time period does not exclude street preaching.
Is there a best ‘time and place’ to do it?
Again, looking at the biblical accounts, the time and place is everywhere, at all times, with who ever is willing to listen! But this leads to the next question.
Doesn’t it drive away people from the church?
This is a failed excuse by those who don’t want to do it or who feel sympathetic to the sin of the world. Those who feel that people are driven away from being saved by preachers fail to understand or deny God’s Absolute Sovereignty. A quick study of John chapter 6 should answer this false dilemma: John 6:26-40
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly,
truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of
heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me WIIL come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
So who WILL come to Jesus? ALL that the Father HAS GIVEN. How many will be lost? NONE. How many of them who God has given to Jesus come? ALL. But will some of them not come? NO. ALL WILL. Re-read John 6:26-40 and let it sink in.
So how many people will street preachers turn away who have been given to Jesus? NONE. Street Preaching may drive away people, but not the ones God has called. SIN has already driven away those who are ‘driven away’ by street preachers. The lost are still lost, BUT now they have ZERO excuse for sure make God’s judgement on them that much justified.
People that claim to have been driven away from the Church due to ‘offensive’ street preachers clearly were not searching for Jesus but validation from man. Some one that gets extremely offended, yet, has been given to Jesus, WILL, still, come to Jesus eventually. Period. That moment when they were offended by being called a sinner may stick with them and the Holy Spirit may break down the wall in their heart because of it. OR like Pharaoh, God may use that moment to harden their heart further. Who knows, but the result of the street preaching is UP TO GOD. Regardless, EVERYONE who has been GIVEN to Jesus WILL come, no matter how offended they think they are by street preachers.
Are there Good and Bad ways to street preach?
Of course! There is never a moment where we are not to be loving. Even during street preaching and dealing with hecklers, agitators, and aggressively profane people. But LOVE is also speaking the TRUTH. Because Jesus IS TRUTH. Using profanity and personally attacking people is not the way to go about proclaiming the truth and love of Jesus. But don’t forget, the truth of Jesus is offensive to the world. People WILL get offended. Period. Matthew 10:34-36, 15:19-20:
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you;
Pointing fingers at people telling them God hates them does NOT honor or bring glory to God. BUT telling them that they are lost and in need of a savior does. One focuses on sin, of which we are all sinners, but the other focuses on Jesus. One hypocritically judges, while the other rightly judges. One points down to man the other points up to Christ Jesus. It is true however that ALL those who have been given to Jesus WILL come, even if the preacher is unloving in his approach BUT the preachers themselves are still held to a standard that which is loving God and their neighbor. When street preaching we must keep Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-28 in mind: “27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.“
Some preachers were even maliciously bashing Paul behind his back (Philippians 1:17-18). These guys were trying to belittle Paul and assert themselves as authority. Their preaching was out of selfish ambitions. YET Paul rejoices! Why? Because no matter the motives of the preachers, Christ is still proclaimed. Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17) and people are still hearing the gospel despite the short comings of the preachers. God is GOD despite the imperfect preachers.
Why then do people get so offended?
19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already…”
They are hateful and offended because they feel judged. This is true, they and the whole world have been judged. Judged and convicted as sinners before a holy and righteous God. Yet, they love their sin more than God’s righteousness. Thus, they hate the messengers. Nothing new. Genesis 19:9 quotes the people of Sodom rejecting Lot’s plea for them to stop their sin “they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.”. That’s just like saying “don’t judge me”.
What is the purpose of Street / Open Air Preaching?
This is the most effective way to reach people who refuse to check out a church, who don’t want to or thinking googling anything about gospel and even reaching people who are privately searching but don’t know where to start. There are thousands of reasons why speaking publicly in a public place and reach people who can not normally be reached. The ultimate goal is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ for all the world to hear. This sparks public conversation and those who hear take it home with them and tell their friends what they heard and saw. Which may lead the friend to do some research. The results are NOT up to the eloquence of the speaker or anything about the preacher himself. The Holy Spirit is the one who works in the heart of the person who hears the message. Regardless of the results, the preacher is called to be faithful to the Lord and proclaim the Lord’s good news.
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