Posts Tagged ‘Street Preaching’
I recognize that there are many thousands of disciples suffering for the Lord Jesus in many parts of the world. In places such as China, Iran, Sudan, Vietnam, and many other places, disciples are not just suffering at the hands of evil people but are dying for the gospel. How many disciples have been killed in the Middle East alone? So I write this post with an eye not on suffering per se but simply how the West is slowly leading toward this. A day will come when we will be persecuted in the West for the gospel. At this point, we must deal with arrests and with mockery more so than with actual violence though I am seeing more and more of that toward open air preachers than before.
In the past day I have read of two brothers arrested by the police for preaching the gospel. One was a brother at a Florida beach who was arrested for preaching. In the video I watched, the policeman was harsh toward the open air preacher not because they had violated any law but simply for the message preached. The policeman vented that people should not be told that they are going to hell in light of mass killings that are taking place today. They need to hear that God is good and loving and not that He will pour out His wrath on sinners who do not repent. It was ironic to hear a policeman lecture an open air preacher about how to preach instead of enforcing the law.
In the second event, brother Josh Williamson was arrested in Scotland for preaching the gospel. His gospel was not offensive other than pleading with sinners to turn from their sins and be saved. His text was John 8:31-38. Josh was arrested because some people didn’t like what he said. The police, rather than enforcing Josh’s right to open air preach, instead arrested him simply because of the offense of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:23).
All the open air preachers and evangelists I know seek to abide by the laws of the land. They don’t preach in private places, do not trespass, and are sensitive to the laws. I don’t doubt there are lone ranger evangelists out there who do violate the laws but we are under obligation to obey just laws according to Romans 13:1-7 and Titus 3:1. The only time we must violate the laws of the land is when the gospel is being prevented by unjust laws (Acts 5:19-20). In the West we enjoy, at this time, freedom of speech. Muslims can preach. Jehovah’s Witnesses can go door to door as do Mormons. Atheists can put up signs protesting Ray Comfort. People are allowed to have public discourse. But more and more, disciples of Jesus are being silenced simply because of the gospel. We should expect this (1 Peter 4:12-19) and we know that the world hates us (John 15:18-25; 1 John 2:15-17) but it is disheartening to see places such as a land where John Knox once open air preached in Scotland or here in the United States where open air preaching has been part of our lives since the dawn of our nation, that the police are now seeking to arrest disciples for preaching.
My time has not come. I have not had any legal issues with police. I suppose that the South is still pretty conservative toward this issue but I am seeing more and more people hating the message. I use to read how people would pick up stones to attack John Wesley for preaching justification by faith. I wondered why would English people despise Wesley’s preaching on salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Now I know. People hate this teaching. They want to believe that we are all going to heaven or that we can earn our salvation by our good works. When you show them the foolishness of both beliefs, they don’t try to reason with you. That just hate you and would rather kill you than submit to God’s Word. Romans 4:5 is a slap in the face of the self-righteous and prideful who think that God is obligated to save them just because they exist.
Let us pray for the West to repent and for the gospel to go forth. Even if a time comes in the West that we lose our “rights” I pray that we will still preach the gospel until they kill us. Better to obey God than man.
The title of this post is by far the most complaints I have heard regarding confrontational evangelism. Those who believe that we must “earn” the right to be heard by giving someone a cup of water, offering aid, food, etc. before we can communicate the gospel believe that confrontational evangelism turns people away from Christ rather than to Him. While many would acknowledge that open air preaching, gospel tracts, and one-on-one evangelism have been used by God in the past, we now live in a new era where people must know how much you love before they will listen to you. Therefore, entire ministries are dedicated to helping people first before ever telling them the gospel. Entire churches are designed with the “seeker” in mind so that the “seeker” feels comfortable, they know that you care about them, and they are not scared out of their minds by your language or your gospel.
The reality is that sinners need the gospel. I believe we can agree on this. Other than the hyper-Calvinist who holds that “duty-faith” is not biblical, most disciples of Jesus do believe that sinners need the gospel. My concern is not about whether you reject confrontational evangelism but my concern is the content of the gospel. Are sinners hearing the gospel from you? Are you showing them biblically the true God who is holy? Are you exalting Christ and focusing upon Him or is the “seeker” your focus? The gospel is first and foremost about God. It is not about us. Humans bring one thing to the gospel message: our sin. The gospel is focused on Christ and how He turns away the just wrath of an offended God. If your gospel does not deal with the sins that have caused this enmity between God and mankind, your gospel is not a saving gospel.
Now I am all for helping people. Scripture says that we should do good to all (Galatians 6:10). Scripture is clear in Romans 12:19-21 that we are to do good even to our enemies and allow God to judge them in His time. Galatians 2:10 says that we are to help the poor as did the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6:2-4. I am for helping others. My concern is that we draw the line there and don’t bother dealing with what eternally matters and that is the condition of people’s souls before God. Each person we meet today will face Almighty God. Each person we see driving in their cars, working their jobs, running in the park, watching a ball game, etc. will die and face eternity (Hebrews 9:27). My concern is that they hear the gospel. Do they know the truth? Have they heard of God’s wrath against their sins and that their only hope is the cross? Have the people I met today heard the truth of Jesus Christ and His saving work?
This is the heart of my post. I want sinners to hear the gospel and be saved. Do good to them and for them but speak the truth to them (Romans 10:14-17). Tell them of the judgment to come (John 16:8-11). Warn them of hell (Matthew 25:46). Speak to them of God’s grace given to us in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:8-9). Use the Law of God to show them their sins before God (1 Timothy 1:8-11). But by all means, speak to the sinners about the Lord Jesus who had mercy upon us and saved us (Titus 3:1-7).
Several weeks ago I posted a post on Tony Miano and him preaching outside of an abortion clinic in Portland, Oregon in which he had an atheist come and yell in his face while Tony sought to preach to those visiting the clinic. The atheist shouted over and over again, “Old white men should not be allowed to tell women what to do with their bodies.” In the course of the video, the man asks Tony why he is doing what he is doing, why doesn’t he go out and adopt children if he wants to help, and he tells Tony that he is judgmental for preaching at the women in the clinic.
I read another blog post where a lady wrote about the same video in which she makes the point that she agreed with the atheist and she finds Tony’s approach to “evangelism” as offensive. She thinks that his tact of preaching outside of an abortion clinic does nothing for the kingdom of God, brings shame to the women in the clinic rather than hope, and presents Christians as we are often seen, “critical and self-righteous.” She never offers any advice for how to evangelize and I have a feeling from her blog that she likely doesn’t share her faith, doesn’t see the necessity of sharing the gospel with the lost, and basis her entire view of Jesus on pure love and not holiness.
I have been asked about open air preaching and confrontational evangelism in the past but let me state again that I feel that the New Testament examples are clearly in favor of this type of ministry. Friendship evangelism, lifestyle evangelism, etc. often never lead to the gospel. Doing good works (as the lady advocates on her blog as the best form of presenting Christ to a skeptical world) are fine if they are accompanied with the gospel. To merely feed a person or to clothe the person without the gospel just makes them comfortable as they go to hell and nothing more. Jesus said that only those who have been born again (John 3:3-7) will see the kingdom of God.
I do agree with Paul Washer, however, that street preaching and evangelism should be done out of brokenness and out of a burden for the lost and not out of anger. I have seen angry street preachers. The wreathe and pronounce judgement after judgment upon the lost without any hint of compassion and fear for their souls. When I was in Washington DC back in November I saw the folks from Westboro Baptist Church preaching outside of Arlington National Cemetery and they were full of rage, hatred, and lack of love at all for the lost around them. Westboro folks are hyper-Calvinists and so they had no problem saying that all these people they were looking at (including myself) were non-elect and were going to hell for the glory of God.
Preaching to the lost must be done in brokenness. We should weep over the lost before ever whipping the lost (see Jesus’ example in Luke 19:41-46). Jesus had no problem denouncing the world (Matthew 11:20) and we should not fear from preaching the truth of God. Truth is offensive by nature (1 Corinthian 1:18). Truth separates. Truth divides at times. Truth shows people that they are in error and people hate to be told they are wrong about God, about eternity, about heaven and hell. In our postmodern age, people want to believe that we are all equal, we are all right, we all have truth. To be told otherwise always leads to anger and resentment.
In conclusion, do we really think that people today would treat Jesus any different if He preached to us in the flesh? If Jesus said what He said such as in Matthew 5-7 or in John 14:6, would the world accept His teachings? If Jesus defined marriage as He does in Matthew 19:1-9 then would the world accept Him? If Jesus taught what He taught in Luke 14:25-35, would the world (or even many so-called Christians) accept Him? I believe the results would still be the same: let us kill this man called Jesus. Face it, we don’t love God, we hate Him (Romans 1:18-32).
Here is an excellent video to spark your passion for the gospel (Mark 16:15).
Open air preaching is not very popular today and is often maligned by people including those who claim to follow Christ. It is viewed today as a poor form of evangelism, a type of evangelism that has lost touch with true evangelism, etc. But few realize that great men of God such as John Wesley, George Whitefield and even Charles Spurgeon himself advocated open air preaching. While you might argue that their time was a very different time, God’s Word promises us that salvation comes through the hearing of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17). Open air preaching is useful to present the gospel and it almost always opens the door for conversations about the gospel.
You can read Spurgeon’s lecture on open air preaching here.