Lessons On Street Preaching (4 of 5)
previous three chapters we have documented street preaching through the Bible,
throughout history, and have given an outline of what to expect if one is to
follow the BIBLICAL example. Once again, street preaching is the main method
of outreach in the OLD and NEW TESTAMENTS and for over 2000 years has been
the most effective method of reaching the most people at the least expense in
the least amount of time.
As Spurgeon said, most REVIVALS have been
the result of OPEN AIR PREACHING! STREET PREACHERS launched the METHODIST and
PRESBYTERIAN denominations, as well as the FRANCISCANS, DOMINICANS, and the
MODERN MISSIONS MOVEMENT, not to mention the REFORMATION, and two GREAT
In this our fourth chapter in this series
on STREET PREACHING we will provide practical information on this most
important subject. Again, this information, neglected by churches, Bible
colleges, seminars, workshops and books is for all practical purposes
unavailable. With these chapters we bridge that gap.
In these pages will concentrate on THE
PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF STREET PREACHING. Specifically, we will demonstrate how
to do it in our day and culture with its particular problems and
opportunities. Based on our experience of 25+ years of OPEN AIR PREACHING we
will discuss the different types of STREET PREACHING, the different settings,
audiences, security problems, laws, how to work with the local police, and
things you need to know to be effective. Our first topic of concern will
PRACTICAL PREACHING PRINCIPLES
It is critical to determine specifically and accurately who is being addressed. The STREET PREACHERíS audience will range from lost people who have never heard the GOSPEL, to those well-churched. It will vary from crowds that are hostile and intent on doing violence to any who take a bold moral stand, to those who welcome the message, having ears to hear, and their lives changed because of the bold proclamation of GODíS WORD.
The MESSAGE and APPROACH will be vastly different when preaching to people who have never heard the name of CHRIST than for those who have heard it over and over and rejected it (Luke 12:47-48). Indeed, even the preacherís response will be different being based on the response and accountability of his listeners (Luke 12:47-48). As a public proclaimer of the WORD OF GOD you will be called upon to preach not only the Gospel but, indeed, the KINGDOM OF GOD and even (as best you can) the "emotion" of God (anger, compassion, patience, etc.) . With this in mind your subject matter (as with the audience) will range across the gamut of Biblical wisdom and exhortation. As with Paul on Marsí Hill you will be called to challenge the current thought: the mores and standards of our time. In line with the prophets of old your field will encompass the evils of the day as well as even your wayward brethren. As you can see the job is large and challenging with its necessary starting point of your hearersí needs and requirements.
Each outdoor preaching situation has a different audience and thereby requires a difference in MESSAGE as well as APPROACH. The situation and crowd at a COLLEGE FREE SPEECH PLATFORM is quite different from a SPORTING EVENT or a ROCK CONCERT. It is usually desirable to get a crowd gathered on a campus but NOT on a street corner where a crowd would block traffic. On a street corner the preacher is addressing an audience that is constantly moving, or waiting for the "DONT WALK" sign to change. As such his "sermons" must be tailored by condensing the message to a few seconds or a minute or two. In contrast, a COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY CAMPUS lends itself to hours of dialogue with a stationary crowd discussing an endless number of subjects such as evolution, atheism, political questions, philosophy, morals, science, current events, etc., etc.
FALSE RELIGIONS present a different audience with different challenges. Standing outside a convention center full of JEHOVAHíS WITNESSES, MORMONS, NEW AGERS, BUDDHISTS or MUSLIMS obviously requires some research into their doctrines, and again involves addressing a crowd that is moving with the occasionally interested individual sometimes stopping to dialogue.
Another category with its own special set of considerations are OVERTLY EVIL EVENTS such as SODOMITE PARADES. Who are they? Why do they do what they do? What are their arguments? What is their political agenda? How should you respond ? Is the crowd potentially violent? These are all questions which must be addressed prior to advancing on these responsibilities. Many times close co-operation with local authorities is necessary. This is generally available to a reasoned approach within the context of our free speech laws. Special event people within the police department should be approached in a timely manner with details of your plans. Additionally "follow up" with said authorities is in order with thanks given for the help provided!
PICKETING A PORNO SHOP or ABORTION CLINIC is yet another area of discussion. This involves an understanding of local laws, private property vs. public property, dealing with the police, legal size of signs, requirement to keep moving, etc. Porno shop operators and their customers are a different "class" of people than you would run into elsewhere with different responses to preaching. Each of these situations needs to be evaluated and analyzed by the street preacher as he prepares his message and method.
Something to keep in mind as these situations are approached is the job GOD requires us to do. BIBLICALLY, within the context of the OLD TESTAMENT, change was demanded and even forced by the people of GOD in direct mandate by GOD to the nation of Israel. The mission of the NEW TESTAMENT is rather different in that judgment, in most instances, is reserved for the last day....no longer are we physically required to mandate immediate change. Our job rather is to preach the KINGDOM OF GOD, His Gospel, and judgment to come. Our work does not involve the establishment of a "Christian Nation" or demand that we should bring the kingdom of GOD to pass in our time. Our work is primarily to focus on the accurate delivery of information to the world. Any change which accrues by virtue of this proclamation is welcomed but is not the focus. Rather, our faithfulness is to the NEW COVENANT with its fulfillment at His coming. With this in mind, success is foreordained in that His Word will not return void but will accomplish that which HE purposes! (Isaiah 55:11) Preaching the Gospel, kingdom of GOD, and warning the wicked fulfills the NEW TESTAMENT mandate, whatever the response (Ezekiel 2:5), This position is not meant to eliminate the proper functioning within a government. We still believe in taking advantage of all of the freedoms, opportunities and indeed responsibilities which are before us. Once again our focus is driven by BIBLICAL MANDATE as found primarily in the life of CHRIST and in the NEW TESTIMENT.
IT IS WORTHY OF NOTE THAT THE MOST COMMON USE OF STREET PREACHING IN THE BIBLE WAS NOT TO DRUNKS AND PROSTITUTES OR SEXUAL DEVIATES BUT PROPHETS OF GOD STANDING OUTSIDE THE TEMPLE PREACHING TO THE "BELIEVERS". In this context one of our sure responsibilities is, as His Spirit directs, TO EXHORT THE BRETHREN, even rebuking them in their lukewarmness or wayward doctrine(s). Once again, the message and audience in this situation is completely different from any other and must be viewed with the wisdom and zeal of HIS leading and SPIRIT.
In some of these described situations the STREET PREACHER will be standing in one place preaching to a stationary crowd. In others he will be preaching to large crowds as they walk by. In others he himself may be moving and carrying a sign. Some situations invite dialogue with a crowd, some invite one-on-one response and some involve no dialogue. Some require a more general message of salvation while others a specific message on a specific issue. Some crowds and situations require a more loving message, others demand a message of stern rebuke and warning on HELLFIRE, GODíS WRATH AND JUDGMENT TO COME. "And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others SAVE WITH FEAR, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." Jude 22,23 ( See also Ezekiel 3:15-21; Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 5:11; Proverbs 28:4 )
All of this leads us to another important
topic that is critical to understand if one is to accurately represent the
A PROPER UNDERSTANDING OF GODíS ATTITUDE
It is very popular today to preach a "POSITIVE" message that ĎGOD loves everyone no matter what they do,í and to be as INOFFENSIVE as possible.. It is important to understand what the BIBLE says about THE CHARACTER OF GOD and to ACCURATELY REFLECT THAT IN YOUR PREACHING. JESUS CHRIST felt no shame in preaching that MOST of humanity on JUDGMENT DAY would be bound hand and foot and thrown into a lake of fire (Matthew 7:13-14; 13:40-43,49-50). Many on that day will no doubt be screaming, "Why didnít someone tell me about HELL? All I ever heard was that GOD loved me! I didnít know it would be like this!" Much of todayís approach is lulling sinners to sleep rather than stirring them to REPENTANCE. As Jude said, "some come by LOVE, some come by FEAR "(Jude 22, 23, KJV).
While the BIBLE says great things about GODíS LOVE, and we do not mean to minimize that, it is still true that NO PREACHER IN THE BIBLE INCLUDING JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF EVER STOOD IN FRONT OF A CROWD OF SINNERS AND TOLD THEM, "GOD LOVES YOU." Also "LOVE" is not mentioned once in the book of ACTS which is the first example of how the Apostles evangelized the world. In contrast "THE FEAR" of GOD is mentioned 10 times!
WITH THE SUBJECT OF GODíS ATTITUDE IN MIND, HERE ARE A FEW VERSES GIVING EXAMPLES OF HOW THE PREACHERS IN THE BIBLE REPRESENTED GOD AND HIS WORD TO THE LOST OF THEIR DAY:
"...because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God...the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you." (Deuteronomy 28:62-63)
"The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing; the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man." (Psalm 5:5-6)
"God is angry with the wicked every day." (Psalm 7:11)
"God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and reserveth wrath for his enemies." (Nahum 1:2)
"O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 3:7)
"Woe unto thee, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. but...it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." (Matthew 11:21-24)
"O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:10)
"...the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ....." (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)
(We will discuss these verses and many more in future chapters, as we develop THE REAL GOD and THE REAL CHRIST OF THE BIBLE.)
This type of preaching in the BIBLE is a far cry from todayís often watered down , milky and almost effeminate message that fails to rebuke sinners and call for repentance. Todayís churches need to get back to the BIBLICAL method of PREACHING OUTDOORS, and, IN THE SPIRIT OF THE PROPHETS AND GOD HIMSELF, take a bold stand against sin wherever it is found.
With the hearers clearly defined, the
message developed, and GODíS SPIRIT accurately found, we can now move to some
There is much to know in the area of small details on how to preach in a public setting. Speaker systems, where to stand, laws, security and signs are some of the areas that need to be considered. In the area of AMPLIFICATION there are times you can use megaphones and times you cannot. Most of the time, when preaching on a street corner downtown to a crowd that is close your voice alone will do the job. Usually on a college campus it is very common to get crowds of up to 300 or more who can all hear quite well without any voice amplification being used. But megaphones come in handy, for instance, when PREACHING FROM A VEHICLE to crowds on the sidewalk as you drive by. This is good for reaching people gathered along a parade route (before the parade or following behind), or a situation where large crowds are out on the sidewalks and spread over a large area. TRUTHHORNS (no "bull"!!) also serve well when preaching from a boat to crowds on a beach or along the bank of a river.
As you can see it is necessary to understand the various possible SETTINGS for outdoor preaching. For example: a stationary preacher reaching a small moving crowd, such as a street corner, a large crowd going into or out of a sporting event, rock concert or convention hall and parades, such as annual SODOMITE EVENTS . We, for, example have gone to these for years, standing on the public sidewalk along the route preaching as the perverts parade by. This setting is one where gathering a large crowd does not usually occur nor is it sought. Blocking a sidewalk would result in problems with the police as you are creating a problem to free passage. In addition, this particular crowd would pose security problems if allowed to gather around you. In addition to these settings HOLIDAY EVENTS present unusual formats as well as a built in message which should be taken advantage of. CHRISTMAS, EASTER, THANKSGIVING, and even NEW YEARS EVE are all holidays that have their origin in GOD and HIS SON. These provide an obvious and ready opportunity to PUBLICLY PROCLAIM THEIR SIGNIFICANCE and TRUE MEANING !!!
A STATIONARY PREACHER REACHING A STATIONARY CROWD. This is very effective on a COLLEGE CAMPUS, where a preacher can walk on the campus at noon, go to the free speech platform, and begin preaching while curious students will gather, sit, listen and often argue/debate/ask questions for many hours.
A MOVING PREACHER REACHING A MOVING CROWD, such as picketers, which requires the them to keep moving back and forth in front of the place being picketed. Another place might be a beach, or any area that has a crowd spread out over a large proximity. Finding an acceptable place will many times result in a duplication of much of what is found in CHRISTís ministry at the sermon on the mount.
PREACHING FROM A MOVING VEHICLE comes in handy when reaching large spread out crowds. The night before the ROSE PARADE, for instance, thousands camp out along the 5 mile route providing a ready audience. Preaching from a boat to crowds on a beach or around a lake or a river is productive during special events or in the summer months.
OTHER CREATIVE METHODS have been used by some who go "undercover" inside gatherings or cult or occult meetings, and stand up and preach until escorted out by security (these situations almost always result in no arrests, but simply being asked to leave).
SIGNS have many opportunities and advantages. Carrying a sign with a BIBLICAL message ("JESUS SAVES" "READ THE BIBLE" "REPENT") accomplishes several uses: it immediately identifies the speaker and where he stands, eliminating confusion, and often gets NEWS MEDIA coverage. Millions can be reached by the message on the sign being shown on TV or in a newspaper. Often signs used in this way are in situations where police will not allow loud preaching, but the message still gets out via the sign. An example of this type of "preaching," you have probably seen is the "JOHN 3:16" signs on TV sports events: these reach a large TV audience that would not be reached any other way.
LAWS need to be understood as far as use of AMPLIFICATION, legal size of SIGNS and poles, location of PUBLIC PROPERTY vs. private property, etc. As a general rule, PUBLIC SIDEWALKS have been deemed acceptable forums for free speech and SIGNS are legal as long as the poles cannot be used as weapons. AMERICA OFFERS GREAT UNPRECEDENTED LEGAL OPPORTUNITY FOR THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL IN PUBLIC PLACES YET BELIEVERS, FOR ALL PRACTICAL PURPOSES, HAVE FAILED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT.
PERMITS are required to carry a sign or pass out literature in some places, for example some college campuses. Most colleges require no permit, some require permits that are easy to get, though some can be difficult. If you feel your legal rights of free speech are being taken from you it is best to have witnesses, videos, tape recordings, and good legal counsel to fight for your rights in court if police or security are overstepping their legal bounds. As a general rule we have avoided these legal battles choosing to rather go to another area where our freedom is allowed. There are multitudes of areas and people to preach to and, in addition, legal fights are costly and time consuming (Matthew 10:23; 5:25).
SECURITY is necessary in some cases.
HOMOSEXUALS, SOME FALSE RELIGIONS, ORTHODOX JEWS and POLITICAL TYPES may get
violent with any who publicly oppose them. In many cases where we fear
possible physical confrontations we leave women and children home. The men who
go to the event stay together, having some men designated as security to stand
around the man who is preaching and protect him. In addition it is good to
have someone "undercover" in the crowd to keep an eye and ear open for
possible trouble. As stated before, we also try to work with the police
assuring them that we are not there to cause trouble but only to exercise our
right of free speech cooperating with them as far as best place to stand, who
the possible troublemakers are, and possibly having them nearby to keep an eye
These then are some of the lessons we have learned by trial and error over the years of preaching on the streets. This information is, again, unavailable (as far as we know) in any church, seminary, seminar, Christian bookstore, magazine article, etc., etc. Our next chapter will detail our experiences of the last 25 years and round out our treatment of Biblical preaching.
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