Lessons On Street Preaching (5 of 5)
Our marching orders are THE GREAT COMMISSION of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST: to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel to EVERY CREATURE" (Mark 16:15). Our objective is to communicate not only the Gospel, but the MIND OF GOD on the issues of our day to those who want to hear it as well as to those who do not want to hear it! (Ezek. 2:5)
We offer in this chapter some practical
suggestions from our 25 years of experience in OPEN AIR PREACHING. Starting
with no teachers we have been able, over the years, to learn methods and
strategies from our experience and Godís Word. From this pool of understanding
we present the following information:
We have been involved in a wide variety of outreach opportunities over the years. Starting in the late Ď60s with large social and political movements, such as the The HIPPIES, the ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT, and moving to COMMUNIST/SOCIALIST DEMON-STRATIONS our "teeth" were cut. When large crowds would gather for these rallies, those in our ministry at that time would often be there with signs, boldly proclaiming the truth as it related to the particular situations. Our presence at these events often may have prevented a riot by distracting the demonstrators from their agenda to the perspective of GODís truth. Since many of these rallies took place on COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES, the CAMPUS PREACHING ministry had its start. The "free speech" areas would often ring with righteousness and rebuke at this time, most notably with the efforts of HUBERT LINDSEY at Cal State Berkley, and going on nationwide today with JED and CINDY Smock and others. Since the Ď60s most colleges and universities have a designated FREE SPEECH AREA that can be utilized by anyone just walking up and preaching, unannounced and uninvited, working for hours with a crowd of hundreds. At Cornerstone we have continued to take advantage of this opportunity right up to the present. Some others who remain faithful to this work are JIM WEBBER, PAUL STAMM, TOM CARLISLE, LEONARD ALLEN and PAT NORDEWEIER. HIGH SCHOOLS have been another area of outreach. BROTHER TIMOTHY here at CORNERSTONE has continued over the years faithful PREACHING with a TRUTH-horn from his vehicle to high schoolers during their lunch breaks.
Another area where PUBLIC PREACHING can have great impact is to the CULTS. Thousands of MORMONS and JEHOVAHíS WITNESSES can be reached at one time in one place as they gather for their large rallies, miscellaneous events and conventions. For example, not long ago the MORMONS spent 6 weeks opening one of their "temples" near here. We were there repeatedly in protest with signs, preaching, and literature as the curious and faithful streamed in to admire the "structure". Also, not too long ago tens of thousands of CATHOLIC young people gathered in Denver for a youth congress. This 3 day event--complete with a visit from the Pope himself--provided an unbelievable opportunity for us to continue in the "Protestant" (PROTEST--see church history) movement against such evil, as well as provide truth to those with eyes to see. NON-CHRISTIAN religions also gather for large events and can be reached in a short time by one or more STREET PREACHERS outside the entrance (or exit) of an event, or along a parade route. HINDUS, BUDDHISTS, and MUSLIMS can be reached in large numbers this way.
It is also possible to "EXHORT THE BRETHREN" at large Christian rallies and crusades. NOTICE AGAIN THAT MOST OF THE OPEN AIR PREACHING IN THE BIBLE BY THE PROPHETS IS NOT TO PAGANS OR PROSTITUTES, BUT TO THOSE GATHERING TO WORSHIP GOD IN THE TEMPLE! (See Jeremiah 7:2; 19:14; John 7:14; compare Matt. 3:7). We often challenge our brothers and sisters in Christ to get outside the walls of their church and PREACH IN THE STREETS, as they gather for HARVEST CRUSADES, PROMISE KEEPERS, RALLIES, CONCERTS, etc.
In our time we have witnessed an explosion of activity in the occult. Though many of these events and gatherings are difficult to identify and find, over the years we have been able to locate some and, as they become known had opportunity to proclaim the Word to their ear. It is possible to reach all the WITCHES and SATANISTS in your area at any large gatherings they have.
Also in our time we have seen a large growth of interest in "NEW AGE" type of thinking. These people typically show up in meetings and events that draw thousands, becoming excellent venues to stand for the truth. Also they convene in large combinations at "expos" which provide opportunity to have them all in one place at one time.
Besides all this there are countless SOCIAL MOVEMENTS going on that need the bold proclamation of GODíS WORD. Our society is neck deep in public acceptance of immorality, being characterized by: ABORTION mills and rallies, SODOMITE parades and gatherings, WOMENíS RIGHTS marches, PORNO SHOPS, TV AND MOVIE awards shows (Oscars and Emmys), ROCK MUSIC concerts and award shows (Grammy's, etc.). As previously detailed, living in an area where these events occur such as Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C. or San Francisco or another large metropolitan area is preferred.
In all of these we see and grasp opportunity to proclaim the truth of God's word as it applies to the individual situation. In so doing we provide warning, context and place for repentance and acceptance of God's grace. It continues to be a shame and blot on the church that these things--though opposed from the pulpit with great zeal--are not brought to public rebuke. The work and job before us is to the perpetrators of sin, not the choir.
There are also many types of large crowd gathering events to choose from: SPORTING EVENTS (ranging from local ball games on up to the OLYMPICS), PARKS, BEACHES, HOLIDAY PARADES, YACHT /BOAT RACES and SPECIAL EVENTS (for example, we preached to large crowds gathered in New York City a few years ago for the centennial of the STATUE OF LIBERTY).
As you can see, our country provides countless opportunities and responsibility for outreach. As well, it has provided the religious freedom to publicly proclaim GODíS INFALLIBLE WORD. It has been our pleasure to be somewhat faithful in these areas of ministry but as the LORD taught of the harvest, the fields are white and the laborers few. It continues be our prayer for those laborers. With experience as our guide and the Word of GOD as our instruction we find the work of public proclamation of His Word can be broken down into two specific areas: to IDENTIFY and EXECUTE.
The objective of IDENTIFICATION is to locate events that either draw large crowds, or are in characteristic need of attention of the public proclamation or rebuke of the WORD OF GOD. (Let us point out here that our objective is not always EVANGELISM, but also to WARN THE WICKED and PROCLAIM GODíS TRUTH. A necessary pre-cursor to understanding the grace of GOD is to be "schooled" in the law and consequences of God's wrath: all should know well the results of their choices. It is the Churchesí job to be the WATCHMAN spoken of in Ezekiel 3 and 33. (Read Ezekiel chapters 2 and 3 very carefully and understand that STREET PREACHING can accomplish great things apart from just winning converts!) The events you will be looking for can be anything from a large auto race to something like the opening of a topless bar, or just areas that provide for dialogue, like a college campus free speech platform. The list of things given within our experience can provide an outline for your particular area, but should not be thought to be conclusive. It is important to be creative and adapt to your surroundings. An example of this is found in the fact that where we live there are harbors and bays. Each year in the Southern California area at CHRISTMAS, large flotillas of pleasure craft gather in CHRISTMAS BOAT PARADES. These boat parades gather thousands of spectators and provide an unmatched opportunity to preach the truth of Christís birth. We own a small boat which we use to enter the parade and bring to the "event" and its spectators the WORD OF GOD. Your area can and does provide like opportunities. Identify them and plan, as is wise, a way to do the job.
It may be helpful to appoint A "MINISTER OF
INFORMATION." It can be this personís job to monitor sources of needed
information: newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, internet, underground
newspapers, etc. It will be necessary to monitor left-wing broadcasts and
publications, as well as sodomite magazines.
With these goals in mind the obvious place to begin is in PRAYER to GOD. Over the years we have found it necessary to petition the FATHER in the following areas:
Prayer to find the opportunities for preaching,
For the people needed to do the job,
For the specifics of the opportunity, and the people who will hear the Word,
For "free course" (Acts 4:29; Eph. 6:19-20),
For boldness and courage. (This important aspect has several ingredients: your personal growth in the LORD, an awareness of the task you are approaching, that you are working for the KING and that what you are doing is more important than anything else going on....GODíS Word rules!)
For wisdom (James 1:5)--you will probably need some !
Finally prayer again for the hearers
With the way clearly made with the
FATHER, the next logical step is:
LOGISTICS AND PLANNING
THE OBJECTIVE: TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EFFORTS. Each event or situation is unique and has its own set of things to work through. Basically, as might be expected, your objective is to maximize your efforts. CHRIST taught that the things you hear in your ear were to be preached from the rooftops (Matthew 10:27). This then identifies the task at hand: from the "Marsí Hill" situation-(which closely can be identified with a college campus atmosphere) to the confrontations of thousands of sodomites in their promotion of sin and evil, each situation you confront has its own set of things to consider. With this in mind, here is a brief checklist:
PEOPLE; who will be going? How many? What jobs will they be doing (carrying signs, passing out tracts, preaching, personal work, talking to media/police)? What is their experience? Lamentable as it is, our work has taught us to not expect a large force to help, and that most will not feel "led" in this direction, Be prepared to do the job with "limited resources."
PLACE: Where to stand: should you stay together or spread out? Do you anticipate security problems? Will the news media be a factor? Weather, acoustics (whether or not to use amplification), etc.
TOOLS: Truth-horns/sound amplification (we have used battery operated megaphones for years at various events without permits to reach multitudes; (FANON makes good quality megaphones, available for about $100 ), Signs and banners (we always have used these tools to promote the Word to the situation. These signs can be of a general "Gospel" nature, or directly addressing the situation/people you are dealing with. The key here is communication: whereas not all may be able to hear all you are saying, if you have a sign or banner, they can get the ideas you are presenting. Over the years we have used this medium in many and varied ways: from the CARS we drive to things as far afield as BANNER TOWING AIRPLANES, the Word has gotten out. LITERATURE: over the years we have produced our own handouts covering subjects that come up repeatedly in our preaching. These topics range from WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT JUDGING? , NAME CALLING?, to a a host of BIBLICAL information on the character of GOD, etc. (See our "List of Available Literature").
THE LAW AND POLICE RELATIONS: it is necessary to know your specific rights (the text of the law, as well as court cases upholding the right of free speech in public places). Itís a good idea in cases that are more complicated or could become troublesome (like sodomite events) to communicate with a "special events" person at the police dept. In speaking with him (or her) that you need to communicate your intention of free speech and assembly in a peaceable manner, and your overall plan to communicate the Word. Find out if possible who to contact at the event and have a liaison or spokesperson in your group who can coordinate with the police on where to stand, how best to be able to exercise your rights of free speech and still keep the peace and provide protection for the preachers. At times police officers will ask you to leave, or make some other unsatisfactory demand. Be prepared to firmly but politely stand your ground and negotiate a solution agreeable to both you and them. In some situations you may have to be able to "boil the frog": donít come on with both barrels right away, but begin low key and build up in your approach a little bit at a time. After the event, be sure to follow up with a letter or call to the police dept. expressing your thanks for their cooperation.
FLEXIBILITY: be ready, willing and able to move to another (safer) location, or even to another event. JESUS said, "when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another" (Matthew 10:23). We have effectively been able to preach to millions every year and still avoid arrests (Matthew 5:25) by having a cooperative spirit with law enforcement authorities, and being willing to (as necessary) compromise.
At times we practice "sacrificial preaching", knowing, going in to a situation, that we will be asked to leave (because of private property, etc.). In these situations we are still able to boldly get a brief message to many before we are escorted out. We do this sometimes at events that are held inside a hotel convention center (e.g., New Age "Whole Life Expos") or other location that cannot be reached from public property. Instead of a sign, a message can be put on a T-shirt (see any Kinkoís), and those inside reached by conversations or preaching until you are escorted out. By complying when asked to leave we have been able to avoid jail time in every situation, and still reach multitudes. Usually a lot can be said in the time it takes someone to call security and for them to arrive.
With the ground chosen, people in place, tools
chosen, and authorities notified, your job begins.
VIOLENCE AND THE THREAT OF IT
In virtually all situations where the bold proclamation of God's truth is put forth, the accompanying threat of possible trouble must be dealt with. In Biblical history all who preached his Word knew the reality of being in harmís way, and in fact were beaten, jailed and killed by those to whom they were preaching.
Our objective here is to know "when to hold Ďem and when to fold Ďem", using WISDOM to avoid violence when reaching a crowd that is prone to attack (JDL, sodomites, Krishnas, communists, etc.). In this country, with itís freedoms, we have a relatively easy job and for the most part we are just involved in a "war of words". If we lived in a hostile environment such as China or a Muslim country things would be much different ! Remember, once the word is out the job is basically done (Ezek. 33:27)....You donít have to beat it into the ground.
With these things in mind, here are some practical precautions we have learned over the years to avoid violent confrontations. These have worked quite well and stood the test of time (in over 25 years we have had no one seriously hurt or hospitalized, even though we loudly confront some of the most violent crowds in this country).
Protect the speaker by having others surround him and move between the preacher and any approaching attackers. The key here is to provide a defense and possibly take hits as you block and neutralize the situation.
Use the authorities if possible (their job is to keep the peace!). Coordinate and cooperate with the police concerning the safest place to stand and still be able to exercise your free speech rights.
Learn to recognize trouble and avoid it if possible. Remember that "a soft answer turneth away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1).
A hostile crowd can often be controlled by selective use of humor. Jim Webber of Oregon is very good at getting a crowd riled up, then defusing them with a well-timed comic comeback. Stay loose!
DRIVE-BYS can be used to avoid personal contact with a potentially explosive situation by preaching from a moving vehicle as you drive by the event. (Try not to get stuck at a red light on Castro St. In San Francisco when you are doing this, however.)
VIDEO CAMERAS: it is very intimidating to have your actions recorded on film and the footage can come in handy for any potential court cases (remember Rodney King ?), and can establish the fact of who is and is not within their legal limits.
SITE CONTROL is possible with the use of barriers, such as yellow caution tape put up to mark off the area for Christian demonstrators, keeping two groups separate (police will often put this up for you. In some cases we have done so ourselves).
Have designated SECURITY PEOPLE working undercover in the crowd to pick up on possible danger and alert the others.
Identify and publicly proclaim the identity of problem people and their plans to the crowd and to authorities.
Turn the other cheek: if you stand your ground long enough to get attacked, you are in a probable "go down" situation, so all bets are off and it is time to emulate the LORD in His last hour. Remember that the LORD and His FATHER worked very closely on this, and CHRIST did not stand His ground until the appointed time. Until then His job was to get exposure and the Word out, not to go down. Paul also is one to look to in these situations as He in His walk often was on the move and only went to Rome at the appointed time.
As has been stated we live in a very protected
situation. This mixed with some simple wisdom has kept us clear of problems
with the law and the authorities for years.
FRUIT OF YOUR LABOR
One of the most common "criticisms" of STREET PREACHING: is "Whereís your fruit?" "How many converts do you have?" In closing this chapter we would like to make a few comments on this issue.
Many "like" to point out that most people who encounter a STREET PREACHER will not get saved. This famine of fruit can be very discouraging, and some have abandoned ship from the outdoor preaching ministry because of it. While it is true that the majority of the masses who encounter an open air preacher do not get on their knees and ask JESUS into their heart on the spot, this is also true of any approach or method: most people you invite to a crusade will not come; most people you offer a tract to will not take it; most people will not turn on a GOSPEL radio or TV program and most people you witness to one-on-one will not get saved. JESUS CHRIST Himself taught that the majority are on the "broad road to destruction" (Matthew 7:13,14), no matter how they are witnessed to. (see chapter 13 on "response")
The most obvious FRUIT of OPEN AIR PREACHING is
that it reaches more who need it the most at the
least expense better than any other method!
STREET PREACHING is a SOWING ministry, broadcasting the seed to large numbers
at once. 2 Corinthians 6:9 says: "he which soweth bountifully shall reap also
bountifully", as well as, "he which soweth sparingly shall reap also
sparingly." JESUS said: "One soweth, and another reapeth" (John 4:37; see also
1 Cor. 3:6). It should also be noted here that, though not specifically
referred to, the work of PUBLICLY PROCLAIMING GODíS WORD can also be described
as a PLOW. The Spirit of this phase of the work can be found in
passages such as when the Prophets are seen doing their work among the
disobedient Jews. This disobedience and lawlessness is also painfully true in
our country where many hearts have become hard and unhearing. With this in
mind the Word of God and HIS LAW can act as said "plow" to break up the
crusty soil so that it can receive seed. This phase of the work has
little visible "fruit" but is an obvious step in the eventual process of
FAITH IS YOUR CONFIDENCE !
Though we have had a few occasions to bump into someone who heard us preach on a campus or at an event, and hear their testimony crediting our preaching with their salvation, these are admittedly few and far between. For the most part OPEN AIR PREACHING is a ministry of total FAITH that GODíS WORD WILL NOT RETURN VOID (Isaiah 55:11), and the JUDGMENT DAY will reveal the great harvest of souls that we never get to see in this life. We walk by FAITH, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), refusing to compromise the message to make it more pleasing and popular so we can claim great numbers who mechanically repeated a "sinnerís prayer." In a typical preaching situation very few will get saved, a few listen, most are apathetic, and a small minority verbally (or physically) will oppose the preacher.
JESUS said if we bear no fruit we will be "purged...cast into a fire and...burned" (John 15:1-10), yet a few verses later He alerted His disciples that they could expect to be "hated," "persecuted," and "killed" by those they preach to (John 15:18-20; 16:2). Apparently the "fruit" we are to see is not converts or popularity (see Luke 6:22-23) , but rejection. If your ministry is not UPSETTING AND MAKING A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE TO THE HEARERS it is probably not BIBLICAL (2 Tim. 3:12)!
In Acts 2, 3,000 got saved on the day of Pentecost, and many today rate the effectiveness of a method by caravans of converts (by this standard the MORMONS and JEHOVAHíS WITNESSES and CATHOLICS should all be great works of GOD. According to 2 Peter 2:1-2 large numbers of followers is an earmark of "false prophets": "...many shall follow their pernicious ways"). Most of the time the preaching of men of GOD in the BIBLE did not lead to legions of converts. Noah preached 120 years without one convert; Jeremiah preached through the reigns of 4 kings without one convert; most of the places Paul preached to in Acts resulted in no converts. All BIBLICAL preachers and prophets were persecuted, rejected, and most died violent deaths at the hands of their listeners.(see Hebrews 11)
Said another way it should also be noted here that as to QUALITY it seems that the better one becomes at the PUBLIC PROCLAMATION of His Word the worse it becomes for that individual. The SCRIPTURE is full of men of GOD who suffered and died proclaiming His Truth (most of the time at the hands of supposed brethren!).
It is very interesting to note what is taught in EZEKIEL CHAPTERS 2 AND 3 and MATTHEW 11:20-24, seeing the heart of GOD, that there is one thing more important to GOD than winning converts! As you read in Matthew "Another people of a strange speech," and Tyre, and Sodom would have repented had they been sent a preacher, but GOD let them go to Hell to send Ezekiel and JESUS to people that would not hear! GOD in these passages delights more that the WICKED ARE WARNED and HIS WORD PROCLAIMED AND ESTABLISHED than that whole cities get converted.
What is FRUIT? Nowhere does the BIBLE define it as "converts". Nowhere. Not in Galatians 5:22-23, nor in Psalm 1, nor in John 15. Our fruit should not be in a soothing message that satisfies sinners, but in the firm conviction that we will continue to uphold God's righteous standard no matter what! Success in a GODLY economy is in TRUTH: this is the way fruit should be inspected. The Word of GOD is promised not to return void (Isaiah 55:8-11). This means that any good hearted proclamation or work for Him is a roaring success. We serve the King and do what pleases Him; in THIS is true success, not what is measured by man! GOD will use His Word to one day judge and put all eternity right. Even the lost have a place in their rejection of His Word as to this eventual goal, being made examples of the consequences of rejection and disobedience
With all this said it bears repeating that there is no work that brings such satisfaction as the PUBLIC PROCLAMATION of Him. To think that you have pleased GOD Almighty by your representation of Him and His Word has no equal. This then becomes your harvest and measure of fruit ...a measure which has no equal!
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