Yesterday, while I was enjoying a cup of coffee in downtown Greenville, I took a scroll down my Twitter news feed. As I scrolled, I laughed, I became informed, and then all of a sudden I was filled with rage as I read the words: Street Preacher. But, it got even better; this street preacher was only minutes from where I sat, and I was not going to miss this opportunity. I quickly packed up my things and headed over to the said location of this preacher. My mind was running at an incredible pace. Confrontation was bound to happen. I pictured the preacher announcing judgement and the law with a complete void of grace and forgiveness, but this wasn’t the case.
As I rounded the corner I saw one of my classmates. There stood one of my brothers in Christ, who encourages me weekly in class, and he wasn’t preaching the law… he was preaching grace! And just as I expected, confrontation did happen, but it was between myself and the street preacher. No, the confrontation that occurred was between me and the Lord as I was convicted of the self-righteousness in my own heart. It broke me, as I had to once again evaluate my own heart. Below are my reflections on my encounter with a street preacher.
We Critique the Mission and not the Message
My mind has always been set against street preachers. Much of this is probably because of past experience, as well as the bad reputation that they carry among non-believers. Too many times I have heard street preachers proclaim the law with no mention of grace. I’ve heard several street sermons announce that God hates sinners, and it turned me off to street preaching all together. However, I failed to see the true problem. The problem isn’t street preaching. My classmate had been called by the Holy Spirit to evangelize through street preaching, and the Spirit never calls us to do something that is evil.
No, the problem has never been street preaching. The problem has always been the message delivered by most street preachers. The reason so many people hate this style of evangelism is because most of the time it isn’t evangelism… it’s condemnation. Most street-side sermons are focused on the sinner and not the Savior. But, we shouldn’t allow the ones who are doing it wrong to keep us from supporting the ones who are doing it right. The problem is not the mission, it’s the message.
But, Street Preaching is Offensive
Yes, it is. But, isn’t the gospel offensive as well? Christ spoke to His disciples in Matthew 10:21-23 and said, “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Why then should we expect anything different now? The gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive whether you preach to the masses on a street corner, or if you have a one on one discussion in a coffee shop. We must not criticize our brothers and sisters in Christ for their evangelism tactics just because we have been called to preach the gospel in a different fashion.
There Must be Better Ways to Evangelize
There probably are better ways. However, it is not our place to stop someone from preaching in the streets, by doing so we can easily fall into the sin of hindering the work of the Spirit. Romans 10 says that no-one can call upon the name of the Lord if the gospel has never been preached to them. So, Paul writes, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News!” If scripture commends the work of faithful street preachers, then who am I to condemn it?
Let us become more concerned with the spreading of the gospel, and less concerned with the methods that are used to spread it.