Productive Public Preaching
When people hear the term street evangelist, some think of men and women standing in public places shouting out Bible verses. That’s one way of reaching multitudes who might not hear the gospel otherwise. Romans 10:14 says, “And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” All the prophets of old as well as Jesus and the Apostle Paul preached in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, many open-air preachers I’ve seen lack compassion and do not speak the truth in love. They preach more about God’s judgment than His mercy. Some call women “whores” because (in their opinion) they don’t wear enough clothing. Jesus didn’t talk like that to the woman caught in adultery. Rude preaching repels sinners instead of drawing them closer to God. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 says, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth”
My mentor Nick Kinn talked about a time he approached one Bible-thumping preacher who had been doing that on the streets of Minneapolis for 27 years. Pastor Nick asked this man how many people he led to Christ with his method of ministry. He answered, “None.” James 1:20 says, “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” It’s often been said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Normally when evangelizing I approach people one-on-one with gospel tracts. However, I’ve preached in the open square a few times…usually on the spur of the moment. One time in Washington, DC, I encountered a man sitting on a park bench blurting Scripture with a condemning tone in his voice. I also noticed some young people a few feet away listening to this man. At that moment, I felt a stirring in my spirit and hollered out loud: “Yes, God is a god of judgment but he is also a god of love...He has made a way for your sins to be forgiven so you can know for sure you will be in heaven!” After I quoted Romans 10:9, this “preacher” yelled wicked insults at me. Since I couldn’t reason with him, I walked away and resumed one-on-one evangelizing.
Another time in Charleston, South Carolina, I went to a fishing pier with three other men. There we met a Christian couple that ended up joining us in “fishing for men.” First, we sang praise songs while passing out tracts. Then I was inspired to stand on a bench and do some open-air preaching. As people walked by, I delivered a short message emphasizing the love of God and explained why none of us are good enough to go to heaven. Later that year in New York City, I was walking through the Times Square area and ran into a group of Christians open-air preaching. They let me have the microphone for a few minutes.
Recently I've studied YouTube videos of various open-air preachers especially those who engage people in conversations instead of just preaching at them. Ray Comfort (pictured above) uses clever tactics such as asking trivia questions and giving away stuff to attract a crowd. Then he focuses on ministering to one person at a time standing on a box. Although I don’t agree with some of his teachings, I like how Ray handles hecklers without demeaning them and avoids being distracted from the main mission: showing sinners why they need a savior.
If you’re willing to go outside your comfort zone and do some open-air preaching, find someone to partner with so you can take turns ministering and keep each other covered in prayer. But always remember…it’s Christ’s love (and not finger-pointing with a faultfinding attitude) that draw sinners to Him.
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” - John 3:17