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evbc | gilbert

half-marathon follow up

It's amazing how time flies and things that were recently on your mind get put easily to the backburner. I am preparing for teaching at the EVBC student winter camp this weekend, so my thoughts have been scattered, but I wanted to follow up my last post and give my thoughts on why there was such a contrast between the street preachers and the well-wishers. So, here goes:

1. There are so many negative thoughts already associated with street preachers, that it is almost impossible for people to give a fair hearing.
Everybody I know who went to a public university can tell stories about campus preachers and street preachers on their campus. Almost every story I've ever heard has been negative. At the University of Illinois, where I attended, it was Preacher Dan. Though some version of the truth of the gospel can be proclaimed in this setting, even people who are apathetic towards the gospel begin to get hostile.

2. Street preachers rarely sound loving.
Regardless of what they are saying, street preachers always sound angry. This is probably because they don't have a microphone and they have to be loud. As a result, even the most loving message comes out sounding like you hate people.

3. A tangible expression of love would have been better.
Because it's hard to engage somebody in a meaningful dialogue, or even communicate more than just a few words as they run by, I believe that a tangible expression of love would be far more effective at drawing people to Christ than street preaching. A group of Christians who handed out water bottles, played good music, shouted encouragement, or put up loving, motivating signs would probably have much more long-term fruit than those that I saw at the race.

4. I am opposed to what I saw at the half-marathon.
I think there was a time when I would have said, "Well, if only one person begins to think about eternity, then it's worth it." But now, I would conclude that "If only one person begins to think about God, and the other 29,999 people harden their hearts against him--not because of the message itself, but because of the delivery and method of the message--then it is actually working against the kingdom as a whole rather than for it."

Those are my thoughts. Do you agree or disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts, even if you've never commented before (which is most of you). Tell me what you think.


  1. Blogger PaulTuttleIV | 2/01/2007 2:38 PM |  

    Dear Brother Luke, I appreciate your thoughts, and I used to have the same opinion in the past. However, in light of Scripture, I have come to see the value of open air preaching when the Lord calls someone to do it. Jesus was an open-air preacher, John the Baptist was an open-air preacher, Jonah was an open-air preacher, and the list goes on. I have felt that much of my objection to open air preaching in the past was due to our culture telling us that church is the only place that the gospel is to be preached formally, and also due to some people conducting open-air preaching like a clanging gong (1 Cor. 13:1). Loving people is important, but faith does come by the hearing of the Word (Romans 10:17). Looking down through church history at the revivals, whether it be Nineveh or the Great Awakening, open-air preaching was used by the Lord to save hundreds. But other times such as in the Hebrides revival you didn’t see much open-air preaching done as it was done mostly in churches. So I believe there is a time and a place for open-air preaching by the will of God, and not by the desire of the flesh. Not to win an argument or because of spiritual pride, but to win souls for the glory of God! To go out into the streets and compel people (Luke 14:21-23), to plead with tears for them to come to repentance (Psalm 126: 5-6). Christ came not to bring peace as the world defines peace, but the sword (Matt. 10:34-39). He came to bring division (Luke 12:51-53). He told us to expect the world to hate us, because it hates Him (John 15:18-19). The reason the world hates Him because He tells them their ways are bad:

    For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. – John 7:5-7

    He testifies to their evilness not only in loving action by healing the sick on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17), but also in harsh word and action as we see in Matthew 21-23 with Jesus overturning the money tables and giving the seven woes to the Pharisees where Christ calls them “a brood of vipers”, just as John the Baptist did (Matt 3:7).

    However, the other side of this tension line is sowing with tears as we find in Psalm 126: 5-6, and Christ Himself weeping over the unbelief of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-42), as well as the death (physical and spiritual) of Lazarus (John 11). Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy!

    I think it is important to remember that the Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing no matter what method we use (1 Cor. 1:18). People are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), haters of God (Romans 1:30), and enemies of God (Romans 5:10). They may harden their heart, but God can still turn a modern day Saul of Tarsus into a Paul of Christ Jesus. With God all things are possible! This is why we must seek the Lord in prayer and ask for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, because without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Prayerless preaching is just as useless as prayerless healing.

    But search the Scriptures to see if the things that I say are true (Acts 17:11). The workers are few and the harvest is ripe! You may also want to look at this article by Charles Spurgeon on open-air preaching near the bottom of the following webpage:


    I think of the quote by Leonard Ravenhill. He said that if Jesus could not get along with the world in His three short years of ministry that ended in His crucifixion, why should we expect the world to get along with us?

  2. Blogger Troy B. | 2/13/2007 1:49 PM |  

    Good thoughts on both sides. I've always been leery of "street preachers" and yet uncomfortable with criticizing believers' attempts to share the gospel however they feel led. An acquaintenance of mine who is the head of a para-church ministry told me once that he would never support TBN the television station with his money, nor personal recommendation (because of their many errors doctrinally & otherwise), yet he will also tell you that he first heard of Jesus and became a Christian through TBN. I would never "support" or organize "street preaching" (I don't think it's particularly effective), but there must be some acknowledgement that God can and does use the inept to save others. One of the things that I love about Reformed/Calvinistic teaching is that it's NOT about me presenting the gospel effectively, but about GOD moving in the individual's heart (I don't get credit/praise either way).