ARRESTING STREET-PREACHING OR ARRESTING THE STREET PREACHER
By Paul deParrie
June 17, 2005
Street preaching has a history as old as God’s dealings with man. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness.” I am not talking about “witnessing” or “sharing your faith” or “friendship evangelism” – worthy endeavors though they may sometimes be. I am talking about preaching – vocal, public declaration, heralding, or proclamation.
All the greats did it – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Ezekiel, John the baptizer, Jesus, Paul, Peter, Savonarola, Bunyan, Penn, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Booth, Moody. The list is much longer and the great sweep of God’s Spirit connected to them is hard to calculate. Historians, for instance, attribute the preaching of Wesley and Whitefield with saving England from a replay of the revolutionary debacle that happened in France. Countless thousands of unknown and unheralded preachers have kept the flame of preaching alive in the spaces between those revivals.
One thing has been consistent about street preaching through the ages: It is rarely “positive.” The preacher decries sin, then he decries sin again, then he does it again warning of the judgment of God. After all that, if there appear to be those in the audience who are penitent, he will preach salvation grace.
Such preaching is not popular. Jesus preached, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 4: 17) He told His disciples, “The world cannot hate you; but it hates Me, because I testify of it, that their works are evil.” (John 7: 7)
However, these days it is not only the world that hates those who publicly preach the Gospel, but it is “Christians.” In my experience, street preachers take more guff from fellow-believers than they usually get from the non-believers.
“That’s not l-u-u-u-u-v, brother!” they say. “You’re going to drive them away!” (One wag asks, “They are already headed for Hell, where would we ‘drive them’ to – Hell II?”)
These Christians think it is foolish and ineffective – not to mention embarrassing – to have people who name the Name of Jesus Christ outdoors calling out like carnival barkers. God, though, says it is by the foolishness of preaching (Greek: heralding, publicly proclaiming) the Gospel to save the lost. (1 Corinthians 1: 21)
It is quite one thing for the world to hate the preaching. Last year a group of believers was arrested for their preaching at a big sodomite festival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the state started by street-preacher, William Penn) and charged with a series of felonies. A lot of dust was kicked up by some stalwarts to defend their freedom of speech and eventually loose them from this oppression. When it all shook down, there were still critical Christian voices from well-known Christian publications saying they probably had it coming because they had publicly-proclaimed rather than friendship-evangelizing.
Over the last dozen years, I have worked thousands of hours to kick open free speech doors in my area through the courts – both in assisting in defending the arrested, or bringing civil claims against the oppressors. I have additionally spent thousands of hours involved in street-level activism involving free speech – preaching, anti-abortion, anti-sodomy, etc. It is not uncommon to see Christians who approve of the harassment and arrests of these preachers. I hear Christians going around feverishly trying to assure these lost souls that “those people don’t represent Jesus Christ” – that “Jesus loves you just the way you are and He would never preach such hateful messages.” (Usually these people will accept their pitiful apologies, then rail on them as weaklings when their backs are turned.)
At the heart of this is a failure to grasp what it really means to love the lost. Most American Christians have only been taught the Oprah-love – good feelings and niceness. Many, I fear, are not even saved themselves as they don’t know the real love of God – the one that saved them from their wickedness and their sure destination of Hell. Instead, they think it was God who got saved and made into the nice New Testament god of their desires – the one who laughs a jolly laugh and winks while his people “sin every day” and never cease.
They do not understand that love warns the wicked. Maybe they don’t even think anybody but Hitler and Saddam were ever really wicked.
That, though, is not what God thinks. Jesus told us that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Some apparently don’t know that this was a commandment Jesus found in the Law of Moses. The context of that command tells us something of what it means to “love your neighbor.”
Leviticus 19: 17-18, says, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
Again, love warns the wicked.
So the other day, as I was reading, I came upon this in Revelation 11: 3-10:
3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
Back in the early 1970s, my former pastor used to remark that the people most involved in this celebration of the deaths of these men would be Christians. I have come to agree.
When I look at how low the tolerance of Christians is for preaching against sin as we see it today, it is not hard to imagine how much Christians are going to hate these men who come in the Name of the Lord. When I see Christians today saying that those in Philadelphia “had it coming,” I can only imagine that will be multiplied when people naming the Name of Jesus and turning their opponents into cinders will be killed in the streets for all to see.
In this apostate age, I’m not expecting improvements.
© 2005 Culture War Associates - All Rights Reserved
E-Mails are used strictly for NWVs alerts, not for sale
Paul's book: Dark
Cures: Have Doctors Lost Their Ethics can be purchased by