The Bible urges believers to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). It does not command us to go into all the world and do anything else, except for making disciples (Matthew 28:19), which naturally comes back to preaching and explaining the Gospel more thoroughly, leading to the doctrine according to godliness (1 Timothy 6:3), and a holy life.
Outside of the Bible, however, there have been and are many street preachers today, who seem to have improved on the Biblical call to evangelize. These street preachers have invented all sorts of ideas about what God wants Christians to preach in all the world; and sadly, very little of it has to do with soteriology. Very little has to do with preaching repentance, the cross of Christ, or salvation from an eternity in Hell! Although there are some rare street preachers, who seem to have been touched by God, that preach an uncompromising Gospel presentation:–these men are rare, hard to find, gems that live in obscurity, and explode the Gospel in public from time to time like hand grenades—and then retreat into the desert like John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-2).
Sadly, the majority of street preachers are not Gospel ministers. Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” It is not the right way of the Gospel, its another way; a man-made way, created out of the human mind, and not received by revelation from the Spirit, as with Paul (Galatians 1:11-12). Some of the approaches I see in open air preaching today:
1. Confrontational Evangelism. This is more about “preaching against sin” or preaching against evil, especially sexual sin. The Gospel is seen only as the “death, burial, and resurrection of Christ”—and seen as already being preached in the churches. Confrontational evangelists, such as Ruben Israel and SOAPA, believe what society needs right now are sin rebuking preachers. Often a rude and mean spirit is mixed in; and it is not preaching the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
2. Shock-and-Awe Preaching. These are street preachers like Jed Smock and now Jesse Morrell, who believe that outlandish one-liners about sexual perversion are the best way to evangelize. They use these sexual obscenities and crude jokes as a way of disgracing the sin and drawing a crowd to come and see the crazy preacher. The crowd gets excited like a pep rally rooting for the sins the preacher is sensationalizing. And he never gets around to the Gospel. It’s just a crude sensationalism. Ephesians 5:4: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place.” The Greek word used for coarse joking means ribaldry—crude sexual joking. Things that are meant to be privately shared in the marriage bed are then brought out into the public and scoffed at and joked about, which is displeasing to God.
3. Just Inviting People to Your Church. This is a lukewarm approach to evangelism. Evangelical churches sometimes do this: they will send out a team to go through a neighborhood and knock on doors, like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. They might touch on the basics of salvation if they have the time, but the main point will be to just invite people to their church, and show that they are friendly neighbors from the local community church. They may give people a tract, or some other novelty, like a coffee mug–but will make sure the church’s name, address, phone number, or email are on it. Its basically a door-to-door sales-pitch for the church. PREACHING THE GOSPEL AS A MESSAGE OF SALVATION FROM HELL THROUGH REPENTANCE AND FAITH IN THE CROSS is not really the thrust. Its not going into all the world and preaching the Gospel (Mark 16:15). Its just inviting people to your church. If the Gospel is not involved, its not evangelism. And although this may take the form of “street witnessing” by passing out tracts with the church’s address on it–still its not evangelism, if you’re not preaching about Hell, repenting from sin, and salvation by faith in the cross. You’re just a salesman for your local church.
4. Open-Air Preaching (New Calvinists). Taking their lead from Ray Comfort, Tony Miano, and Way of the Master—who by the way I do too—and from others in the New Calvinist movement, such as Todd Friel (Wretched Radio), and others of like theological persuasion—these believe we need to get back to Charles Spurgeon’s standard of open air preaching. I have more in common with these guys. But I have some differences with them: 1. They don’t seem to emphasize repentance or preaching against sin very much. 2. They don’t preach about Hell very much (something George Whitefield would dislike). 3. They are still very much connected with seeker-sensitive churches; and can’t see why there is anything wrong with them—they just see these churches as “modern.” 4. They are very attached to the Calvinist doctrine of “once saved, always saved” (eternal security): and I think it gets in the way of an emphasis on holy living (a throwback to no-lordship, antinomian, easy-believism). 5. The law of God is seen as showing men they can’t obey it perfectly; and they stop there (the first use of the law) (Hell’s Best Kept Secret)—and they hardly seem to get around to the third use of the law, which is practical obedience to the morals of Scripture. I think if these 5 errors are corrected, we will see true revivals break out wherever evangelistic street preaching is practiced. In other words, I think an emphasis on John Wesley’s standard of open air preaching is more needed for our times than Spurgeon’s model. Spurgeon defended smoking cigars and started a Bible college. Wesley lived in constant revival and founded the Methodist Episcopal Church. Which sounds like better fruit to you?