14 July 2012

Go On to the Next Person?

by Frank Turk


Happy Weekend – I hope it is raining where you like it is raining where I am.  I have a follow-up to the week of blog posts generated by my talk at the Tulsa conference last weekend which I think is an utterly-worthy and necessary endeavor.

Faithful reader Shane Dodson commented the following:
[Frank Said]"I think the people attracted to Paul and his ministry are not as much like he is in this respect. They only see the passionate plea to be reconciled to God and to see sin through the lens of the Law -- they don;t see any of the hard work of discipleship that comes after that."
Based upon what do you think this?
I am very interested how you arrived at that conclusion...but allow me a follow-up statement.
FYI, I was sitting out in the room when you gave this message. It left a few street preachers scratching their heads. I defended the totality of the message, and I think--overall--it's an important one.
However, if you could answer the above question and then explain exactly what role street preaching/street evangelism plays in the paradigm you laid out...I would appreciate it.
Thank you!
And this, I think, is the utterly-fair question: what is wrong with the way I am doing evangelism right now – especially if I am a follower of WOTM or the method most perceive as the Paul Washer method of preaching to lost people?  Am I not Gospel-faithful?

For the record, I have already said this:
I am not about to say that there is no value in personal evangelism or open-air preaching. I am not saying you ought not to declare the Gospel, and also never to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you. Evangelism is necessary and important. But Evangelism that saves people to a solitary life of independent Bible reading and no connection to other believers, no way to mature in the faith, no accountability to Elders and to other people who love them and Christ is a recipe for failure – and a model found nowhere in the New Testament. 
And that ought to clear it up.  That paragraph, in fact, deserves deep reflection by anyone who cares about the other topic of last week’s conference – discernment of false Gospels and false Discipleship.

Think about this with me for a minute: let’s say that you personally are a lost person on the streets of Little Rock, and I have taken my convictions to the street to evangelize the lost – to do something like ministry – rather than merely blogging to the choir.  And let’s say that our paths cross on a Friday, and I preach to you under the authority of Jesus Christ the good news concerning His death and resurrection.  And let’s say that, by the grace of God, you receive that message in right-minded Berean fashion and both repent and rejoice – you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.

Then I hand you a Bible, hug you in joy, and go on to the next person.  You have a feeling that something else ought to happen, but you also have things to do today so you fold the Bible to your side and carry on.

Tomorrow, you wake up and remember that yesterday you knew for certain that Jesus was both Lord and Christ.  And you have this book now which, it seems, was supposed to have something to do with that.  Now what?  What do I do with this book?  The wiseguy back there is about to publish the comment, “READ IT!” which, fair enough: so you start reading it.  You actually start in the beginning, and you read 3-4 chapters, and there’s no Jesus in there.  There’s this talking snake, and then there is this brother who kills his brother because somehow the murdered brother was accepted by God, and the angry brother wasn’t.  It seems both strange and compelling at the same time, but you can’t tell why.  So you put the Bible down, and you pray a completely-novice prayer: “Jesus?  God? Yesterday I was sure you’re my only hope, and today I am confused by this Bible.  Help me to understand it better because I believe what I learned yesterday, but today I need to know you are still there.  Help me please.  Amen.”

Evening and Morning, as they say, and another day passes.

Sunday comes around, and you think maybe you should go to a church – but which one?  You pick the nearest one, which turns out to be a Catholic church (for example), and it’s really strange enough that you realize that what they were talking about and what that Street Preacher was talking about aren’t the same – so you slip out before the lines in the aisles dissipate so no one notices you leaving, and you go home.

And now you’re a little confused – you’re not sure what you got yourself into.  So you turn on the TV, and you find this fellow in a suit with a Bible open in from of him, and he says the name “Jesus” a lot, and he seems excited about it, and he uses the word “deliverance” a lot, and he talks about how much good God wants for your life, and he seems like a nice young man.  He has a great smile, and a convicting way of speaking without being judgey.  His name is Joel Osteen, and it turns out a lot of people listen to him – he has the most popular podcast on iTunes under “religion,” and he has a huge church, and he’s sold a lot of books which you can find in the local (non-Christian) bookstore.  If a lot of people are following him, it has to be right to do it yourself …

Now, listen: the lone-ranger street preacher is now going to object, "Hey: this scenario is implausible.  I gave these people the real Gospel, and as far as I can tell they accepted Jesus, not Mammon, into their life as Lord and Christ.  It is implausible that they will go from my message to Osteen in the span of 3 days to be made into disciples of heresy.  Not just implausible, mind you: it’s an insult to me and my good service to God."

My rejoinder to that objection is this: then please tell me where all these people come from.  Osteen has sold more than 20 million books, and something like 7 million people watch his TV show every week.  Those people are coming from somewhere, and I suggest to you that it is not from healthy churches or from under the sound teaching of godly elders.  Are they all coming from street evangelism?  Not hardly – I’ll bet most of them are coming from unhealthy churches and careless journeymen religious pep-talkers.  But here’s the rub: there is no way to know what happens to these people after you have preached to them if they are not turned over to a healthy local church.

In my talk, I said that Peter’s hedge against people having a false faith was to put them inside the local church through baptism and fellowship.  What about Paul – the hero to every street preacher who ever waved a Bible on the street corner?  What did Paul do?  Did Paul just get an act of contrition from people?  Or did Paul go out and establish churches which were lead by elders and pastors so that these people who now had a new faith were put in a safe place to mature so that they didn’t simply get choked out by the cares of the world?

And most importantly for the sake of Shane’s question: What does Paul Washer do?  I asked Paul this question over dinner the night before the conference, and while I do not have his permission to share that conversation with you, here’s what it says at HeartCry Ministry’s web site:
The HeartCry Missionary Society functions as a partner with and facilitator between the autonomous churches and individual donors in the West and the indigenous church in some of the most un-evangelized areas of the world, to the end that the Gospel might be preached to every creature, the elect might be gathered from every tribe, tongue, people and nation, and strong local churches might be established among them. Our specific calling is to partner with indigenous churches of like faith and practice in the training and sending of missionaries for the establishment of mature autonomous local churches
Let me tell you something: this final objective if frankly absent from most open-air ministries in my experience.   If you do not share this objective, you do not understand the preaching or the ministry of Paul Washer.  You are not like him.  You may not be a heretic, but you are not a person who is concerned about the discipleship and orthodoxy of others.

And to this end, I reiterate the words I quoted from John MacArthur in my message:
The best way to evangelize is to produce one reproducing disciple. You got that? Paul knew that this running around creating spiritual infancy all over everywhere and leaving a whole lot of spiritual babes lying on their backs screaming was not the way to go at it because they weren't mature enough to reproduce but better to spend yourselves on some individuals that they might become mature and that they might carry the Gospel. You know Jesus didn't speak to large crowds very often and even when he did he spoke in parables and they didn't understand it. He spent most of his time with 12 individuals, didn't he? That's really the heart of evangelism. He was committed to the priority of maturing the believers. He himself knew that was his calling. 
If that was Christ’s calling, what sort of disciple are you if that is not your calling?  If you are truly concerned about the Gospel, you must be concerned about all its necessary consequences, and being a family member under the Fatherhood of God is absolutely one of them.

Comments are open.  Mind your manners.







75 comments:

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

"But Evangelism that saves people to a solitary life of independent Bible reading and no connection to other believers, no way to mature in the faith, no accountability to Elders and to other people who love them and Christ is a recipe for failure – and a model found nowhere in the New Testament."

The Ethiopian eunuch could be easily pointed to as an exception to that rule (Acts 8:26-39). It may be argued that he was publicly baptized and so recognized as part of the church, but he was returning to Ethiopia before any church was established there or even before Peter's encounter with Cornelius.

Granted, I would agree with your major emphasis. And I know Living Waters would agree with it as well, that all Christians should be under the authority of a local church, evangelist, new convert, or anyone else for that matter. I'd agree; that isn't emphasized enough.

So basically what you're saying is that we should be committed to seeing believers cared for, if not by the evangelist and his church personally then at least knowing they are put under the protection of a body who will care for them?

That's not always possible; some street preachers preach on corners where tourist flood in from all over the world. But God has promised to shepherd His people, and if one is truly converted they will be led by Him. That's no excuse for someone who doesn't care about the spiritual maturity of a convert after getting them into the kingdom, but it doesn't change the fact that God is the One who saves and sanctifies.

So I'd say there's a place to ensure that discipleship is not neglected where possible, but there's also a place where we must trust in the Sovereignty of God to care for His people.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Good post overall, I just had one small suggestion regarding the "Bible confusion" segment---perhaps street preachers should keep in mind that baby Christians are going to struggle with "getting" the Old Testament and instead hand out copies of a standalone New Testament. I'm certainly not downplaying the importance of the Old Testament, I'm just saying that for brand-new Christians who want something they can jump to right away that will start building on the nutshell gospel they've just heard, the NT will do that more efficiently. They're not immediately going to understand the significance of old covenant versus new covenant, the gradually unfolding story of God's dealings with the Jews and how that all connects with Jesus, etc.

mike said...

Jeremiah,
I'm a bit confused and I don't wish to assume any ill of your intent. Frank lays out what he believes are the responsibilities of a truly God honoring evangel. Your response seems to be sometimes it is harder than others, and sometimes circumstances may pile up to make it not possible. Then you stop.
Please say that you are not implying that it is therefore not incumbent on said street evangelist to "die trying".

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

Mike,

No, I said there are biblical cases for the presentation of the gospel with no follow-up discipleship recorded in scripture, specifically Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. And I would add the demon possessed Gentile that Jesus delivered from legions who longed to follow after Him (ie, to be under His discipleship), but Christ commanded Him to return home and tell everyone what He had done (Luke 8:26-39).

To be honest, I have no idea what you're even asking. Pointing people to church is not evangelism; though a true convert will long for the fellowship of like-minded believers, that's only an after effect of what happens when people recognize Christ for who He truly is. We can't tell who's converted and who is not, and if possible we should point them to a good church and follow up. But evangelism in most any form is good, so long as the truth is being proclaimed in love, and God will take care of the rest.

Tom Chantry said...

"Pointing people to church is not evangelism."

I hear that a lot, always as it was stated here - as a given which requires no support or proof. Can you support that statement biblically?

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

I just gave two.

Tom Chantry said...

No, you didn't. You gave two examples in which the Scripture doesn't add the words, "and he told him to go to church, too." That is not support for the statement "Pointing people to church is not evangelism."

Tom Chantry said...

Part of what I'm getting at is this. "Pointing people to church is not evangelism," can mean "Only pointing people to church is not the entirety evangelism," or "Pointing people to church is not an necessary part of evangelism," or "Pointing people to church is in no way a part of evangelism." Some people mean one thing, while others mean another. Your two examples may point to the first meaning, but not necessarily. They do not point at all to the second two meanings.

Frank Turk said...

Chantry, as always, to the rescue.

I have Acts 8 open in another tab, and there's no question: the Eunuch, in charge of all the treasure of the Queen of Ethiopia, went back to Ethiopia without Philip explicitly joining him to a local church.

There are at least three problems for using this as an example of the normative operation of evangelism:

1. the Eunuch was already a devote Jew. That means he had a rudimentary understanding of all the Scripture which existed at that time, and had a solid understanding of OT wisdom literature. That is: he understood the meaning of being God's chosen people already. The next time you preach to a devoted Jew who has a ready expectation of the coming of the Messiah, you can refer to Philip's evangelism of this Jew.

2. Philip was himself an Apostle, not merely a random evangelist. That is to say: when Luke reports in Acts, "then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus," we ought to be somewhat confident that his preaching was (in a manner of speaking) merely-human. So the example finds itself having a feature which is vacant in modern examples.

3. The episode in Acts makes no mention of what happened to the Eunuch upon his return. He wound up in Ethiopia, yes? I agree. What else happened to him? We have no idea -- so to say he was definitively inserted into a church, or definitively not-inserted into a church, is simply arguing from silence.

That said, what bothers me is that the obvious and constant norm of the NT is to join people to a local body of believers. Paul's contributions to the NT are almost all written to churches -- and those that are not are written to those who are elders in churches. If that is the case, what is the sense of saying (in some creative and empathy-inspiring way), "well, I don't have to follow Paul's example"?

You should follow Paul's example, which is the normative example.

Frank Turk said...

Let me also say this: if you read the entire text of the talk, and this addendum, and your take-away is that I am saying, "you should just point people to any ol' church, and that is sufficient evangelism," you need to go back to your grammar school teachers and berate them for giving you an incompetent education. I spent literally 16 of 24 pages extolling the necessity of the Gospel proclamation under the authority of Jesus' resurrection. Ignoring that to defend your own personal "yeah but" only exposes the lengths to which one will be willing to ignore anything in order to self-justify.

The problem with most forms of street preaching is that it is not done with an eye to Jesus' vision of believers joined together in a local church. It creates lone-ranger Christians, and that creates lone-ranger theologies, and that creates all manner of sad and sorry problems.

Here's my final argument in that vein: unless you are willing to deny that there are all manner of sad and sorry problems in the sociological body of Christian-identifying people, and those problems are harming the church, then you have to ask what exactly are some of the root causes of the problem. By no means is the issue we have undertaken this week the only contributor, but it is one contributor -- which, it seems to me, ought to be able to be corrected quickly if the individual evangelist took Paul's view of it seriously -- namely, "[God] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ."

Frank Turk said...

Lastly:

"That's not always possible" is a cop-out answer. It ignores a fundamental principle of how God works in this world, which is through ordinary means. That is to say: ordinary means. You should look up the meaning of the ordinary means of Grace and stop hiding behind the careless and theologically-glib idea that just because God is in control your obedience and wisdom are somehow not relevant.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

No, it's clear what I meant by the context. Pointing people to church is not a necessary part of evangelism.

I gave an example where Christ Himself commanded a man He had just DELIVERED from legions of demons to go back home and tell of the great things He had done for him. He didn't say 'Come follow Me and My disciples wherever we are on the earth,' He turned him around and sent him away.

What happened to that man and his commitment to the Savior I wonder? Did he go back home and think 'Gee, I was so convinced that Jesus was my Savior but now that I have no one to teach me I just don't know what to do.' We don't know. He never appears again in scripture. There's no follow-up, and no human discipleship after that as far as we are told. He was turned away: tell me, was Christ a lousy evangelist?

And to the story in the original post, I wouldn't say that's implausible. That's incredibly reasonable; but I would ask 'So that's how you view God's Sovereignty and ability to conform His people into His own image?' Call that evangelist a failure all you like. It is God who saves, and God who sanctifies, and He doesn't work because the evangelist does everything right or the convert has a perfect understanding of what they need to grow; He works in spite of it all.

"Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good-will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in ever way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice."
Philippians 1:15-18

The church is implied; Christ is the necessity. Don't place the implications above the ultimate gift of the gospel.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

It's been my experience that most street preachers/evangelists don't do their work close to home. They go somewhere else, proclaim the gospel to every one who will listen, and then go back to their sometimes crotchety neighbors with whom they might have never shared a meal or friendly exchange and attend their churches with people they might not even like or know very well.

In their churches, they become known as the "evangelism guy" so whenever there is a mission conference or outreach campaign, they are expected to be IT, and they carry the group on their back, as it were. Church people don't usually enjoy having them around because they speak the truth plainly and refer often to hell, which is a downer at a BBQ or ice cream social where unsaved friends and neighbors and relatives might actually be intermingled.

As my husband would say, street preaching is good practice for when you do have those conversations with your neighbors and co-workers and unsaved relatives. If you don't know what you're going to say, you'll likely say nothing at all, which is often what happens.

Tom Chantry said...

Perhaps it wasn't as clear to me as it was to you; I've heard too many people use those words to mean that pointing someone to church is in some way opposed to actual evangelism, and so it's good to hear you clarify.

"Pointing people to church is not a necessary part of evangelism."

I still think that's the wrong way to go about addressing this issue. Let me try a parable:

One day I came across a man in a park who appeared to be seriously dehydrated. He was listless and panting. He wasn't sweating in spite of the extreme heat that day. Even his lips were parched and dry.

Knowing that he needed to be re-hydrated, I said to him, "Hey, buddy, come with me; I'll take you to the hospital across the street."

At that point friendly jogger stopped and said, "Why are you taking him to the hospital? That's not necessary; we can rehydrate him right here."

"Maybe," I replied, "but he looks to be acutely dehydrated, and there's a hospital right across the street, and this is what it's set up to do - let's get him over there."

"But, but..." stammered the jogger, "...but pointing someone to the hospital is not necessarily a part of rehydration!"


Part of the difference, and here I may be stepping outside the tightly defined logic of Frank's message, is that I believe in the common means of grace, which are the public ministry of the Word, prayer, and the sacraments. Put another way: yes, the lost need the gospel, but where is the gospel to be found? I believe that the answer is that God has put it in the church.

Frank already pulled out the "I'm not an apostle" card, so let me add the "and I'm definitely not Jesus" card and say that regardless of how Jesus personally dealt with the lost, He also established His church and charged it with the promulgation of the gospel. It would be silly of me to disregard the church when spreading the gospel, sort of like it would be silly of me to disregard the hospital across the street when I'm trying to help a guy with acute dehydration.

Is either the church or the hospital necessary? I wonder why one would even ask that question.

Nash Equilibrium said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nash Equilibrium said...

If you point a person to church, that's not evangelism. If you accompany them to a sound church, that might be evangelism. In fact it might be the very best kind. But of course the latter requires a time commitment that professional evangelists simply can't spare.

Alternately, it might be true that getting someone to pray the sinner's prayer is not evangelism, but instead a modern spurious invention to replace evangelism, in certain cases.

As Frank says, the TBN and Osteen people come from somewhere. Maybe from street preachers and professional evangelists?

seabunny said...

OK, this is not entirely on topic, but, for all intents and purposes, the "lost person on the streets" in Frank's illustration - that's me.

Only, it wasn't Osteen I got into, it was some... other weird junk.

All I know is that I was converted 3 years ago, and the last 2 have been a philosophical and theological MUDDLE. I can't get anything straight.

I don't have a church right now. Although, I am looking. But I don't know how to tell if a church is good or not. So far, I've just been judging by intuition - "this guy seems kinda slimy" or "these people make me scared" - but what kind of standards are these?? They're just feelings!

So my question is this: I'm the hit-and-run convert --- NOW WHAT???



And as a side-note, I didn't become converted on the streets, it was through the big, wide world of the Internet.

And I did try emailing the ministry once with thanks and some questions, but they never responded. (But I'm not going to say their name, because dangit, if there's anyone I root for it's these guys and there's no way I'm declaring open season on them.)

Lastly, to add to the current discussion: I've been a theological shipwreck, perhaps or perhaps not due to the way the evangelizing was done; but I am GLAD I HEARD ABOUT JESUS - it's still better than being where I was before!

Tom Chantry said...

Seabunny,

May I suggest two criteria for you?

First, find a church in which they teach the Bible. By that I don’t mean that they never read other books, but that they make certain to back up everything that they say from the Bible.. And I also mean that they treat the Bible as a book that is absolutely true, so that it need never be doubted, and also as a book that is basically clear, so that you don’t need some secret special knowledge to know the most important parts of it. Essentially, a church that stands by the Bible, proclaims its clear meaning to be true, invites your questions about what it is teaching, and doesn’t make you feel small or guilty for having lots of questions.

Second, find a church that knows what to take seriously. It ought to be very serious about worshiping God, about teaching the Scripture, about living the Christian life, and about proclaiming the gospel. But at the same time, they shouldn’t take themselves too seriously. The pastors should be honest and good men, but not men who are too high and mighty to talk to you and spend time with you. A church like this may be made up of people who are fun to be around, and you ought to enjoy their company, but they are not going to be a church that tries to make everything fun or easy. They take the big things too seriously for that.

More might be said, and others might direct you to lists of reliable churches. If you feel comfortable posting your location (not your address, mind you, but just your general area) we might be able to help more. Or, if you feel more comfortable, I know either of the proprietors of this blog would be glad to correspond with you, and their email addresses are available. Mine is available too, in my profile. Feel free to make individual contact if you are comfortable with it.

Stephen said...

"yes, the lost need the gospel, but where is the gospel to be found? I believe that the answer is that God has put it in the church."


I think Chantry just affirmed the Seeker Sensitive movement. Where in the NT were lost people brought to the church? Where in the NT were saved people sent from the church to the lost people?

Tom Chantry said...

I utterly reject the notion that we redeem the church from the seeker sensitive movement by removing gospel preaching from our worship. We redeem the church from the seeker sensitive movement by 1. recognizing that all men, lost and saved, need gospel preaching, and 2. understanding that such gospel preaching must not be reduced to the lowest common denominator for the sake of a perpetually juvenile culture.

If church is what church is meant to be, then the gospel is heard clearly there on a regular basis. I never said and do not say that the church ought not to go beyond its own walls with that message, but as it proclaims the truth, it ought to be able to say to the lost, "There's much more of this, come and hear of it." If we cannot say that because our worship is not gospel-saturated, we should not be congratulating ourselves on escaping the seeker-sensitive paradigm, we should instead be chastened and admonished for preaching something other than "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

Frank Turk said...

Jeremiah: it bothers you that you are drawing your principles from the places Scripture is silent -- that somehow a failure to tell every story means the ordinary means of God's grace are somehow not normative for the evangelist.

It should also bother you.

Charles Brown said...

I'm very appreciative of the blogs and especially the audio on 'Biblical Evangelism'. I've been studying along with some of the WOTM materials recently because I wanted help in effectively sharing the Gospel with folks. I'm very grateful for that ministry and the many things that I have learned from it, though I have had many questions as I have studied evangelism in the scriptures. And Frank's message was very helpful to me, especially pointing out that the persons who hear the Gospel also need to be cared for beyond just hearing the message i.e. discipleship.

I've had several questions about what happens to folks after they get a gospel tract and shouldn't I be doing more? Shouldn't I put my e-mail address on the tracts so I can follow up with individuals or give a list of orthodox churches in the area on the back? I want to share the Gospel and also help people find a body of believers to be accountable to and cared for by.

My family and I are studying through the book of Acts in our morning devotion and we are learning so much from that (about the Church, evangelism, and so much more), but I was wondering if any of you fellows might recommend some good audio sermons, teachings, books or anything to check out that may help me along in the study of Biblical evangelism. Audio is preferred because I can listen to it while I work (I have an awesome job in which I can do that). Thanks!

Charles Brown said...

Also I have would be interested to gather comments on using music to evangelize from Turk and Chantry. I wonder if it's appropriate to book gigs and sing and preach to people through that means or if music, for the Christian, is only to be written to God in praise of him.

I'm a musician on sabbatical as I currently study this topic to learn how God would direct me in using this talent and find in the Bible silence on many issues concerning the subject, as well as, some clear statements, but I've also been looking for some guidelines that may help me learn how I should appropriately use my musical talent to God's glory.

Any helpful thoughts?

Frank Turk said...

Charles:

9Marks has an extraordinary series out this year on the entire scope of local church ministry, and I commend the whole series -- but the pamphlet on Evangelism is stellar.

Reaching the Lost

Frank Turk said...

Stephen:

Re-read 1 Cor 14, take a deep breath, and restate your question in a non-insane way.

Frank Turk said...

I'm reviewing this thread and I'm wondering something: is the local church optional?

If so, demonstrate that to me from Scripture. That is: I can easily list for you 10 clear and unequivocal commands from the NT for the necessity of the local church for the believer. Can anyone list even 3 commands which tell us that the local church is God's optional feature of faith in Christ?

Mr. Fosi said...

seabunny: If you are anywhere in the Columbia, SC area, go to Sandhills Community Church.

That's the church that my family goes to and it is solid.

If you are in the right area and decide to come, let me know and I'll introduce myself.

Frank: Thanks for answering my question in the other thread.

Shane Dodson said...

So...after listening to your conference message twice and reading and re-reading your post here...I still have to ask,

Do you believe street preaching is a valid method of evangelism?

By "street preaching" I mean standing in a public area and heralding God's word.

By "valid" I mean does it benefit the local church?

I'm not aware of any street evangelists--and I know several of them--who practice what you seem to suggest in your post.

FWIW, my street evangelism involves preaching from a text, encouraging one-on-one conversations, inviting those in the community to our church, and handing out a Bible if the person needs one.

Am I missing something?

I know that you're not--in general--speaking against the practice of street preaching. I'm still uncertain as to what Frank's ideal model of street evangelism looks like.

Frank Turk said...

Shane:

I am not sure how to be more clear. What about the excerpt from the text of the conference message leaves you with any doubts?

Shane Dodson said...

Is the scenario you construct in your post--concerning the person who "accepts Jesus" right there on the streets in Little Rock--a scenario that you consider typical in street evangelism?

In other words...in your personal experience, is that the type of scenario you have encountered or witnessed? If you have witnessed such an instance, has it happened enough that you would consider it "typical?"

I suppose my fogginess might be caused by an ignorance on my part as to what your personal background and experience is in street evangelism and how you come by the scenarios that you picture.

I ask this because the scenario that you constructed doesn't reflect anything that is typical in any street ministry I've been involved in (which would be about 3 years now). That is not to say such a scenario would never happen or could never happen; it is just to say it is not typical.

Frank Turk said...

I have never witnessed otherwise. Make the handing out of the bible a feature which could instead be the handing out of a tract, and I would say that covers all the scenarios I have witnessed personally.

What would you say better resembles street preaching ministry as you have witnessed it?

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

Frank, I admit I wrote in a bit of a hurry earlier. And I'm not trying to cop out as far as I know. Right now one of the things bugging me so much is that I don't have a good church to point people to; I'm at the best church in the area and the preaching is very often moralistic and I've been using that as a cop out. I've also been in the service and didn't have anything more than a Chaplain who preached a universalist message through training and I wasn't able to do anything about it at the time. I've been in places where it was literally impossible to point people to a good church, because there was no church.

So maybe I am letting my own experiences determine what I see in scripture. I haven't look into enough to take this any farther; I'll think about it.

Shane Dodson said...

Allow me to address your specific scenario...

"Think about this with me for a minute: let’s say that you personally are a lost person on the streets of Little Rock, and I have taken my convictions to the street to evangelize the lost – to do something like ministry – rather than merely blogging to the choir. And let’s say that our paths cross on a Friday, and I preach to you under the authority of Jesus Christ the good news concerning His death and resurrection. And let’s say that, by the grace of God, you receive that message in right-minded Berean fashion and both repent and rejoice – you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.

Then I hand you a Bible, hug you in joy, and go on to the next person."

We fully expect God to save people through our street preaching ministry, but such a dramatic "on the spot" conversion is most definitely a rare occurence. Personally, I have never spoken to anyone on the street who dropped to their knees, repented, and was converted right there on the spot. I have heard stories from other evangelists, but not enough to consider this a typical street evangelism scenario.

What I HAVE personally seen are people who seemed broken and contrite over their sin once it was explained to them via the Law. I've heard certain individuals tell me (or my partner) that they were "going home to repent/get right with God." Again, this has happened on several occasions, but it is not what would consider "typical."

Now, assuming we do speak to a person who repents and is converted "on the spot" or one who seems broken and contrite and says they plan on getting right with God as soon as they get home, we make certain (as certain as we can make it) that we give them information about our church. We get their contact information (if they'll give it) and follow-up with them.

We also recognize that Christ teaches us the Gospel seed falls on several types of ground (Luke 8:11-15). We pray for good soil and ears that can hear, most certainly. Prayer is the first work (or SHOULD BE) of any street ministry.

Street ministry--at least in my experience--isn't simply a "get one saved, move on the next person" treadmill. We preach the Gospel fully expecting His word to accomplish the purpose for which He sends it out, which may or may not involve the growing of the local church.

I fully recognize that I am to serve the local New Testament church (that is, the local New Testament church that I am a COVENANT MEMBER of) through a public Gospel ministry.

Public preaching, tracts, sitting down with somebody, opening up a Bible and explaining Christ and/or answer their questions...all of these activities are bathed in prayer, performed (hopefully) under the guidance of and in the power of the Spirit, and in service to His church, which He bought and paid for with His own blood and through which He will receive glory (Eph 3:21).

The primary purpose of the street preacher is bring glory to His Lord and Savior as an act of worship. We also desire to see the lost come to a saving knowledge of Christ and see them grow in His grace and knowledge.

That--at least to me--seems like a healthy, vibrant street ministry.

ali said...

Most insightful comments. We too are called to be like our L-RD, and to follow His command to make disciples, not leave then stranded in the middle of an evangelical ocean without an oar, wind or a sail.

Street preaching has its place, as Paul Washer is evidence - but that is the first step not the only step.

Blessings in Messiah.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

I don't want to take up all your posts but I do want to say one more thing; thank you.

I was that confused new convert, except I was saved in a word of faith/pentecostal church. I was biblical illiterate and had to unlearn much. It was in simply reading the Psalms for myself (along with a few AIG and GTY resources) that God began to teach me good doctrine, and I moved to a better church knowing our doctrine was bogus.

So I don't want to make my experience determine truth, but I can personally guarantee you that regardless of what should be done and what should be taught as well as in spite of it, God saves sinners from all walks of life and leads them to fellowship with like minded believers and Himself. And I'm sure on that we can both agree (John 13:35).

Sir Brass said...

"The problem with most forms of street preaching is that it is not done with an eye to Jesus' vision of believers joined together in a local church. It creates lone-ranger Christians, and that creates lone-ranger theologies, and that creates all manner of sad and sorry problems."

I know of a few folks who do enjoin their listeners to join a local church (usually starting with their own... since that's convenient) if the person listening seems inclined towards the gospel. But yes, on the whole, you're right. And that's what is very very sad.

Jon Speed said...

I've been doing street evangelism since 2004, and have done it full time since 2005. Prior to that I pastored churches for 13 years. Currently I am planting a church in Syracuse, NY using street evangelism as a major component of our outreach.

I admit to having some pretty radical ideas about church planting and evangelism and my track record puts me squarely in the WoTM camp.

Here's the rub: Frank is mostly right. But in the WoTM community there is at least a growing awareness of the importance of the local church. This ought to be acknowledged and encouraged. Furthermore, there are some ministries that are rising up that are: 1) directly accountable to the elders of their respective local churches, 2) have been pairing intense evangelism with intense discipleship and 3) are theologically sound.

Here is where Frank is 100% right: the apostles planted churches. Period. Their evangelism led to churches being planted. The absolute tone-deafness to this truth (which is axiomatic in the New Testament) in the street evangelism world is troubling at the very least. Show me one other time in church history where a massive influx in sound lay evangelism was NOT attended by a corresponding rise in church planting.

It is laughable how much some of us hang on every word that Washer speaks (if they could record what he says in his sleep, it would go viral) EXCEPT when it comes to the local church and church planting! It is likewise laughable that many of us revere men like a Leonard Ravenhill but do not imitate his evangelism and church planting strategy, or (worse still) his prayer life.

The problem that I have stumbled onto is that although I have personally trained and\or led (on specific outreaches) many of the street preachers who are out there and have spent time with them, when I try to beat the drum of the local church, I get looked at as if I denied a tenet of the faith. When I suggest to pastors who are sound in their theology that open-air preaching is viable and a Biblical model of ministry, I am met with thousand yard stares. It's been enough to discourage me so much that I want to tell both camps to go fly a kite and continue on in your collective ignorance.

The reason why I keep coming back to these issues has to do with the real fruit that I have seen in the open-air. I can show you college students who heard the gospel in open-air proclamation who now attend solid local churches. I can introduce you to a couple of people in our church plant who heard the gospel at a bus stop. I can introduce you to Mormons, gay pride activists, and atheists who I have met in the open-air and have known for a period of years as I continue to share the gospel with them, organize debates with them, and buy them groceries when they are hungry. This is the Lord's work and whenever I see it marginalized because of abuses it is sickening.

On the other hand, I am concerned about the talking heads of Reformed theology making statements about things they have little real time experience in. You cannot pass judgment on an entire segment of Christianity based on what you read on Farcebook walls and in the blogosphere. If you want to pass judgment on my ministry come watch it in action. Most of the people who are doing the best ministry hardly ever post anything online.

I think what is lost in this discussion is the fact that many of the gung-ho lone rangers are in many cases: 1) newbies who (like new Calvinists who do the same thing with the doctrines of grace) see evangelism in every word of the Bible, 2) believers who are wrapped up in bad teaching, 3) and in some cases people who really ought to know better but like what they are doing too much to stop no matter what evidence they see to the contrary.

It is this last group that is perhaps the most concerning. I suspect that it is this last group that Frank is addressing.

Frank Turk said...

Jeremiah:

What did Paul do when there was no church? You don't have to tell me the answer: I know the answer. I think you need to know the answer.

Frank Turk said...

Shane:

So your beef is that my scenario doesn't speak to what to do with lost people who don't get saved on the spot?

My scenario also doesn't cover what to do if you are heckled. It also doesn't cover what to do when you feel dehydrated.

I don't see what either one of those have to do with the topic I was asked to teach on at the conference, given that I had one hour to do what I was asked to do.

Frank Turk said...

Jon:

Having lived in Syracuse for 3 years, I can vouch for the fact that it needs good churches. God bless you for being there to plant one.

I think you're spot-on with your comment. I appreciate your feedback.

Nash Equilibrium said...

The Apostle Paul lived there for a time, too. I would think street preaching in Syracuse using English would be highly ineffective though!

Vernon Costolo said...

Frank,
great article. I frequently do street ministry and wanted to provide a way for people to find sound biblical teaching and a church close to where they live. If I am able to get some literature in their hand it will have a website address where they can find a good church and ask any questions. I also have a sign which directs them to the website if they are driving by or just didnt get any literature. I purposely will not put just one churches name on the back of my tract..because what happens if that person is from out of town or from a different part of the city? My concern was what happens to the person who doesnt go to this one church...hence a website where they can find one close to where they live....thanks again for the article.

Tony Miano said...

I have engaged in some dialogue with Frank, if only 140 characters at a time, regarding some of the issues he addresses in his article. I have NEVER come away from those text-speak conversations with the impression Frank opposes open-air preaching. Question and concerns regarding open-air preaching I have received from Frank typically have as their basis the connection between open-air preaching and the building of the church and discipleship of new converts.

I would NOT categorize Franks article as just another in a series of eisegetical exercise by learned men who enter into the conversational fray with the presupposition that open-air preaching is unbiblical. And Frank is not obligated to balance his article by giving props to specific street evangelists/ministries doing it the "right" way, for his concerns to be valid.

That being said.....

As merely a reader and commentator, I will give props to those who are doing it right, pastor/evangelists like my good friend Jon Speed.

I've not only watched Jon's work as a church planter from afar, but I've had the distinct privilege of watching him up close and personal (albeit for just a few days) as he pastored, served, and evangelized in the context of his church planting efforts in Syracuse.

While I'm sure there are other men like Jon out there, Jon's combination of street evangelism and church planting is as close to the New Testament examples as I've ever seen. And if evangelicalism, especially in the United States, is going to survive the persecution and apostasy that is coming, it will be churches like Jon's that be used by God to protect and grow the remnant of the Body of Christ.

Now that I've used my daily allotment of multi-syllable words, I will close with this.

To my fellow street preachers: if the focus of your public efforts is ONLY to see people come to faith in Christ, with no view of the growth of the local church or the planting of new churches, then your ministry lacks a component so important it cannot, in any real sense, be seen as truly or fully biblical.

David J. Dunbar said...

I think WOTM has and is and will continue to meet a huge need by focusing on the topic of evangelism. That is their forte, their area of expertise. Thank the Lord for Ray and the folks out there!

The closely-related area of discipleship, though weak in the church at large, is not nearly as weak as evangelism has been.

So for WOTM to help churches strengthen an area of weakness is most helpful. Even though they may not address follow-up / discipleship as much, that doesn't mean they don't believe in it.

A result, though, can be (and apparently has been) for some, an evangelism that stops with evangelism, which is not the New Testament model. Jesus said to make disciples. That requires a church, with pastors/elders/overseers, and a church body, functioning together, doing the "one-anothers" of Scripture together.

And so it is right to evangelize, using appropriate methods, and when done locally, it is right to point folks to the local church body doing the outreach. The person hearing the gospel may not respond immediately, but God may choose to work on the person's heart, and that dear soul will need a way to contact someone when he has further questions, or even better, after he has repented and believed.

So I, for one, greatly appreciate WOTM, open-air preaching, tracts, etc., and also recognize that Jesus said he would build His church, which is manifest by local assemblies. And I'm thrilled to see evangelism coupled with churches and church-planting.

GBC said...

We've printed up on a business card a map/address with our church on it, and every Bible we hand out has one of these that we give to every person we talk with that expresses interest in the gospel, especially if they seem repentant and or pray for salvation. As well as asking the person if they have a vehicle to get to church or need a ride to church and have seen a few stay plugged in, after being discipled by those of us who bring them or invite them, by ALSO handing out a card with our Church info and Map, so they can be sure they get to a healthy Bible teaching Body of Believers. I agree with the article, if all we do is preach on the street we are only half hearted, in that while obeying the part about "go", but is disobeying the rest where Jesus said "AND make disciples"... AMEN.

GBC said...

as to the excuse "we witness where lots of tourists visit, so follow up is not always possible". So does my team (In RENO, NEVADA). I agree, that is where we trust God as in the Ethopian Enuch, but we still ask where they are visiting from, and since being plugged into FB and other Blogs, we know of brothers/sisters in Christ n other areas and have in some instances said "Hey I know so & so in that town, they fellowship at...." I then take their full name if they give it and give them the name of the person I know in that town ( I've usually previously talked with my brother/sister and gotten their permission as well as giving them my permission if they get visitors from Reno-Sparks, then I follow up my conversation when I get home by informing them that "Hey we talked with so&so today and invited them to visit your church and look you up, let us know how it turns out." That is another reason to go to evangelism conferences not just to learn or listen to already known teachings, but to expand our 'list of contacts'.

Kaloni Arcidiacono said...

Hi, im a long time pyro reader and this is my 1st time commenting. I just want to say that I am a first hand example of one who was converted through a non-discipline preacher and my experience is exactly what Frank described. I began looking for a church and ended up going to several churches at random, i got caught up in the televangelists, extreme charismatics, 700 club, and all types of doctrinal falsehood. Praise God that he has guided me through it all and the experience was an education in itself however discipleship would have saved me from a lot of error while greatly improving my growth and maturity as a Christian. I still find it difficult because unlearning so much doctrinal error is not like flipping a light switch. Thanks again for the awesome post. Also, i greatly appreciate everyone involved. You guys helped get me through many of the rough spots. God bless

Travis Yates said...

I like the comments of Jon Speed and Tony Miano a lot here. I've seen some troubling things including street preachers that have no accountability to a local church and justify that by bashing all local churches and there is a problem with that. Many have gotten their theology by taking Paul Washer, MacArthur and some other reformed guys...putting them in a bag...mix them up and if you or your church is not this exactly or you are not doing everything that Jeff Noblit's church is doing right now, then you do not qualify for as a "biblical" church. My experience is these attitudes are prevalent in those new to the faith or reformed doctrines and it is quite damaging. Of course what they miss is it took Noblit 20 years to move his church to eldership or the years and struggles that MacArthur has been through and at the end of the day there is not a reverence for the local church and it's importance.

Frank Turk said...

Travis Yates:

Or, for example, that even Paul had to deal with the church at Corinth or the church in Galatia as people prone to make mistakes -- and he was an apostle!

Your comment is dead-on Travis. It's exactly right.

James C. said...

Great post, Frank.

I have never understood the mentality that says
"God will get them in to church, that's not our job" or "If they're saved, they'll desire fellowship and find a church themselves" and thus dismiss discipleship. It seems to me like that's the same hyper-calvinistic line of thought that is often cited in negation of evangelism. Irony, anyone?

I think the point that Jon brought up about the relationship between discipleship and evangelism is vital. Narratively and exegetically, you're not able to draw a line between the two and remain honest to New Testament thought at the same time. The Bible offers no room for two separate dichotomous categories of "Evangelism" and "Discipleship", at least not in the way we largely understand them today. It would be a huge step in the right direction if we just did away with distinction altogether. The two are part of a larger, completely unified concept; a full, unaltered understanding of the Great Commission.

That's the direction the evangelism community seems to be headed, which is very, very encouraging.

Sean Scott said...

I forget to check this thing for one day and 50 comments? Nothing you said can be the controversial...

Sean Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Turk said...

James:

To do what you suggest means we have to accept the local church, warts and all, as God's plan for believers; we'd have to embrace the Protestant principle that all churches are a mix of truth and error, and that in spite of this God wants us to be in one in order to love the people there and allow them to love us -- which includes submission to authority (both the Bible and the elders/pastors).

That is: is would mean we would have to really believe that Jesus died for *our* sins and not just *my* sins.

Michael Coughlin said...

I just wanted to leave a comment on the same post as Tony Miano, Travis Yates and Jon Speed! For a guy like me, that's exciting stuff!

Also, to Jeremiah - I COMPLETELY appreciate your posts, your humility and your testimony. I can see from the beginning of the thread to now how you are becoming open to learning from some wise men (or wise guys?).

My testimony is similar. The Lord saved me while I was going to a "bad church." He used AIG and GTY (just like you) and WOTM in my life to help me grow. BUT ALONG WITH THAT, He allowed me to dive into some other teachers who I wouldn't go near today but they still taught me the bible - but He worked in my life to get me to a point where I knew I needed to find a new church, and He led me to a "good" one. No one in my life was telling me to find a church. I already had a church.

So I completely agree with Frank; and I believe we need to stress the willingness on the part of the evangelist to plant churches/disciple others - because it is biblical, not necessarily because of real or hypothetical results. Frank offers these examples for illustrations, not proofs.

I think a lot of us like to go out and pass out tracts or preach, but aren't really interested in "teaching them to obey all that He's commanded." We love to save people's souls from hell, but we are truly willing to lay down our lives for others (like so many have done for us!).

But I also trust God's sovereignty that if I meet someone at a store on the other side of town and hand them the only tract I have on me and it has no contact information or reference to a local church, that that is better than not reaching out to them at all. God can and will lead them to the local body He chooses, and He may just use the semi-anonymous means I just used as an example. Think george street :)

That isn't to excuse evangelists from obeying, but to say that there are times that it is impractical to think we will even be able to refer people to a local church or follow up.

Frank Turk said...

Michael --

Given what you said, you said it humbly and with real heart, so I won't start the beatings just yet. :-)

Let's consider something together, the George Street video entirely accepted as an example of faithfulness in spite of what I would call its shortcomings.

Assume for a second that I said this out loud:

"I also trust God's sovereignty that if I meet someone at a store on the other side of town and invite them to church with no reference to the Gospel, that that is better than not reaching out to them at all. God can and will call them to himself as He chooses, and He may just use the semi-anonymous means I just used as an example."

Here's what I think would happen if I said that out loud: every man-Jack discernment wizard with and without a real name would come out of the woodwork to point out to me that you can't assume the Gospel, and the God only saves through the Gospel. It's a point which, as I see it, is validly made and a point taken.

Why is it, then, that we suddenly become hypercalvinists about maturity and sanctification when we know that we would be hypercalvinists about the Gospel if we took the same attitude toward regeneration that we take toward the rest of the Christian life, the rest of the necessary consequences of the Gospel?

I will deal with the George Street video in another place because it's one of those great examples of two different things (one good, one bad) which help us clarify and improve our own way of thinking about things.

Michael Coughlin said...

George street may be a bad example - but it embodies the opposite of your sample argument from Little Rock, so I'd call it a wash from a "proving anything standpoint."

As far as the other point you raise, I think I understand the point you are making, and I need more time to understand it.

Thanks, Frank.

Kimberly Mauch said...

I don't comment much here but read this blog often. This particular subject is something I can appreciate on a personal level so I just wanted to share my thoughts.

I really appreciate what Frank's saying here because as a young convert I would have greatly benefited from a church that had elders who were concerned with what I was learning about Christ, my faith & all that....but I did not.

For me, anyone speaking about God at all in a way that I could tell was "true" caught my attention (this would be street preachers since these were the ones I heard on a regular basis being out of church because I didn't even know it was necessary) & I only hoped that one of them would give some sort of hint as to what I was supposed to do after saying that prayer. None of them that I can recall ever did. It was that same saving message I heard the first time that I heard, but it still encouraged me to hear it repeated.

Yet I would have greatly appreciated someone saying, hey, you should really go to a church that has sound doctrine (and explain to me what that means because the church I was raised in didn't & I didn't even know that until I was long into my adult years), accountability, eldership, etc. I think it would have saved me a lot of time in trying to go to these different churches & think they were good only to discover 8 years later that they have weird teachings you don't get to know about until they deem you "mature" enough & those teachings are sketchy (ie inner healing ministry).

In fact, I have to say that everything I have learned about how to find a decent church for me & my family has been learned over the time that I've been reading this blog. That's because people here have actually TALKED about what a church that's helpful should look like & pointed me to scripture that supports their belief on this.

I can totally see someone having the exact same experience Frank described in his post where they heard the "true" message but then got sucked into a Joel Olsteen thing afterward because it happened to me. But small wonder it happened to me when I couldn't figure out how to pick a church & when I did try one it felt weird...or it felt nice but then later turned out to BE weird....or it didn't answer any of the questions I needed answers to.

I agree with some here who seem to be saying that God is faithful & if the true message is preached, He can lead those new converts to a place where they can grow more in Him & learn. But I absolutely agree with Frank's message that there is a lacking as far as what to do next for the person converted who does not have or understand the church & it's role in making us mature. Personally I think it's pretty sad that I've been a member of 3 different churches over the course of my life & none of them has explained it to me as well as a bunch of strangers from a blog. Surely I'm not the only one in this boat.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I was thinking yesterday (related to this blogpost), wondering to myself how the practice of provocatively yelling a message at a bunch of random, unprepared passers-by ever got started, anyway?

CleanFlea said...

I think the point can be applied to many para-church organizations out there also. Some emphasize getting into a local body, but all too few.

Shane Dodson said...

"I was thinking yesterday (related to this blogpost), wondering to myself how the practice of provocatively yelling a message at a bunch of random, unprepared passers-by ever got started, anyway?"

Noah was called a preacher of righteousness by Peter. Then there's Jeremiah, whose proclamation got him in lots of trouble. Then there's Micah.

Fast forward to Jesus...Peter...Paul.

I would, however, take exception at your mischaracterization of the practice, which isn't directly related to the weird looks it causes in the "unprepared."

Jon Speed said...

Frank,

If you write anything on George Street, please consider reading the book, "Jenner of George Street" by Dr. Raymond Wilson. The video\audio is filled with inaccuracies concerning Jenner. He was a churchman, as well as an evangelist. If you would like a copy, I can let you borrow mine, but I'll need it back.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Shane - There were a lot of things that Prophets and Apostles did before the Canon was closed, who were told directly by the Lord to do so. What I'm wondering is how it came to be that people who are neither Prophets nor Apostles are yelling messages to strangers on the street? On the surface it doesn't seem like it would be a very effective way to communicate.

Frank Turk said...

Shane -

I'd love to read the book of Jonah with you sometime.

Shane Dodson said...

"On the surface it doesn't seem like it would be a very effective way to communicate."

I can understand that observation.

However, how many times you've been out with Biblically sound street preachers?

By "Biblically sound" I mean Reformed in their soteriology, accurate in their Gospel message, passionate in their plea, and consistent in their prayers.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Shane: well, to be honest, I probably haven't been with any that were all those things put together. I've seen some who were passionate in their plea, and had the Gospel message fairly accurate, and had way more guts than I do, but not very effective I'd have to say.
I'm really not passing judgement on any particular street preacher, I'm just wondering if 'street-preaching' per se is more of a USA tradition (there's no doubt, it is that), or something that is really Biblically-informed and wise most of the time?
I can't really look at the Apostles and Jesus and old testament Prophets for much guidance, because well, they were Apostles and Prophets and Messiahs and such.
And I'm not.
So I'm confused on the subject. I admit it.

Shane Dodson said...

Is preaching from a pulpit in a church building Biblically informed and wise? Is that an effective way to communicate?

Nash Equilibrium said...

If you herd a bunch of people in and start yelling at them against their will, probably not!

Shane Dodson said...

Re.: "Yelling"

The phrase "yelling at them" is pretty loaded with all kinds of negative baggage. After all...nobody likes to be yelled at, do we?

But open-air preaching--at least the good kind--is not just a man "yelling" at poor, unsuspecting people. The OA preacher has to raise his voice to be heard over the street noise and/or crowd chatter. If you've been in a crowded public venue, you'll know what I mean.

Re.: "Against their will"

Now this one really puzzles me. Every time I walk through my open-to-the-general-public shopping mall, I have to walk by a Victoria's Secret store to get to our favorite Mexican restaurant. If you've ever walked by a Victoria's Secret shop, you'll know there are all manner of sexual images front and center for all passers-by to see.

The point is...we as Christians are bombarded with all manner of worldliness. Pornography...Materialism...Lasciviousness...all are laid bare for all the world to see at shopping centers, major downtown venues, ballparks, etc.

Why can't the Gospel be preached in these areas? Why shouldn't the Gospel be preached?

Nobody is ever forced to hear a street preacher against his/her will. People have working legs that are free to move them on out of hearing range (which--in most cases--doesn't require one to walk very far). People can even simply choose to ignore the message (which, I'm sure, many do).

Nonna said...

Nash,

I understand your objections to open air preaching. However, that is not the only kind of street evangelism. When I was approached by a Christian he spoke with me personally and no one else, although my atheist grandmother was with me. (She walked ahead in disgust and later warned me not to listen to him!) Prior to that time I had walked past various street preachers who shouted at the passers-by. They were obnoxious and unnecessarily offensive - almost purposefully, it seemed.

I have taken the approach that drew me to Christ in my efforts to evangelize. Often that personal approach with one person (or a few people) leads into a relationship/s over the course of time and eventually that person comes to faith in Christ. There are the occasions when a person is ready to repent of their sins after one encounter, but they are rare in my experience. Of course, I have witnessed Christians who have the attitude that if I can just get them to say the prayer then I have succeeded in bearing fruit for God. Let me say, it is not all that difficult to get someone to pray with you. But is that evangelism? I think not.

I would say that some means of evangelization are more effective than others. Some areas and cultures are more receptive to open air preaching than others. I have been in large cities, small cities, and towns in numerous states. Folks in some areas are far more open to hearing the Scriptures than others. However, the method of approaching people personally, one-on-one or one or in a small group tends to be a most effective means in various and diverse cultures. If you have ever witnessed this kind of evangelism then you can especially understand the point I'm making.

Blessings to you!

Nonna said...

Shane,

From my experience, most shopping malls forbid open air preaching which is considered a form of solicitation. In fact, they forbid any kind of evangelization that is done without going through the proper channels to get permission. I have been with Christians who attempted to evangelize without getting a permit and were forced by the mall security to leave the premises. The malls I used to go to required one to get a permit and then to set up a table with literature so that if passers-by were interested, you could stop and talk with them. However, I would venture to say that it is rare if even possible to find shopping malls that permit open air preaching. Do you know of any?

Nash Equilibrium said...

Again, that could be. Most of the ones I've seen have been yelling at people, many of whom are clearly annoyed. But since experience is a poor thing by which to determine Bibliness, I'm looking for a Biblical admonition that objectifies things with regard to street preaching.

I don't think the Victoria's Secret analogy is valid. VS has a store and people know the store is going to be there, so they can avoid it if they want, or go in if they want. Generally speaking, scantily clad models don't come out of the store and start making remarks to people who may be passing by. By another example I seldom see insurance agents OA preaching the merits of their policies. I only see preachers doing this. This annoys people.

Now I'm totally OK with people being annoyed at the Gospel message itself, but if they are annoyed by the method employed, it could be a reason to ask if this method is Biblically-sanctioned as a regular practice. Or, is it simply a long-standing tradition that has become accepted among the Christian community in certain places? I don't know the answer, but I'm pretty sure it's a valid question.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Nonna, I wholeheartedly endorse one on one evangelism such as what you're describing. Or one on many evangelism, delivered to a audience that freely chooses to hear the message.

Nash Equilibrium said...

By the way, I don't have "objections" to open air preaching necessarily. I'm only making some observations about its apparent effectiveness and asking if anyone has a convincing case as to whether it's Biblically sanctioned or not. My preferences are of no consequence.

Shane Dodson said...

"By another example I seldom see insurance agents OA preaching the merits of their policies. I only see preachers doing this. This annoys people."

But if a person was proclaiming a newfound cure for AIDS or cancer, I'm wondering how many would be annoyed.

I consider it a privilege to proclaim the name and work of my Lord Jesus Christ in the open air. I consider it a privilege to speak about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to a sinner over coffee at Starbucks. I consider it a privilege to write about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to countless readers over the Internet.

Is open-air preaching effective? Demonstrably so. I can point you to some specific testimonies of the Lord working upon the heart of a sinner through the means of OA preaching.

The Gospel is an announcement. So go announce it. Go tell it to your neighbor. Go sit down with your friend and tell him/her. Go hand out a tract with this announcement printed on it. Go stand on a box and proclaim it to all who will hear.

And may the Lord richly bless your Gospel endeavors!

Frank Turk said...

Shane --

I think you should quit for a little while before you dig a hole any deeper. At the very least, I think you have discovered a place where you feel defensive, and it's not doing you any favors to defend when you feel the reproach.

To the rest:

I think over the course of last week I said plainly that I have nothing against open-air preaching. I have absolutely nothing against it. I *am* saying that saving people to no church family is not good for them and probably not the model the Bible shows us plainly -- and if we can't confess our own sins and make corrections on what we are doing, why should we expect people who have much deeper problems to listen to us? If we who see ourselves as faith are unteachable, why should we expect the real problem children to be teachable?

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