Much street preaching begins and centres around the “judgement” soon to come, which is taken to imply “eternal” damnation for many. It is a message of fear, and urgency. The argument is that cages need to be rattled, people shaken awake out of their daily trot, that we are so callous and jaded these days that only shock tactics are expected to have any effect. A zealous disciple I met near my workplace gave me a list of scriptures about open air preaching, which I shall go through to see what we are to say, and how to say it, in the context of the respective scriptures.
- Prov 1:20 and 8:1-3 – the personified “Wisdom” cries out, to speak excellent and right things. That’s a high calling!
- Isaiah 29:21, likewise Amos 5:10 speaks of the unjust who accuse and persecute the preacher who “reproves in the gate”, the Hebrew word translated “reprove” also means “arbitrate, decide, judge” – Isaiah and Amos are most likely talking of themselves, who are convicting people of their sin, which is being deemed unpatriotic and incendiary.
- Is 58: This is specifically rebuking people who were outwardly religious and self-righteous, following spiritual practice (fasting) while exploiting other humans.
- Jeremiah 2 The message begins with kindness and love, a Father wooing his children into being close with him (again). Then follow charges, and the grief of our Creator, that we have chosen to dig our own wells and drink inferior water, rather than the living water that only comes from Him (cf. John 4:13-14), so that we may thrive and be well. Our own transgressions will be our punishment: living dry, parched and unfulfilled lives as we have chosen to leave the only true vine (John 15:5).
- Jer 7 is a very detailed and strong message, calling us to amend our ways, to judge rightly and not to exploit, not to follow idols and then also swear (falsely) by the temple. The core message in v.3, v.7 and v.23 is to obey the Lord’s voice so that it may be well with us. This mirrors Deuteronomy 12:28 where the purpose of all the preceding instructions is given: obeying them in order for everything to be well with us.
- Jer 11 again calls people to walk in the covenant, to obey the Father’s voice and not to follow our evil hearts (v.6-8). Because we have forsaken our Creator who called us into being as a “Green Olive Tree, Lovely and of Good Fruit” (v.16), and instead have followed other gods, calamity will come upon us and at some point can no longer be reversed (v.11,14).
- Jer 17:19-27 specifically calls people to keep the Sabbath, and again gives the contract that heeding our Father’s voice will lead to us being built up and standing and seeing blessing, while not heading will lead to peril and destruction.
- Mat 3:1-12 “bear fruits worthy of repentance” calls Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptiser), and rebukes the religious leaders as “brood of vipers”.
- Mat 4:17 Yeshua starts his public preaching with the words “The kingdom of heaven is at hand!”: calling people to “repentance”. This is the core message: the kingdom is near! You are infinitely close to your Creator, turn and change your ways and align yourself with Him, and He shall redeem you and heal you and help you.
- Mat 10:7 Likewise Yeshua instructs His disciples on sending them out in pairs “…preach, saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’…”, and then in v.8 “Heal the sick, cleanse the leapers, raise the dead, cast out demons…” – this speaks of action as much words, astonishing, powerful action in the Spirit of the Almighty!
- Mat 10:20 Yeshua points out that the Spirit if the Father shall speak through us. Now and always, the Father’s Spirit is “gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness” (or steadfast love) – Psalm 145:8 (NASB).
So yes, there is much about judgement, iniquity, blind eyes and deaf ears (callousness), but at the core is our Creator’s desire for us, his children, to be close to Him and to be well and holy. That has to be our core message, that the best life that can be lived is one in reverence and alignment with our Creator who knows how He designed us and desperately wants us to be well.
Here is some more scripture on how to preach:
- Luke 14:23 compelling people to come into God’s glorious wedding banquet – making an offer, giving hope!
- 1 Cor 9:22-23 become weak to the weak, become all things to all men – i.e. be compassionate and loving, not shocking and spreading fear
- Cor 5:20 as ambassadors of Christ we plead: be reconciled to God!
- Eph 6:15 be sandaled at your feet with the readiness of the gospel of ___? Judgement, “eternal damnation”, doom and gloom? No: peace! Remember, I plead with you street preachers, that it is a gospel, a good news you are sharing! Be reconciled to God who is Love (1 John 4:8)!
- 1 Peter 3:15 be to answer to everyone who asks, give an account for the hope that is in us, with gentleness and reverence
Time and again we are called to be blessed, and not to fear. We are all somewhat self-righteous or defensive in our ways. The classic street preaching message is perverted. Our Creator does not want us to begrudgingly follow Him so that we may avoid “eternal” “hell”, both much-abused terms that have been given their current meaning and connotations during middle-ages Catholicism, and not by our Creator or His Only Son Yeshua the Christ.
He wants us to love Him because He has loved us first. Because that way we will find the only true meaning of life. That is a gospel worth sharing. Yes, the urgency is there, but it shall be an urgency to encourage one another, so that we may be well and not fall into sin’s deceitfulness (Heb 3:13), to live lives together toward the light, rather than telling people off for going into perdition! This is all summed up in Titus 2:11-15 [NASB]
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”