Street Preachers Deserve More Respect
Satan outside LDS General Conference
John Wesley has said, "What marvel the devil does not love field preaching! Neither do I; I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit. But where is my zeal, if I do not trample all these underfoot in order to save one more soul?" (Journal of John Wesley) He also said, "Preach abroad... It is the cooping yourselves up in rooms that has damped the work of God, which never was and never will be carried out to any purpose without going out into the highways and hedges and compelling poor sinners to come in." (1700's in England...Dark Times)
1 Peter 2:17 says, "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood." Christians, including many preachers within a church building, need to loosen up on street preachers. Preachers at a local church have the comfort that almost everyone there want to hear what is preached. Street preachers don't have that luxury. Since the vast majority of Christians have never done street evangelism or preaching, the former simply presume their friendship/interpersonal relationship categories onto street preachers.
This may be news to you, but the vast majority of ministry that street preachers do is typically not on the street. It is at home and work like everyone else. Many also serve in different ways at their local church. Street ministry is a small fraction of their ministry. Nonetheless, that doesn't invalidate it. Rather, it does have value because there are all sorts of people that God simply uses his word as a seed to transform their lives. My former director is just one such example. Perhaps that wouldn't have worked for you, but that doesn't entail that God does not use other means to get a hold of others.
It may also be news to you that not every interaction with others must be with the primary motivation on establishing a friendship. There is a difference between interacting with others and intending to establish an ongoing relationship with others. One may be and should be friendly and/or respectful without having to be friends or establishing ongoing relationships with everyone. All our interactions with others are valuable as followers of Christ.
Rob Sivulka preaching at the April 6, 2019 LDS General ConferenceIf you doubt that, then consider that Jesus had a handful of disciples and did not care to become friends with those who got upset at what he taught. For example, in Matthew 15 Jesus preached that it was not what goes into one's mouth that defiles one, but what comes out of the mouth from a corrupt heart. The Pharisees were offended by that, and what did Jesus say? Basically, he said to leave them alone. If the Father did not plant them, they'll be uprooted. They are blind guides and the blind will lead the blind into a pit (vss. 1-14).
As for another example, and this should be obvious to everyone, you can treat the check-out lady at the store with respect without hitting her up to enter a long-term relationship so that only then the gospel may be presented to her. You think street preachers are awkward and creepy? That would be rather awkward and creepy to always do that with everyone you meet.
Now what if someone instead wanted to respectfully give her a tract to read? Do you think that of course God would never use that to bring someone to himself? Well if that is what you think, then I suggest you need to experience more of life and the various means God uses to bring people to himself. Stop putting God in your box of prescribed ways in which he may tamely act.
It may also be news to you that street preachers typically don't simply tell others that they are going to hell. Perhaps some preachers may that have a special message for a specific audience. Jonah comes to mind. However, most preachers don't do that. They offer God's love by sending Christ to fix the sin problem. Nonetheless, preachers (street or in church) need not worry about couching their presentation on what would be the most effective in getting an audience to want to be friends with them. Perhaps some occasions call for that, but the end goal is still the same. As such, many times, preachers tell an audience the reason that people do need to repent, viz., because if they don't, they will perish and go to hell (Matt. 10:28 and Lk. 13:3, 5).
People on the street really do wonder what motivates preachers to be there. Many people simply assume they are wasting their time and hurl at them: "Don't you have anything better to do?" So preachers are upfront and honest with them. Warning others is biblical and the loving thing to do under appropriate circumstances... even if the motivation for the warning is not clearly stated. That is, judgment is coming, and since we know what it means to fear the Lord, we persuade men because Christ's love for all compels us (2 Cor. 5:10-11, 14). One need not have to state one's love as the motivation. The action of preaching itself is prima facie at least the loving thing to do. Of course bad motives may motivate preaching. But that is also true for the pulpit within a local church. One should exercise a principle of charity and assume the best of the other until one has reason to think otherwise. And even if bad motives are determined, believers should still rejoice, just as Paul did, that nonetheless the gospel is going out (Phil. 1:15-18).
Rob Sivulka preaching at the 2010 Manti PageantOne final thought... people (particularly teachers within the church) often hold preachers to a higher standard that they themselves don't keep. People are very critical and vocal about all the imperfections of the street preachers' witness while the former fail to remove the board plank in their own eyes when it comes to their terribly messy friendship/life-style evangelism. You think it is just the street preachers that are turning people off to Christ? Please! What a holier-than-thou attitude! Like you never let your family or friends down? Should this keep one from making friends to influence for Christ? Of course not! Then neither should this keep one from preaching off the street. Street preaching has been *a* traditional biblical means of communicating the gospel, and they should be encouraged in it, not torn down as some second-class citizens in the kingdom of God.
President, Courageous Christians United
October 6, 2021