I've been giving this a lot of thought after a recent debate with someone who was talking about street preaching on facebook. Disclaimer: this blog is not meant to come across as being hateful or that I am better than anyone or know more about anything than anyone else. These are simply my opinions based on what I find in scripture. If you disagree, I would be happy to engage in conversation with you, but will not tolerate any hate talk or cyber bullying. With that being said, here we go.
When I look at the New Testament (which is our model for what modern day Christianity SHOULD look like), I see Jesus and the disciples in Acts operating under a certain way of doing things. They ALL preached on the streets. So, first and foremost, I am in no way saying that going out into a community to spread the gospel is a bad thing. When preaching though, I find a common theme in their message to the masses. You see, much of what we see in the New Testament of the "thou shall not's" are all being told to people inside the church, the people who already know God (or Jesus). Much of the talk of Jesus was aimed at Pharisees, those hyper religious people who thought they knew it all but we're really missing the most important things. Jesus would call them out for their sins all the time. He would tell them where they were going wrong. But I find that when He was speaking to those that didn't know God, He would say things like, "You must be born again," or, "The kingdom of heaven is like…" These people were shown love and compassion, being healed rather than being judged.
I find the same model when I look at Acts-Revelation. The apostles would get very strict with people within the church, giving criticism where needed for correction. But when they were preaching to the masses, they did one thing and one thing only. They preached the gospel. The gospel means the good news. The good news is that Jesus came and died for us, fulfilling the law and giving us life everlasting if we would just believe on Him. Never do I see any of them telling people on the street that they are wrong for doing certain behaviors. I don't see them telling people that they are going to hell. In fact, they aren't even starting arguments with people over who is right about certain debates. What I do see is them telling people about a better way: a way that they haven't heard of yet, a way that comes with love and compassion and is proven through signs and wonders. They would go out and meet people's needs and prove Christ through their actions. They would be so persuasive in what they said and did that thousands would come to Christ at a time.
Only after the people came to know Christ would they then start giving them instructions on how to live. You see, they knew that He who began a good work would be faithful to complete it. They weren't worried about having to change people's hearts, because it wasn't their job to do so. They had to point them to Jesus and let Holy Spirit do the work of convicting them. They would be faithful to tell them the good news, and then let the church be the place where they found conviction to change their ways. Why do we think that telling people who aren't saved that drunkenness will send them to hell will actually help save someone? When you're not saved, you don't care about hell because you likely don't believe in it. What good does it do to tell people that homosexual marriage is sin if they don't even care about sin or righteousness to begin with? 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 says:
It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”
We have to deal with those inside the church and let God judge the actions of those outside. All we can do for the outsider is hopefully show them enough love of Christ and tell them the good news of His death and resurrection and pray that they make the decision to follow Him.
So, what I'm really trying to say here is that street preaching can be an awesome evangelism tool. It can be used to find those that are lost and bring them home to God. But it also can hurt, turn away, and be completely counterproductive to people that we are trying to reach if we come at them with judgment and condemnation. If all people hear us say is that they are going to hell, they will never hear us when we say we love them. We need to change our approach, not just with street preaching, but how we approach the lost in general. With all that's happening in society today, we need our love to shine through the darkness more than ever before. Pray for God to open doors of opportunity for you to talk to people. Meet people's needs. Show the love of Christ. That is how the church wins.