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Why We Need at Least 1000 Street Preachers in the U.S.

volume 21, number 28, July 14, 2022

. . . having no hope and without God in this world.” -Ephesians 2:12

Preaching at the World Games this week, July 7-17, has brought to my mind and heart again the vital necessity of open air preaching. Perhaps you have a friend whose husband is dying of stage four, metastatic cancer. He is on a ventilator and near the end. You have spoken the good news of Jesus Christ to her, telling her that she, her husband, and their children are indeed sinners who have broken God’s law and they are facing the certain, terrifying expectation of judgment in hell. She has politely listened but has never called upon the name of the Lord Jesus to save her. Now she is beside herself with fear, grief, and worry. She has no hope and she is without God in this world. 

I remember preaching a few years ago with Ben Cohen and Ryan Hull on a Friday night at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, Alabama and the next day at the football stadium before the football game. All three of us were proclaiming to Auburn students and fans the glory of Christ. The students were very respectful. Auburn kids are some of the nicest I have ever encountered on a college campus. Most of these young people would claim to be Christians and I am sure some of them are. However we encountered at least one young man who claimed to be a Christian but admitted living with his girlfriend. Ben told him that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God, that he must repent, or he is in danger of hellfire. Though the young man is receiving a quality education, though he certainly has hopes of a good, well paying job upon graduation, and though he no doubt hopes to marry one day, rear children, and live a long life he still has no real hope and he is without God in this world. 

The homosexual, the drunkard, the thief, the con artist, the moralist, the Mormon, the Hindu, the Muslim, the racist, the Marxist are all dead in their trespasses and sins, having no hope and without God in this world. No one, of course, can live long without some kind of hope. Those who commit suicide have given up hope. But the hope of unbelievers is no hope at all. It is bogus. It is counterfeit. It is a mirage. The hope of such people will not prevail when they stand before the Holy One and give account of every deed they have done in the body, whether good or bad. 

My friends, the whole unbelieving world lies in the power of the evil one. They are blinded by the devil. They are living according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, according to the spirit of the one who is now working in the sons of disobedience (all unconverted people). Such people are constantly indulging the desires of their own flesh and mind. They are children of wrath just like everyone else. Because they are dead in their sins they have no hunger for truth, they have no thirst for righteousness. Because they have suppressed the truth of God in unrighteousness God has consequently given them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity. God has given them over to the degrading passions of homosexual perversion. And furthermore God has given them over to reprobate or depraved minds so that they are filled with wickedness, evil, greed, murder, strife, deceit, malice. They are haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil. The wicked (every person outside of union with Christ) are estranged from the womb. These who speak lies go astray from birth. The Lord abhors, detests the man of bloodshed and deceit. God is angry with the sinner everyday of his life. Everyday unconverted sinners live in rebellion and their sins are mounting up and one day God will pour out His just wrath upon them. Indeed, they are without hope and without God in this world. 

We see this horrible description of the unconverted man played out everyday in our cities, towns, universities, seats of government, and the business world. While the November mid-term elections are important and the 2024 Presidential election may or not turn back the devastation of the present administration, acceptable results in these matters will only slow down the putrefaction in our nation. So called common grace, as my friend Henry Krabbendam so vividly states, is nothing more than embalming fluid which slows down decomposition of a body. Government and politics can never cleanse a nation. They are only capable of administering justice and protecting her people from domestic violence and crime and from invasion of foreign enemies. 

My friends, the very fact that God has not wiped the United States off the face of the earth in one swift move of judgment is a testimony to His long-suffering patience. We have sinned horribly. We are wicked and perverse. Sex-trafficking, abortion, corruption, lawlessness, and all manner of perversion, in the face of God’s great goodness and abundance, ought to move us to repentance. Instead, we continue to spit in the face of Him who has supplied us richly with all things to enjoy. 

These are many of the reasons we need at least one thousand street preachers all over the United States, preaching daily wherever they can, proclaiming the unfathomable riches of Christ. People tell me that street preaching does not work in today’s secular world, that people don’t like it, that we are infringing on people’s rights of privacy, that such preaching is out of place, uncivil, that it refuses to engage in civil discourse, that surely there is a better way to reach people than to “bludgeon” them with the gospel. 

To be sure there are some bad actors preaching on the streets, those who preach hate, legalism, or antinomianism. They should surely be resisted or ignored. But men who preach the doctrine of God, the total depravity of man, the glory, power, and efficacy of Christ’s person and work, who passionately, unequivocally, and freely offer the gospel to everyone, calling them to repent and believe on Christ, must be encouraged, strengthened, and supported. One thousand street preachers is only twenty per state. However, if we had one thousand street preachers preaching everyday, under the convicting, regenerating, and converting work of the Holy Spirit then at the very least millions of people would come face to face with their mortality, sin, and impending judgment. Perhaps God would be gracious to convert some, perhaps many of them. 

The simple fact is that God has always used preaching as His means of converting the elect. Open air preaching has never been popular. The people of Jeremiah’s day hated it. The people of Jesus’ day despised it and crucified the Savior. Paul was beaten many times for engaging in it. George Whitefield was mocked for doing it. Open air preaching, if done under the leading of the Holy Spirit, does work. The word of God never returns empty. It always accomplishes its purpose. It brings salvation to some, but those who reject it face a greater judgment. We are not infringing on people’s privacy when we preach in the open air. It is never intrusion to warn a man who is looking at his cell phone as he crosses a street in front of an oncoming truck. We are not preaching hate. We are preaching the greatest, most wonderful news in the world, and when people hate preaching, then we know they hate the God whom we are proclaiming. 

Open air preaching is not the only form of evangelism but it is the first and most obvious way to get the gospel to the world. It brings light to those in darkness. It pricks the conscience of those who hear it. It softens up the elect for the day when the Spirit opens their eyes to see, giving them ears to hear, granting them the grace to repent and believe. There is a time for dialogue with unbelievers. Any street preacher will tell you that people do stop and listen, that they sometimes do have sincere questions, and that is the time to go one on one with them. 

Street preaching is to lead the way. Churches and pastors who do not support street preachers are woefully lax in their ministries. Without this intentional, straight up evangelistic work, the seeds of death are already being sown in the life of the church. It may have a multi-million dollar budget with a beautiful building, and outstanding programs, but death is already present. It may take ten or twenty years but the church will surely die. Street preaching must lead the way. Will you pray for God to raise up one thousand street preachers who preach the crucified and glorified Christ and Reformed doctrine in the power of the Spirit? 


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