I was reflecting yesterday on the, sometimes, shocked reactions I get from so-called "Christians" when I am open air preaching (a "nicer" way of saying "street preaching," but can include campus preaching). I remember one group that passed me back in 2007 on its way to an ice hockey game in Atlanta. One guy yelled out, "You're doing it all wrong!" Apparently emphasizing the justice, wrath and fear of the Lord was, to that guy, "doing it all wrong." Another time a lady reacted to my quotation of Psalm 111:10 & Proverbs 9:10, which say, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." I was biblically justifying the message on my banner, which used "NFL" in the following acrostic: Need to Fear the Lord! The lady in question blurted, "The Bible doesn't say that! It says, 'The LOVE of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!'" Such biblical ignorance!
I find it amazing what some so-called "Christians" will come up with to try to get you to stop preaching because, as emergent heretic Rob Bell so honestly puts it in his "Bullhorn Guy" video, "Bullhorn guy, I don't think it's working... I actually think it's making things worse... And to be honest, it's confusing for me, because you and I end up getting painted with the same brush."
In other words, most so-called "Christians" - of which Bell is one - complain about street preachers mainly because of how it reflects on them. They are, frankly, incredibly embarrassed at the thought that someone might actually equate them with the "Bullhorn Guys" out there.
I don't know where you stand on all this, but I am an unashamed "Bullhorn Guy." Why? Because I, along with those who've preached before me, serve a very special purpose in the "Army of God." You could compare us to those who "soften the target" by "being the first ones in" when invasion time comes. Open air preachers are like the Army Special Forces who go in and take out key targets before the main invasion. Or we could be compared to the Marines, who pride themselves on being the first ones to "hit the beach" when the invasion begins. Either way, we serve an important role in God's Army. Let's just say that the success of an evangelistic mission may depend on what we "marines" do either before that mission actually starts or gains momentum.
Think about how open air preachers in the 18th, 19th and even 20th centuries were used of God to spark Great Awakenings and revivals. It is said of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, that he once preached open air to nearly 20,000 people (without a sound system either!) on the holiness of God. When he finished and everyone had left, there were 1,800 people unconscious and laying all over the field. They had been so convicted regarding God's holiness and their unholiness that the only way they could deal with the "pain" of the Holy Spirit's conviction via Wesley's preaching was to pass out.
Are you beginning to see how important the role of the open air preacher is in God's Army now? So, instead of questioning the validity of God's Special Forces, why don't we think about the benefits they bring to the evangelistic mission of the Church?
First, if it weren't for open air preachers, many people would still be clueless as to which standard God will be using to judge them someday. Let's face it, to say the things street preachers say in most pulpits today would empty churches of all but real believers, and that would be disastrous for the seeker-friendly, emergent and liberal varieties. In other words, there would have to be a lot of downsizing - and even unemployment - which is a price most churches are unwilling to pay.
Second, if it weren't for street preachers, many people would not understand why they really need Jesus. I mean, we have pastors and church members "hawking" Jesus as a cure-all for bad marriages, mediocre sex lives, rebellious teens, financial problems... basically, for anything and everything, including "Your Worst Life Now." Somebody has to tell them the truth regarding their rebellion and the eternal consequences they'll face if they die rebels without the blood of Lamb of God applied to the "doorposts" of their lives.
Third, street preachers prepare the hearts of the lost for the Good News. Let's just say we do the dirty work, which is something many Christians, conditioned by our PC world, aren't willing to do. For the most part Christians today are afraid to tell people straight out that they are wrong, dead wrong. We have gotten so used to hearing everyone else's opinions, but we've also gotten used to having ours "shot down" in the media, in the classroom, in the lunch room, etc. So we clam up when it's our turn to opine! That is sad, so we street preachers are actually doing you less-courageous brothers and sisters a HUGE favor! By not beating around the bush, we're providing you with all sorts of potential witnessing opportunities! My advice? Instead of running for cover like a cowardly soldier in his first beach invasion, take full advantage of the opportunities we provide! Storm the banks! The enemy is out of ammunition!
Lastly, although there could be many more benefits mentioned as to the role of street preachers in God's Army, is the benefit of emboldening Christians. The growing "street preacher movement," which is confirming false teacher Rob Bell's worst fears, is alive and well and serves as a reaction by true believers to the myriad of truth-compromising, unbiblical evangelistic approaches being promoted by so many. Open air preaching is biblical and, despite what the culture-first crowd may tell you, still incredibly relevant! Any time a Christian communicates biblical truth to a non-Christian, that is highly relevant! And as for being biblical, let's not forget that Jesus never said, "Go into all the world and make friends with non-Christians," or "Go into all the world and invite people to your seeker-friendly service." He said, "Go into all the world and PREACH THE GOSPEL TO ALL CREATION." Enough said!
So, the next time you come across a "Bullhorn Guy," read an account of one of his outreaches or watch one of his videos (there are literally hundreds, if not thousands on YouTube), try to think of him as a member of God's Special Forces whose role is to make it easier for YOU to share your faith!
One last thought: Some object to "Bullhorn Guy" because they say he's turning people off. That reasoning totally ignores how the Bible describes people without Christ: DEAD (Eph. 2:1)! Think about that the next time you're tempted to underestimate God's role in a person's salvation. After all, if God doesn't show up, you can befriend an unbeliever all you want and he will NEVER become a Christian. Acts 11:18 says that God has to grant people the ability to repent. Eph. 2:8 says that God has to give saving faith... as a gift! So don't give yourself too much credit for a person's conversion. At the same time, don't blame "Bullhorn Guy" too much for a person's continuation in sinful rebellion. It's called the doctrine of monergism, which says that a person's conversion is all about God and not us. Our role is to PREACH, because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).