"And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious." Ezekiel 2:3-7
There can be little doubt to any serious student of the Bible that we, even in the twentieth century, are under a command to proclaim the gospel "publickly" and "from house to house." When you consider that virtually every Bible preacher from Noah to John was a Street preacher, and that more than 90 percent of all sermons preached in both Old and New Testaments were preached in a public forum, you wonder why anyone would discourage public evangelism, and why preachers, pastors, and others do not attempt to employ this undoubtedly Biblical method of gospel evangelism.
The clear command of the public communication of the Lord's message was given to Jeremiah (Jer. 11:6), to Ezekiel (Ezek. 2:1-7; chapters 3 and 33), to Isaiah (Isa. 58), to Jonah, to Noah, to Peter and the other disciples (Mark 16:15), to Paul (Acts 9:15; 23:11), and finally passed to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:2) as an example for the New Testament ministry. Add to this the examples of Ezra (Ezra 10:9-11; Neh. 8:1-5), Stephen, and of Jesus Himself, who was first and foremost a street preacher, and you have received more than sufficient mandate from the Lord to motivate any "God-called" preacher to "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet" publicly.
The objection often arises that probably more people are repulsed or turned off, rather than attracted to the gospel through the medium of street preaching. The truth of this objection must be evaluated along with the fact that history states that every ministry that is true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, has the same ratio of acceptance. Even in our computerized, visual, satellite-television era, the truth of the gospel is still rejected by the masses and received by the few regardless of how you paint or clothe it.
America's current day is reflected in the conditions under which Jeremiah was commanded to preach the message of God's word. The nation was steeped in apostasy and false national pride. They had long ago turned a deaf ear to any sound which vibrated of the Lord's code of morality or His method of salvation and purification. They could not, and did not, heed the advice of the preacher even after they promised to do so (Jer. 42:5-6). After hearing the clear answer to their request for guidance from the Lord, they said to Jeremiah, "Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there" (Jer. 43:2). "As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee" (Jer. 44:16).
Noah had a similar problem, but was faithful to preach. Jonah was unwilling at first. Although it appeared to be a futile effort on the surface, his preaching bore much fruit.
Zechariah gave out the message of the Lord, but the reply was: "But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear" (Zech. 7:11).
In my judgment, Ezekiel wins the trophy of "Faithful Public Proclaimer," for the Lord plainly told him that they would not hear, that they would rebel, that they would hate him, his message, and his God, and yet he stood in the gap and shouted, "Thus saith the Lord GOD," and they knew there was a prophet among them (Ezek. 2:4-5).
Should it cease to be done because few will respond? Should we find some modern method and replace street preaching? Some dressier, more polished, or accepted procedure by which to "preach the gospel to every creature"?
It has been my experience that street preaching balances any minister or ministry. Paul was able to accomplish his incredible feat of getting the gospel to every person living in Ephesus (approximately 300,000 souls) within three years! This was not through radio and television, nor through newspaper and bus ministries, nor through tapes and singles ministries but "publickly" and from "house to house."
Public gospel evangelism has a profound effect upon those churches and persons who do it. To put it in the words of a well-known forty-year veteran of street preaching, "It will give you the correct opinion of yourself."
Preachers and pastors who do not continually involve themselves in street work are not only off balance, but they become stuffy, political, egotistical, and fat (Deut. 32:15). They actually feel as though the general population has come to appreciate them, and God forbid they may have; but this assumption comes from preaching only to folk who have voluntarily come to hear them. These preachers cannot get the correct perspective of their ministry of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The LORD said, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also" (John 15:18-20).
It does not matter if you pastor many thousands, or if you are an evangelist in great demand, or even a foreign missionary doing deputation: if you preach on the street and do personal work publicly, you have a balanced ministry. If not, you cannot help but be somewhat out of balance. I have pastored with and without a public ministry, and I can testify to the truth of these statements.
Not only has this ministry fallen on times of rare usage, but most ministers and ministries have developed a general distaste for those who are street preachers. In presenting this work as a missionary effort in churches, I have had many preachers come and tell me, with joyful remembrance, of a time much in the past when they participated in a street meeting. They seem to be proud that they used to do that. But, they demonstrate the attitude that this type of ministry is of use only at a certain point in a preacher's spiritual growth when zeal is more prominent than wisdom. With great patronization, they observe our ministry. If it worked for those in the Bible, as well as for Savonarola, Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, Wesley, Booth, Sunday, and J. Frank Norris, then maybe you need to seriously consider the merits of street preaching and public gospel evangelism!
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