Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2017
Texts: 2 Peter 3:1, 2; John 21:15–17; 2 Peter 3:3–13; Psalm 90:4; Matthew 24:43–51; 2 Peter 3:14–18
If there were ever a group scoffed at for preaching the gospel, street preachers would certainly fit the bill. Open-air preachers stand in public places to share their religious faith. They typically raise their voice to be louder than normal conversation. The method of evangelizing has been around since ancient times. Many believe that Noah, Jeremiah, Jonah, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and Philip preached publically in the open air. Protestant reformers and the Puritans practiced street preaching. During the Great Awakening there were a number of popular open-air preachers like Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, John Wesley, D.L. Moody, and William Booth. Today you might hear about Jesse Morell, Jed Smock, Ruben Israel, and Dominic Mauro.1
Street preachers have different methods of drawing crowds. Many invite fellow Christians to gather around when they begin preaching. Crowds draw crowds. Ray Comfort, a modern day street preacher, will often ask a crowd trivia questions and give away dollar bills to those who answer questions correctly. Some preachers use music and others simply read the Bible. Many use megaphones to amplify their voices. Of course, when all else fails, many will “just preach.”
The approaches, the content, and the results of street preaching are mixed. Some rhetoric is filled with hate speech. Three Christian street evangelists are standing trial in the UK for speaking out against homosexuality and the teachings of Islam. Mike Overd has recently been accused of purposefully “working up” a crowd and making statements that “Allah does not exist” and “all Muslims will burn in Hell.” Their legal counsel said the men’s freedom of speech and freedom of religion are being violated.2
This week’s Sabbath school lesson, “The Day of the Lord,” focuses on the second coming of Christ and the reality that people will “scoff” at the idea that Jesus will soon return. We sometimes picture scoffers as hecklers who throw rotten tomatoes at street preachers. But scoffing can be a two-way street. People who supposedly represent the gospel can misrepresent the spirit of Christ by ridiculing the beliefs of others. Jesus never used hate speech to motivate people to change.
Peter tells us scoffers will come. People will mock the belief that the end of the world is near. Even persecution will break out against those who seek to share the gospel. But the methods of evangelizing will always be held to the highest standards for those who represent Christ. Attacking others based on race, religion, or sexual orientation has no place in the preaching of the Word, whether from a pulpit or on the street.
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