The author has a wide variety of experience in the ministry including pastoring, Bible college teaching, and work in rescue missions, prisons, nursing homes, and among young people. However, because of the nature of this book, we choose to emphasize his public ministry experience since 1969. Though other street preachers may have experienced physical harm, arrest, and incarceration in the public ministry (whether for valid or invalid reasons, God knoweth), this author chose to write this book from the premise of his experience in this field thus far —not having been entangled in such incidents.
With a Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Theology degree, including extensive studies in both Biblical languages, he stresses receiving his education on the street, while ministering the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to folk from all walks of life in every conceivable circumstance.
The author prays that his knowledge and experience in the public ministry might be communicated to other soldiers, and used to fight a more effective battle against our formidable foes in the last hours of the conflict.
The present ministry of the author involves not only extensive public ministries on the streets of America, but also instruction and battlefield training of local churches, Bible colleges, and individual foot soldiers in the army of the Lord who wish to learn or improve their public ministries. His organization is named the “S.W.A.T. Team for Christ – International Publick Ministers”, and is under Word for the World Baptist Ministries, P.O. Box 849, Rossville, GA 30741, or through a constant contact phone number, 530-304-6107 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
The purpose of this book is to supply street preachers and workers with the current, vital information they need, in order that they may experience maximum fruit and minimum opposition. As things wax worse and worse in the closing days of this Laodicean church period, and as the governments tighten their grip on the churches, the street ministry may well be the last ministry of gospel evangelism. Every soldier of Jesus Christ needs to be as knowledgeable as possible about this ministry —especially if the Second Coming of the LORD is still measurably distant.
It is the prayer of the author that his over twenty years experience and knowledge contained in this book, will be used as a very effective tool against sin and the devil, and will inspire and encourage many front line soldiers of Jesus Christ to stand in the gap — on the streets of America and around the world.
The purpose of this letter is to recommend to my breacher brethren and to independent, fundamental, Baptist churches the ministry of one of my preacher bous, Evangelist Gerald Sutek. the Lord has laid on his heart a burden for a rather unusual ministry these days! Not only is he adept to street-preaching but god has also geven breother Sutek a burden to train others in this ministry of preaching the Gospel in open-air meetings.
A Bible-school graduate, Brother Sutek knows the word of God (KJV) and uses it wisely and skillfully in hbis preaching and witnessing. He also emplys a “common sense” approach to the philosophy of street-preachings which lends great credibility to his ministry.
I invited brother Sutek and his team to come and minister to our preacher bous at Trinity Baptist College last year and God used them in a very effective training program. He not only introduced most of our preacher boys to the concept of street-preaching for the very first time but also was able to take them out to various areas of our city and conduct services were, in almost every case, precious souls were saved for the glory of God! I plan to keep having him back at Trinity Baptist College so that this dimension of the ministry will not be lost to those preparing to preach god’s word in our school. gerald Sutek is a man of God who is honset, trustworthy, and filled with the Holy Spirit! I heartily recommend him and endorse his ministry.
Ever your friend in Him, Bob Gray Robert C. Gray, Jr.
“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!
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40
Truly, to be carrying on the same work that so often in the past virtually turned the world upside down, and to be numbered with the great preachers of the Bible times right up to the present, is a great honor. No street preacher ever needs to lower his head when found out. On the contrary, if he is doing this work decently and in order, he is associating with those whom the Lord titles, “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” Yet, there is no crown except he strive lawfully. One unseemly street preacher can cause great dishonor to fall on the heads of his predecessors, as well as those preaching ethically today.
There is a right way and a wrong way; those who choose the wrong way may gain immediate attention, but their reputation is shortlived. Everyone in the ministry cherishes the stories of our champions in the faith, and thrill at the stories of John Wesley preaching to ten thousand in the cornfield, or Whitefield able to be heard one mile away as he preached publicly. Our blood moves quickly as we read of General William Booth on the streets of London, or J. Frank Norris going and preaching at his own public hanging.
Some, in the final days of this Laodicean period, need to continue this heritage, or it may happen that a whole generation could grow up and pass from the scene without ever having witnessed the public proclamation of the gospel. The children of these last days have the same right as those on the streets in Booth’s day. Maybe they will never get on a bus and go to Sunday School. Maybe they will never find the rescue mission on Skid Row. Some of them will be raised in such high society that they will never come into contact with a Bible-believing church. But there may be an obedient street preacher whom the Lord can place in their public crossroad to warn them of their wicked way. I extend an urgent call to preacher boys looking for a place to preach, pastors who have lost touch with true public opinion of their message, young men who desire to spiritually show themselves a man, and to all servants — big or small — who desire to participate and carry on this richly rewarding ministry, to take up the cross of public evangelism, and let the redeemed of the Lord say so.
Hell and Heaven
On “Fat Tuesday” during Mardi Gras on Canal Street in New Orleans in 1987, we were with a group of preachers who preached to the multiplied thousands present for about seven hours. Anyone called to preach would have been moved with compassion — as Jesus was — at the sight of this massive multitude. There were seven preachers in our group, but what is seven against an estimated two and a half million partiers on the streets that day? As we preached, sang, and attempted to minister the gospel, I noticed a young man whose message — though it did not lack zeal —was only one of condemnation: “You’re lost! You’re going to hell! You better get saved! Jesus is coming! You’re going to burn in hell if you don’t get saved! You’re gonna fry like a sausage and sizzle like a pancake! You’re lost! You had better get saved!” With great concern, my partner and I took him unto us and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly — after which, he preached with some compassion on how to be saved, and how to stay out of hell, and how to be prepared when Jesus does soon come. Not only is there a Hell, but also a Heaven.
The following are some of the unethical ways of street preaching:
Gravelled Voice: The content of the gospel message itself is an offence to some. Yet, I have heard street preachers preach in such an obnoxious, gravelled, harsh, and brash voice that though they may have mentioned the love of God, it sounded as though it had come from the exhaust of a garbage truck!
Telling Them Off: The street meeting is not the proper place for simply venting your spleen.
Name Calling: Preaching directed at individuals combined with ethnic or derogatory name-calling is not only unseemly (I Cor. 13:5), but it can be illegal.
Facial Expressions: It will take some practice, but you need to wear a neutral expression on your face. No one is going to feel comfortable approaching or listening to a preacher who looks like a gorilla robbed of his last banana! Try to match your expressions to your subject. For example, Heaven — expectancy and joy; Hell — concern and compassion; Sin – strong against it, yet compassionate.
Personal Convictions: Preach the gospel — share your personal convictions with inquiring born-again Christians.
Preaching to Get Arrested: Any idiot can get arrested and probably will. I heard of two guys up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, both of whom I have preached with, who had their toothbrushes in their pockets as they preached in anticipation of being arrested. Check your motive, He-Man.
Bad Timing: I preached during a parade on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. I must say, I was tempted to preach on integration, but we rose above the temptation and preached Christ crucified.
No Wisdom: There is not much wisdom in preaching to a captive audience gathered for another purpose — for instance, at a little league baseball game or an outdoor music concert.
Too Long: Some preachers don’t know when to quit. Too much coal can burn the house down.
Many years ago, I was with a group of preachers in a downtown section. This particular day, the preaching was unusually heavy and harsh. Many green preachers had already “whipped up the air,” and the store owners were grouping together in concerted aggravation. Having received several complaints, three police cruisers circled the block, but not able to intervene as yet. The atmosphere was extremely tense. I swallowed hard as the young, zealous preacher harshly drove his point home. I looked to see the next preacher in line. It was Karl Baker — a veteran street preacher who was capable of blowing the lid off this boiling kettle! As he stepped into position, I prepared myself for a riot, arrest, tomatoes… ! Karl, using great wisdom, opened his mouth, and at the top of his lungs, sang: “My soul in sad exile was out on life’s sea, so burdened with sin and distressed…” After the fourth verse of “The Haven of Rest,” the cruisers cruised away and the tension eased. I learned how to behave myself wisely on the street.
Hercules or Herman
The style of preaching in camouflage or army fatigues with combat boots, a concealed weapon, and a three day growth of beard may be macho or Herculean, but as a street preacher, I’m not impressed. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, and if you have to have that appearance to bolster you, there must be something spiritual lacking somewhere.
On the other hand, Peewee Herman would not have been invited to a street meeting which I headed up. The worst style of street preaching I have ever witnessed was done by a fellow who had been a homosexual prostitute, and had definite feminine tendencies. He had never delved into that sin to the point of reprobation — that is, he never preferred the male over the female — but even after his conversion, he became grossly effeminate whenever his preaching became intense. He pranced as he held his limp palm up, and preached with a repulsive “fairy” whine. He asked me for instruction, so I told him to stand perfectly still, cup his hand to his mouth, draw himself to his full stature, and preach from inside. Not long after, he developed into one of the most courageous street men I have ever had the privilege of working with.
Hecklers, Heretics, and Handouts
Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. He knew what He was doing. One man preaching may have a real problem with a heckler. Since the goal is to keep the preaching going at all times, the partner not preaching at the moment deals with the heckler.
For several years, we preached every Saturday morning at a flea market.
We preached across the street, but lobbed our voices into the crowd. One week, a Catholic had the misfortune to rent the booth directly across from our artillery barrage. He quickly became irritated and began calling back remarks. The next week, he gestured with his hands. The next week, he came across the street, trying to engage the preacher in conversation, but my partner intervened. He told us we had no right to “blankety-blank” do this. My partner asked him if he was a Christian. He said, “Of course, blankety-blank.” He said he thought this ought to be kept in the church. This was advice we had NEVER heard before. Finally, the next week, he called the police and filed a complaint. When the police came, he ran over and gave them the whole story. The police told us that if we preached in that spot again that day, we would go to jail. Being not readily familiar with the law in that area, I stopped. It appeared to many observers that the Catholic won.
We drove to the police station the next morning and discovered, by talking to the Major (second in command under the sheriff on duty) that we were perfectly within our rights in preaching on public property at that time of day with no P.A. system. We returned the next week and the Catholic never did. Who won? Well, we were not there to win anyway, but to preach the gospel. We were as kind as possible, yet firm. If we stopped every time anyone objected, we would rarely preach.
We were in the same location at another time when a queer, strung out on drugs, shouted obscenities and started across the street. Again, I was preaching, so my partner ran interference. My partner tried to witness to him. They had quite a heated spiritual battle that spilled over into a fleshly confrontation. The queer violently grabbed the wooden sandwich sign my partner had on, ripped it off, and began to whirl it over his head as an offensive weapon. By this time, the entire flea market had come to a standstill, the traffic had stopped, and my partner was in the middle of the street ducking as the queer attempted to do him in. All the while this was happening, I never quit preaching. I now had scores held captive to hear the preaching. Finally, my partner found his opening. With one punch in self-defense, he decked his opponent. The queer stumbled off, saying he was going to call his husband. I continued preaching as several folks came across to help pick up the pieces of the sign. Some showed concern for my partner and others offered to testify, if it was necessary, on our behalf. We had done all we could — short of stopping preaching — to deal properly with the situation, yet there was a physical conflict.
This brings up a difficult and delicate point — what to do when an unavoidable, physical conflict arises. Before you jump to any pious conclusions, let me be a bit more personal and pointed. Suppose you have your family on the street with you during a street meeting and someone is about to touch your wife or little girl? Is physical self-defense in order, or is there yet debate? I believe that Hebrews 11 states that there is yet debate. The illustrations here are from the Old Testament, but they establish a principle that transcends dispensations. Verses 32-40 teach that you have an option to suffer for the glory of the Lord —thereby obtaining a better reward — or to resist with the result of possibly prolonging your ministry. This is an individual decision without absolute right or wrong. Jesus said in Luke 22:36, “and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”
Someone may argue, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Cor. 10:4). The warfare is not against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers spiritual. We cannot use carnal weaponry to get someone saved or to fight the devil, but physical self-defense is an altogether different subject. Few would argue that if our nation or family were in physical jeopardy, we should not physically provide protection. The same logic must apply to our own temple. Stephen chose not to resist. Maybe it was impossible or maybe he was on another spiritual plane than most of us. But, nevertheless, the principle remains that you have an option, legally and spiritually, to physical self-defense. Calvin, Cromwell, and the Swiss and Scottish reformers all resisted physically, yet, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs never records a resister. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.”
Heretics, regardless of brand, race, flavor, or nationality, are all alike and should be dealt with in the same manner. They are just sinners. Titus 3:10 cannot be improved upon. Deal with them quickly about salvation. Give them two shots at the most, and then move on. Do not stop preaching to deal with a heretic.
The rule for handouts is never take them. There are hardly any exceptions. If you take handouts, you class yourself with the Moonies, Hare Krishnas, and other cults. Handouts, in some places, can be considered soliciting. “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)
In conclusion to this chapter, remember that you are an ambassador and representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your behavior reflects on His Body and may continue to reflect for all eternity. (2 Cor. 5:20)
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” 1 Peter 2:13-14
There must be some way to reconcile the seemingly contradictory verses given above. And, yea, there is. When man’s laws cross God’s laws, God’s laws are higher. At the top of the chain of command is the Lord —just like you have a lower and higher court system in America.
Now, at the very start of this chapter, I want to lay out some guidelines for street preaching that will help keep you out of jail. This chapter is written with this intent. Any idiot can go to jail; any drunk can be belligerent and obnoxious enough to go to jail. The Lord did not call me to defend the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution; He called me to preach the gospel. However, I am a man and I am an American, and I do have some rights and liberties which I intend to exercise for the glory of my Saviour.
1. Stay away from private property. I know some have fought and bled for the right to preach in privately-owned malls, etc., but I am telling you how to preach and stay out of jail.
2. Do not use a public address system. There may be a very few exceptions to this, but make sure you know what you’re doing. If you preach correctly, there really is no need. Besides, no preacher before 1920 had this luxury.
3. Avoid preaching at night. Again, there may be exceptions, and I have violated this rule several times in order to accomplish a particular goal, but remember I am trying to tell you how to stay out of jail.
Now, if you observe these rules and preach in broad daylight, with no P.A. system, standing on public property, you have the lowest risk of going to jail — or even of having an encounter with the police.
We, as American citizens, have a Constitutional right of freedom of speech as well as freedom of practicing our religion. Anyone can obtain a copy of the Constitution from a local library, courthouse, bookstore, etc. The problem here is that municipalities sometimes have laws that either infringe upon or inhibit the exercise of this right. In these cases, your copy of the Constitution has very little effect on the officer of the law who is about to throw you in the slammer for one or more of the following:
a. disturbing the peace
c. disorderly conduct; or,
d. failure to maintain locomotion.
This last charge was made against a crippled, preacher-friend of mine who was preaching on the street.
It is impossible for me to list all the local city ordinances for every town. Circumstances vary from town to town. Ordinances in one town may not apply to preaching in the next town.
My advice to novice street preachers, or pastors who have the time to check out their local laws, is to go to the police station and describe to them what you are about to do. Give them location, time of day, and a full description of activities. If they give you liberty, then write down the officers’ names, ranks, and serial numbers, and have that on you when you go to preach. Then, if you are stopped by an officer, kindly say that he may want to check with his superiors. At that time, supply him with a copy of their names, ranks, and badge numbers.
In the case of the police not giving you liberty, ask specifically what law you would violate. Then, if you can make some alteration to your activities which would bring you back within the limits of the law, take care of the matter. If the law seems, after consideration and prayer, to be unfair, obtain a copy of that law or ordinance and read it carefully. You may have to test the law by getting arrested and letting the judge decide. If it comes to this point, keep in mind that it is only a misdemeanor and is usually thrown out of court. Also, if you anticipate an encounter with police, be sure to have I.D. on you, and it is a good idea to have enough cash to bail yourself out.
Police encounters are eventually inevitable if you are going to have a public ministry. If you are going to preach in a certain town many times during a long period of time, then follow the instructions under the section entitled “City Ordinances.” Whenever you have the time to check out the local laws — do it. I preach in so many towns that such a task is impossible.
When we preach, we observe the first three rules, and limit our time in one place to thirty to forty minutes. Usually this is so perfectly timed, that we are packing up the accordion just as the police arrive to tell us we can’t do that. We delight in these guerrilla warfare tactics, realizing that the gospel went forth and the people were warned. Sometimes we will have a confrontation with the police. Again, the one not preaching tries to run interference, and the preaching continues as long as possible. If the police officer demands that you stop preaching, then you stop.
The next two illustrations I’m about to use violate the third basic rule of street work: avoid preaching at night. The conflicts which arose only serve to prove the wisdom of observing the rule.
Albany, Georgia, fall of 1987, Banana’s Bar on Slappy Drive, 9:30 p.m. Six of us (five preachers and one wife) preached to a parking lot full of cars, but no people. Ten minutes later there were thirty-five to forty folk who had come out to hear us. A black policewoman arrived — very authoritatively — wielding a flashlight. She started out of her car toward the one preaching when I headed her off. Following is our conversation:
Policewoman: “Are you in charge here?”
Myself: “Yes, Ma’am“
Policewoman: “Would you mind moving just a hundred yards down this way?”
Myself: “Well, Ma’am, there is no one down there, and there are people here. Are we not on public property? Is there really any legal reason why we cannot remain here?” (Remember, the preaching is still going on.)
Policewoman: “Well, these folks really don’t want to hear what you have to say.”
Myself: “Well, Ma’am, really, if you know where there is a group of people who want to hear what we have to say, I’ll move the whole crew there.”
Policewoman: “I see what you mean.” (Then she was joined by a backup patrolman. A wimpy sort of fellow.)
Wimp Cop: “But these folks are drunk, and they might come out of the bar and start something.”
Myself: “Sir, if that happens, you may rest assured that we did not start it and that it is not what we are trying to accomplish. Also, you may consider that they may come out of the bar and hear the gospel and get saved, and never go back in the bar.”
Wimp Cop: “Yes, I never thought of that.”
Policewoman: “Well, just how long do you plan to be preaching here?” (At this point I know I have won the liberty to continue and it really didn’t matter what answer I gave. In order to save face, the policewoman had to have the last word.)
Myself: “We have already been here for quite a while, so we’ll probably stay for about twenty minutes more.”
Policewoman: “Well, if that’s all you’ll be here, then that’s fine.”
(The preaching never stopped.)
Jacksonville, Florida, October 1987, Fantasee World Topless Lounge, Cesary Boulevard, 8:30 p.m. My partner and I parked on the public street in front of the lounge just thirty feet from the front door. We didn’t realize that this lounge had been the center of heated controversy for the past two weeks. The owner’s interpretation of the law prohibiting toplessness was that it was inseparable with the alcohol license. He relinquished his license to allow toplessness and invited seventeen-year-olds in as well. The papers had kept it hot, and several groups had already protested and demonstrated against it. We had a 4×6 utility trailer with a steel top for a preaching platform, and it was richly and attractively lettered with a bold witness. When we parked, we looked at a parking lot full of cars and one bouncer at the outside of the door. We sat and discussed whether it would be beneficial to preach or not. We decided to pray about it.
When we finished praying, we opened our eyes and there at my partner’s door stood four enormous bouncers. They asked if they could help us. We replied in the negative and asked if we could help them. To say we were intimidated would be a gross understatement. They asked what we planned to do, and we said, “We’re going to preach.” They said, “You can’t preach here. This is private property.” We said, “We’re going to preach on our trailer from the street, and this is our private property.” They said, “We can have you removed.” We said, “You do what you have to, but we’re going to preach.” They left to call the police.
I looked at my partner and said, “Well, there’s no more debating about it, we gotta preach now.” He agreed and got out on top of the trailer. I almost wish I had gotten there first. I grabbed some tracts and stood on the curb. My partner began to preach, and within ten minutes, the lounge and the pits of hell both vomited their contents into the parking lot. The vilest, most demonic group of sinners I have ever faced stood before us mocking, jeering, gurgling, prancing, growling, and threatening to end our ministry with a martyr’s crowning. A whore stood half clothed with sun glasses on at 8:30 p.m. and said in a valley girl accent, “You guys are ridiculous. You know that, don’t ya?” Presently, a young male drove his car up and blocked the driveway between us and the front door. He opened all the doors and turned his stereo full volume with heavy metal rock. One of the huge bouncers was prancing about the trailer and us, growling and making other virtually inhuman noises. Then, he would stop and say, “You’re going to jail. I hope you like jail. Maybe we’ll come and see you down at the jail.” Traffic had now slowed considerably on the four lane street we were parked on, and there was a general disturbance in the area. My partner never stopped preaching, and I, with clammy hands, was offering everyone a tract, with no success at all. This was one of the few times I have actually prayed for the police to come.
Then it got worse. The owner came out, cheered by the crowd, who expected him to be successful in scaring us off. He was a sight! He was about fifty-five, with long, bleach blond hair. He had a dame on each arm and, on a choker chain, a 175 pound Rotweiler looking for preacher meat. The owner told us that we were parked illegally and that we’d better leave before the police got there, or we would go to jail. I told him we’d wait and let the police decide. So, he decided to give us a stress test. He ordered his dog to attack my partner, who was still preaching on the trailer. The dog went wild trying to get on top of the trailer, and might have been successful but for the choker chain. My partner never flinched; he was full of the power of the Holy Spirit. The owner then commanded the dog to attack me on the ground. Oh, how I felt the call to preach. The dog was fourteen inches from my body and ferociously following the command of his master. Wishing I had on a Depend diaper, I offered everyone another round of tracts, but no takers — not even Poochy.
The parking lot was now crowded, the lounge was probably suffering from lack of patronage, the traffic was at a crawl because of the riotous situation, and finally the police arrived. Oh, was I happy to see that policeman. He pulled right into the parking lot, and was immediately thronged by the lounge people, who were urging him to throw us in jail or make us quit. He hushed them quickly and gave sharp orders to get the music turned off, the car moved, and the dog out of the way. Then he just got in his car for a precious few moments while my partner continued to preach. He got out, straightened his uniform, walked slowly over to me, and said, “Is this your outfit?” I answered that it was. Then he said very slowly, even hesitantly as if to stall as long as possible, “You’re parked in an emergency zone.” I stalled, too, allowing maximum preaching of the gospel, then I replied, “My goodness, is that right? I saw no markings to indicate that. What about all these other cars parked along here?” He answered, stalling yet another sizable pause, “Well, I don’t know who they belong to, but they’ll have to move as well.” I said, “Well, if we are really parked illegally, I guess we’ll have to move then. Come on, Bear.” Bear, my partner, got in the car and we drove off quickly to a rest room. The bottom line is that there were forty to fifty folk who heard the gospel and who knew that there had been a prophet among them (Ezek. 2:5).
O.K., suppose you’ve done everything you could do to avoid it, but they still arrest you. Now what? First of all, don’t panic; it’s only a misdemeanor, and most likely, if you handle it right, it will be thrown out of court at the arraignment. But, if you have the time, money, and inclination to fight for the open door to preach the gospel in that community, then I have listed some people to contact for help, advice, and information at the end of this section.
Please make sure, however, that you have been arrested for preaching on the street. Several years ago in Birmingham, Alabama, I was preaching with five other preachers. We had been standing on a cement newsstand on the corner. The police came right up to us and said, “You may preach on the sidewalk, but not on the newsstand. If you continue on the newsstand, I’ll have to take you to the station.” Three preachers got up on the stand in the presence of the officer and were arrested. As they gleefully rode away in the caged back seat of the police car, I thought to myself, “What a bunch of idiots.” They were not arrested for preaching on the street; they were arrested for violating private property and disobeying a police officer.
Christian Law Association, Gibbs and Craze Law Firm, Cleveland, Ohio (216) 696-3900
Transcripts of interesting court cases involving street preaching may be obtained from:
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Record No. 84-2192, Buren Lee Furr Jr., et al.
Appellees, Town of Swansea, et al.
Appellants. Oren G. Briggs
P.O. Box 12640
Columbia, South Carolina 29211
Counsel for Appellees
John W. Whitehead
The Rutherford Institute
P.O. Box 510
Manassas, Virginia 22110
Counsel for Appellees
Court of Common Pleas
39th Judicial District of Pennsylvania
Franklin Country Branch
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. David Theodore Stroede and Timothy John Schuler
“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression”Isaiah 58:1
“Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” This verse was written especially for street preachers, and you’ll claim it when you face the street.
Here is a list of prayer requests to be made prior to your street preaching. Pray:
* for power and filling of the Holy Spirit
* for rapport with the people
* for exaltation of Jesus and His word
* for the fear of God to fall on the area of ministry
* for the blood of Jesus to cleanse the area
* for decrease of self, crucifixion of the flesh, and complete yielding
* for salvation of souls
* for strengthening of weak Christians
* for protection from police or physical harm
Have several short verses memorized on the subject you intend to preach. I do not recommend notes. Make your notes in your head as much as possible. A street preacher must learn to be “instant in season and out of season.” He must learn to think on his feet and not to be easily distracted. In actually preparing your message, meditate on the few memorized verses and on the brief comments that will compliment the scripture. Three points and a poem just won’t do on the street. Most of the time, you have less than one minute to preach to any person as they pass from store to store or office to office. Parks and outside lunch areas or other similar situations might be an exception. Ninety percent of your street messages will typically be on salvation. There may be times when a different subject would be in order — such as a demonstration, or gathering of queers, or anti-capital punishment proponents, or other Bible issues. Prepare your own heart with confession and praise.
Finding a place to preach is usually not too difficult if you really want to. Night hours will complicate the problem as well as extremely small towns. The element most important is people. Find a place where people gather. Bus stops, parks, flea markets, unemployment lines, college registration lines, box offices for sports, fairs, carnivals, parades, fireworks displays, lunch hour traffic, beaches (careful), public schools (before and after school), miniature golf courses, and college campuses to name a few good examples. If possible, get a float in the parade and preach. Do it with some class, though. Decorate and adjust your message to the theme of the parade.
Search your heart and find out what you want to project. This will determine your appearance, your message, your attitude, your rapport, and your result.
After eighteen years of street work, I came to Cleveland, Ohio, for yet another street meeting. We found a parking space, prayed, and carried equipment to where it was needed. We sang, preached, passed tracts, dealt personally with folks, packed up, came back to the car, prayed, and drove on.
What was wrong with that? No one got saved, but then that happens often. The real problem was that I really didn’t expect anyone to get saved. I had done this so often that I had become too mechanical. I didn’t expect the fear of God to come down on that area where we were preaching, and it didn’t.
Don’t ever make that mistake. Preach expecting the Lord to move in a mighty way, so that when He does, you’ll not be shocked.
Street preaching is the single most physically vulnerable ministry that I know of. It is imperative to depend one hundred percent on the Lord, and yet there are a few rules of protection. Jesus sent His disciples out two by two, and He certainly knew what He was doing. One preaches and the other looks for obstacles or distractions which may hinder that preaching.
Positioning yourself with your back against, or almost against, a building is beneficial both for protection and as an aid to projection. While preaching in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, I found a hollowed out little concave platform made into the side of the Post Office. It was four feet above the sidewalk and just big enough for me. Best of all, it faced Canal Street, where thousands of partiers were passing. I nearly preached myself to death standing there safe and sound, my voice projecting at its maximum.
If women and children are part of your army on the street, be sure to always keep them in view.
I do not advise carrying any weapon or even mace on the street. I wonder, if Steven would have used mace or a .45, how it would have altered church history.
Stand straight and tall, drawing yourself up to your full stature. Cup one hand or hold a Bible to your mouth as a megaphone. Reach way, way down inside and grab your diaphragm (stomach muscle) and push inspired air over your vocal chords. Don’t allow your voice to be gravelled or ragged. Quit before that happens. Your vocal chords are simply a muscle that can either be built up to strength, or torn and weakened if abused. Much like a body builder works out, the vocal chords should be built by strong, but not too long, repetitions with appropriate rest periods.
The preaching should be aimed toward buildings or people at least a block away. The words should be preached extremely slowly with as low a pitch as possible. Simulate artillery shells being lobbed at a target three hundred yards away, as you aim your words down the street.
The ideal situation is to find a location that is to some degree elevated above the people you are preaching to. If the situation is such that you must preach extremely close to the hearers, be sure to project your voice at a forty-five degree angle and not directly into the crowd.
Music is an extremely valuable asset on the street. Assuming it is the right kind and is done in the right manner, music builds an instant rapport and sets the hearers up for the message.
An instrument of almost any kind can be used. Some are better than others. Guitars do not project well and have some bad associations. Trumpets are difficuit to sing to, but are attention getters. Abrass band would be great, but not many of us have ready access to them. The best instrument that I have found is an accordion. Everyone has a good remembrance associated with an accordion, and it projects well and is good to sing with. Get as many people singing as you can. Several songs are in order before the preaching commences. Old familiar songs, such as “Power in the Blood,” “Saved, Saved,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” and other songs that project well are the best. You’ll notice people as they subconsciously mouth the words to those familiar songs which they learned in Sunday School twenty years ago — even if they have never been back to church since.
Every street meeting should begin and end with prayer. Pray, thanking the Lord for the following:
* the privilege to preach His word
* the power of the Holy Spirit
* the rapport with the people
* the strength you received
* the protection He provided
* the witness that was given
* the souls that were saved
“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” 1Corinthians 3:6-7
The Bible never commands us to win souls, but it does command us to be witnesses — to preach the gospel to every creature and to be unashamed of the gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ. If you have been faithful to do that, then you are a success in the eyes of the LORD and will be rewarded accordingly. But if you have not done this, then you are a lousy soldier of Jesus Christ, and will suffer loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “But God that giveth the increase” (I Cor. 3:7).
As far as we can discern from scripture, Jeremiah was faithful to preach the word of God under unreceptive conditions, and had no converts until after he died. Ezekiel and others were much the same, yet they were faithful to preach. The Lord has the perfect right to do what He wishes with His word and with His servants. He may use the word you preach as evidence against the people at the judgment, or He may use it to save the ones who are willing to listen and who are willing to yield their hearts. We preached at a flea market in Pensacola, Florida, on every Saturday morning for two years, and had two folks saved and some get right. However, we also preached in the Pecan Festival in Albany, Georgia, with twenty preachers and lots of one-on-one personal work with sinners under conviction, and we saw seventy-six folks saved in one day. Remember our opening text in Ezekiel 2:5: the motive is “yet [they] shall know there hath been a prophet among them.”
Souls Are Saved
If you are faithful to preach the gospel in the correct manner, and do proportionate one-on-one personal work, the odds are with you that there will be souls saved. While I was preaching in Montgomery, Alabama, a forty-year-old man named Don came running up to Bear with tears in his eyes. With a New Testament in his hands, he said, “I’ve gotta get saved; I’ve gotta get saved NOW!” Bear read him Romans 10:13 and the man dropped on all fours in the middle of Montgomery and called on the name of the LORD. He told us he had been contemplating suicide all day because of problems in his life. He certainly displayed the joy of the LORD on him as he asked us, “Where am I? I want to remember where this is.”
I was playing “Amazing Grace” on the accordion in Wilmington, Delaware, when a twenty-five-year-old man named Jerome came up to me and asked, with eagerness, if I would play it again. I did play it again, and then asked if he knew for sure when he died if he’d go to heaven. He replied, “No.” In a matter of five minutes, I led him down the Romans Road and into the presence of our LORD and King.
We have seen fourteen saved in Jacksonville, Florida, in one evening. Two trusted Christ in Philadelphia. Three were born again in Albany, Georgia. Fifteen were converted in New Orleans. One black boy accepted the Lord in Montgomery, Alabama. Two precious girls will be in heaven because of a street meeting in Pensacola, Florida.
The following is the testimony of an ex-biker. (He is going as a missionary to Vancouver, Canada.)
Dear Brother and Sisters:
We thank you for touching our hearts. We don’t know you, but God has given us a love for you all. Please don’t ever quit. I got saved as a result of the street ministry. I love street preachers, especially those who love the sinners on the street, and I know that you all do. Please pray that God would continue to break our hearts for the sinner and for the lost souls in Vancouver, Canada.
“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:6).
“The entrance of thy word giveth light.”
Sin is done in darkness both spiritual and, many times, literal. When someone shines a spotlight on the activities of sin, the rats tend to run and hide.
I know from many years of experience on the street, that sin can be hampered, stifled, kept in its hiding place, and at a bare minimum, if the light of the glorious gospel of Christ is consistently shined on the public streets.
Many Pastors have complained to us about the spiritually cold conditions of their cities, and that the blatantcy of sin is so prevalent. My reply, drawing from experiences pastoring a church with a street ministry, is that we preachers have been given charge of the spiritual heaters and lights. We will be held responsible for the amount of spiritual warmth and visibility in our communities.
I have seen many bars closed as a result of consistent public witness against them. I have seen lesbian bars and queer bars boarded up for Jesus. I have personally witnessed a demonstration of 150 homosexuals against the laws and legislation of the State of Florida foiled and squelched because there were some preachers willing to stand in the gap. I have watched the activities of homosexual churches be drastically altered as a result of public preaching. I have seen governors, legislators, and supreme court judges forced to publicly choose whether to identify with Jesus Christ or to deny Him.
Do you have a particular problem in your community? What have you got to lose by trying to solve it with a public witness?
One of the most valuable benefits of street preaching is that those who preach are mightily strengthened as they could not ever be in any other form of ministry. I have watched young men be filled with zeal for the LORD’s work and, as a result, grow at a much more rapid rate than those who may exercise themselves in any other fashion. Street preaching is the steroids of spiritual growth, and is the most vital hormone in the development of the “last days,” frontline soldier of Jesus Christ. Once injected, it travels fast into the bloodstream of the Christian, but I must warn you, “It can be habit forming!”