Street preaching, or preaching openly in a public area, has been a method used throughout the history of Christianity for the purpose of evangelizing people who would not typically enter a church. Ever since the apostle Peter preached in the streets of Jerusalem in Acts 2, Christians have used this method to lead many to faith in Christ.
Despite the long-standing tradition of street preaching throughout church history, some believe that the practice should no longer be used. They have a variety of reasons for their opinion. First, critics believe street preaching has lost effectiveness as compared to its results in past decades. Second, some believe that street preaching is too overt or offensive, that people are turned away rather than drawn to Christ. Third, some critics note that certain people have used the “soapbox” to spread extremism, political wrangling or bad theology, giving street preaching a negative association. As a result, they argue, Christians should use other forms of outreach.
A practical and biblical look at these concerns reveals many weaknesses in these criticisms. First, even if street preaching is less effective than at other times in history, this does not mean it should no longer be utilized. What if a street preacher sees only one person come to faith as a result of his sermon—does this mean he should not have preached? It still changes eternity for that one person. Other methods of outreach may be more effective, but this does not mean street preaching is ineffective.
Of special concern is the second criticism, that street preaching is too offensive. Since when are Christians to reach the lost only in “inoffensive” ways? Paul wrote that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Unless a Christian never shares his or her faith, opposition is inevitable. The goal is not to avoid offense at all costs; the goal is to avoid unnecessary offense. The cross of Christ will always be an affront to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 1:23). The way we communicate can be adapted to the audience, but our message must remain the same. Street preaching is simply one method to communicate Christ to those who may otherwise not hear the gospel.
Third, should Christians continue to use street preaching even though some have misused this method? Rather than abandon the practice, perhaps Spirit-filled individuals should reclaim the proper use of street preaching. Christian writers don’t give up their craft simply because some authors write bad books. The Bible teaches, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
In summary, street preaching is a historic method of evangelism that can be quite effective in reaching those who might never enter a church. It may appear less effective than in the past, it may indeed offend those who resist the truth, and it may have to overcome some negative associations, but street preaching continues to be used by God around the world to lead people to faith in Christ. We need not condemn its practice but encourage those who boldly communicate the faith in the public square. Rather than wait for the lost to come to us, we should go to them.