I admire folks who are passionate about spreading the Gospel and witnessing for Christ. Most of us are too timid to approach someone about Jesus and we often miss opportunities to witness.
In years gone by, it wasn’t uncommon to see people preaching on the streets, especially in the seedy parts of our larger cities. You would see someone on the street corner or in front of a bar, preaching hellfire and brimstone.
Street preaching is no longer common. It’s a different culture today. Information comes to us from so many different sources, with social media and digital platforms leading the way. As time moves on our methods evolve and change as we navigate through life. Our message is also changing and adapting to the culture. The challenge is to be careful not to compromise the message, but to deliver the true message in a way that will attract people and not scare them away.
A few weeks ago I was blessed to cross something off my bucket list. I’m a NASCAR fan and I finally got to go to the Daytona 500 race in Daytona Beach, Florida. The racetrack there is a 2.5 mile track so the entire facility is immense. Just over 100,000 people poured into the monstrous stadium surrounding the track. As we were entering we began to hear something I haven’t heard in a long while. Street preaching.
Scattered randomly throughout the stadium, especially where the fans were entering and exiting, were men with portable PA systems, preaching to the tens of thousands of people coming and going.
We passed by several of these preachers and as I listened to them I was quite disturbed by the content and the tone of their message. Don’t misunderstand me, I admired their boldness but I certainly question the message they were putting out. It was almost like they were mad at the unbeliever. The message was very judgmental and condemning. It was prideful, with no love in it. God was being presented as an angry, vengeful God who is all too happy to send folks to hell.
The amazing thing I observed was that nobody was stopping to listen. People picked up their pace so they could pass by the preacher more quickly. I overheard more than one person utter unkind remarks and insults toward the preachers. It was offensive to people, to say the least. As a believer, I was offended by the attitude of the preaching. It was very embarassing. It was all about God being mad at them for their sin. No mention of God loving them, that they can come to him just as they are.
I was raised on hell-fire and brimstone preaching. I understand that way of thinking. But in today’s world that message is no longer effective. Jesus must be portrayed as he really is. Full of love, compassion and forgiveness. In the Gospels, we always see Jesus loving people, reaching out to them with open arms. Even the story of the prodigal son shows the Father running toward the wayward son to embrace him, giving him a robe and a ring and throwing a party that lasted for days. That’s the message the world needs to hear and they need to hear it with love, not condemnation and hate.
That day at Daytona I felt like those well meaning folks were doing the Kingdom great damage and instead of drawing people to Jesus they were pushing them away. They made the Gospel something for people to laugh at and make fun of.
In today’s seeker friendly, politically correct world, we have to be wise in the way we present the Gospel. I believe we can share Jesus in a non-compromising way, with love and compassion that draws people to Him and doesn’t push them away.
Wise as serpents, harmless as doves. Cogitate on that….