How Many People do you Reach With This Method?

“How many people do you reach with this method?”, asked the young man on the street. When I hear a question like this I tend to go on the defensive. The question usually comes with a tone of sarcasm from those who do not like open-air preaching. Even a sincere question provokes memories of past conversations with people we refer to as “the but nation.” The question is typically preceded with, “I agree with what you are saying, BUT…” I was reminded by this encounter that not everyone who asked about preaching in the open air is being sarcastic or condescending.

As I finished preaching in Athens a young man asked me this question. After he sensed my defensive attitude he assured me he was a believer and was sincerely curious. After I apologized we had a great conversation. Explaining to him that preaching creates conversation, I used our own talk as an example. If I had not been preaching we would not have had our conversation. After talking about street preaching we began to discuss his walk with the Lord. He explained that he had drifted away from the Lord and asked me to pray for him.

Other questions I have heard include, “This doesn’t work”, “Nobody is listening to you” and my favorite, “You’re pushing people away from God.” Consider these questions in light of the above conversation. There are certainly Scripture passages to consider when pondering these questions but I want to look at them from a pragmatic point of view.

Did my preaching on the street work? From a secular position this must mean, did my preaching produce results? We have a saying, “Gospel preaching produces Gospel conversations. One goal of preaching, from a practical standpoint, is to get people to stop and talk to us, and that happened. Was anyone listening? This young man was, otherwise he would not have known enough to ask his question.

Did I push anyone away from God? Making this claim is like telling a fireman he is pushing the person in the burning building deeper into the fire as he yells for them to come to the exit, or telling the person throwing a life preserver to a drowning person she is pushing the victim under the water. In both instances, if the person stays in their current situation, they are doomed. While I acknowledge there are those who preach with such abrasive language and hatred they turn people off, standing in the public square and preaching the Gospel with love and pleading with people to run to the Savior and live, is never pushing people away from God.  If the person walking around dead in their sin continues in that condition they are also doomed, for eternity.

Until All Hear!


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