Jealousy and Envy in the Pastorate

Jealousy and Envy in the Pastorate

Guest Post: Dr. Chris King, Gulfport Ms.

Last week, I was told about a pastor who recently left town for a much larger church in a growing city.  It was a triumphant story describing multitudes of people believing the Gospel and the church “blowing and going.”  This new church afforded him a much larger “platform” to do God’s work.  As I listened, jealousy and envy crept into my heart.  I envied the man’s apparently increased sphere of influence, and was frustrated by my seemingly insignificant “platform.”

It seems that pastors are often jealous and/or envious of other pastors—of their influence, their giftedness, their churches, their families, or their ability to write books.  This article aims to help us fight this sinful temptation.

The nature of our pastoral work renders us especially vulnerable to ambush from the green-eyed monster.  We have God-honoring desires like being faithful, making disciples, and advancing the Gospel.  These good motives can make us susceptible to envying the “success” others seem to be enjoying in God’s work.  Sin is deceitful, and temptations are usually cunning—masquerading under the guise of Godly motives (like being “effective” in ministry).  Thus we wrongly want what someone else has, supposedly for the glory of God.

Jealousy is defined as, “resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or against another’s success or advantage itself.”  Similarly, envy is, “a feeling of discontentment or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.”  As pastors, what can we do to fight and kill these sins for the glory of God?

First, we should search for the deeper roots that give rise to these sins.  As the above definitions point out, the sins of jealousy and envy often work in tandem with other sins (like rivalry, discontentment, and covetousness).  Many of these sins can be traced back to pride.  They often flow from prideful, self-centered, self-exalting demands of, “I want that, I deserve that, why don’t I have that.”

Second, we must recognize jealousy and envy as sins, and repent when they lurk in our hearts and minds.  Remember, it was jealousy that led the Jewish religious leaders to oppose the Gospel and the Apostles (Acts 5:17-18).  The Jews reviled Paul because they were jealous of the crowds he was attracting (Acts 13:45).  In Romans 13:13, Paul lists “jealousy” alongside the sins of “sexual immorality” and “sensuality” (a word reserved for gross sexual deviance).  Jealousy and envy are described as “works of the flesh” by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21.  James writes, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:14-16).  When we feel the first twinges of jealousy pull at our hearts, we should meditate on Scriptures like these.  If we have a particular disposition toward these sins, we should memorize relevant Scriptures and use them to fight our temptations.  It helps me to remember that it’s demonic wisdom to be jealous of another brother (James 3:15).

Third, we should replace these mortified sins with contentment.  When Paul wrote to the Philippians while in chains, his heart wasn’t envious of those who were free to preach the Gospel.  In fact, he rejoiced the Gospel was proclaimed (Phil. 1:18)!  His circumstances were probably far worse than most of us will ever face.  Learning to be “content in whatever situation” (Phil. 4:11) can help us fight temptations to be jealous and envious of those in “better” places than us.  We should gladly take on Paul’s standards for the Christian life and confess with him, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:8).  Paul’s austere vision of contentment in the ministry reveals the vanity of our modern expectations.  Let us be content, and not spend time meditating on all that is lacking in our place of service.

It’s especially tempting to be jealous or envious of exceptionally gifted brothers.  We must learn to be content in the gifts God has given us.  Our deepest contentment should rest in the fact that the Lord graciously saved us and called us to a holy calling (2 Tim. 1:9).  We must learn to be content in the glory of what we have in Christ.  If you struggle with contentment, Jeremiah Burrough’s classic The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment would be worth reading carefully.

Find contentment especially in your wives.  See them as “a good thing” and a “favor” from the Lord (Prov. 18:22).  Finding great earthly contentment in her will also probably help nourish your relationship (which is always helpful in ministry).

Fourth, maintain a healthy perspective on God’s providence.  We are where we are because of God (and let’s be thankful to Him for that).  Furthermore, He has purposes, often unknown to us, for placing us where we serve.  Trust God to fulfill His good purposes for you and your ministry.

Finally, focus on your own sanctification and ministry work, and don’t allow jealously or envy of others to distract you.  Instead, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching…” (1 Tim. 4:16).  Strive to be diligent in your work, especially in rightly dividing the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).  Have confidence in God’s working through your faithful preaching, evangelism, and discipleship (even though you may not see the results you long for, or are apparent in another’s ministry).  Make disciples, remembering one may be the next John Owen or Charles Spurgeon.  Consider the approach to ministry John MacArthur adopted early on, as he explains,

“If I take care of the depth of my ministry, God will take care of the breadth of it. That little slogan has stood by me all these years. In a sense it’s sort of against the grain of a young man’s ambition to be driven by depth rather than breadth, to be driven by excellence rather than success, to be driven by quality rather than quantity. Ambition sort of pushes you in the direction of what can I do the biggest and the fastest, not what can I do the smallest and the slowest. Ambitious people tend to be driven by breadth rather than depth. They tend to be driven by success rather than excellence and by quantity rather than quality.” Quoted from the sermon, “The Scope of Jesus’ Influence” based on Luke 8:1-3.

Grace to you,

Chris King

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Dr. Chris King serves as the senior pastor of the Bayou View Baptist Church in Gulfport Ms.

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Calling Out Wolves Dressed in Wool

Calling Out Wolves Dressed in Wool

Someone once said, “Wolves look good dressed up in wool.”  That is a very true statement indeed.  Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  As we consider the threat of false teachers, what should be the response of a shepherd of one of God’s flocks?  Should false teachers be named openly?  Is that the proper response or is that sinful?

Some people argue that it’s a slanderous thing to name people openly when calling out heresy.  Others suggest that we must tread lightly and be very cautious in these areas.  What path is most acceptable in the sight of our Lord?  That’s the real question we must consider when we stand in the pulpit with the open Bible.  As we consider the challenges of preaching in a world saturated with heresy, we labor for the glory of Christ and the joy of God’s sheep.

Calling Names – The Positive Side

John MacArthur once said, “The teaching of a false prophet cannot withstand scrutiny under the divine light of Scripture.”1  When a pastor stands in the pulpit and shines the light of the gospel upon false teaching and names the names of false teachers, this can be very beneficial to the congregation on several different levels.  New Christians can see the dangers that are lurking, even in the most unsuspected places such as the shelves in the “Christian” bookstore.  When the names of false teachers are not veiled, the sheep of God’s pasture are able to see the wolves clearly.  It provides the children of God an advantage as they watch for their souls and the souls of their own household.

In short, the positives of actually naming names will protect the church from serious doctrinal error.  False teachers are depraved morally and entrapped by their commitment to viciously attack and oppose the pure gospel of Christ.  More than one church in the pages of history has been assaulted by false teaching.  To name the names of false teachers is a responsible thing to do.  It may violate the tolerance code of our modern culture, but it protects the church, exalts Christ, guards the gospel, and reveals error.

Calling Names – The Negatives

I recall preaching a message several years ago where I was distinguishing the true gospel from the health, wealth, and prosperity teachings.  I decided that I would name names as I illustrated the dangers of that doctrine.  When I went down a list of false teachers, I recall a woman abruptly got up from her seat and left the room.  She wanted to meet with me the next day in my office and when we talked she explained that she was offended by the fact that I had called a specific person a false teacher.  When I provided clear evidence from the Scriptures, she was unwilling to submit.  This woman was not a member of our congregation.  She had been visiting for several weeks and as a result of this, she never joined our church.  When you call names from the pulpit, you do run the risk of growing at a slower pace than some of the more ecumenical congregations.

When a Christian is sitting in the pew and he hears the name T.D. Jakes or Joel Osteen called from the pulpit as a false teacher, it could lead him to research their name, ministry, teaching, and perhaps a book they have written.  Now, that may not be the case for the majority of the congregation, but what about that inquisitive young Christian that’s merely checking them out?  Could calling names be harmful to the Christian who has no exposure to their ministry until their name was called from the pulpit during a sermon designed to expose the health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine?

Calling Names – A Biblical Argument 

In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul instructed Timothy “remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.”  Interestingly, different doctrine is the combination of two Greek words, didaskalia“to teach” and heteros, which means “of a different kind.”  The point Paul was making is clear.  Don’t allow teachers in Ephesus to deviate from the path of the true gospel.

In Titus 1:11, when referencing false teachers, Paul said to Titus, “They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”  In other words, one of the biblical qualifications of an elder is one who is able to stop the mouths of heretics.  Therefore, one of the basic duties of a pastor is to protect the church from heretics – those who pervert the gospel.  In 2 Timothy 3:13, Paul warned Timothy by describing the false teachers as, “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

Several times in Paul’s writings we find that he actually named the names of false teachers.

  • In 2 Timothy 1:15, Paul named Phygelus and Hermogenes.  These men are thought to have served as elders and had denied the faith.
  • In 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul named Demas as a man who had deserted Paul because he loved the world.
  • In 2 Timothy 4:14, Paul named Alexander the coppersmith.  He was apparently a threat to the church at Ephesus and was an enemy of Paul and the gospel that Paul had labored to preach.

Did Paul’s name calling harm Phygelus and Hermogenes?  Sure, it probably led Timothy to go back and report this to the elders in Ephesus and it’s likely that these men would have experienced a damaged reputation as a result.  Was this the right call by Paul?  What about Demas who had literally deserted Paul as he was in the Mamertine prison awaiting execution?  Did the fact that Paul called his name to Timothy harm his character?  While this was a personal letter to Timothy, it would have been made known to the wider church community at some point.  Could this have damaged Demas?  When Paul called out Alexander, the metal worker who had opposed Paul in Ephesus, did that harm his industry?

As we think through the reasoning of Paul’s name calling, we must realize that Paul was not willing to stand aside while the depraved wolves devoured God’s sheep.  He was a man of strong conviction and he possessed a pastor’s heart.  He wanted to protect the church and he desired to guard the gospel.  Two different times in two different letters, Paul commanded Timothy to guard the gospel (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14).  The preservation of the gospel was at the heart of Paul’s decision to call out specific false teachers and enemies of the cross.

In conclusion, pastors and bloggers should make the aim of their ministry Soli Deo Gloria and the guarding of the true gospel.  If a person is proven to be a false teacher by their doctrine, it would be irresponsible to veil them to the Christian community.  As ministers of the truth, we have an obligation to guard the good deposit that has been entrusted to our care in order that their message does not spread like a deadly disease (2 Timothy 2:16-17).  We must make sure that we use the words “heretic” and “false teacher” in the most careful way as possible.  When labeling people we must utilize wisdom and discernment.  These labels can damage people and their character.  If we error in our judgement, it can leave lasting damage upon the individual.  If a person is indeed a false teacher, the label serves them well.  May our writing and preaching exalt Christ and shut the mouths of false teachers.  However, as we write and as we preach, if we labor to teach the true gospel, it will expose false teaching as a red barn in a green field.  We don’t need to be experts on all world religions, but we must seek diligently to know God as we see Him revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

According to J.I. Packer:

The mark of the false prophet or teacher is self-serving unfaithfulness to God and His truth…There are teachers in the church today who never speak of repentance, self-denial, the call to be relatively poor for the Lord’s sake, or any other demanding aspect of discipleship. Naturally they are popular and approved, but for all that, they are false prophets. We will know such people by their fruits.2

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Josh Buice

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1.  John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7, Moody, 1985, 471.

2.  J.I. Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, 9/19.

The Present Tense of Salvation

The Present Tense of Salvation

When you talk to people about their salvation, do they speak in the past tense or the present tense?  From my personal experience, I find that people most often refer to an event that happened in the past without focusing on the present reality of their salvation.  It’s a common thing here in the south.  I suspect it’s common in most places.  When you ask a person if they are saved, they will often respond by saying, “Yes sir, I did that when I was 7 years old.”  Others will commonly refer to their salvation by using language such as, “I was saved when I was 10 years old at Vacation Bible School.”

That’s nice, but what about now?  Are you being saved today?  If you were to ask someone that question, they would likely be confused.  Being saved, what does that mean?  However, that is exactly what Paul said to the church at Corinth in the first two verses of chapter fifteen.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 - Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

The choice of vocabulary by Paul is interesting.  In verse 2, he talked about “being saved.”  That verb is in the present tense rather than the past tense.  His focus was on the present reality rather than the past event.  Not long ago, I was preaching a series of sermons from 1 Corinthians 15 and was taken captive by these two short verses while attempting to read past them quickly to get to verses 3-4.  My error on that day was a common mistake of all Christians as we read the Bible.  I’m convinced that much truth falls through the cracks as we breeze past weighty verses in our attempt to complete our reading for the day.  I almost missed these verses and the grand truths that they hold.  Below you will see three important truths related to the present tense state of salvation that we must not forget as we continue to press on toward eternity.

1.  The present tense salvation validates the past tense event

Each day our lives should be marked with a lasting change and commitment to follow Christ.  If we are still standing firm in the gospel and show ourselves to be humble servants of our King, we can be assured that our past event was legitimate.  We cannot afford to play the fool’s game of trusting in our prayer (in the past) if our lives (in the present) don’t demonstrate a commitment to follow Christ each day.  How many people do we know who have “prayed a prayer” and been baptized, but have walked away from the church of Jesus Christ?  Their lives show no submission to Christ.  Their lives are summed up in following self and satisfying their own flesh.  How many of those people are clinging to their past tense event to calm their troubled soul?  Paul did not give any “wiggle room” in this area.  He said to the church at Corinth, “and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”  The key is the “if” clause.  In other words, they had no reason for assurance in their past profession if their present life was not rooted and grounded in the faith.

2.  The present tense salvation provides hope that overcomes doubt

If a Christian lives long enough, he or she will eventually have some form of doubt concerning their faith.  That could be as a result of sin in their life or as a result of a genuine spiritual attack from Satan.  The best way to experience victory over such doubts and to conquer fears is by examining the reality of a present tense salvation.  In other words, if you find yourself going through such valleys, you can be delivered from the dungeon of doubting castle (to use a line from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress) by examining yourself and seeing that you are in the faith.  This proof shines brightly from a life of consistent gospel embracing, Bible believing, sin fighting, faith living, Jesus following perseverance.  Notice that I didn’t say a perfect life.  It’s impossible to achieve sinless perfection in this life, but we are to be striving to live a life of holiness and submission to Christ.

3.  The present tense salvation is where Jesus, Paul, and James all unite

The present tense salvation is something Paul taught and emphasized in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 and alludes to in other places such as 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Jesus taught this principle too as He made massive statements of Christian truth such as, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  The emphasis is upon a continual life of submission and obedience.  As we read the New Testament, we are reminded of the words of James, the half brother of Jesus.  James made an emphatic statement that should ring in our ears.  In James 2:20 he writes, “faith without works is dead.”  How does that square with Paul who stated in Ephesians 2:8-9 that a person is saved by faith and not as a result of works?  The words of James, Jesus, and Paul are all united in the reality of a present tense salvation of perseverance that validates the past tense event.  In other words, if a person is persevering in the life of faith and keeping the commandments of Jesus – that individual can rest in the assurance of their salvation.  Faith produces works, but works cannot produce faith.  The essence of obeying Jesus and working for God find their source in saving faith.

John Piper has stated, “It is true that God will never forsake His own children. But the proof that we are His children is that He works in us the vigilance not to forsake Him. God’s not forsaking us is the work He does in us to keep us from forsaking Him (Philippians 2:12-13).1

The danger of those who live in the past tense salvific event rather than a present tense persevering life of faith is that they likely find themselves clinging to that event as their clincher in salvation.  We have all met people who are living worldly and carnal lives apart from the church of Jesus Christ while claiming to embrace a doctrine titled, “once saved always saved.”  The problem with such statements is that it completely ignores the present tense reality of salvation that Jesus, James, and Paul all taught.

There is nothing wrong with chronicling the lives of children, writing their spiritual birthday in their Bible, or even talking about what a special day it was when they trusted Christ for salvation and followed in believer’s baptism.  The problem arises when we emphasize everything about our salvation on a calendar date.  It’s dangerous for a person to cling to a date as the proof of their salvation.  Everyday we should have new evidences and markers that identify us with Christ.  If Jesus became our Lord in the past, He remains the Lord today.  Our lives will demonstrate that truth each day.

Rather than stepping off into eternity clinging onto a calendar date or event, let us finish our course singing, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.”  For those of us who have been saved, we know that we were once saved (in the past) from the penalty of sin.  We are being saved (presently) from the power of sin.  One day in eternity (future event), we will be saved from the presence of sin.  We have been saved, we are currently being saved, and we will be saved in the future.  We were justified in the past.  We are being sanctified in the present.  One day we will be glorified in the future.  If we have been saved in the past and we have assurance that we will be saved in the future, our present lifestyle should provide sure evidence of a life yielded to Christ.

Paul Washer has written, “Let the struggling believer be comforted; let the apathetic church member be warned. The great evidence of true conversion is God’s ongoing work of sanctification in our lives.”2

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Josh Buice

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1.  John Piper - “When Is It Dangerous to Look at Jesus?” 

2.  Paul Washer, The Gospel Call & True Conversion, 188.

Preaching to the Affections

Preaching to the Affections

This is a helpful video published by The Gospel Coalition of a conversation between John Piper, Voddie Baucham, and Miguel Núñez on preaching to the affections (and the mind).

Street Preaching

Street Preaching

I can remember over the years attending sporting events with my father and passing by street preachers on the street corner as we exited the stadium.  For the most part, I have come to view street preaching through a negative lens.  The main reason for my negative position has been largely based upon the improper methods of groups such as Westboro Baptist and others like them.  Several years ago, I actually crossed paths with WBC at the annual Southern Baptist Convention in Indiana.  I was very disturbed by their tactics as I passed by them on the way to lunch.  I eventually stood beside them on the sidewalk and shared the gospel with them.  That meeting culminated in an interview with Shirley Phelps-Roper which was published on this blog.  Needless to say, I have not been very impressed with the models of street preaching that I have experienced through the years.

In a strange twist of God’s providence, I crossed paths with a street preacher named Bobby McCreery.  He is a full-time street preacher evangelist who proclaims the gospel at the University of Georgia several days per week.  He has a massive beard.  He loves Jesus and is a humble servant of King Jesus.  Hear his story:

About a year later, I was invited by Bill Adams to speak to a group of street preachers (open-air preachers) for the 2013 April gathering of Revival-USA last year.  They asked me to teach on the subject of expository preaching.  I was intimidated in going to the conference to speak simply because I have remained skeptical of street preachers through the years.  As I began my lecture, I heavily encouraged them to use their spiritual gifts within their local church and to preach in open-air settings under the authority of their church as opposed to merely roaming around as rogue preachers.  This year, they invited me back again and after I taught on expository preaching, I accompanied them to Piedmont Park in Atlanta to preach and share the gospel in the open-air setting in conjunction with the Dogwood Festival.  I wanted to see these men in action.  Truth be told, I wanted to examine them and see if they used proper tactics.

It was a blessing to watch these men preach the gospel to thousands of people as they entered and exited Piedmont Park in midtown Atlanta over the course of several hours.  I must say, they preached boldly the gospel of Christ with passion and love.  They likewise demonstrated patience with skeptics and haters of the gospel.  I was impressed by how they stood firmly upon the Word and refrained from being distracted by those who opposed their message.  I have been invited to challenge these men on the subject of expository preaching and they have impacted me in regards to open-air proclamation of the gospel.  In short, my position has shifted.  I believe that open-air preaching (aka – street preaching) is profitable and it reaches people!  Below I will share why I have changed my mind about open-air preaching as a means of proclaiming the gospel of King Jesus.

The Pattern of the Early Preachers

There is no denying the fact that the early preachers such as the apostles – including the apostle Paul – preached the gospel in an open-air manner.  This pattern served as a catalyst for church planting in non-evangelized cities and nations.  As the gospel moved from Jerusalem around the world by boat, it continued to be spread through the years by open-air proclamation. Jesus was an open-air preacher.  Paul was an open-air preacher.  Peter was an open-air preacher.  Through the years, others have followed in their footsteps.  George Whitefield was an open-air preacher who used his voice to thunder the gospel to thousands in fields on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  Dr. Steven Lawson described George Whitefield as “a preaching phenomenon.”   John Piper reminds us of one of the many unbelievable moments of Whitefield’s open-air preaching:

He recounts that in Philadelphia that same year on Wednesday, April 6, he preached on Society Hill twice in the morning to about 6,000, and in the evening to near 8,000. On Thursday, he spoke to “upwards of ten thousand,” and it was reported at one of these events the words, “‘He opened His mouth and taught them saying,’ were distinctly heard at Gloucester point, a distance of two miles by water down the Delaware River.

God used the open-air preaching of George Whitefield in a way that changed hearts and history.  David Hume, a Scottish skeptic in philosophy and deist, would travel 20 miles at 5am to hear Whitefield preach.  Someone once asked, “I thought you didn’t believe what he preaches?”  Hume responded, “I don’t, but he does.”  He was a man who proclaimed boldly and loudly the gospel of Jesus Christ.  James Lockington was present in London to hear a sermon by Whitefield.  Lockington recorded the following paragraph verbatim. Whitefield said:

 I’ll tell you a story. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1675 was acquainted with Mr. Butterton the [actor]. One day the Archbishop . . . said to Butterton . . . ‘pray inform me Mr. Butterton, what is the reason you actors on stage can affect your congregations with speaking of things imaginary, as if they were real, while we in church speak of things real, which our congregations only receive as if they were imaginary?’ “Why my Lord,” says Butterton, “the reason is very plain. We actors on stage speak of things imaginary, as if they were real and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.”  Whitefield added, “I will bawl [shout loudly], I will not be a velvet-mouthed preacher.”

Whitefield-Preaching-Cartoon

*This picture appeared in a newspaper as a criticism or satire of George Whitefield’s preaching in Pennsylvania in 1763.

The unescapable point of Christian history is that God has chosen to use open-air preaching to save sinners and establish churches in remote regions of darkness.

Answering Objections

I’m not an open-air preaching advocate or champion by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I’m still intimidated by open-air preaching if the truth were known.  However, I want to answer some objections that I have held onto through the years.  Perhaps you have these same concerns or criticisms of open-air proclamation.

1.  People today don’t respect street preaching.

It has been often remarked that the times have changed and that people no longer respect the street preacher.  We must be honest, people have always hated street preachers and we can’t expect that in our modern times those sentiments will change.  If anything, the hatred and animosity will likely increase.  Therefore, we can’t reject the model of street preaching simply because of the hatred of the lost world.  We must expect people to hate the preaching of the gospel.  Jesus warned in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. [19] If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

2.  It’s not effective.

Who is the judge of effectiveness?  Oftentimes through history, the church has embraced a faulty model of success.  Just because a church has large numbers doesn’t mean it’s successful or biblical.  Likewise, just because the majority of the people who pass the street preacher on the sidewalk reject his message, it doesn’t mean he is unsuccessful.  The true judge of success is Jesus Christ.  We must remember this in all areas of ministry.  Furthermore, we must remember that our labor is never in vain in the gospel ministry (1 Corinthians 15:58).  God’s Word never returns void and it always accomplishes a purpose.  Sometimes that purpose is indictment.  At other times, it’s a message to save sinners.  We must trust God to do His work through the preaching of the gospel.  As Paul reminds us, it is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  Many people are being saved in our present day through street preaching.  Countless babies have been saved from murder through street preachers (see the Babies Are Murdered Here project).  God is the judge of effectiveness and success.

3.  People don’t go to sporting events to hear a preacher, they go to enjoy a game.  It’s rude to intrude on an event as an uninvited preacher.  

In the great majority of the times in the New Testament, we see Jesus, Peter, and Paul going into new cities and countries preaching without being invited as the keynote speaker.  In fact, the majority of the time, when Paul went into a new location and entered a synagogue he was doing so without a letter of invitation on the local synagogue’s letterhead.  He was basically preaching without invitation and boldly standing upon the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, the argument that opposes street preaching based on the fact that they don’t have an invitation to stand in the park or at the stadium and preach is a weak point to say the least.

4.  It gives the gospel a bad name.

I will be the first to say, the street preacher is often not standing in a dignified pulpit to address ready listeners in a calm and prepared atmosphere.  He is often maligned.  It’s not uncommon for the street preacher to receive loud rebuke and criticism.  George Whitefield was often greeted by having dead cats thrown upon him as he entered the fields.  Therefore, because of the railing accusations and opposition to the preaching, it can cast a shadow upon the cross as the man stands there to publicly proclaim the gospel.  In short, it can be quite humiliating.  However, didn’t that same thing happen as Jesus preached?  What about Peter?  When he stood in that famous Christian sermon at Pentecost, they accused the Christians of being drunk!  In other words, they viewed them as talking out of their heads.  What about Paul?  They called his message a message of foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18).  The intellectuals of Rome and Corinth rejected the message of the cross.  Is that a reason to quit preaching the gospel publicly?  What about in our present day?  Should we abandon it because people don’t “respect” it?

Addressing Concerns

While my position has clearly changed, I do still have concerns about open-air preaching.  Anytime we speak in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, it must be done with order and with a commitment to the local church.

1.  Commitment to the local church

As we examine the pattern in the New Testament, Paul was not preaching in the streets as an alternative to the church.  It was for the church that he labored in the streets.  God’s plan is the church and we must keep that focus in all areas of our ministry – from street preaching and beyond.  Therefore, I would not support a man who desires to preach on the street but is unwilling to use his gifts in the life of the local church.  If a man has a calling to the street preaching evangelism, he should be using his gifts in his local church.  Otherwise, it’s a rogue attempt to bypass the church to exercise spiritual gifts.

Beyond being useful to the local church, the street preacher must be under the authority of the local church.  Who would desire an evangelist to speak in your church who wasn’t connected and under the authority of a local church and a pastoral staff?  The same thing is true for those who preach as evangelists on the street.  If an elder body doesn’t see a gift of preaching in a specific man and would not allow him to preach in the pulpit or teach a small group in the church, that man should not be commissioned to stand on the street corner and preach the gospel.  Authority in the church and oversight is given for a specific reason.  If a man is not submissive to his pastors, he should not be preaching the Word.

2.  Making Disciples

One of the great challenges in street preaching evangelism is making lasting contacts with people and connecting them to a solid church.  For instance, if a street preacher is preaching at a Super Bowl in a major city and hands out gospel tracts while preaching to thousands of people as they pass by on the street, he has limited availability to point them to a good church in their town.  However, if the tract has a connection point online, it may allow for the street preacher to make contact with those who are impacted by his preaching.  This will enable him to make disciples and influence people in a far greater way than merely preaching without any aim of additional connection with his audience.

Therefore, what I see is a need to be really organized with a plan to make connections on the street that may lead to connections online.  This organization is helpful and with modern technology it’s much easier than in the days of George Whitefield.

I am convinced that it pleases God to save sinners through open-air proclamation.  Not only is it a good thing for preachers to do it for the sake of evangelism but likewise for the sake of humility.  It’s a humbling thing to proclaim the gospel to a group of people who reject God and His gospel message as utter foolishness.  May God be pleased to use open-air preaching to reach multitudes with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Be warned if you go and preach publicly – you will look foolish.  You will look crazy.  You will be called names.  You will be looked upon as non-respectable members of society.  Will you go?  May God raise up another Whitefield to thunder the gospel publicly without shame!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Josh Buice

DBG Spotlight

Faulty Contextualization
Trevor Johnson quotes some missionaries as saying things such as, “He remains a good Muslim, just one that believes in Jesus.”  Johnson’s article (The Cultural Captivity of Missions – Part 2) discusses the faulty contextualization in missions and can be found on the HeartCry blog.

Is God Too Holy for You?
Adrien Segal  has written a short, but good article over at DG, on the holiness of God and the connection it has to our worship.  She writes, “the more we see of him, the more we’re reminded of how unholy we truly are. It’s not a comfortable thought. The way we think — even subconsciously — about God’s holiness will likely impact our worship on Sunday morning.”  See the full article here.