Street preaching: why it’s vital to protect it (even if you really hate it)
by Ed MacKenzie, Christian Post:
I wonder what your reaction is when you pass a street preacher. Shy away? Stop and listen? Sidle over for a discussion? Explain to your friends that this isn’t ‘your kind of Christianity’?
Some have been influenced by the response of Rob Bell, one-time evangelical megastar, who criticised street preaching in his Nooma video Bullhorn Guy. Bell contended that such an approach was more likely to put people off the gospel than win them to it, and suggested that Christianity was about loving the neighbour rather than preaching at them.
Just last week, in response to the arrest of two street preachers in Bristol, the Archdeacon of Oxford took an even more critical stance. Citing the risk of stirring up religious hatred, Ven Martin Gorick called for street preaching to be outlawed.
Whatever one thinks of the effectiveness of street preaching, calling for a ban on it is surely wrong-headed. As a helpful guide produced by the Lawyers Christian Fellowship and the Evangelical Alliance points out, sharing the gospel in public is a well-established freedom in the UK and something that should be protected.
Street preaching can claim deep biblical roots, with the Old Testament prophets providing precedents for the practice. The prophets were typically called to announce God’s Word to an unbelieving nation, and – like Jeremiah – were often met with hostility and persecution (Jeremiah 1:14-19).