No biblical ministry is easy, but this is especially so for street preaching. Criticism comes from all directions, regardless of how you go about it. Then there are the physical elements of heat, cold, rain, not to mention the wear and tear of the voice and the exhaustion that sets in after being on your feet half the day. Nowadays there are police to worry about, and soon enough there will be stones and martyrdom. There is nothing easy about street preaching. So the question is, why do it? As the following book will demonstrate, when you’ve been called by the Lord, you can’t help but go do it. Like Jeremiah, some men have been raised up who realise there is a fire in their bones and they go proclaim. Through trials and tears, through criticism and rough weather, through ostracism and arrests, the most joyful parts of these men’s lives will be when they are heralding the things of Christ to an adulterous generation. This is why the following book can’t be recommended enough. The street preacher needs to know what he’s getting himself into. Many pastors and churches, as helpful as they usually are, often don’t know what to do with street preaching, much less street preachers. This is not to criticise church leaders but rather to point out that here, in the following pages, the street preacher will be exposed to practical advice for how to go about his calling. But this practical advice is not coming from just anyone. Jimmy Hamilton has been preaching on the streets for roughly four decades, in all kinds of weather, in many parts of the world, as both pastor and evangelist. He’s one of the most faithful, humble ministers ever to herald the gospel. If anyone were to writer such a guide for street preachers, he is one of the most qualified to do so. Also, the street preacher needs encouragement. Most who read this book have perhaps already preached in the open air. They have already experienced the travail of the battle. This is exactly why such persons need to read this book. Here you’ll find stories to refresh your soul. You’ll find advice and heat that’ll be balm for your wounds. Every page will resonate with your own experiences, which is a sweet encouragement for the street preacher who, sadly enough, rarely finds brethren who gets it or who gets him.
Do yourselves a blessing and read this book. Share it with others, whether or not they street preach. This is a trusty battle manual that needs to be in every Christian’s library. I couldn’t recommend it enough.
(Ryan Denton, Christ in the Wild Ministries)
Let it be stated from the outset, this is not written for theologians or ordained ministers. It is written generally for young men who believe they have a gift to preach God’s word and desire to reach the lost of this world. It is argued by some within our Reformed fraternity that there is no such office as that of an evangelist. There came on the back of the Reformation a myriad of itinerant preachers, to say that some were less than helpful understates the issue. It could be argued that that is the case even today in some cases. I fully understand that it’s one of the reasons I write this book. So we who are committed to and involved in street preaching ministry need to rise above this stigma and seek to dispel that fear amongst our brethren. How? By soundness in doctrine and life, especially our conduct in the public arena. I think it can be argued that there is a place even yet, in the New Testament for an itinerant (Περιπατητικός) preaching ministry. It certainly could be argued that amidst the dreadful apostasy and confusion that we are faced with, particularly in the West, that there is a great need for gospel heralds. But is a title, an office necessary for such workers? I prefer simply the title “Gospel Workers” as per the “Church Order commentary.” Some may prefer the title “Missionary.” It was said by the late Dr ML-Jones that all evangelism should be accomplished by and through the local church, to which I would heartily agree. But, it is sadly, most often not done by the local church. One can hardly blame such men who aspire to reach the lost with the gifts that they have, faced with such apathy and lack of zeal and intent within the churches, to go off on their own. This is not written to inculcate rebellion nor to encourage mavericks, but to help sincere and godly young men, instead of just leaving them to their own devices. Surely it would be better for our churches and ministers to instruct, disciple and equip such young men to do their work in an educated, biblical, godly and responsible fashion, with the authority and blessing of their church. Rather than without it. For I perceive many of them are just going to go ahead and do it anyway. In my own time in pastoral ministry, I would like to have had many such men with such aspirations. I most certainly would not have held them back, stymied them but sought to encourage and help in every way I possibly could. I certainly wouldn’t have seen them as a threat to my own position. For my part, I desire to see an army of such men, armed and equipped with solid Reformed doctrine and in the power of the Holy Ghost going through the lands with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I cannot but think that would be pleasing to him. But under the authority of the local church.
There are those who are opposed to and that includes not for, street-preaching, who would argue that there is no biblical warrant for such a ministry? I would ask to think again. In Luke’s gospel, we have the words and therefore the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. “But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say…” (Luke 10:10). In verse one Jesus sends not just his twelve apostles, but seventy of his followers to preach. You could argue that the twelve apostles were the ordained ones, at a stretch. But truth be told none of them was sent by a local instituted church. They were sent directly by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The New Testament canon did not exist at this point in redemptive history. What were the instructions of Christ to these men? He sent them in two’s which is wise, a man in Satan’s territory needs someone to watch his back. Alas, some of us would never get anything done at all if we had to wait for a backup. The instructions? Firstly: They were to pray for other labourers (v2). Because the work is great. Second: They had to go trusting, in faith (v3), because they were going amongst wolves. They would be faced with great hostility, something many of our fine pulpiteers today know nothing of. Ultimately, they must trust the Lord of the harvest to watch their backs. Third: They were to willingly accept whatever hospitality was offered to them as well earned (v7). Fourth: They were instructed as to what to preach, i.e., the kingdom of God (v9). They could do so because the King himself had come, “nigh unto them” near them that is. Fifth: They were to preach, warning the people of the catastrophic judgment that would be visited upon despisers of their message (v16). They were to give examples, of past judgments, such as Sodom and others. This, I remind you is on the streets, amid the general public. No, not in the comfort of a local church building where all are supposed “Christian” where such preaching is seldom heard in today’s apostate Christendom. My point being that to argue that such a ministry is not biblical is hardly intelligent. And to argue further that all preaching should be reserved for churches and pulpits is certainly not justifiable from the Bible. And to argue that seventy men who had never been to a seminary, had only sat under one Minister, and for a short space of time, were hardly qualified for such a task, doesn’t fit the biblical record here. These men had only heard him, Christ, they had no church membership, no college or seminary degrees, they had never been laid hands on by other men. Oh, and they had never been baptised. And finally, in the darkness of an apostate Israel such as these men were sent into, who in their right mind could argue that such is not needed in the ever-increasing apostasy of Europe today? I pray, “Lord, please, raise up not seventy, but seventy times seventy such preachers in my nation today, and send out on to the streets. Amen.”
The church is gathered from the four corners of the earth, by preaching. The preaching reaches those whom God intends it to reach. Not every man head for head. The content of preaching is the gospel, nothing else. The result of preaching is either the regeneration, repentance and faith required for salvation or the hardening of sinners hearts; it will accomplish one or the other, “to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life” (2Corinthians 2:16). Those who are saved are brought to faith as a result of God’s choosing, will, method, message and operations. Not, the will of man himself nor of the preacher’s either. God’s method of gathering his church is the preaching of his word, watered by the prayers of his people. The preaching that we encounter in the Bible reveals that not much of it was done in church buildings. In houses sometimes, in boats, on hillsides, yes, and in synagogues too. And on the street. The church throughout the ages has had a history of street preaching. I am convinced that street preaching is a most biblical method. It is not the only method, but it is a most excellent one, for reaching the lost for Christ with the instrument of his holy and divine word. A lady whose Minister had just moved on lamented, “I don’t know what we’ll do without him, he used to explain the Bible to us.” What an epitaph! That is the preacher’s task.
To preach is to evangelise, to bring good news to the people. To be a preacher is to be a messenger, a man with a message from God, that has first of all transformed him and is now like a fire in his bosom. He is not just any messenger, he is a herald, commissioned by the King to deliver his message. He has no authority unless he has been sent. Nor is he allowed to add or to take away anything from the King’s message. He is accountable to the King. The vital thing regarding preaching is that in it people hear the voice of the King, Christ, himself (John 10:27). They hear his voice in preaching (Romans 1:16-17; Romans 10:13-14; 1Corinthians 1:18, 23-24; Ephesians 2:17). In preaching, it is Christ who comes and preaches peace, he, “came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (Ephesians 2:17). Because Christ is in the preaching, that is, his voice is heard, it is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). And the wisdom of God (1Corinthians 1:23-24). And that is why it saves.
Before a man can preach to others he, of course, must first be converted himself and be personally of a godly character. This is one of the reasons why ideally the preacher should be sent by his church. Whether the task is undertaken in a church building or in a market square, it is a sacred, deeply solemn and holy task. It is not a task for the foolish and ignorant. To deliver the King’s message he must know the King’s message. He is not there to tell jokes, entertain, or to perform theatrics. But with the utmost seriousness to preach the counsel of God. Therefore, conversion and personal godliness are an indispensable prerequisite. Also, a good knowledge of Scripture and its doctrines are essential, the sovereignty of God and of his grace, justification by faith alone, apart from works. But with an utter dependence upon God, for, “who is sufficient for these things” (2Corinthians 2:16).
Conversion & Calling :
I’ve been a street preacher for thirty-seven of my thirty-nine years as a Christian. In coming to Christ I was broken, in great distress, I called upon his name and he rescued me (See Appendix 2). From the very beginning, I had an all-consuming desire to tell others of what Jesus had done for me and to speak to others of this phenomenal message of the Bible. But how to do it was my big question. I was in what could only be described as a very respectable, middle-class church, whose teaching was somewhat superficial (aren’t most today?), not to mention theologically Arminian. The church’s views on street preaching were extremely discouraging also. I began to study on my own, via distance learning courses with the Bible Training Institute in my native city of Glasgow, in Scotland. I studied doctrine, coming to see the Calvinist system as being thoroughly biblical. I studied church history seeing a heritage of men who didn’t just sit behind a pulpit desk but took the gospel to the people on the street. The more I learned the hungrier I became and the more I was consumed with a burning desire to take the gospel to the streets. I was denounced from the pulpit by one of the church’s elders for my preaching on the street. But I was not in any way daunted. In fact, the more that came against me the more determined I was to persist. I knew from Scripture, from my studies of history and preaching itself, that this was what was needed. And I had the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit that this was the way for me. I was preaching on the street in Stafford town on one occasion with one or two other church members present. As I opened my mouth to speak, though naturally very shy and timid, I became very conscious of the energy of the Holy Spirit deeply influencing my preaching; I was enabled to explain the gospel very boldly and clearly as never before. I came away from that experience knowing that this was my calling.
Desire & Development:
So why am I telling you all this? Well, if you’re going to be a street preacher there are some things you need to be certain of before you begin. First, that you are a Christian. That you have been reborn of the Spirit of God, that your entire being has been radically altered by the supernatural power of Almighty God. Second, if you have a desire to preach the word of God, you will have a desire to study and learn the word of God. If this is of no interest to you, then forget it, you are not called to preach God’s word. You may not have the best church, the best teachers in the world, but you will find a way to overcome and to learn, to equip yourself. To be as well-grounded in the truth of God’s word as you possibly can is a necessity if you are to make it known to others. Are you articulate? I mean can you give clear, simple directions as to how a person might get from A to B? If you have trouble doing that, how then will you be able to direct a sinner to the cross? If God sets someone to the doing of something, whatever it be, and there is a desire to obey, there will be opposition. And that opposition will come from the most unlikely sources, sometimes. In undertaking a street ministry you are about to step out into Satan’s territory, and he is one mean piece of work. What if the opposition comes from within? From family, church or fellow believers? The same principles apply to this as do for discipleship (Luke 14:25-33). You need to know you are of God, that you have God’s calling, and you need his grace to begin and to persevere. Or you will make yourself a laughing stock. I had to wait nearly five years before my course was vindicated by the Lord. Eventually, I had to leave my first church, not because they didn’t like what I was doing, but because they turned in an unacceptable ecumenical direction. My new church, along with Minister and officers immediately recognised my gift and calling and I was sent by that church to minister God’s word.
Two Indicators of a Man’s Calling to Preach:
The first would be internal, the second external. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles were called and sent forth by God directly (Isaiah 6:8; Jeremiah 1:1; Romans 1:1; Ephesians 1:1). The apostles had helpers who also were called ‘Ministers of Christ’ (Colossians 1:7) and ‘Servants of Christ’ (2Corinthians 5:20). “All believers have a calling to preach or to witness” (H Bavinck), but to have a definite charge with authority, within office, over a congregation a man must be elected and appointed (Romans 10:15). “Therefore every one must take heed, not to intrude himself by indecent means, but is bound to wait till it shall please God to call him; that he may have the testimony of his calling, and be certain and assured that it is of the Lord” (Belgic Confession of Faith). A man must not assume this authority upon his own (Hebrews 5:4). The call is no longer given directly and extraordinarily, therefore God now uses means. This would include internal and external calling. The former being somewhat subjective. The personal conviction in a man’s heart that God would have him to preach. A consistent love for the gospel ministry, accompanied by a desire to serve the God who loved and saved both he and his people. This is given birth to in prayerful meditation. Then there is the question of ability, not only strength of body and character but of mind and speech. A willingness to deny himself? A willingness to serve Christ where, when and however he would have him. Now, don’t just skim these matters with a nod of approval. Think about them. Are you really willing to submit, yield yourself in all these areas? This is internal, you alone can answer, yeah or nay. To what end do you wish to enter the gospel ministry? To escape the toils of manual labour? Just another form of livelihood? Is your desire to glorify God, to see his kingdom extended, his people gathered in? What of the ways and means? Is the way open, if not then maybe the answer is no, you are not called, for now at least? But how is the internal call ratified, for we can hardly trust ourselves, our own feelings and our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9)? Hence the external call. The external call comes to us through the instrumentality of our church, its ministry, officers etc. How this works out in practice will vary according to a particular church or denomination. The lack of an external call can be a problem. It’s the problem of authority, or rather the lack thereof. Other believers also may affirm or deny our perceived calling. I say, ideally, there are always exceptions and we will come to that.
When it comes to a church affirming a man’s calling to preach what would they be looking for essentially? Well, they would be looking with both fasting and prayer, for this is no small matter they are about. They would take into consideration the man’s knowledge, of scripture, and of his theology. That he has a good grasp of both, with the ability to open the word of God, deal with controversies. That he is well-grounded in the tenets of the Reformed faith. They would be considering how he has practised what he believes within the body of Christ during the time he has been with them, that his life matches his faith. Then they would doubtless have heard him preach, and that more than once. What did they hear? A man preaching the word, breaking open the bread of life to them? Did he simply tell them what they wanted to hear, or did he smite their consciences, challenge them concerning sin, righteousness and judgment? Did he preach Christ and him crucified? Did he break them down and build them up, did he exhort, encourage, pour in the balm of Gilead? Did he preach? Seriously, or was he lighthearted, a joker even? Or was it a lecture? Perhaps they would consider his knowledge of church history also? The historic Confessions of the Christian faith, and how through the sufferings of our brethren past we have the truth systemised and handed on a plate for us today? Then they would most certainly consider his ethics. You might say that if his moral standing is shaky should he be a member of the church, never mind be preaching? And rightly so. But in today’s climate with so much apostasy in Western churches, even Reformed ones, ethical standards have been found to be wanting. How often the Lord’s name has been tarnished by men who have failed in this realm. These ethical standards can no longer be simply assumed while we are in the midst of a sexual revolution that is pandemic. These are no longer private matters for an individual who is about to be sent into the public domain to preach and represent not just the church, but Jesus Christ himself. So, the church would be looking for an exceptional man. He is godly, has a reverence for God and the things of God. He has humility of heart. A very high and strict standard of morality. He would be a man of discretion, clarity and soundness of judgment, discernment, in other words. If he lacks these qualities it matters not eloquently he can communicate. One of the great benefits of a man having been affirmed by an external call is the power, the authority it gives him. He goes out knowing he hasn’t gone off his own bat, he is there because he has been sent by the Lord, but that the Lord’s people have affirmed that calling. That’s powerful.
Stymied or Sent?
This leads me to my next point. The exception to the sending spoken of above, “how shall they preach unless they have been sent” (Romans 10:15)? There is a biblical principle here that is undeniable, and that I agree with wholeheartedly. But, there are exceptions, always. But they are the exceptions, not the rule. It may be sometimes a church lacks discernment, (of which there are very many in these days of decline and apostasy in the West). Perhaps a man could be failed to be recognised and given the encouragement and support he ought to have, because of church politics. Believe me, these things and worse happen in churches, and Reformed ones too. If you think not, hang around a bit. Or maybe because the Minister is afraid of his position? Or maybe he just does not like the man. All these things I have seen, do believe me. Maybe the man himself needs to be made aware of his gift and calling that is evident to all except him. Then there may arise the issue of readiness, he is not ready yet. He needs at least two theological degrees and ten years to get them. I was reading a newspaper article a short while ago about a very talented soccer player. He was transferred to a very important team, never to be seen again for a long time. What had happened to this talent was the basis of this newspaper article? The answer given was they had over-coached him, ruined him. My point is you can go on and on learning (and you must), but never do anything with what you are learning. The theological course I took back in the day was started by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in South Wales. There was no certificates, degrees at the finish. The idea was simply to produce preachers, that’s all. I had already started preaching before commencing the course. All the faculty members insisted that the studies, the essays required must in no way hinder my preaching. That was the thing they wanted me doing more than anything else, preaching. If God’s called you to preach that’s what you should be doing. The coaching can be done in the background. Too much learning can make you useless on the street, maybe even turn you into a cerebral turkey, or a professional student, instead of a street preacher. You can quote Hebrew and Greek in a church building but it won’t get you anywhere on the street. Drug addicts, drunkards and other ne’er-do-wells normally don’t understand English, never mind Hebrew and Greek. My own Minister, church officers and the faculty members of the College were a great strength, encouragement and support to me. Alas, not all street preachers enjoy that same support, in fact very few. There are times a man has to do what a man has to do, as John Wayne once said. There are times when a man has to walk alone. A door must always remain open for men God has graciously qualified for service without special training.
That said, let it be noted, we do not and must not despise learning. If it is possible in the providence of God for a man to attend a good, sound seminary, then so be it. The main difficulty today would be finding such a seminary. But, that aside, we take note that the disciples sat at the feet of the Lord Jesus being prepared for their ministry. The apostle Paul in God’s providence sat at the feet of Gamaliel and had a very thorough training before he was called to his monumental task. There have been and doubtless, still, are many who despise and discount such preparation for ministry. Quakers and charismatics, Plymouth Brethren and Pentecostals, who would be of such a mind. Good training for ministry is a good thing. But the best theological seminary in the world can never give a man what he needs for the ministry, i.e., godliness, modesty, common sense, and discretion. The ability to speak publicly even eloquently does not necessarily signify a man is a preacher of God’s word. But there will ever be men who God according to his good and sovereign pleasure endows, with gifts and abilities for the ministry. Men who may not have been schooled in a seminary for many reasons, but have clearly been supplied with gifts and abilities by God for ministry. The church is duty-bound to recognise and put such men to good use.
One thing that does need to be kept in mind is that before there were reformed pastors, there were street preachers. In Great Britain at least. If we go back to John Wycliffe’s days, who contested then with the official clergy that they alone were not the church of God, but the congregation, the just, those for whom Christ shed his blood. He held tenaciously to the free and immediate access of believers to the grace of God in Christ; to the general priesthood of all believers. It was as a result of this that like-minded believers gathered and preachers were sent out from county to county and town to town, preaching, not just in churches, but also in churchyards, marketplaces and public thoroughfares. They contended with great emphasis that for the ministry of preaching, the Divine call and commission are perfectly sufficient; that the true installation of the preacher is that by God himself. I believe that heaven will testify of many who are there because of a wandering preacher who was never commissioned or laid hands on by men, but most certainly by God. And whose preaching God has owned in ways that this generation of preachers knows nothing of. I think it can be safely argued that without these fourteenth-century street preachers the Reformation of the sixteenth-century would not have been possible. Wycliffe was persecuted, some of the street preachers were burned, but they could not extinguish the life created by this movement. So I call upon despisers of street preachers to think again, modify your attitudes, show some respect. One more thing, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones during his ministry strongly advocated that evangelism should be done solely by and through the local church. I don’t altogether disagree. But, I think that he was taken too far, far too literally. And the result has been twofold. One, where are all the back street town and city Mission Halls and gospel ministries that used to feed the Reformed churches? They are no more. And two, sadly, evangelism is not being done by and through the local churches, seldomly. Not to the extent it once was, in this sadly sin-blighted land, where lawlessness increases by the day; religious apostasy abounds; the unrequited blood of unborn infants shed; the explosion of a degraded and perverted human sexuality, that in the United Kingdom cries out for and provokes the judgment of the Almighty. How any Christian in their right mind can hinder in any way the gospel preaching of a sincere and serious godly brother in Christ, defies reason.
Exhortation or Exposition?
I say to minister God’s word because that is the recognised task of the preacher. There is a difference between exhorting and preaching. Sometimes an exhorter becomes a preacher. The gift of preaching is a charismatic gift sovereignly dispensed by the Holy Spirit as he wills. It is the ability to open up the word of God, to explain its meaning clearly and to expose to the minds of the hearers the divine counsel. And, of course, to challenge and apply that revealed truth also. I see and hear some men on the streets and they are not preachers, expounders of God’s word, but exhorters. Exhorting people to believe the gospel. They speak about the gospel, Bible doctrines and so on, and they give reasons to people as to why they should believe the good news about Jesus Christ. This is fine as far as it goes, but it’s not preaching. It is quite legitimate for a man to witness to his faith in such a way and people have doubtless come to faith through such exhortation. This exhorting was done a lot in Wales back in the days of revival. Men realised they were not preachers but they realised they could do something and so they would go out amongst the public exhorting people to believe and be saved. And many did. But preaching is a God-given ability to break open the word of God. The preacher doesn’t simply give people random thoughts that come into his mind as to why his hearers ought to believe. The preacher takes a text of scripture, it may be a phrase, a verse, or a portion of the Bible, explain and apply it to those who will hear. But in terms of working on the street, it is different than from behind a pulpit desk, though the work is still the same. In a church situation the preacher has the time and leisure to read the word of God and in his preaching build up arguments, explain the minutia of his passage. No such leisure is given the street preacher. But, nonetheless, he takes time to prepare just the same. He will find a short evangelistic or pithy phrase or verse of scripture and he will open it up and apply it as he goes. But all he says is packed full of gospel truth because he doesn’t have a static congregation. He may have someone for just a few minutes, but they will go away with saving truth nonetheless. Let me give you an example (See Appendix 1). “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). It is short you see, and it summarises the gospel, and he can repeat it over and over, using it as a hammer to break the rock of sinful hearts. And he expounds it as he goes along. What is the gospel? Number one: it’s about a Person, Christ. Number two: what did he do? He died. Number three: Who for? The ungodly. You see there is order, he is not just giving people his random thoughts, what comes into his mind. It is the word of God people’s minds are being exposed to. And it is that alone which God has promised to use and bless, and nothing else, the faithful preaching of his word. Now a man may start off as an exhorter, perhaps that is all he can do, he does his best. Well and good. But who knows, perhaps along the way God will bestow upon him the gift to preach. He can pray, as surely he must, and he can ask God for the gift to preach his word. But do keep in mind that there is a difference between the two, exhortation and exposition. The next time you hear a street preacher, stop, and listen, and ask yourself the question, what is he doing? Is he simply exhorting people, or is he expounding the text of scripture? Sadly, and I hear not a few men on the streets who ought not to be there exhorting even. This is one of the reasons that the task has a bad reputation. The price of freedom, it’s not always as tidy as we would like it to be. Alas, here lies the importance of a man being sent by his church, this way it is not he himself who judges whether he has the God-given gift and ability to be on the street, either exhorting or preaching. But God’s people, the church. Women are excluded from the public preaching ministry not because men deserve this mantel, on the contrary, it is of grace, it is all of grace, from start to finish. But it has been given to men. We will return to this issue.
The Preacher’s Voice:
The day was when if a man did not have a voice he would never have been a preacher. Today with all kinds of electronic gadgets weak-voiced men can and do get away with it. But, left without any of such gadgets how would you fair? Even some ministers and theologians in their churches and auditoriums would not be heard. It is one thing, believe me, to preach in a comfortable, warm, quiet, non-hostile environment and another in a cold, wet, hostile one, where mayhem is breaking out all around you. On the street, you need a voice. There have been records of some of the renowned preachers of a former day, George Whitfield, for instance. It is said of Whitfield he could drop his voice to a whisper while preaching to thousands of people, and still be heard. Whitfield, of course, had planned a career on the stage prior to being converted and entering the ministry. So he would have learned how to use his voice to good effect. In the providence of God, this was a great blessing to him and many who heard him. There have been others we could make mention of also. Preaching even in churches wasn’t always as it is now, today’s ministers have it very easy. In Geneva, in John Calvin’s day, the circumstances were somewhat different. “ Great preachers of the past such as Girolamo Savonarola in Florence and John Wesley in England may seem today bloodless on the printed page, for what most distinguished them is lost to us – their voice. Bland estimations of the Reformation speak of Protestantism as a religion of the book in contrast to the sensuous or affective religion of the Middle Ages. To enter Calvin’s world and the world of sixteenth-century Geneva requires imagination, a sense of how the spoken word could move, anger, console and edify. Far from the solemn quiet of modern churches, preaching in the sixteenth century was somewhat akin to speaking in a tavern. Preachers had to compete with barking dogs, crying babies, general chatter and constant movement, even fist-fights. They required presence to command respect and their most important tool was their voice. Johannes Oeclampadius, the reformer of Basle and a widely admired scholar, was rendered impotent in the pulpit by a weak voice. Written texts of Calvin’s sermons exist, but they are problematic. They were recorded by others and provide only an inkling of what it must been like to hear to him. He spoke with no or few notes, and often with only a copy of the Bible in front of him; sheer spontaneity was an essential part of the experience as he applied God’s word to that moment in the life of the people. It was also a matter of time. With his endless pressing engagements, Calvin simply did not have the luxury of preparing sermons, so he spoke extempore. Nevertheless, when Calvin preached the people came” (Calvin, by B Gordon). Today we get upset if baby cries, Mum must have the child out or none will hear the preacher (even with his microphone alive). If someone’s mobile phone goes off, having forgotten to switch it off, excommunication would be on the cards. But what if the person actually had the temerity to answer the phone call? Well, the description of Calvin’s circumstances in Geneva does remind me of some the scenes I have encountered while preaching on the streets. How’s your voice young man, do you have one? You’ll need it. Oh, and if you’re having trouble with your voice, sucking sweeties (candy) is not the answer. Water is, drink plenty of water. Finally, Calvin’s lack of time for preparation and his extempore preaching. The latter was not an excuse, idleness, he was busy like we don’t how today. He was a man of great erudition. He studied, he was learnēd, indeed. And this is not for someone to use as an excuse for not preparing himself for the Lord’s service. On the subject of notes when preaching depends upon the individual. For some without any notes at all would mean them endlessly repeating themselves, which some do. A small scrap of paper in one’s Bible with a few words on it is not a crime. Alas, some ministers cry they have no time for preaching on the streets, they have books to read. So too, I’m sure, did John Calvin. But, study you must. Every city. town, village, and campus are different, and so too is each and every preaching opportunity. The preacher has to learn to adapt, it is experience alone that will teach you this. Again, Calvin, “Comparisons of Calvin’s sermons…reveals how the reformer adapted his language and style for the people while making few theological concessions. Accommodation did not mean dumbing down” (Calvin, by B Gordon). And again, “The lot of the preacher and prophet was not only to be trained in sound doctrine but also so to be able to withstand attack and rejection. Clavin saw resistance as a sign of right preaching: a preacher must not avoid confrontation with the congregation; harsh words are often necessary” (Calvin, by B Gordon).
Study and Submission:
Today there are many helpful tools to help the young street preacher on the way into this ministry. You have many sermons on the internet, written volumes of sermons that you do well to study and see how men who have gone before you preached the gospel. You have other street preachers who have posted their work on sites such as YouTube. Learn from them, the good, how to do it right, and from their mistakes, how not to do it. There is apologetic material available in order to help you deal with the many arguments against the gospel that people will raise. There is a series called “Taking it to the Street” by the late Dr Greg Bahnsen, excellent stuff. There is material by Sye Ten Buggencate, Jason Lisle and others, you can find all these men and their material on the internet. Then there are the many confessions of faith that we have at our disposal. Learning from the church of the past is vital, something that is seriously lacking in this generation. The works of the Westminster Assembly, their Confession, Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The Belgic Confession of faith, written by Guido de Bres who was martyred for his confession of Christ in France back in the day. The Canons of Dordt. There is a huge and unjustifiable ignorance of these historical documents that have been passed on to us from former generations of godly men. How was the debate Calvinism versus Arminianism dealt with, what is the history behind the arguments and the finer points? Go to the Canons of Dordt, study and learn what it means to be Reformed and how to deal with the heresy of Arminianism. You want clarity on the much-disputed doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from works. Study the Westminster documents. You want material for preaching? The Shorter and Larger catechisms. Questions and answers, such as, “What is Sin?” “What is Justification?” “What are the Punishments for sin in this Life?” Take such questions to the street with you and answer them, clearly and with authority. And as you do so you will be teaching yourself as well. The good man Luther said on one occasion, “in preaching, I often find I’m preaching to myself.” We all do, so will you. We are never done learning. I’ve been at it for nearly forty years and I’m still learning. The more you learn the more assured you will be as to what the gospel and isn’t, the more confident you will be to preach it.
There is no place in any church office or ministry for those who are ignorant of divine truth and who continue to remain so. This is even more important for anyone who is taking to the street with God’s holy gospel. I have witnessed men attempting to preach on the streets who do not have a shred of doctrine in them, and by their performance, it is all too evident. The desire to minister is not the qualification. Just the other week I spoke with a young man here in my own neighbourhood who told me was out the proclaim the gospel. He told me he had only weeks ago come to faith. His mentor, leader, elder, I’m not sure what his ecclesiastical background was, neither was he, but he had been told he was not ready for such a ministry. Whoever his leader was, he was perfectly correct. The young man was an ignoramus concerning biblical truth. It is such, of course, that gets street preaching a bad report. Not to mention the damage such does to the general public. “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (1Timothy 5:22). Here lies the importance of a man having been sent by the authority of his local church, albeit the exceptions laid aside. Your fitness is for others to judge not you yourself. The man may have a tremendous testimony (don’t we all?), the man may be likeable, affable, friend, family member, a good communicator, all this is of no account. Has he shown himself to be faithful, teachable, obedient in the context of his church situation? If not will he be faithful to the truth outside the church, we hardly think so. I have seen men sent to Seminaries, Bible Colleges, candidates for ministry who have shown not an iota of spiritual gifting. The thinking is the Seminary or College will put it there. Wrong! It’s God who puts it there. And if he hasn’t put it there, nobody or anything else can or will. Are the words of Jesus appropriate here? “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14). God requires not only decency amongst us but good order as well, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1Corinthians 14:40). If you are to neglect the spiritual policy that Christ teaches us in his word, what does that say about you? Scripture says, therefore God says, “obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17). In the West there is amongst many in the church scene an Anabaptist culture (not necessarily to be equated with modern Baptists, more likened to modern-day Pentecostalism). The Anabaptists were seditious people, they rejected the higher powers and magistrates, ecclesiastical authority as well, they confounded the decency and good order that scripture demands of us, and that also which God has established among men. We are living in days when men enter into and set up ministries and churches without any ecclesiastical authority whatsoever. Some because they can’t bear to be under submission themselves, and yet go on to expect others to yield to their authority. With such an attitude let no man venture on to the streets with God’s holy word. We are saved and sanctified “unto obedience” (1Peter 1:2), the intended goal of Jesus Christ saving us is a life of obedience to God, and God’s sanctifying work in us is to enable us to that end. The word decency (1Corinthians 14:40) means “beautiful, honourable, and becoming.” Chaos and disorder are ugly as we see clearly manifest in the society of the world. This is by no means to discourage, on the contrary, to save from such. Knowing first of all that you are qualified and equipped for the job before you start is better than finding out afterwards that you were not. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him” (Luke 14:28-29).
This is not a small issue. It is important that you not only have a good solid version of the Bible but that you’ve actually got it in your hand while you are preaching. With Bible in hand people know where you are coming from, not your word, your authority, but God’s. In recent years there has been a plethora of versions produced. One can well imagine people being confused as to where God’s word is actually to be found, even Christians. With the plethora of versions produced in these modern times, the word of God has been in effect taken away from the people. There are so many varying versions being used that a passage no longer sounds familiar. It has made memorisation of scripture much harder as well. Also keep in mind that many of the modern versions have come to the fore in an age of modernism, apostasy, and doubt. That should be enough cause us to suspect them. Many of them, such as the Living Bible, and the NIV are not really translations at all but paraphrases or halfway thereto. Many will disagree with me. But the King James Version or Authorised Version as it is sometimes called, is still by far the best. Its accuracy and faithfulness in the translation are superb. So much so that the English of the 1611 KJV is not really the English of the 1600s as is sometimes stated. But is rather ‘biblical English.’ The result of the translators being as faithful as possible to the originals. It is definitely not true that the modern versions are based on better manuscripts, that is a fallacy. You will have to make up your own mind in this matter, as the apostle says, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). One thing is for sure, when the street preacher lifts up his voice and declares the word of God using the King James Version, everybody, knows where he is speaking from. Even the world’s Press organisations and theatricals when they want to quote the Bible, what do they use? Uh-huh, the King James Version. That cannot be said of the modern versions. Get yourself a proper Bible!
The Fear of Man
The subject of fear is addressed so much in scripture that we can see that since the fall, it is a major issue. We fear every day every single one of us. It is only lunatics who never fear. The antidote, of course, is faith, in God, to fear him. “But rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). But when it comes to the fear of man, that for the righteous is a sinful fear, and to be repented. The prophet Isaiah, says, “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings” (Isaiah 51:7). If you know righteousness, the righteousness of God that is, and that you are righteous by faith in Jesus Christ, what do you have to fear of man? It is this fear of man that keeps Christians from confessing the Lord before men. We have all been guilty of it many times. But it has no place in the street preacher’s heart. By the grace of God through faith in Christ, it must be overcome. I have said it often enough, but I say it again, courage is not the absence of fear but doing and saying what is right in spite of the presence of that fear. The bolder you confess his name the more boldness will be given to you. But rest assured you will excite hostility, bring many reproaches upon yourself as you declare Christ among the lost. You will be taunted and insulted. Read the book of Jeremiah if you will. See what that righteous man had to endure. But the Lord told him he would make him like a bronze wall. They blaspheme against God. But look at what Isaiah says in the following verse. “For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool” (Isaiah 51:8). That’s the end of those who revile your testimony, preaching. Soon they will be no more, the grave will consume them and hell shall be their destruction unless they repent. But the gospel you proclaim will go on conquering and to conquer right to the end. “But my righteousness shall be for ever and my salvation from generation to generation” (Isaiah 51:8b). The prophet writes under the inspiration of God to strengthen his people, embolden them. Do not let the insults, the reviling of men deter you. God has the back of his people when they are abused. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear” (Romans 8:15). Read again the heroes of the faith in Hebrews chapter eleven. Many have gone before us who counted not their lives dear unto them, but, “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name (Acts 5:41). The fear of man is a sinful fear and must be repented and grace sought to overcome by the blood of the Lamb.
When I’m afraid I’ll trust in thee:
In God I’ll praise his word;
I will not fear what flesh can do,
my trust is in the Lord.
In God I trust; I will not fear
what man can do to me.
Thy vows upon me are, O God:
I’ll render praise to thee.
(Scottish Psalter 56:3-4, 11-12).
Preaching or Performance?
There are some men who think that they have to use ‘stage effects’ or have a ‘stage presence’ in order to present the gospel. It will most likely get you a crowd, even get you a following, but it will be for the wrong reasons. Many were not content with the apostle Paul’s preaching. They thought that he lacked oratory, rhetorical skills. In other words, he didn’t have the charisma, the ‘stage presence’ (2Corinthians 10:10; 1Corinthians 1:17, 2:1, 4). His speech was ‘rude’ they said (2Corinthians 11:6). The word translated as rude here (ιδιωτης) unskilled, uneducated, unlearned, an idiot in other words. They thought that he was a man unskilled in any art form, the art form here being that of rhetoric. It’s not the message, the content that’s the issue, but Paul’s preaching. No theatrics, no bodily movement, he just speaks. He has no charisma. A dictionary meaning of the word charisma is: “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure, due to his charisma.” Take it from me, you can do without the magic, and so could Paul. And he erected a New Testament church. Paul simply and clearly and plainly preached the gospel, lest it should have been robbed of its power, lest men’s faith should come to rest in him and his gifts, rather than in the power of God (1Corinthians 2:1-4). Because that’s exactly what happens when men turn the act of preaching into theatrics, into a performance. The word of God is what the Holy Spirit uses and nothing else to bring men to faith in Jesus Christ, not the antics, not the theatrics, not the rhetoric, not the oratory gifts of men. Genuine conversion is produced by a renewing of the mind of man through the application of God’s word by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:21-23; 2Timothy 1:17). Your performance may get you a crowd but it may also get you false converts. Is this God’s call for you? Is this God’s intent for his kingdom? Paul rails against such practice, for God has chosen to do things differently from the world and its theatrics. He does not call silver-tongued speakers, smooth operators or demagogues with their inflated ideas of their own gifting and personalities. And why? “That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1Corinthians 1:29).
This has been and still is a major problem in the church. A couple of examples. Dr M Lloyd-Jones here in the United Kingdom. Christian, Reformed, and Calvinistic in his theology. A faithful ministry over many years. He himself prioritised ‘style’ as an essential in preaching. He championed rhetorical oratory, a performance in the pulpit, preaching as ‘an art form’ (See his “Preaching and Preachers). Jesus and his apostle, Paul, often sat down to preach, so they would not have used their whole bodies as Jones advocated. Of course, the man gained large audiences, he became an idol of many in Reformed churches. I do not say he looked for that, but he got it. For many years after his departure from this life, we heard the words, “if the Doctor said it, it must be right.” Men are followed and idolised in the church today in like fashion, I could name one or two but I won’t. Another, Robert Murray M’Cheyne who himself recognised that there was a problem. So many attended church to hear ‘him’ not God’s word. People were attracted to him, doted on him, not Christ. Many who came to hear him never became believers. This all came out in his pastoral work, and it troubled him. Of course, he didn’t want this, it grieved him, it pained him, but it happened. I often think of our evangelical hero, George Whitfield, who himself was theatre-bound prior to his conversion. It has been more than once suggested that his dramatic performances had more to do with the crowds than the gospel (see ‘The Divine Dramatist’). My point is, God does not need your rhetorical, theatrical skills. Beware and be done with theatrics, just preach the gospel. Paul went to Corinth in weakness and in trembling, his power was the message, the gospel, the content, what he preached, not his preaching ‘style,’ for he had none. God’s word by the power of God’s Spirit will accomplish God’s will. Your place is simply to convey that word to men and women, simply, plainly, without any theatrics at all. If you want to perform leave the pulpit and go to Hollywood, they will welcome you there.
Winning Some or Winsome:
As the holy gospel is the true treasure entrusted to God’s people (2Corinthians 4:7), so the preaching of that gospel is the primary task of the church and her preachers. The well-worn saying amongst the Arminian fraternity used to be and probably still is, “you have to be winsome to win some.” In other words, you have to be a friendly, sociable kind of preacher. The Hebrew word for preaching means to be fresh, then cheerful, then to tell good tidings. According to classical Greek, this person was a herald, a public crier, a messenger vested with authority who conveyed the official message of kings, magistrates, princes, and military commanders. In his lexicon, Mayer adds that the manner of a herald was “always with a suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed.” In other words, you are to bear a commanding presence amongst the public you are addressing. This is the word the New Testament writers were inspired to use for preachers and the activity of preaching. A preacher is God’s ambassador, or official messenger, who conveys the Word of God to others. This is most beautifully and clearly stated, “now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2Corinthians 5:20). Preaching is the chief means of grace, for by it the Holy Ghost works faith. Preaching is one of the marks by which the true church may be easily distinguished from the false. Preaching, with very few exceptions, is necessary unto salvation! Debating is not the means that God has ordained for the salvation of the elect, but the preaching of the Word is that means. This is shown clearly (Romans 10), where salvation is in the line of calling upon God, faith, hearing, preaching, the sending of the preacher (v14), and by the simple conclusion, “so then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (v17). The preaching of the cross is said to be the power of God unto salvation, no matter how foolish such preaching appears to some. It is for this reason the apostle is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes (Romans 1:16). It is not your winsomeness that will save, but the preaching of God’s word. Oh you will be asked time and again by fellow believers, is this the best way to do this? They will suggest that it would be better to befriend people and gradually and winsomely introduce them to the gospel but when they are ready. The trouble is in the meantime they may perish. But apart from that, your calling is not to befriend people but preach the gospel. And they may never be ready. It will be suggested that by your authoritative lack of winsome preaching you will push people further away from God. Can a sinner under sin and under the wrath of God by nature and practice, existing daily on the edge of everlasting burnings be any further away from God than that, I ask you? I am not suggesting you be anything less than joyful as you go about the Master’s business and most certainly we must not appear to be anti-social. But it is a serious, a solemn business, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me” (Luke 10:16). In the West today there is a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord” Amos 8:11). What could be more dreadful, more serious than that, for then Christ does not speak through the preacher? These are not days for the foolish notions of men, but serious, strong proclamation, In all true preaching, Christ is central. Christ speaks. Christ is the content of the message, as faith in Him crucified and raised is commanded. Christ, by His Spirit, makes the preaching effectual so that those ordained to eternal life, believe. What is more important than being winsome is that you are faithful in the preaching of the Word of God. If you have the desire, the call of God, the gift to preach God’s word, what a blessing, what beautiful feet you have, “how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:15)! Much more important than winsomeness.
Preaching is Man’s Work:
I happened upon a video clip of a young woman preaching on the street in England a short while ago. It greatly saddened me. She did not have the knowledge or understanding of the gospel, that was clear by what she said. Also, she did not have a voice for public speaking, let alone preaching. There was not an iota of authority in what she was presenting. In short, it was appallingly pathetic. But worse still it was an act of disobedience to God. I wrote to her gently remonstrating with her but to no avail. I have witnessed another more elderly woman here locally preaching also. Then there is Angela from the USA, she most certainly has a voice and speaks with some authority. However, not God’s authority. Why? Because Ministers must be men, the Bible says so. It is bad enough that in the present generation we could say that many of our men are insufficiently masculine. But calling the feminine species to the ministry is not an answer to that problem. Ask yourself the question, why did Jesus not include women in his apostolate? I mean we’re in the new covenant era, so if a break with the old Patriarchal system was to be made, now is the time, yes? To have included women in the preaching ministry wouldn’t have rocked any boats as far as the world was concerned. It wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. Because paganism was infested with priestesses. The church went against the grain, the unpopular route (these obnoxious Christians never agree with us, they’re not only homophobic, Islamaphobic but they’re sexist too). Some would and do argue it would be a great help in reaching other women-folk. Yet God refrains them from the preaching ministry (1Timothy 2:8-15). A woman is not allowed to vote in a congregational meeting, “I suffer not a woman…to usurp authority over a man” (1Timothy 2:12). It’s not that what Paul says is unclear, it’s just simply inconvenient to this generation, it seems. But obedience is obedience, is it not? And faithfulness is faithfulness, is it not? To Scripture I mean. Paul even gives reasons. 1) The order of creation (v13). 2) The woman, not Adam, was first deceived (v14). Then, she taught Adam in the garden. She usurped authority over him (Genesis 3:6). So the reason a woman is excluded from the preaching ministry is not because of first-century cultural mores, it goes all the way back to creation and the fall. So the person who says, that was then, in Paul’s day, gets it wrong. Paul’s inspired and infallible reasoning goes back beyond even his own day, back six thousand years. There is a divine order (1Corinthians 11:3-10). For women to teach and preach and to rule over men is unhealthy, the first time it happened it was catastrophic, the fall. Much more could be said about this, but enough for now. In the public arena, in the market square or street corner, we have a mixed multitude, men as well as women. It is plainly and simply a matter of obedience, or not. We live in a generation, in the West anyway, where people are reinventing themselves, their gender, sexuality. Men and women are interchangeable. Cultural chaos, in and out of the church. If ever we needed the men in the preaching ministry that the Reformed faith once upon a time produced it is now, tough, stern, and biblically rigorous, it is now. “Quit you like men” (1Corinthians 16:13).
Christ & Him Crucified:
There are only two classes of people in this world, from God’s perspective, the saved and the perishing. And there is but only one means God has appointed to save the perishing, the preaching of the cross. It was while I was at the above mentioned College, one of the faculty members, asked our class one day how we saw our calling to preach. He went around the class one by one. They all without exception, like parrots, squawked, “to teach the flock and build up the saints.” It didn’t go very far when the said professor stopped them, “wrong”, he said, “you are all wrong!” “The salvation of souls, that is what should be at the front of your minds every time that you preach.” “Every sermon ought to be evangelistic” (Dr M. Lloyd-Jones). You can do no greater hurt to your hearers than to allow the cowardly or despisers of the cross to deflect you from this. The calling is not to please men, win their applause, to please their ears or sing them a song, you are called to save men’s perishing souls. If you are not convinced that men are dead, not a little bit, but totally dead in their sins. If you are not convinced to the depth of your being that the only way these perishing sinners can be made alive is but by the Holy Spirit empowered; God-ordained means; the preaching of the cross; you will never convert a flea. In a word, you must preach Christ. You must be convinced in your own mind that preaching alone is God’s ordained method (1Corinthians 1:22). Or, the Westminster Larger Catechism: “Q155. How is the Word made effectual to salvation? A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will.” The calling is not to engage in social work, but to preach. In University campus, in the marketplace, wherever men are gathered, to preach and to preach Christ. There are those in religious, and yes, even Christian circles who today disdain preaching very much. At best they think it to be a secondary, even irrelevant activity. The liberals, the snowflakes, you will encounter them all. They will tell you of the world’s needs, the earthquake zones, the starving, the storm lashed regions where the needs are so great. “You should be helping those people,” they will tell you, “not preaching.” Preaching is the church’s, and the street preacher’s primary task, it is preaching that saves men’s souls from eternal damnation, something much worse than any storm, earthquake or disaster imaginable. It is preaching that brings new and everlasting life to men’s souls, nothing else. If you are not convinced of that, do not begin until you are.
Law and the Gospel:
When we speak of preaching Christ or the gospel or preaching the cross, we are not speaking about simply and only preaching from the New Testament, or those particular phrases. To preach Christ is to preach the whole counsel of God because the whole Bible is the word of Christ. So to neglect preaching the law and the prophets would be a serious mistake. Especially so the law. “For by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 20). How does a person come to know that they have a need for a Saviour, without first coming to know that they have a condition that they need saving from? A sin problem. That is the purpose of the Divine law, summarised in the ten commandments. The ten commandments themselves are a wonderful preaching tool for the street preacher. You must preach on them regularly. The law is a teacher, a schoolmaster (Galatians 3:24). To teach men how holy God is and how sinful they are. The purpose of the law is to shred man’s self-righteousness and to send him to Christ to be saved. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4). That does not mean that Christ is the end of the law to take it away, but rather that he is the end of the law by being its goal, its purpose. The law was given with Christ in mind, by uncovering sin, showing men their need of Christ and being justified through faith in him. The law continues to function this way to this day, “I had not known sin, but by the law” (Romans 7:7), says the apostle, Paul. The law was a schoolmaster not just for the Jews, but for us too. The law is part of the covenant of grace (Galatians 3:19). It still belongs to the covenant. Law and grace are not against each other. It is also a sure and safe guide along the pilgrim’s pathway (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23). But we must understand that the law does not bring man into a covenant relationship with God. Nor does is give us grace, justify us. This he gets from Christ and from Christ alone. The law (Moses) says to the broken sinner go to Christ and live.
Fruit & Faithfulness:
The question will be asked of you sooner or later, what fruit have you seen in this ministry? Is this the best way of doing this? Why don’t you just tell them that God loves them? You need to build friendships with them they will tell you. You shouldn’t judge people. And so on it goes on, and on, and on. I was once asked by a young lady while I was preaching, why I was doing what I was doing. I thought that that was obvious, but apparently not. We don’t do this was her reply, we give them doughnuts, we do treasure hunts. Yes, she was serious. She was her church’s mission leader even. This is what we’ve come to, liberalism in the church gone viral. So how do you gauge your effectiveness, fruitfulness in terms of your calling? That’s not as easy, or as black and white as some would perhaps assume it to be. Souls saved, professions of faith made? If someone were to tell me tomorrow that they had professed faith in Christ as a result of my preaching yesterday, I would be happy, encouraged, but not too much. If someone were to tell me tomorrow that they had come to faith as a result of my preaching ten years ago, and that they are still going on with and serving the Lord. Then, I would be rejoicing, jumping up and down with the angels in heaven. But if your ministry is a peripatetic ministry, i.e., a travelling preacher, and there is room for such a calling in the New Testament church. (Trust me on this you will never be loved and accepted by the Reformed church as such until God removes the blindness from their eyes to see it). But if that is your calling then mostly you will be sowing seed, you may return after many days and find it has borne some fruit. You might not. There are times when God lifts the curtain and gives us a peek behind the scenes to see what he is doing, for your encouragement. But rest assured you’re in this for the long haul, it can be a long, long, hard road, with many disappointments and hardships along the way.
The prophet Isaiah was called in a time of appalling declension in Israel. But his ministry was fruitful. The fruit? Utter devastation and dereliction, the nation ending up in exile (Isaiah 6:9ff). The people were to hear and see, he was to lift up, cry aloud against their transgressions (Isaiah 58:1). It was to be a message of sin, warning, and judgment to come. Not an easy, comfortable commission. You’re not going to change your nation or the world either. The Prophet’s preaching, God assured him, would harden the majority by the operations of his wrath. That’s what you are faced with in the West today. The message is not one of grace and love for all. But the word is to be preached promiscuously, sharply to all who will hear whatever their response may be. And for many, the more they understand you the more they will set all their God-given powers against the Almighty and his Son Jesus Christ. Just like Pharaoh of old, “who is the Lord that I should serve him?” Of course, it didn’t deter Isaiah, but then he was called. Does this put you off, discourage you? Then maybe you’re not called? I’m just being realistic, you need to know what you’re getting into before you begin. In every generation, everywhere, God has his remnant, his chosen, his elect, and we comfort ourselves in this, that they will be saved. I do not have to drive myself into the ground seeking to produce fruit, I have only to be faithful to my calling and to God’s precious word. I was encouraged by an elderly man many years ago. He related this to me. A youngster, sixteen years of age, was invited by a friend’s family to a gospel service in England. This preacher expounded the text “if any man loves not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed” (1Corinthians 16:22). The youngster left that service apparently unmoved, untouched. He moved with his family to Canada sometime later, enjoyed a successful farming career, and a good number of years retirement. In his early eighties, the Holy Spirit in mighty power brought that text back to him in saving power in his own living room, breaking, convicting and converting him. The point is, you might not see the fruit of your ministry in this life. You’re called to be faithful, that’s all. There’s always a difficulty in bringing the model of the Great Awakening to our own situation. They had revival we are faced with decline. So the ‘success’ rate needs to be seriously tempered. This work we’re called to has always been and I think always will be difficult. For churches, presbyteries and Ministers love to eulogise the Whitfield’s and the Wesley’s very much, quote them abundantly but don’t you dare to seek to emulate those whom they love to eulogise. They will not want to know you (they only love the dead ones). Or, perhaps, if you strike gold, God sovereignly granting you a vein of gospel success, success, that is, in their terms, then they will excuse you, love you, embrace you and even give you a warm smile, open their pulpits even. Then you will be the best thing since sliced bread. But until we will continue to be the extremists, the Cinderella’s of the church. That’s another reason I tell young men who have an inclination to preach on the streets that they must be prepared to stand alone against all comers, sometimes, sadly, very sadly, even the churches. If you can’t do that, then don’t even begin.
Keep Swinging the Bat!
Let me assume that you have been sent. You are an ambassador, you have the King’s authority to deliver his message. You have the Divine promise that Christ will speak through you. If he doesn’t speak through the preaching all that is heard is the sound of a man’s voice and is of no avail. We live in times in the West when preaching is thought to have failed if it hasn’t filled the church or the preacher doesn’t have a number of scalps under his belt. The Lord knows how we have all felt the power of our failure in our preaching. And we have all had those times when we vowed to never to preach again. There has never been a preacher born of a woman who never felt that way, except perhaps the Lord Jesus Christ himself. No, you’re not alone, we have all been there before you and we have got the T-shirt as well. But just like us, you will go back and back and back again and do it again, if God has called you. You just keep swinging the bat. But if you are to persevere in the preaching it is imperative to understand what the divine purpose, God’s intent is, in the preaching of his word.
a) The Intent in the Preaching of God’s Word:
What is God’s intention in this great calling? To establish his covenant, that is, to gather, redeem, deliver, and free his elect. For this, he has entrusted us with his word, holy scripture. The words were divinely conceived and have God for their content, it’s a self-revelation. It is his given word alone that we have authority to proclaim. Objectively, he has given us the Bible and he has preserved it as promised. Subjectively, he, by his Spirit has given us his word in our hearts (John 16:13-14). He, the Holy Spirit is the Author of the word and uses nothing else in the fulfilling of God’s purpose. His ultimate aim is a new heaven and new earth in which will dwell his elect. But to get there the very last of God’s children has to be called, justified, sanctified. The entire body of Christ has to be filled up. And this by the preaching of God’s word. This saving effect we like to speak of but it is only one side of the coin, so to speak.
The ungodly world must be disinherited and fitted for destruction. In order for this to be fulfilled the world must need to be ripened for judgment and condemnation. Only then, faced with the perfect righteous judgement of God can the reprobate be eternally destroyed. What is the connection? The preaching of God’s word also accomplishes this. The preaching of the gospel, your preaching, is a two-edged sword: ““For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? (2Corinthians 2:15-16). “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Romans 9:18). One is ripened for salvation the other for damnation. God has promised to use his word to this end. But only the word of God can accomplish it. Nothing else.
b) The Importance of the Faithful Preaching of God’s Word:
It is the faithful, honest preaching of God’s word that will bring you all manner of strife. It is a very dangerous and hard road that you travel upon. It is not for men-pleasers, for dandy’s nor snowflakes. It cost John the Baptist his head: “And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet” (Luke 7:24-26). You will incur the wrath of men and of devils, you will be reproached, reviled, made to suffer, be persecuted. Maybe face death, even. The faithful preaching of the word will get you, souls, maybe, but it will for sure get you, enemies. Both in and out of churches. The world lies in wickedness (1John 5:19). It is of the devil, they will do his will. The world hates what you stand for and what you preach. Do not be surprised at this. It is normal.
If that is, you remain faithful to the word of God. When you incur such hatred of men you must remember what it did to Christ, your Master. To his apostles. Why? Because they were utterly faithful in preaching God’s word. Read the heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11). Read your church history, the Waldensians, the Scottish Covenanters, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Faithful men and women who were slain, their blood cries out from under the alter for vindication: “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9). Of course, you can take the pressure off, you can tamper with and twist the word of God. Or you can outright deny the word of God. The world will agree with you, love you. But if you are faithful in preaching God’s literal six-day creation, preach against sin and sodomy, if you clearly define God’s institution of marriage, preach the sovereign grace of God that saves apart from works of any kind, they will hate you, vilify you, curse you. But God’s hand of protection will be upon you. At worst they may kill you and send you to heaven, but no more: “fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). May God bless his preachers of righteousness and keep them bold and strong in the power of his might, and may his sovereign and ultimate purpose be soon fulfilled. Men! Keep swinging the bat. “Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
The famous sermon of Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” is well known to most men in the preaching fraternity. I read that Edwards did not preach that sermon howling like a banshee. On the contrary, he preached it in a fairly quiet and mild manner. It was the force and intensity of the word that brought about the result of people holding on to the pillars of the church fearing they would drop into hell. That was the work and power of the Holy Ghost. But we live in different days. Those old-time preachers were bulletproof. They could almost call down the flames of hell until people could nigh on smell the sulphur, feel the heat. But that fear, of hell, is nigh on gone in Western society at least anyway. Now most preachers don’t even go there anymore. Most don’t even preach anymore, they just give talks. To be termed a Hell-fire preacher today is not a respectable accolade. So few men preach fear, the pulpit has become anaemic in preaching about punishment. And yet the entire cosmos groans underneath it, “for we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). Under the curse of God because of man’s apostasy. We have the clear and distinct evidence of the Almighty’s wrath, “for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). It is all over us like a rash. But sinners are both deaf and blind to it. They need to be awakened out of their sleep of death. They need to hear about their personal involvement in sin and its consequences, both temporal and eternal. So fear we use, wholesome fear. You will never fetch a sinner to the cross telling jokes, making casual remarks about their sin. I even heard a preacher, a team-leader, a short while back, blaspheme God’s name! “Oh,” said he with a smile, “sorry about the mistake.” A mistake? Sin! Blasphemy! There is a world to come, “behold, the judge standeth before the door”(James 5:9). To give a pleasant gospel talk may make you popular and get you return visits, but it will leave your hearers, the world, untouched, unregenerate, unsaved.
Sin is man’s no to God, wrath is God’s no to man’s sin. One day men will be nothing but objects of that wrath for all eternity, except they repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). Jesus said very clear and awful things regarding the unrepentant. The word Hell is itself a terrifying word. The word has all but been banished from the modern translations of the Bible. Without the preaching of Hell the command of the gospel loses its urgency. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Am I saying we need to frighten people into being saved? No. But often it is the fear of judgment, the doctrine of eternal punishment that God uses to save his people. It is an important part of gospel preaching and not yours to exclude from your preaching. Some we will drive with fear and others we will draw with love into the arms of Jesus. We may preach punitively, but we may not forget also to preach the love God evidenced alone in the death of his only begotten Son.
Preaching With Passion:
I was preaching with some other men in a town close by some years ago. A man stopped briefly to listen to the man who was preaching at the time. Another colleague asked him do you believe what he is preaching? “No,” said the man, “but he does.” A man on fire. The Holy Ghost needs to burn the message into your heart before others will feel the heat. There is the well-known account of the actor, Garrick his name was. The Bishop asked Garrick how he could produce such a magical effect on an audience by the representation of fiction. The actor replied, “because I recite fiction as if it were truth, and you preach truth as if it were fiction.” We need the Jeremiah syndrome, “his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). But not heat without light. But where there is light there will be heat in some measure. The passion in a man’s preaching is as a result of his own testimony. His own experience of the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. We’ll come shortly to such an example, a man from Gadarene. A man held captive by the powers of hell and loosed by Jesus. When a man knows by experience that he has been plucked from the snare of the devil and the jaws of everlasting torments, when the chains have fallen off, when the power of God unto salvation has gripped his heart, you’ll be hard-pressed to shut him up. We have so many silent “Christians” and “churches” today, I fear it is the fruit of what has been or maybe what has not been preached for a long time in our land. God has put his words in the mouths of his people, “I have put my words in thy mouth” (Isaiah 51:16). A non-confessing Christian or Church is a misnomer. Where is the heat, the passion, the drive, the fire? The apostle Paul testifies, “now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2Corinthians 5:20). And again, “knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2Corinthians 5:11). Sadly, I hear what is called preaching today, and it would not persuade me to get out of bed, let alone flee the wrath to come.
A Man From Gadarene:
Here is a man who knew beyond anyone that he had been delivered (Luke 8:26-40). He was wild, uncontrollable, except by devils. Jesus came to the rescue. He wanted to go with Jesus (Luke 8:38). After his experience, wouldn’t you? Jesus said, “no” (v39). But what Jesus did not do is to tell him to go and hide in a church building, neither to do nothing. He gave him his calling, the only one that really matters: “Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee.” But wait a minute! He’s not been to university, or seminary, no man has laid hands on him, he doesn’t even have membership in a church. Plus, he’s not been civilised yet, he has just crawled out of the caves! Whatever. Jesus sends him back to his own folk. He does not impose too much on this inexperienced street preacher. You know, like, go learn Hebrew and Greek and get a systematic theology into you first. Just, go tell them what great things God has done for you, through Jesus (v39). Just do what you can, is all. He is to “shew” narrate, speak, express repeatedly what Jesus has done for him (v39). His story was to stir the hearts of all who heard it, to find out more about Jesus. And he did, and he did it very well indeed. He went preaching “throughout the whole city” (v39). The Decapolis they called it. “And he departed and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel” (Mark 5:20). It was named after ten cities. The whole region heard about his miraculous deliverance. His calling was preparatory, in time these people will get the gospel in full and saving power. You see, Jesus came back and was “gladly received” (v40). This is the same people who in fear bade Jesus depart (v37). The difference? The street preacher. He had broken up the fallow ground, prepared them for Jesus’ return to the region. My point? A biblical one. One sows another reaps (John 4:37). It may be your ministry will be just that, to sew the seed, and another will come and reap the harvest. Or maybe the other way round. But it is important that you understand that just because you do not see immediate fruit in terms of conversions, does not necessarily negate your calling or ministry. You must keep on, whatever, head down into the wind and keep on swinging the bat. It is obedience that is required of you. The rest is in the hands of your sovereign Redeemer.
When Two World’s Collide:
“Now,” says Jesus, “is the judgment of this world.” Which one? There are two. There is the world that is God’s and the world that is man’s. The two of them from the beginning have been on a collision course. There is enmity there, God put it there (Genesis 3:15). There is the world that is God’s (John 3:16). The one that he loves has been and is saving, through his Son Jesus Christ. Those who belong to it are those who were given to Jesus Christ by his Father. They and only they will come to Christ, believe in Christ, through the preaching of the gospel. There is the world that Christ reconciles to God, “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2Corinthians 5:19). Those who belong to this world, Christ by his atoning death, brings to God. There is the world that hated and still hates the disciples of Jesus Christ, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19). Especially those who publicly and boldly confess Christ before man’s world. There is the world that Christ came not to condemn, but to save (John 3:17). There is the world that God loves (John 3:16). This is God’s world. But it is always in collision with man’s world.
The world that is man’s? “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1John 2:15-17). It is a world that is corrupt, ungodly, motivated by sin, at enmity against God. This world is not the object of God’s love, not at all. If you are going to preach the gospel on the street you need to get this firmly embedded in your mind, God does not love all men head for head. The world of man is “the present evil world” (Galatians 1:4). It’s a swamp, and it’s full of the garbage and sewage of man’s sin, it is unbelievably stinking, vile, poisonous. And natural man delights to swim in the swamp, it’s his pleasure, delight to him. But what he cannot see is that at the far edge of the swamp there’s a drop, a waterfall if you like, that plunges over and down into Hell. When the gospel lifeline is thrown to him by the street preacher, he just ignores it. When the preacher cries out with the gospel of salvation to him, he sticks his fingers in his ears. His choice is always to stay in the swamp. Only the power of Christ can rescue him, in a day of his power (Psalm 110:3). But we must warn him, there is coming a day, when the swamp will be fully purged, so as by fire. The fiery judgment of God’s full and final and fierce wrath. If God has rescued you from the swamp then praise him, but take heed you do not return to it, lest your name be added to that long list of preachers that have brought dishonour and disgrace to the name and cause of Christ.
This is the world Jesus says he does not pray for (John 17:9). This is the world that is already condemned (John 12:31). This is the world of man that is in collision with the kingdom of God in every age. In its power, its wisdom, its science, its industry, its religion and culture. It operates from the principle of sin, it can do no other. It is incontinent (2Timothy 3:3). It cannot keep its enmity in, it must express it. It cannot keep within its hatred for God, its lust for the flesh, adultery, divorce, profanities and vanities. It is a world of strife, unrest and wars. It is the world of man’s self-righteousness, man-made religion, where love is spoken of but not known nor practised. Man’s world in the entirety of its culture was judged, condemned by God in Christ before the bar of his justice when they condemned God’s Son before its tribunal and its execution of him. “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). Man’s world was asked, what will you do with the Son of God? With one voice they said, “we will kill him!” Now awaits only the condemnation to be finally executed, after which only God’s world will be left. In the meantime, street-preaching man, there are those in that swamp of a world who will be rescued by the faithful preaching of the gospel. We were all of us conceived and born in sin and therefore members of that society of the godless until we were rescued, through grace, from the swamp by Christ. He didn’t just haul us to the side, but lifted us out, washed and sanctified us, “such were some you” (1Corinthians 6:9). The Lord in his mercy has others yet to be rescued. So who are they? They are those for whom he died. He died only for those whom God has eternally given to him by the Father. Those given to him by the Father are those whom God has eternally chosen to be his people. Those elect, redeemed in the blood of the cross, are the rescued, and the ones yet to be rescued. Go get ‘em, preacher man!
Feeding the Church:
The street preacher doesn’t necessarily see the fruit of his labours. There may be souls added to the kingdom of which he is totally unaware. Therefore he doesn’t get the opportunity to further counsel and guide those people into a sound and true church. However, if that opportunity does arise it is vitally important that he doesn’t just leave such people he encounters to wander on their own. We have a responsibility to guide the saved and seekers to a suitable church. That might not always be our own church, well and good if it is. So it behoves us to know of such sound churches where folks can be directed too. This I say, must be done without compromise. What constitutes a sound church? Just as there are two worlds (see above) there are two churches also. God’s and man’s. One is called Jerusalem, the other Sodom and Gomorrah. The latter is the one personified by the Scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day. It’s the one that had him crucified. And today it corrupts and even rejects the word of God. To knowingly send seekers and converts to such assemblies would be sinful. So, a true church: “The marks, by which the true Church is known, are these: if the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin: in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself” (Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 29). And the false church: “As for the false Church, she ascribes more power and authority to herself and her ordinances than to the Word of God, and will not submit herself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does she administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in his Word, but adds to and takes from them, as she thinks proper; she relieth more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those, who live holily according to the Word of God, and rebuke her for her errors, covetousness, and idolatry” (Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 29). These two Churches are easily known and distinguished from each other. The singular mark of an unsound church is its repudiation of the word of God, its authority in and over the church. It compromises the faith in giving way to and approving of Sodomite marriage, divorce ever and anon on unbiblical grounds, including remarriage, it appoints women to its offices in the church.
God has put his words in Zion’s mouth (Isaiah 51:16). In order to fulfil his work. To gather his elect and harden the reprobate. At this present time, she is spitting his words out of her mouth. As long as she continues to do so, I tell you, wrath is upon these churches who do so. So in mission work of any sort, albeit, street preaching, it is imperative that people are fed into true, solid, Reformed churches that are clearly distinguished by bearing the marks of a true church. Where the doctrines of grace are taught, the pure gospel is expounded. And in a day and generation where it seems that just about anything and anyone goes, discipline is applied uncompromisingly and without favour. The preacher himself ought to be a member of such a church and have been sent by such a church and be informed of churches in the locality where he is working, that he may guide people who show a serious interest in the gospel.
Caring & Cautiousness:
If and as you engage in a street ministry you will get the opportunity, doubtless, of encouraging other believers. You’ll come across poor souls that have been damaged by church experiences and won’t return for love nor money. Seek to bind up their wounds, point and draw them to Christ the great healer. Don’t scold. You’ll come across back-sliders who find it so hard to return to the Father’s house. Encourage them. You’ll come across some of the poorest, damaged souls who will come at you not so much asking for help, but screaming abuse at you. It’s only as you respond with the soft answer that they begin to melt and then the tears come and the sorrows come pouring out. Minister Christ to them. The street work is a great work, there is nothing like it, believe me, I still love it after all these years. Then you will come across others, men and women with the same burden for souls as you yourself. You may be given the opportunity to counsel them in the best way forward, though for them not necessarily the same as for you. Perhaps as your gifts and abilities develop you will be given opportunities to preach in other churches, besides your own. Your business there is to encourage, not to scold or correct, that’s their Pastor’s job, not yours. There are other forms of evangelism besides street preaching. Some are called to plant churches. There also you may find some usefulness, in encouraging those engaged in such a work. Or perhaps even given the chance of instigating someone to start such an endeavour. But having done so you would have a responsibility to return often to encourage and strengthen those involved. Whatever the ministry be it is always about edifying, building up. You live and minister in a world of broken, ruined souls who have already been abused by many others, the work on the street is an opportunity to present them with a ministry that truly presents them with hope, the only hope, Christ. There will be times when you’ll be judged as harsh. Well, you must examine yourself. A minister once said to me that when we’re criticised, and not for the best intentions, there will always be a grain of truth in it. Don’t just ignore it. But in preaching for conviction of sin we’re always going to be open to such charges, it is inevitable.
In caring for others you will need to be cautious also. The dangers are many, and there is a Devil, and he is still busy. And you’re on his territory. If he can bring you down he will. Never, never get yourself alone with the opposite sex other than your own spouse. The number of men who have fallen in this area, the path of redemptive history is littered with them. Even other peoples children, do not be on your own, there are some very evil children, believe me. Your enemy, the Devil, is an expert sportsman, he knows his prey, how to bait the hook, set the trap. He knows your weakness, he has been at his business a long, long time. He has studied human nature. He knows what you’re made of. So you need to pay heed to the Saviour’s words, “watch and pray.” You need day by day the full armour of God. You need to put it on upon your knees. You need protection from unreasonable and wicked men, ungodly powers and authorities. Every day and every preaching situation is different and the enemy comes in a different route every time. One of the most dangerous times is after great success or victory. Immediately your guard is down. Then he comes in like a lightning bolt to take you down. Be caring but be cautious.
Stipend or Support:
I guess something should be said about the street preacher’s keep. This also is a difficult issue. If you live in the United Kingdom you could well starve to death. However, it fares somewhat better for the brethren across the Pond. The American Christians do seem to have a bigger heart for street ministry. I have no real experience in other countries so I cannot comment on them. If you’re not supported financially by your own church then usually a tent-making ministry is the next best option. You could, of course, take employment with a para-church missionary society, but that has a lot of tensions, towing their party line to keep their supporters on board etc. Also, there is not much room for a preacher who has serious Reformed convictions. I only know of one brother in this line of work in these parts who is fully supported by his church. This is exceptional. Financial giving for frontline evangelism is at an all-time low in the British Isles. I myself have over the years had to take employment to make ends meet for short periods of time. I have noticed that some brothers appeal for support through social media outlets. How this works for them in practice I’m not sure. Then there are some who frown upon such practices. But in fairness, if people are not made aware of a Christian worker’s genuine need how will they know that there is an opportunity to give. How many would testify, “if I’d only known, I would’ve gladly given.” So you have to go with your own conscience on that one. I think though that when others are supporting you, whether a church, or individuals, and whether it’s regular or one-off giving, that puts a responsibility on you to be a very good steward of that support. To use it carefully, wisely and well. For this lack of support for street ministry to be rectified there would need to be a serious movement on the part of the Lord, I think. The frozen love of Christians melted to tears of sorrow for a world of ruined sinners. Sadly, they think it’s only at such times that God is actually working. The tendency is to be dismayed and therefore somewhat blinded to the reality of God actually working just as much in the years of decline. For he is as much responsible for the one as he is for the other. But the street preacher mustn’t let himself be dismayed by this state of affairs. This simply should cast him upon the Lord all the more. This will grow his faith to look to the Lord to provide a way for him. I myself have been quite staggered at the ways in which he has provided for myself. In times of doubt, I have to keep reminding myself of those former experiences and rebuke myself.
All this said. If a church is sending a man to preach the gospel, albeit on the street, or wherever, are they not duty-bound to support him? I think they are. But what if they can’t? The apostle Paul laboured as a tent-maker in Corinth, but that was because of a narrow, critical spirit which was pervasive there. He supported himself in order that the gospel wouldn’t be hindered there (1Corinthians 9:12). It is not beneath the dignity of a preacher to engage in manual labour, to drive a truck, labour on a farm, but it would distract from his preaching ministry (Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1Corinthians 9:14). Though he is a street preacher his needs would be no different to that of others. Maybe he has a family to keep, he needs to be buying books constantly (not cheap either), present himself in a neat and tidy appearance (especially on the street). On the subject of appearance. This is not a matter of small importance. I don’t think the street preacher needs to dress as he would if he were preaching in his church. In that situation, he should be dressed at his very best. But on the street, he should be dressed for the street. But that doesn’t mean anything goes, clean, tidy, smartly attired though casually so. But, please, not religious garb. We need to remember who it is we are representing at all times. The support may not necessarily come from one church, but others within the presbytery or denomination. The strong supporting the weak.
Privilege & Pride:
There has always been and I think still is today an awful pride and selfishness in the church. Paul addresses this in the New Testament, speaking to the Corinthians (1Corinthians 1:26-31). He speaks of the seriousness and urgency of the gospel ministry over against the squabbling selfishness and pride of the Corinthian Christians. He could do so today in many places. He reminds them that they were just ordinary people, nothing special, not nobles, not high-fliers. You see whatever your station is, your gifts are, everything you’ve got, except your sin, is from God. So what place is there for pride (1Corinthians 6:9ff)? What have you got that you didn’t receive? So if God uses you in any capacity at all you need to remind yourself that it was God’s doing not yours and the glory is his too, not yours. It’s this attitude alone that will keep you in a place of usefulness. Your place in Christ? Who put you there? God did. He gave you light, life and liberty, he called you. If you don’t keep yourself beneath the shadow of the cross day by day you will end up spiritually useless. In the light of that cross let it pour utter contempt on all your pride. “I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom; but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection” (S. Townsend).
There can be much hardness and bitterness that can enter the soul of the street preacher as a result of the rejection that he encounters. But this must be dealt with in the same way as any pride that would creep in, nailing it to the cross. There will be fellow preachers who will reject you, Pastors who ought to know better will look down theological noses at you. There will be others of your own fraternity who will criticise you (normally behind your back), and even disown you perhaps. You may incur trouble with the authorities, be arrested, arraigned and jailed for preaching the gospel. Other Christians will disown you, they will say it was your own foolish fault. If ever a church needed serious suffering it’s the church in the West today, for that’s the only thing that will purge the church of her self-righteous respectability and bring God’s true people together, and show just exactly how small she really is, a tiny flock. But in the meantime, you must continue on in your course doing what God has called you to do. If God is for you who can be against you? So go to it, and let all the rest go to heaven.
The Preacher’s Devotion:
Perhaps this should have been stated earlier however we must need to say something about it. The exhortation to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21), is a very important one and especially so in the context of our present subject. The question, of course, is how? By using every means which love commands, and avoiding all things that love forbids. The latter is not legalism. The world talks about love today, but what they speak of is mere emotion, it is not founded, grounded in Divine love. It is simply a notion in the head. They are strangers to the constraints of love. To keep ourselves in the love of God is to meditate upon his love to us, daily. It is knowing, believing the love that God has for us. He demonstrated that love for us in giving his only begotten Son, to atone by his precious blood. What are we doing here, but preaching to ourselves, before we preach to others? It was by the gospel that we preach that God revealed his love to us. So our great need before any form of service is to keep our souls in and under a lively sense of this love Divine. But that also means keeping ourselves from the worldly, fleshly lusts that war against our souls. From carnal indulgences and sensual gratifications. By the love of God and his mercies to us in Christ, and for our very soul’s sake, we must abstain from them. For as bad food will impair your bodily health, these indulgences will impair the health of your soul. They will rob your soul of its peace and dampen the warm sense of God’s love. “Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5), says the prophet. What is life without his love? What joy can be compared with this, to serve and to please the Lord always? So we must keep ourselves, in the word of God daily, praying, and fasting. The use of the special means of grace for ourselves, the preaching of God’s word. Getting under good solid, sound preaching, week by week. Then there is the fellowship of God’s people. Other gospel preachers. Maybe in the providence of God, you are working alone most of the time, a very lonely and difficult pathway. Perhaps you need to travel now and again to get with other brothers, for mutual encouragement. We need the fellowship of all Christians, but the fraternity of street preachers is a very special fellowship. Nobody knows the heartaches, the pitfalls and the enjoyments of street preaching as they do. It does us a world of good to be together sometimes at least. We sharpen, quicken and strengthen one another. But, whatever it takes, “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21).
What is the Reformed Faith?
What do Reformed Christians believe about doctrine, salvation, the Bible and the covenant, and much more?
The Old Testament prophets cried out to Judah concerning the great dangers they faced: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6). Amos warned, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of the hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).
Our deep concern is that the situation in our day and in this land is truly similar to that in the days of the prophets of old. The Times stated in its Jan. 30, 1993 issue, “What is the true situation (in England)? Believing, worshipping Christians are a tiny handful of our nation. Ninety per cent or more of our citizens have virtually no knowledge of Christianity.” That is a sad commentary. Of that “tiny handful” there are wide divergences of belief. There is surely a great need that the Reformed faith to be proclaimed.
Why is the situation as it presently is? We live in the “last days” (Acts 2:17). During this period of time, the Word of our Lord is being fulfilled that many depart (I Timothy 4:1) and the love of many “waxes cold” (Matthew 24:12). Within the world itself, there is the gross materialism which has poisoned society. There is the mad rush for more and more entertainment—often of the most abominable sort. The scoffers continue to mock, asking, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2Peter 3:4).
The situation in the churches is almost as bad. Apostasy abounds. There is mass defection from the “old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16). There are the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). Scripture’s prophecy is being realized: “Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). There is growing pressure again for union of all churches and denominations. Doctrine is considered irrelevant. “New” theologies arise. The sheep, it would seem are about to be devoured by the ravening wolves. Our assurance then can only be in Christ’s Word, “No man can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
In these distressing times, the Word of Christ comes through loudly and clearly, “Behold I stand at the door and knock …” (Revelation 3:20). Even as He once before stood at the door of the church of the Laodiceans, calling out the faithful who remained in that apostate church, so He calls still today. God’s people hunger for the Word. Many are not being fed. They are receiving “stones for bread.” Christ calls to come out and sup with Him around His Word which abides forever.
Therefore, we of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship, seek to form a link between all those who love the Reformed faith and desire still the “old paths.” We desire to establish, where such is possible, churches which will boldly proclaim the old truths.
What is the “Reformed” faith? By “faith,” we refer to the body of truth which is set forth in Scripture itself. We speak of the “Reformed” faith not as though it is some sort of substitute for scriptural faith. There is, after all, but one objective set of truths which is presented in Scripture.
By “Reformed,” we would distinguish ourselves from others who in one way or another deviate from the “faith” set forth in God’s Word. We hold to the truths of Scripture as that has been summarized systematically in the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity, i.e., the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt.
What, then, is the Reformed (that is scriptural) faith?
The Sovereignty of God
First and foremost, the Reformed faith emphasises the sovereignty of God. Does this distinguish it from others who likewise teach the sovereignty of God? Yes, it does. We are convinced that the Reformed faith maintains the truth of God’s sovereignty consistently. All Christians surely would agree that God is sovereign. He rules overall. Yet repeatedly one encounters doctrines and practices which contradict the truth of God’s sovereignty. In order to satisfy human reasoning, there have been those who insist on the “free will” of all men to accept or reject the Christ as they will. There are those who present a Christ who knocks at the sinner’s heart’s door, pleading for admittance (misquoting Revelation 3:20). There are those who teach that the final number of the elect of God is determined not by God from eternity, but by the activities of man. There are those who teach that God loves all people—yet that finally He casts some into hell. Others would teach that because of the love of God for all, He can cast none into hell.
The Reformed faith consistently maintains the sovereignty of God. He has created in six literal days (Genesis 1), and continues to sustain all of His universe. He directs and controls also all moral, rational creatures. He has from eternity determined to save some (the elect) through the blood of the Lamb (Ephesians 1:4) and determined that others would be cast into hell in the way of their sins (Romans 9:22). Never does God relinquish any aspect of His rule in any sense. All of the doctrines of the church of Christ must conform to that. The church may not “adjust” the sovereignty of God to accommodate man’s idea of what is just and right. Rather, man’s confession must conform to the great truth of God’s sovereignty. (In this connection, we highly recommend the Baker edition of the stirring book of Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God.
The Infallible Scriptures
The knowledge of the sovereign God is derived not through man’s searching, but by the revelation of God Himself. The Reformed faith holds to the inerrancy of Holy Scripture, to its infallibility and inspiration. It is the “God-breathed” Word (2 Timothy 3:16) spoken by Christ (John 1) so that we might know and understand that which God would reveal of Himself. Without that Word we could have no certain knowledge. With it, we have reliable and sure testimony concerning God and concerning His Son Jesus Christ, and Christ’s work in redeeming and delivering His church.
The Covenant of Grace
The Reformed faith holds to the great truth of the “covenant of grace.” We briefly state our own convictions concerning Scripture’s teaching in this regard.
The covenant of grace must be understood in light of the Trinity. The Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) eternally communes within Himself perfectly. It is a communion which beggars human description and goes beyond human understanding. Yet that truth of covenant communion with Himself is the basis of the covenant of grace. The Triune God eternally determined to reveal outside of Himself the glory of communion as it exists within Himself. He determined to show in the highest possible way a communion with an elect people chosen eternally in Christ,
A proper understanding of this work of God ties together the various wonderful truths of Scripture. The word of God shows that this covenant is “unilateral,” that is, established not between two parties, but by God Himself directly (Genesis 15:17-18). It is an unbreakable covenant in that when God establishes it with His people, it continues to all eternity (Genesis 17:7). This covenant is not some sort of arrangement whereby God gets His people to heaven, but it is the end or goal which God has in mind (Genesis 17:7). It is the covenant which God is pleased to establish in the line of generations (Genesis 17:7). It has been truly said, “He gathers His seed from our seed.” Not all born of believing parents are part of that covenant (Romans 9:13). But the spiritual seed are saved (Romans 9:7). God does bring in others from heathendom—but then incorporates also their spiritual seed into the body of Christ (Acts 16:27-33).
The Five Points of Calvinism
The Reformed faith often is associated with what is called the “five points of Calvinism.” Those “five points” by no means exhaust the Reformed faith. Nevertheless, these do mark a distinct difference between it and Arminianism which has infected most fundamentalist churches.
The five points are remembered by many through the use of the acrostic: TULIP. The “T” is for total depravity. This is the scriptural teaching that man is born dead in sins, unable and unwilling to any good whatsoever (Romans 3:10). All are guilty of the first sin of Adam (Romans 5:12). All only transgress the law of God by nature (Romans 3:23). From this follows several conclusions. One can not “offer” to a dead sinner salvation in Christ. Nor can such a one be “invited” to accept Christ or admit Him into his heart. His state is such that spiritual activity is impossible on his part.
The “U” represents unconditional election. From before the foundation of the world, God has chosen unto Himself a people in Christ (Ephesians 1:4). Together with this fact, God has also determined to cast others into hell in the way of their sins (Romans 9:21-22). That this eternal election is “unconditional” means that God chose not because He foresaw that one would believe, but that one believes because God chose him (John 10:26; Romans 8:29-30).
The “L” represents limited atonement. The atonement is the payment made by Christ for the sins of His people (Matthew 1:21). That it is “limited” is not to teach that Christ’s atonement lacks anything. Rather this presents the scriptural fact that atonement is limited to God’s elect or chosen ones (John 6:44).
The “I” speaks of irresistible grace. This emphasizes that when God draws His people unto Himself, they do and will come (John 6:37). They come not involuntarily, but willingly. Nevertheless, His grace is of such power that the will of His elect is made subservient to His will.
The “P” is preservation of saints. This means that one who is chosen, called, and drawn to Jesus Christ, will also remain in the faith and will surely be brought to glory. These saints can sin grievously and fall for a time into certain sins. But God brings them back to Himself. Those for whom Christ died will surely be saved (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:29-30).
The Doctrines of Grace
The Reformed faith consistently holds to the “doctrines of grace.” Again, these are doctrines of Scripture. The terminology serves to emphasize the glorious fact that salvation is wholly the work of our God—not the work of man or of man cooperating with God. We are justified by grace through faith (Romans 3:24). Those justified have had their sins fully paid for through Jesus’ precious blood (Romans 5:1). And those for whom Christ died were chosen from eternity by God. All of salvation is wholly the work of the sovereign God. There is then no room for boasting (Ephesians 2:9).
The Reformed faith follows the practice of the baptism of believers. This has consistently been the practice of Reformed believers from the day of John Calvin. This baptism is based upon the truth of God’s covenant—established in the line of the generations of believers. Not all those baptised are saved (Esau who received the sign of circumcision was not saved [Romans 9:13]). But because God establishes His covenant in the line of generations (Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39), these also receive the sign of that covenant and of the righteousness which is by faith. This is consistent also with the practices of the apostles who baptised believers and their households (Acts 16:15; I Corinthians 1:16; Acts 11:14; Acts 16:31).
The Reformed faith maintains creeds as expressions of what it confesses that Scripture teaches. Creeds are not to be regarded as infallible. They nevertheless identify and distinguish that which is Reformed from that which is not. The Reformed have written down, often after great struggles and horrendous persecutions, the truths which they believe Scripture assuredly teaches. The creeds point out how the Reformed differ from others who likewise claim to maintain Scripture. By means of the creeds, children of believers are taught the doctrines of Scripture. By means of the creeds the churches show to all in the world what they believe and teach.
The Reformed faith maintains the necessity of regular worship each Sabbath. It is not of a mind to minimise or neglect the worship of Jehovah in regular services. Rather the joy of the Reformed is to fulfil the mandate of the fourth commandment and the teachings of Scripture by gathering each Sabbath to worship God’s Name. They gather not to be entertained but to glorify the Name which is above every other name.
The Reformed faith maintains also the scriptural teaching that the preaching of the Word must come out of the church through men called by God to serve in this important position (Romans 10:15). The preaching is to be the central element of worship. It is called in Scripture the “foolishness of preaching” (I Corinthians 1:21), but at the same time, it is the God-ordained way of saving sinners and strengthening saints (Romans 10:14).
The Godly Life
The Reformed faith does not lead men to be careless or profane. This faith does not hold that one can “sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1). Because one is chosen eternally of God, and because Christ died for him, there must evidence of godly fruit. True thankfulness must be seen—otherwise, there is no evidence of eternal election. God has chosen His people unto good works (Ephesians 2:10) and in order that we should be holy and without blame before Him (Ephesians 1:4). There must be no alliance between light and darkness, between the Christian and the world (2 Corinthians 6:14). The “antithesis” must be evident, the distinction between the good and the evil is to be seen in the Christian’s life.
The Reformed faith firmly believes in the calling of the church to go out into all the world to preach the gospel. It will have nothing to do with a “hyper-Calvinism” which would neglect this great task of the church. Jesus Himself mandated the disciples, and then the church, to go into all the world to preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19). Though it is surely true that God will save His people whom He has chosen from eternity, it is likewise true that He has determined that this is to be done in the way of the faithful preaching of the gospel both within the church and on the mission field. God alone knows those who are His. The church goes forth under Christ’s mandate in order that those chosen of God may also be brought to the cross of Jesus Christ.
The Reformed faith looks forward confidently to the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ on the clouds of heaven. In Matthew, twenty-four Christ speaks of signs which precede His return. We see those signs being fulfilled today. We do not know the day or the hour of His return, but we know that it must be at hand. This ought to impress the church with the urgency to carry out its tasks faithfully to the end. It must preach the Word; it must evangelize; it must teach the children so that they may be prepared for the evil days which come upon the church. And the earnest prayer of the church is for Christ’s coming: “Even so, come Lord Jesus, quickly!” (Revelation 22:20).
The above is not designed in any way to be an exhaustive treatment of the “Reformed” faith. It should, however, give a “thumbnail” description of that faith which has been held so precious through the centuries. On the basis of the glorious truths for which many gave their lives, we also would desire to seek fellowship with those who love these same truths so as to encourage and strengthen one another in the most holy faith. (By Rev R Hanko, Protestant Reformed Church).
Some Examples of Street Sermon Outlines
‘Repent Ye’ (Acts 3:19)
1. The Nature of Sin: v19
a) A Knowledge of Sin
b) A Conviction of Sin
c) A Sorrow for Sin
d) A Self-Loathing for Sin
e) A Confessing & Turning From Sin
2. The Evidences of Repentance: v19
a) A Right State of Mind
b) A Spiritual Conversion
c) An Obedience to the Truth
d) A Union With Christ by Faith
3. The Necessity of Repentance: v19)
a) Needful for a Right State of Mind
b) Needful for God’s Approval
c) Needful for Own Peace
d) Needful for Entrance Heaven
‘The Engrafted Word’ (James 1:21)
1. The Reception of the Word (v21)
a) Without Word Men Perish
b) Will of God Some Are Saved
c) Word Begets Those Who’re Saved
d) Man Rejects the Word Wilfully Because it’s God’s
2. The Rejectors of the Word v21
a) Hear Not Because Not of God
b) Hear Not Because Heart’s Hardened
c) Word’s Content is Person Christ
d) Word’s Work’s to Beget Children of God
e) Word of Man’s Ineffective/Impotent.
3. The Results of the Engrafted Word v21
a) Word of Truth Saves
b) Word Saves From Sin
c) Word’s Planted by God via Preaching
d) Word Never Returns Void
e) Word Planted Transforms Life
‘What the Law Could Not Do’ (Romans 8:34)
1 The Inefficiency of the Law: v3f
a) It Cannot Pardon the Guilty
b) It Cannot Remove Impurity of Soul
c) It Cannot Heal the Alienation From God
d) It Cannot Prevent the Infliction of the Penalty
2. The Instituted Means: v3f
a) The Author is God
b) The Agent is His Son
c) The Commission is to Save
d) The Work Given to Condemn Sin in the Flesh
3. The Intention in Sending Jesus v3f
a) Sinners be Justified From All Things
b) Sinners Declared Truly Righteous
c) Sinners Turned From Idols to God
‘The Power That Brings Salvation’ (Romans 1:16)
1. The Great Instrument: v16
a) Law Holds Captive – Gospel Satisfies its Claims
b) Satan Holds Captive – Gospel Destroys His Works
c) Sin Holds Captive – Person of Christ Liberates
d) Lie Holds Captive – Truth Gospel Conquers
2. The Gracious Operation: v16
a) Gospel Awakens & Converts Sinners
b) Gospel Justifies Sinners Before God
c) Gospel Transforms Makes Bad Good
d) Gospel Preserves Those it Saves
e) Gospel Brings Believers to Glory
‘Death’ (Psalm 39:4)
1. The End of All Men: v4
a) End of All Temporal Concerns
b) End All Earthly Relations
c) End of Man’s Probation/Stewardship
d) End of All Man’s Exertions
2. The End Men Forget: v4
a) Because it’s Disagreeable
b) Because They’re Absorbed With Earthly Things
c) Because Satan Blinds Them
3. The End Desirable: v4
a) Prayerfully Remember Your End
b) Pray God to Save & Sanctify You
c) Pray for Repentance & Faith
d) Pray to be Ready for Death
‘The Death of the Righteous’ (Numbers 23:10)
1. The Character of the Righteous: v10
a) He’s Justified
b) He’s Regenerated
c) He’s Sanctified
d) He’s Practically Obedient
2. The Fruit of Righteous: v10
a) He Dies Under God’s Immediate Direction
b) He Dies in State Gracious Security
c) He Dies in Ecstasy & Triumph
d) He Dies Entering into Life & Immortality
3. The Desire Itself is Insufficient: v10
a) Needs Personal Faith Working by Love
b) Needs Preparation for Dying
c) Needs Submission to God’s Will
‘The Repentant Heart’ (Luke 13:3)
1. The Nature of Repentance: v3
a) It’s Sorrow for Sin
b) It’s Hatred of Sin
c) It’s Forsaking Sin
2. The Cause of Repentance: v3
a) It’s God
b) It’s God’s Grace
c) It’s Through God’s Word
d) It’s Through Operations of the Spirit
3. The Necessity of Repentance: v3
a) Because All Are Sinners
b) Because No Communion With God Without it
c) Because Eternally Lost if Live & die in Sin
A Brief Account of the Street Preacher’s Testimony
I was born in Glasgow in 1944 in the district of Langside. That’s where I grew up. Our Church life was with the Church of Scotland. My father’s business collapsed and he did a runner, leaving my mother, sister and I to fend for ourselves. I would have been about nine years of age then. Unknown to me at the time my mother was dying of cancer. I think it was because this that she started taking us to the meetings at the ‘Tent Hall’ in Glasgow. The ‘Tent Hall’ was begun back in the day partly through the influence of DL Moody and others. It was renowned for its Sunday night evangelistic meetings. As a nine globing on ten year old boy I couldn’t have told what the difference was, but I knew this wasn’t the Church of Scotland. These men were serious, they meant business, and there was a whole different level to their singing. I understand now of course, there was gospel life there. Then in 1953 Billy Graham came to Glasgow, he preached at the Kelvin Hall. My mother took us to hear Dr Graham. It seems obvious to me now that my mother was looking for something, or someone. Whether she actually found the Saviour, or rather he found her, I can’t be absolutely certain, but I like to think so. With my mother’s departure from this world, my sister and I moved over to the north side of Glasgow, to the district of Springburn. To live with my grand parents. The religion continued with the Church of Scotland, at Cowlairs Parish Church. I attended the Boys Brigade, Sunday School and of course Church on the Sabbath. My grand parents as far as I know didn’t know the Lord, they were traditionally religious, raised that way up north, and lived out their lives that way. They were very respectable, and diligent in their church attendance. My grad father was a member of the Kirk Session. All that said, my sister and I own them a tremendous debt. They very kindly took us in and raised us the rest of the way. And this of course having already raised four children themselves and that through the years of the Second World War. They lived through the German blitz of Glasgow’s Clydeside where many of our warships were built in those trying times. I recall seeing tears well-up in my Granny’s eyes when she heard the sound of an aeroplane. My sister and I would have ended up in an orphanage but for them.
I left school at the age of fifteen and started an apprenticeship on the Clydeside in Govan. At the age of almost eighteen I joined the Air Force. I travelled around the world, Singapore, Persian Gulf, Cyprus, Germany as well as the United Kingdom. My drinking career had already begun prior to leaving Glasgow and that increased as the years progressed. I think a heavy drinking culture goes with military service in just about any country. It was during this time that my sister had become a Christian. A girl from a Plymouth Brethren assembly had moved in next door back in Springburn. She started to witness to my sister, Margaret. Much to her indignation. My sister was still with the Church of Scotland, she was a Sunday School teacher. Margaret eventually came to the conclusion that this girl actually believed the Bible, but she didn’t, as she was teaching it to the kids. Her conclusion? This is hypocrisy. So she quit the Sunday School, the Church all of it. The Minister, the Kirk Session, everyone is going ballistic, but she won’t have it any other way. She began attending meetings with Isobel her new neighbour. She attended the ‘Tron’ Church in Glasgow city centre, back when George Duncan was the Minister. He preached on this occasion on the text, “my Spirit will not always strive with man.” Meanwhile I’m drinking my way around the world, fifteen years in the Air Force. I was demobbed in 1975, at the age of thirty-one. Just a month after I left the Air Force, while I was working as a truck driver, I was involved in an accident on the M1 motorway in Northamptonshire. There was a spillage of nitric acid, which I fell into. I was taken first of all to a local hospital where the Doctor took one look at me and said, “what can I do with that, get him out of here?” They took me to Stoke Mandeville, to a specialist burns unit. When the ambulance arrived at the Burns Unit a team of medics were all lined up waiting. The leading Doctor railed at the Nurse in the ambulance, “what’s still doing awake?” he said. She replied. “he’s had enough to knock out an elephant, but he won’t go. If I was going to die I wanted to be around when it happened. The first thing they did was to plunge me in an alkaline bath, because the acid was still working. So there was months and months of operations, skin grafts. They took all the skin of my left leg and grafted it on to my back where most of the damage was. When they took me into that hospital I prayed for the first time since I was a child. I said,”God, if you give me another chance I promise you I’ll be a better man.” They put me back together, after months of operations and the most excruciating pain. When I was leaving the hospital the Surgeon said to me that as a result of the trauma my body had been through, I’d probably experience a measure of depression. The depression was horrendous. I’d forgotten all about the prayer.
In trying to fight the depression, my marriage was breaking apart because of this, I tried to fight it the only way I knew how, more drink. And the more I drank the more depressed I became. There followed a fie year period of descent into a very dark place where I just could not have cared whether I lived or died. I’m looking at my life, and all the brokenness behind me and I’m thinking is this as good as it gets? Is this all that there is? It was at this time that I picked up this book that my sister had given me some eight years previous, while I was still in the Air Force. For some reason I’d always kept it, I wasn’t interested, I’d pick it up now and again, read a bit and laugh, I’d think, yeah, this is okay for you Margaret but it’s not for me. But now here I am reading it properly, it was written by an American Pastor. He was saying that every trouble you’ve faced in your life has come from one source, your sinful heart. He spoke about a man who had lost his business, his home, his wife and kids because his drinking problem. But Jesus had saved him, his life was transformed and all was back on track, so to speak. Any thought I would have had about Jesus, I think, would have been equated with the Church of Scotland upbringing. He was somebody for nice respectable people, not for drunken truck drivers. But there was something that struck a chord in my mind, the said Pastor said, “no, it’s not like that, Jesus said, I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And so for the first time in my life I saw myself as a sinner, or was at least beginning to. But I saw what the issue was, sin. Now five years on from the last time I prayed, I prayed again. I said, “Jesus, I don’t know if you are there, if I believe this stuff, but this man says you can change people’s lives, so I’m asking you to change mine. That was nearly forty years ago now but it seems like just yesterday. There was no flashing lights or ringing bells. But as the days wore on, the other book Margaret had given me was a copy of the New Testament. It was the Good News version, not long out then (I still have it on my shelf). I started to read it, I even took it to work with me, the thing was alive, I couldn’t leave it alone. This Jesus, he knows me, my thoughts, he is ahead me every step of the way. As I went on many things began to change, people I was associated with no longer did. It wasn’t so much that I cut off from them, it was they me. Things I did, places I went, felt unclean, no longer acceptable. There was addictions not just to the alcohol, but to cigarettes, the language, the blasphemy, all which was once a part of normal life, the Lord took away. His grace was just amazing. I went from depression to extreme joy. I used to, in my pre-converted days come up to Glasgow to visit my sister and her husband Billy. Maybe the night before I’d have a drink and at the breakfast table the morning after not feeling one’s brightest. I’d look across the table at Billy with a smile from ear to ear. I’d think how can anybody be that happy first thing in the morning. Now I know. I was filled with an insatiable appetite for God’s word. I was attending a Brethren Assembly to begin with, they were Arminian in their theology, but I didn’t understand that then. I started doing Bible correspondence courses with the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow. I wanted to tell the whole world about this person Jesus, but didn’t know how to. A man from the Birmingham City Mission came to ur church on one occasion. He told us about the work that they did, how they got on a soapbox and preached the gospel in the city centre, went round doors telling people the gospel. It was an epiphany, the light came on, this is what I’ve been looking for! I was invited down to Birmingham to join them on Saturdays, that was my first introduction to street preaching. So I began a witness of my own in my own town of Stafford. One or two people were converted early on in those days.
But the church situation began to slide. We had a visit in the town from a leading Anglican Charismatic leader. He was not only charismatic but extremely ecumenical. As a result of this a conflict arose between myself and our elders. It was a real struggle, my thinking was how can I a young Christian be right and these guys who’ve been on the road a long time be wrong? Eventually the church invited a Roman Catholic priest to come and minister, that was the final straw for me, I had to leave and take my family with me. I visited every one of the elders prior to leaving, they all of them, assured me it wouldn’t happen, but it did.
We joined an evangelical church further north, in the town of Stoke On Trent. It was from there shortly after that I became a church officer and was sent into the work of the OPen-Air Mission. I was with them for eight years. It was during this time that I did the theological course at Bryntirion, in South Wales. A college and course set up by Martin Lloyd-Jones to assist aspiring preachers. I was taught by some lovely and godly men, Graham Harrison, Derek Swan, Howell Jones. I loved that course and learned a lot. It was shortly after that that I was called into pastoral work, about eighteen years in all, in different parts of the country. The last was the best. A little rural country chapel with just a few folk on board. But we had nigh on ten lovely years there, enjoyed every minute of it. It sadly petered out in the end. The community around was very affluent, people with so much I guess that they see no need of God in their lives. But they were left without any excuse, we took the gospel to them.
So people ask me now, “Oh, so you’re retired?” No, is the short answer. Not quite sure what that word means. For the last five years I’ve been back on the street (not that I ever left it). I’ve been to so far-flung places, Jamaica, different parts of the USA, to Albania, and Ukraine with the gospel. Not to mention around the UK as well. I have a circuit here in my own home county in Staffordshire. Five towns that I visit on the same day each week, I’ve been doing this for many years, even when I was in pastoral ministry. As I write this I’ve just turned seventy-five. The work continues on. The Lord called me to preach the gospel, I’ll stop when he tells me to stop.
I love the Lord, because my voice
and prayers he did hear.
I, while I live, will call on him,
who bowed to me his ear.
God merciful and righteous is,
yea, gracious is our Lord.
God saves the meek: I was brought low,
he did me help afford.
O thou my soul, do thou return
unto thy quiet rest;
For largely, lo, the Lord to thee
his bounty hath expressed.
For my distressed soul from death
delivered was by thee:
Thou didst my mourning eyes from tears,
my feet from falling, free.
What shall I render to the Lord
for all his gifts to me?
I’ll of salvation take the cup,
on God’s name will I call.
(Scottish Psalter 116:1-2, 5-8, 12-13).
Soli Deo Gloria
(©️ Jimmy Hamilton aka The Street Preacher.
The author is both a Reformed, Presbyterian, Evangelical Minister at present working in North Staffordshire in the UK. Preaching the gospel in and around the North Staffordshire area. He was until approximately five years ago, the minister of Fole Reformed Presbyterian Chapel. He is now a member of Partick Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) in Glasgow. He is working as an itinerant missionary. He also travels more widely, preaching in some of the towns and cities throughout the country and world, including Jamaica, Ukraine, Malta, Albania and the USA. He also preaches in many congregations at home and abroad as by invitation.