3 Great Points About Angry Street Preaching from Stand to Reason

One of the most viewed and discussed posts I’ve ever written is a personal story about dealing with some pretty horrible street preaching I witnessed at Fresno State. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d encourage you to check it out. It’s the story of one of the most emotional days I’ve had in years, of continuing to attempt communication with the preachers and repeatedly failing, and finally how God used my friend Gabi to demonstrate the love of Christ to a throng of angry atheists.

I was catching up on one of my favorite podcasts the other day, Greg Koukl’s show Stand to Reason. This is one of the few podcasts I never miss an episode of and it’s had a major influence on my life. So I’m listening to the show and the first caller asks for Greg’s take on street preachers, particularly the kind who don’t seem to show God’s love very well. You can listen to this episode by clicking here, downloading either of the MP3 options and then skipping to 21:19. I’m going to summarize Greg’s two main points here though, in case you can’t listen to it yourself. I’ll also add a point from a recent blog post from STR’s newest staff member, J Warnor Wallace.

This post isn’t just relevant to street preaching. I think these tips are relevant to any pro-life advocate who wants to communicate to an apathetic world about one of the worst injustices we know about. I’ve seen a lot of pro-life communication, both in person as well as online, that feels similar to the kind of angry street preaching I’m talking about.

#1: It’s really hard to do street preaching well, and it’s really easy to do it badly. And if we’re going to do it badly, it would be better to not do it at all

street preacher

I suspect that this guy isn’t doing it very well.

Public proclamations used to be the way communication was done. For that reason, it didn’t seem odd or out of place. That’s not true anymore. Communication looks very different now than it did just 100 years ago. This is part of the reason that street preaching looks so weird to people.

That doesn’t always make it ineffective. There are a few guys that do it really well. I think Ray Comfort is very effective and Greg has also mentioned Andrew Rappaport several times on his show as being a good street preacher.

But generally speaking, for most people, street preaching is no longer as effective as other means of communication. And if you’re not going to do it well, it’s better to not do it at all. Don’t add harm, when you could help in other ways.

#2: The Bible clearly instructs Christians to act differently than mean street preachers

bible-300First of all, Jesus didn’t sound like an angry street preacher, unless you have a very different interpretation of the Mount of Olives discourse. Yes, He called the pharisees “whitewashed tombs,” but notice when that happened: during Passion Week. It was at the end of Jesus’ public ministry. It’s not how He started his public ministry.

Notice the instructions for Christians in Titus chapters 2 and 3:

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Titus 2:2-8, ESV

“I bet the street preachers didn’t find that verse,” Greg remarked on the show.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Titus 3:1-3, ESV

May that last sentence never be true of us. As Greg explains, there is a difference between giving offense and taking offense. Some street preachers appear to go out of their way to say something true in an unseeming manner. That is not biblical.

#3: Evangelism shouldn’t look like a protest

This one comes from a great blog post from STR’s J. Warnor Wallace. The entire thing is very relevant, but I don’t want to be guilty of plagiarism, so go read the whole thing. Here’s just one section to give you the main point:

If what you’re doing remotely looks like what Westboro Baptist Church protests looks like, it’s worth immediate reevaluation. Image: LonelyConservative.com

Think about it for a minute. If I told you I saw a group of people walking back and forth in a limited geographic area carrying signs and talking to anyone who was willing to engage them, what would you think I was describing? A picket line? A protest event? We have a cultural context for this kind of behavior; it is the behavioral language of protest. Before I even get close enough to see what’s written on those signs, I’ve already started to interpret the behavior of the group and it’s not a favorable interpretation. Protesters are generally regarded as angry people who want an injustice to be righted. Most of us want to avoid protesters and few of us think of picket lines as the location where winsome interaction is likely to occur.

Consequently, this is why I think 40 Days for Life vigils may be better off without everybody holding signs, even nice signs that say “40 DAYS FOR LIFE” and “Pray to End Abortion.” It looks more like a protest than a prayer vigil. And that’s coming from the guy who started the first Fresno 40 Days for Life campaign and personally bought 50 of those signs for our volunteers.

Question: What do you think? Is there a place for the kind of street preaching that I’m advocating against? Have you had good or bad experiences with street preachers? What are the best methods for modern street preaching?


Josh Brahm is the President of Equal Rights Institute, an organization that trains pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly and argue persuasively.

Josh uses speaking, writing and campus outreach to emphasize practical dialogue tips, pro-life philosophy, and relational apologetics.

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  • Christopher Hansen

    I must start with a question. Have you ever street preached sir?

    I’ve been street preaching now 15 months. Most weeks 3 times a week.

    The first 12 months I preached a message of reasoning about God’s love, defining sin, the need for forgiveness, the nature of relationship with God, the cost He paid to forgive sin, ect., ect..

    The last several months I was shown by God that I should preach a much more aggressive message. Calling out sin explicitly and describing the judgement it’s due. As I do this I mention time and again God’s willing to forgive and how forgiveness comes about.

    And in all my experience people who listen react the same way no matter what the message is. With hate, scorn, intolerance, denial, lies, and disbelief. They threaten my life. They curse God. The praise satan. It really doesn’t seem to make a difference at all. They hate me for proclaiming God because they hate God I suspect.

    The only difference is that calling out sins and warnings of the judgement due them attracts large crowds of people who do listen. It engages them personally as well.

    It’s easy to ignore God’s love. But it’s not easy to ignore His wrath.

    Thus God sends us to warn those who won’t listen to warn them so they have no excuse. Nehemiah 9:26, 2 Chronicles 24:19, Ezekiel 3, ect., ect..

    People accuse me of being angry all the time. But this is simply not true sir. In fact I am very sad and troubled to see so many say they are good people in no need of forgiveness from God.

    I am not angry sir. And no matter how much you or anyone else thinks I am, it doesn’t make it true. No one defines my emotions for me.

    But God is angry with sin every day the Bible says.

    I hope to reach more people by preaching a message that engages their emotions, like a message of warning of judgment, because judgement is rarely seen, though it will be, than by preaching a message that can be so easily ignored like God’s love because it is seen all around us everyday.

  • Chanel Cotton

    I do agree that many street prechers are a turn off. I watch them all the time on YouTube. Some are good and the rest are just awful and make it worst. I’m never against what they say, but how. I think it’s a balance. I’m not saying you have to smile or cry to people, but many street preachers just seem mad and upset. I don’t understand it because God told us that people will hate the truth and that many won’t come to Jesus Christ. It’s our job to share our faith, but it’s not our job to save people. It seems to me to some street prechers can make an idol out a street preaching, which is weird to say. Some street preachers are simply obessed with the act of street preaching and forgetting God.

    Again. I’m not saying you have to tell people what they want to hear. But it’s the tone and the tact of which you speak and so many get it wrong. I understand that God hates sin and God is angry at sin, but let God have to rightous anger, you don’t have to be angry or sound angry. We are talking to the unsaved. Why are so many street preachers so surprised that the unsaved act, well, unsaved? I know dealing with the unsaved can make us sad, but we really shouldn’t be angry that they cuss at you and hail satan because you should know that. Many will reject the Word of God. You can stern, but don’t be angry. Getting mad that people are going to hell is not your place. You’re a street preach not the savior. Relax and think about how you come off to people. Yes, street preachers it’s not all about you. You are representing God. I know they are going to hate us weather we preach it calm or angry but get some self control and let go of the pride. the harder and more angry you look won’t get any more people to get it. Most won’t.
    And those signs are terrible. Jesus never had signs. I think they cheapen the Word of God.

    For the pass few years I can count on two hands the wonderful street preacher I have seen online. It is truly a gift. And I agree. The bad ones make the good ones look nuts. It’s the same message, but the come off is so much better. Accusing random people of being druggies and drunkers is not fair. Telling people that because they go to the beach or a sport game that they are unsaved, idolators is not fair. Yelling at people with tattoos and putting them on blast is not fair. They are falsely asscuing people and that is sin. When Jesus accused a particular person or group for their sin. It’s because He knew for a fact that was their sin. Street Preacher accused a women just hanging out as being whores. And frat looking guys of going somewhere to get drunk. Men in suits are yelled at for being lovers of money and on and on. They have no idea who is saved or not. Their mindset is, if you are not preaching like me then you are not serving God. You should do it how I do it.

    There are street preachers that don’t even engage with people who just want to ask questions. They say things like ” Get away from me sinner” or ” Go back to your sin and leave me alone” or ” You’re wicked,take that makeup of your face, you look like a whore you ungodly women.” There is a street preacher on YouTube that was on a beach calling people drunkers and drug users. Some of the people who where from that area comment on the video and said that the beach is a dry beach. You can’t drink on the beach and they know that the street preacher knows that because he is always there. But, for the sake of making himself look good, he wanted to asscues everyone of being drunk. People would have drinks in thier hands and it would be ice tea or soda and the preacher is yelling at these dudes for drinking alochol all day.

    Many who preach will be hated yes, but you don’t have to go out of your way to be hated. The Gospel of Jesus Christ alone is enough to make people angry, you don’t have to try to hard. You don’t have to be angry. You can say it with a smile and get beat up. I think most street preacher are self righteous. And many believe that they do not sin at all. When you hear them talk, many truly believe that they are like Jesus. I don’t even think that Paul and Peter claimed that.

  • CrossHugger

    It is just plain wrong to call the police on someone preaching the full Gospel. Just because you differ with the style and approach doesnt mean side with world and shut them up. You can love people into hell…