Why street corner evangelism
doesn’t work

Street corner evangelism
“If it took Jesus Himself three years of long conversations and hands-on training before His already-church-going disciples ‘got it,’ what makes us think we can effect a drive-by life change?”

The other morning I was approaching an onramp to the highway, and I noticed three people standing with giant black-and-yellow signs, angled to grab the attention of commuters on their way to work. The light at the top of the ramp was green, so I didn’t have a chance to slow down and read the Bible verses emblazoned on their intimidating signboards. But I could see they weren’t “friendly” verses. They weren’t verses like, “Love is patient. Love is kind.” (from 1 Corinthians 13); or “Do not be anxious about anything…” (from Philippians 4).

No, these were verses about hell and judgement. Which seems like kind of a harsh way to start a conversation with a stranger.

Why Christians do evangelism this way

My theory is that Christians who engage in this sort of “evangelism” do so not because of what it does for others, but because of what it does for themselves. They see examples in the Bible of fiery prophets calling down judgement on their listeners—and they want to prove to God that they are willing to do the same thing. If they offend people in the process, they consider it proof that they are speaking the truth. They boldly claim Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15:19— “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

But they’re missing the context.

When hellfire-and-brimstone makes sense

Yes, those fiery prophets said some pretty harsh things to their listeners. They predicted doom.  They demanded repentance. They called people names. This is what God told them to do.

But you know why?

Because the people they were talking to were all church-going Christians already.

That’s important.

These fiery prophets preached hellfire and brimstone to people who already knew what they should be doing, people who were familiar with the Scriptures and had chosen to disobey. The prophets were reminding them of what they already knew.

That’s completely different from holding up a brimstone Bible verse in front of traffic in a post-Christian culture!

Thinking it through

I wonder what these sign-holders were hoping would happen. Positioned at an eight-lane intersection of criss-crossing highway entrances and exits, what possible scenarios did they see playing out? That someone would park, run across the street to them, and ask “What must I do to be saved?” —or even, “I don’t understand your sign; could you tell me more about what you believe?”?

Not likely.

Religion is such a personal and complex topic that to try to deliver the key point in a few big words is really to disrespect the message as well as the audience. If it took Jesus Himself three years of long conversations and hands-on training before His already-church-going disciples “got it,” what makes us think we can effect a drive-by life change? That’s arrogance. There must be a better way to share God’s story.

Am I wrong?

I can honestly say I’ve never heard of anyone being converted through an interaction with a street corner evangelist, but I haven’t done a lot of research on the topic either. I’d love to hear from you, readers: Am I wrong about street corner evangelism? Do you have any personal experiences with this way of sharing the Good News (from either side of the sign)? I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts in the comments—especially if you disagree with me! I’m not trying to pick a fight or anything—I’d really like to dialogue about this.

54 thoughts on “Why street corner evangelism <br>doesn’t work”

  1. These folks do nothing but push people farther away from God and His message. I’ve actually had them follow me, calling out after me, while walking down the street. That type of “ministry” puts walls up, as opposed to tearing them down. Personally, I feel that there are too many people who truly believe that they have been placed on Earth to judge others, in place of God and in His name.

    Reply
    • Tammy, I feel the same way. If this is the only picture a nonChristian gets of God, will he be able to tell that God loves him? The Jesus I see in the Bible had dinner with prostitutes and partied with thieves and told funny stories. Yes, he could be fierce and judging—but usually when He was, He was talking to Pharisees and other churchgoers.

      Reply
    • look i a a street preacher and this is a biblical way to preach the Gospel it is how Jesus preached and the early church john weslely preached this way are you saying it was wrong for him to do it no if it is done correctly it is effective it’s not about getting people saved it’s about sowing the seed and that is what true evangelism is all about so don’t down play the role of open air preaching there are people who do with in love anf grace ok

      Reply
      • Matthew, what do you mean when you say this is “how Jesus preached”? In all my reading of the gospels, I do not see Him doing anything like what these evangelists did. And by “these evangelists,” I mean the ones mentioned in my first paragraph.

        Reply
      • regarding my previous message i have been on the other side of the fence and actually done street preaching in that time i made no connection with anyone walking by and had get negative responses so i know it’s not effective first of all second i think engaging people on a one to one basis trying to relate to them is more effective and not shoving the Gospel down peoples throat so i don’t think in our culture today this way has any value because it puts people off christians but if you spend time talking to people asking them questions to try and understand them that is better. second standing out on the street just qouting scripture is like throwing a sqaush ball at a wall it just bounces of peoples heart so now as someone who tried this method out i am not someone who challenges people that do this because it has 0 effect in todays world

        Reply
  2. I agree with you, and Tammy. Someone threatening me with eternal damnation just made me put up defensive walls. I see the walls go up when my daughter- in- law is condemned by her mother over not baptizing my Granddaughter. Her mother is coming from a place of concern, but it comes across as being judgmental. We’re told to plant seeds with love for a reason.

    Reply
    • That’s an interesting point, David. I do think there are some people who use these methods out of a sincere place of love. That is, they genuinely don’t want people to go to hell. But like you say, that’s not how it feels to the person on the receiving end of the conversation. Part of being an effective communicator is being able to put yourself in the shoes of the person you are talking to, and saying things in a way that will be received well. Sometimes we Christians put too much of the burden on the people we are trying to reach—we expect them to come to us, to our churches, to our way of thinking. But it’s really on us to go to them. That’s what Jesus did.

      Reply
  3. A couple of quick thoughts.
    1) On Street Evangelism – I’m not a huge fan of “street evangelism.” I think Jesus’ model with his disciples was more a discipleship model and less an evangelism model. I prefer the “time” and “relationship” model of Jesus for both discipleship and evangelism. I think it produces more lasting results and it fits my personality well. That being said, the day of Pentecost was all “street evangelism.” Much of the early church was built on street evangelism. The parable about the seeds, where we all have our “part” in the process of evangelism certainly seems to leave room for a “closer.” (I’ve heard of countless people, even well known preachers who came to faith through Billy Gram or other non-relational methods. I believe DL Moody was witnessed to while working as a shoe salesman.)
    I’ve thought long and hard about it over the course of my life. One of the main reasons I don’t like it is not that I think it is bad/wrong. More it is that I feel like it is putting myself “out there” too much. People will think I’m crazy. I don’t know what to say. My list of excuses gets even more creative as the time to go out approaches.

    2) Method – I’m not sure what a good method is. I’m definitely not inclined to do it as the people described in the post did it. I think a lot of wrong can be done slamming something down someone’s throat, but avoiding truth or watering down the message can be bad as well. I think a conversation led by the Holy Spirit at times will lead to a more “fire and brimestone” tone and at other times will led to a very gentle, soft message of unconditional love, forgiveness and grace. Each person is at a different spot in what they are missing in their understanding of God/Jesus/Salvation, so I think the message needs fill the particular void of the particular person.

    Reply
    • Thanks Joel. I think there’s a big difference between a Billy Graham crusade and standing on a street corner with a sign, and, like you, I think the difference has to do with time and relationship. People who choose to attend a crusade have, in a sense, agreed to spend time with Billy Graham and listen to what he has to say. And, given the length of time he’s been doing crusades, they already have a sense of what he will tell them. So Billy has a consenting audience, who are there because of a felt need, and he has an hour or two to explain the good news to them. Plus, I believe there are staff at his crusades who follow up with people who make “decisions” and try to connect them with a local church. That is completely different from holding a judgmental sign.

      I think you’re right about methods, and I believe God calls all of us to use our personalities and skills and personal networks to share His good news with people. We won’t all do it the same, and we won’t get it “right” every time, but that’s ok—He is using the process to shape us as well as the world around us. :)

      Reply
      • I agree that a “Crusade” and hold a sign are different in many ways. I lumped “holding a sign,” traditional street evangelism and a “Crusade” together because each of these are a 1 time deal. To me these forms of evangelism are there to help people make a single step towards God and a more relational type would be to move you multiple steps in your walk with God over the course of months/years.

        All that being said, I sometimes wonder if I loved God more, if I loved people more, if I would be more willing to try quicker forms of evangelism more frequently and mixed in with my preferred long term methods.

        Reply
        • I understand the similarities you see between crusades and sign-holding, and that makes sense. Although both may be “one-time deals,” I think a crusade has more potential for leading into a longer-term relationship—not necessarily with the evangelist, but with other Christians who might provide follow-up.

          I’m not sure it’s accurate to characterize sign-holding as a “quicker form of evangelism.” In fact, I think sign-holding may do more to inoculate people against Jesus than to draw them to Him.

          Reply
  4. While I do appreciate you taking your time writing this post, I don’t agree with the premise that this is a different culture and that we shouldn’t offend people. The gospel is an offense. And surely, it isn’t an easy message to swallow. Not just in this time and place, but also in Jesus time. Do you think He would have been crucified if He preached a friendlier message? Would Stephen have been stoned? Would Paul and all the other apostles been martyred?

    Other than basing this solely on your opinion, you didn’t cite a single verse in the Bible to support your view. People are people and people are radically depraved sinners, me included. Time and culture is irrelevant.

    “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

    Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;” 1 Corinthians 2:1-8

    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

    “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 15:16

    “And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” Luke 14:27

    “Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

    “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

    “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:22-31

    Jesus spent three years of His life primarily preaching this message. These were the first words he uttered when He began His ministry:

    “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15

    Reply
    • Thanks for stopping by, Emily! First, let me clarify by saying that I think there is a difference between occasionally offending someone while presenting Truth and choosing to be offensive because we think that’s more biblical than being meek. I looked up “offense” in a concordance, and the word appears 35 times in the New International Version of the Bible. In none of those is God suggesting that His people should be offensive—in fact, He encourages us not to be and teaches that overlooking offenses is a sign of wisdom. Only one verse (Galatians 5:11) refers to the idea that our message might be offensive. If we know that the message is going to be hard to receive, shouldn’t we be working harder to help people receive it?

      The examples you cite—Jesus, Paul, Stephen—only support my point: Jesus offended the Pharisees (church leaders), and they had Him crucified; Paul preached “first to the Jew” (church-going people); Stephen was stoned by members of the Sanhedrin (church leaders). My point is, there absolutely is a difference between church people and unchurched people, and we absolutely need to take those differences into account when we speak.

      This is not “watering down the Gospel.” It is simply “becoming all things to all people so that by all possible means we might save some.” (Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:22)

      Reply
  5. My two cents: While I don’t really like my “space” invaded by someone pushing their views on me in the street (or anywhere), I have to say that when I see something like what you’ve described it can be hard to criticize as we don’t know if or how they’re responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit. While this type of evangelism often clearly crosses the line to scare tactics and condemnation, you just never can tell who those people will reach in a given effort, under the power of the Holy Spirit…for the verse referenced at the opening of this conversation – especially outside of any context if I am unread…I don’t hear condemantion; I hear that “we are all in the same boat – don’t exclude yourself thinking your so much different or worse than the rest of us.” Also, these “evangelists” may think they’re there (only) to bring in converts…but you never know how they may minister to believers, or what seed they’re planting in unbelievers that God will water and bring to harvest. I’m also brought to remembrance of Pharoah….we may “blame” the efforts of others when we put up our own walls or feel put off…but who’s to say that the Lord does not allow our hearts to harden for a reason? It’s important to act in and with love, and under the leading of the Spirit…and that being done I believe the Grace of our Lord will cover our human error in the matter. Even when I don’t like their methods, I applaud those who demonstrate an obedience to the call.

    Reply
    • I think I understand what you’re saying, Lisa, but I also think God calls us to be good stewards of our resources and of the opportunities He gives us. The parable of the sower (Luke 8) talks about the different kinds of ground the seed fell on—the path, rocky ground, thorny ground, and good soil. The understanding is that we will be aiming for good soil because that’s where we will get the greatest harvest. I think the same principle applies to our evangelism methods. Sure, it’s true that someone might get saved through a street corner sign, but if there are more effective methods—like inviting someone to coffee—I think we are obligated to focus on those. After all, God will ask us when He returns, what kind of interest we earned on the resources He left with us. (Matthew 25:14-30)

      Reply
      • Like with many things, the manner of delivery used effectively by one many not be effective for another.
        And, what is received by or fruitful in one, may not be by another.
        If God lays it on someone’s heart to reach out in any particular method, then I could not consider it a poor use of resources. Instead, I belive that anything done underthat leading will be fruitful….While I don’t disagree with the relational means of reaching people (after all we “do” faith in realtionship & community), at any given time, one of us may be sent to reach only a single person in the least likely of times/places/methods…we likely won’t get to see the fruit of that harvest. But, we mustn’t overlook obedience (if that’s what it is) in favor of the “feel good” we get from developing relationship and witnessing spiritual growth around us. P.S. I am NOT saying that we shouldn’t pursue discipleship…just saying we shouldn’t be closed off to the calling of others, and the role it can play. I’ve witnessed too many “God sightings” in the most unlikely of places, deliveries & deliverers.

        Reply
        • Yeah, this is where things get difficult, and this is one of the reasons I wanted to have a conversation about this. I totally want to respect other people’s callings, and I totally recognize that my perspective is not the only valid one. At the same time, my guess is that the Pharisees felt like they were following God’s call and being obedient—to the point that they were more religious than God Himself! It can be dangerous to rely on a feeling or a calling without measuring it against God’s Word. So your comment is making me ask myself things like, “If a street corner evangelist causes 1 person to stop and wonder about ‘the glory of God,’ but causes 99 people to vow never to step inside a church, is that evidence that he is being obedient to God’s call on his life?” I’m just not sure.

          Reply
  6. Joe, I think you’re absolutely right. The best form of evangelism is discipleship; relationally. And to all, I shouldn’t have implied street evangelism can’t work. The video (i think) is merely to show how even with the deepest intentions of saving souls, how we are portrayed by the world & as Mel suggested it MAY be done for the wrong reasons. How can we really reach others if we are being judgmental? (The Westboro cult -Church-they call themselves- comes to mind). It’s just that I am more likely to open a Bible if someone sits down next to me & shows me what they are reading or vice versa; say maybe in a coffee shop setting after striking up a conversation, instead of thumping the truth on my head! Help me to understand it. In a less confrontational way; it won’t take away from the message.

    I have done street evangelism before, it’s just not usually the most effective.
    When we were leading the youth, we did a form of street evangelism after hurricane Katrina. The Gulf area was devastated. We wanted to show the people of Biloxi, MS we were not just there to fix their house (the main purpose of the mission trip), but to listen to their story/experience and in some way be an emotional & spiritual shoulder to lean on amongst all the destruction surrounding them. We broke up into small groups setting time to do this & finding out what they needed done first (constructionally), set-up teams to back that up and handed out bags of groceries. Some houses, we were at 15 minutes talking, others a good hour. We asked them if they were open to us praying with them before we left. There wasn’t a single person that rejected it from that approach. But they seen we genuinely cared. We were there to help them, fellow mankind, whomever they were, and that’s what they seen First. Caring about the person, will help cultivate the soul.
    I may not be quoting scripture here, but i will quote an old hymn i sang as a kid that sums it up: “They will know we are Christians by our Love.”

    Reply
  7. Hi I think your right and wrong I don’t think you should evangelize hell on street corners. However i don’t see anything wrong with evangelizing Jesus’s love for us. No you are probably not going to save lives but then we don’t save lives anyways Only God does that. We can plant seeds. How do you know someone in traffic isn’t looking for a sign or could use a message. If even the message of love reaches 1 person it is worth it. Maybe that one was going to go home and kill themselves. Who are we to decide where God calls people to evangelize. As long as it’s for the glory of God we should do our best to spread the good news of Gods grace and love and the most important gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Reply
  8. I saw some looked like teenagers holding up signs saying Jesus loves you I think that was a good example. I wish there were more that would show how much God loves us and not how we are all going to hell. I hope someday people change their minds on how they want to display Christianity and the love of Jesus. The world is full of every one telling us what we are doing wrong and how we are failing. I hope to be the guy that shows you that we are Gods children and we mean something to him. Hence why he sacrificed his Son for us. Not to send us to hell. I will try and do my part

    Reply
    • I suppose a “Jesus loves you” sign is better than a “Repent Now!” sign, but it still seems like an unusual way to be “loving.” I mean, if I saw someone standing on a street corner with an “Allah loves you” sign, I don’t think I would be convinced to convert to Islam. But if my neighbor were a Muslim, and he and I became friends, and we gradually developed the kind of relationship where we could respectfully discuss matters of faith and meaning, and he appreciated my beliefs and wasn’t defensive or militant about his own—well, maybe then I would get to a point where I might admit that he might be right about some things, or I might at least express curiosity about what it means to be a Muslim. It would be a long, long process because I’ve held to my own beliefs for a long, long time. But within the context of that relationship, I might gradually change.

      I think the relationship is key, and too often Christians are not willing to be in relationship with people who believe differently from us. We treat people like evangelism projects rather than enjoying their company and being willing to learn. It’s hard to imagine any kind of “sign-holding” that would help develop a real relationship. Know what I mean?

      So when you say, “I hope to be the guy that shows you that we are God’s children,” I think that’s beautiful—because I imagine the way you’ll be showing me that is in how you treat me, how you talk with me, how you interact with me day in and day out. I don’t imagine you relying on a cardboard sign to show me that. :)

      Reply
  9. The people that spray perfume on you in the stores hopes that eventually you will like what you smell and buy it. He is going to have to spray a lot to finally get a buyer. Same thing for Christians. All we can do is spray the perfume or plant seeds. Again who are we to decide on where it gets sprayed or where the seed gets planted. All we can be is farmers. Before I turned to Christ and I can honestly look back now in my life remember all the times seeds were planted in me. God knows what he is doing. Yeah your prob not going to get someone to pull over but that’s not your goal. Our job is to give the message it’s really no different than a billboard or commercial. Seeing one you are not going to go out and buy but you might investigate it and decide to buy later. thats the point of the signs to plant the seeds with hopes that you will somewhere down the road decide to find out and ask the question who is Jesus and hopes that someone is there to show and tell you about him. Jesus loves you and Christians are supposed to go to the end of the earth planting seeds when ever and however. We don’t make the rules we just abide by them.

    Reply
    • Well, it’s not quite true that “all we can do” is plant seeds. Farmers do not simply throw seeds out the window and hope that something will take root; they are fully involved in the life of those seeds. And they absolutely start by making decisions about which seeds they will plant where. “Who are we to decide”? We are the ones who have been entrusted with the message, and I think we’re expected to handle it wisely. Like a farmer, we choose soil that looks promising, cultivate it, plant the seed carefully, water and weed it for months, and carefully keep an eye on any fruit that’s growing. It’s a long process, and no farmer will be satisfied to say, “Well, I planted the seeds. That’s all I can do. I can’t make them grow.”

      I think what I’m saying is, I want my whole life to be a sign or a billboard. Or, I want my whole life to smell sweet enough that someone might want to buy my perfume! If I have to accost someone with a spritzer when they walk in the door, chances are they will avoid me, not buy from me! If I have to depend on a sign to let people know I’m a Christian, then maybe I’m living wrong.

      The Bible tells us to “make disciples,” and to me that implies a long-term relationship—like Jesus had with His disciples. He didn’t stand in the marketplace with a “Follow Me” sign; He approached people personally and then invested His daily life in them.

      Reply
  10. that’s not true there were some people Jesus healed and when asked if they should go with him jesus said no and go tell everyone in the village and live in peace. Meaning he told her to go spread the word. Some preach, some heal, some cook, some usher, some evangelize, some do missions, some help cloth and shelter, some sing. All I know is that we are not God and it is not our job to judge anyone on how they want to share the amazing gospel. As long as it’s done in love. i mean no disrespect and it’s all in love but God puts different desires and talents into everyone. It takes a whole team to make it work. What does it matter if we hold signs does it affect your day or time. I gotta say though if signs don’t work than why does the world spend millions on advertising on bulletin boards. Before you respond back while driving around tell me how many signs you see with everyone else advertising and trying to sell you something and then tell me signs don’t work.

    Reply
    • A couple points:
      1. When Jesus healed the demon-possessed man, He told him to go home and share his story with his own people, people he already had a relationship with.
      2. Yes, there are people who spend millions on advertising on bulletin boards—and they can tell you exactly how many responses they get as a result. When a bulletin board, or TV commercial, or newspaper ad stops being effective, it gets changed or pulled. If we are going to use the same methods that the world uses, we should be as concerned with results as the world is.

      The point of my article was not to say that there’s only one right way to do evangelism. My point was to get people to think about what their evangelism is accomplishing. If we are not seeing results, maybe it’s time to try different methods. That’s why I asked if anyone could share their sign-holding experiences, and their results, with me. If we aren’t able to say specifically what we’re accomplishing—like the world is able to, and like the servants in Jesus’ parable about the talents (Matthew 25) were able to—how will we answer when God asks us what we’ve done with what He’s given us?

      Reply
  11. I do wish people show their love as well like you are doing. I think you are very right in showing love. With people like you not only would it bring people to Christ but help them grow. I hope you keep up the great work in your life and others. Just remember everyone matters even the ones holding signs ❤️❤️

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  12. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

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  13. These people are warning you of impending judgment. We’ve taken God out of our schools, our public squares, our government. We’ve disregarded His laws. Judgment is coming and God has called forth watchmen to warn of the judgment just as He always does before He unleashes His wrath. The fact that so many watchmen are coming forth should terrify you. Clense your hearts. The kingdom of God is at hand.

    Reply
  14. Romans 13King James Version (KJV)

    13 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

    2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

    3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

    4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

    5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

    6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

    Reply
    • I’m not sure I’m following your line of argument. You started by saying that people who hold signs are warning us about judgement, and we are being judged because we have taken God out of our social systems. I replied by saying that there is nothing stopping people like you and me from sharing God’s love. So I’m confused about how we got from that to the government. The passage you are citing is actually addressed to citizens more than governments—it’s about our responsibility to our leaders and to our neighbors. In fact, the next couple of verses get back to my point about sharing God’s love: “7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

      To get back to the question this article is about, is there any evidence that holding a sign on a street corner is an effective way to share the good news?

      Reply
  15. There is no sound biblical argument against street preaching. The only argument against it is “emotional pleading” and one that usually says something about it not working or it’s offensive to people, judgmental, unloving etc…. If we read through Acts and Paul’s letters we see exactly the picture of evangelism and that is where we should base our arguments. Only God causes the seed or water to grow. Paul said to imitate him as he imitates Christ. Paul went into places knowing he would be beaten, stoned, etc for what he was going to preach. He went into synagogues just to argue with Jewish leaders and contend for the faith. It was not by his awesome ability but the Holy Spirit. God draws people to Himself. We are just called to preach the Gospel to every creature. We are called to make disciples. This will be a long process sometimes and sometimes a short one. Mark 16:15. How to best do street preaching or street healing or street feeding can be debated but not the call to go out into the streets to do it. It’s strange we don’t see the irony (or hypocrisy) of judging street preachers for judging non-believers.. Furthermore we all will complain about something instead of showing people how it should be done. You can quickly plant a seed or diligently water one but doing nothing is not an option. Church doesn’t start and stop on Sunday (or Saturday). We are the Church and God has commissioned us to be ministers of reconciliation. We are Royal Ambassadors to the Kingdom of God. Don’t turn the Great Commission into the Great Omission. We are all apart of the Body of Christ and no part is better or more affective than the rest. All parts works together whether we know how it does or not.

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    • Thanks for your input, Matthew. A key Bible verse for me is John 13:35— “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” In other words, love is what distinguishes Jesus’ followers from other people. Now, when I see someone standing on a street corner with a big sign about hell, “love” is not main vibe I’m getting.

      It sounds like your argument is, “Well, at least street preaching is better than nothing.” But I’m not sure that’s true. And if our true goal is to make disciples, then we absolutely should be willing to give and receive thoughtful criticism about our tactics. That’s why I asked people to share their experiences with street preaching. I genuinely want to know if it’s working. If it’s not working, then I think we need to be willing to figure out a better way to make disciples.

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  16. True love is not about just saying what is pleasant to the ears, but speaking the truth in love. When you love your child, you will warn him about the dangers of crossing the street without an adult. Different methods of evangelism work for different types of people. If God is not happy with the way his workers are serving, He can do something about it. God could turn even the devil’s schemes on its head and use it for ‘His’ glory, so we don’t need to worry about the outcomes. Our human methods of measuring effort versus results are according to worldly terms, we can never measure the spiritual impact of someone’s efforts. God will honour their effort of putting themselves in such ridiculous situations if their motives are genuine. If not, they will bear no fruit. However, it is not up to us to decide.

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    • Lara, when you say, “If not, they will bear no fruit,” I think you’re probably right. It has been four years since I posted this article asking people to share any fruit that came about as a result of holding a sign at a street corner, and I have yet to receive an example. It’s not up to me to decide how other people do evangelism, but it is up to me to be the best steward I can of the time and resources God has given me. So I’m going to spend my life building long-term relationships with people and being a Kingdom representative in those relationships.

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  17. I occasionally engage in street evangelism within the context of the weekend bar-hopping scene in Athens, Georgia. I have prayed with young men (twice) who claimed that, had God not put me there to pray with them, they would have gone home and killed themselves. On several other occasions, I’ve plugged people into active, Bible-believing churches where they can worship, fellowship, and grow. Countless times I’ve answered questions from atheists (I used to be one) and other skeptics who stated I had given them something to really think about or check into. We’ve distributed hundreds of Gospels of John and Bibles. Some throw them away, but others are genuinely appreciative. Several times we’ve been able to provide Bibles for people who told us they would like to read it but don’t own a personal copy. I don’t know if any of that qualifies as “fruit” per your definition but it does for me! Further, isn’t proclaiming the majesty of who God is and what He has done (especially in Christ) worth proclaiming no matter if people receive or reject it? Didn’t Jesus himself get BOTH responses when He testified to the Truth? Didn’t He promise His followers that many would reject and hate them when they did the same?

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    • Thanks Rich. The examples of street evangelism you are giving seem to prove my point. By engaging with people, answering their questions, responding to their requests, and plugging them into fellowships where they can have long-term relationships, you are doing the kind of relationship-building evangelism that Jesus did. Keep up the good work!

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  18. I wrote a post on a similar topic:

    Have you noticed the “challenge” craze taking America by storm? I don’t know exactly when these social experiments began (maybe with the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?), but I’m a bit curious when the Church begins to adopt these cultural movements as a means to goad other believers into action.

    Here’s two reasons why.

    One, when we use challenges to encourage others to get “fired up” about Jesus, we inadvertently create an opportunity for the opposite to occur. Not everyone is as “bold” as those who go public with their declarations of faith in Jesus. In biblical terms, not everyone is a prophet. And when Christians don’t perform those challenges, discouragement can creep into their minds. Doubt may arise, and their Christianity is indirectly questioned. Hence….

    Number two, when challenges are issued, we subtly create an unbiblical litmus test to determine who’s real for the Lord and who’s not. We may not mean to test someone’s faith in Christ, but the unwanted consequence of not stepping up can be feelings of unworthiness. Of not being good enough.

    Not cool, y’all.

    Look: I get it. We need to make disciples of all nations. We need to get the Word out and tell others about the Lord, and kudos to those who go public with their faith, but the Pentecostal form of getting it out is not the golden standard. Getting all “radical” about Jesus is not for everyone. When asked what was needed to work the works of God, Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 5:28). And the effective fruit of that work is foremost among other things “that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands” (1 Thess. 4:11).

    Challenges are cool. They’re ludicrous, fun, and silly all at once. But they are not the effective motivators some people believe them to be. They can actually offend, insult and put off unbelievers. “But the truth is meant to offend the lost,” some may say. No, it’s not. The truth is to be spoken in love and with a spirit of grace, not with religious arrogance and moral superiority. When Jesus is lifted up (cf. John 12:32) in changed lives, He’ll use those lives to draw others to Himself. Not everyone is a Jeremiah or an Elijah, much less a Paul or Peter. Some of us are a Ruth or a Rahab, even a runaway slave like Onesimus.

    So challenge yourself to stop challenging others to be as publicly radical as you are, and be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.

    Reply
      • ‘Street evangelism,’ if done properly, is a form of sowing the seed of the word of God. An effective evangelist in this context, must be well equipped in sound doctrine. The Bible says that those who are outside the church are under the judgement of God, and we are not to judge them (as Christians), but surely we are to tell the truth of what happens when one rejects Jesus Christ, therein lies the sense of urgency. Sharing the truth is never wrong, and it’s never wrong timing, IF it is indeed the truth of God’s word. The tone I get from your article, is a tone that doesn’t necessarily trust that God’s word is enough. Remember, it is not the one who plants, or the one who waters, but it is God who gives the growth. You must be born again, and you are born of the imperishable seed of the word of God. How can one believe if they don’t hear, and how can they hear if nobody preaches? That’s why it’s a beautiful thing, when a preacher is sent to bring the good news. Check out our blog, subjecttochrist.com

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  19. Yes we (Christians)are all called, the bible says to go out and share the gospel of Jesus to all the nations.that is a command. ..those who criticized the Christians (who aren’t perfect) about the way they were street preaching needs to examine their own hearts. What are you doing for the kingdom of God? Everything we do for God is NOT in vein.

    Reply

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