THE BLOG
10/16/2013 05:10 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Why Street Preaching Is Wrong

One of my favorite passages from the Bible is Matthew 5:13: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

It has a wonderful and very easy to understand message. As a Christian, you are the pure of the earth, but if you lose your faith, how can you spread the Word? You are then the same as the multitudes of unbelievers.

Jesus loved to speak in metaphors and parables. Unfortunately, when someone wants to corrupt the meaning, they resort to something a little tricky: They take words from the metaphor and pretend they're not metaphors, but real.

If you really wanted to mess up your neighbor's field if you were having an argument, you'd salt his field; that would do it.

Salt was used in a positive way; he could be saying, "You are the salt. You're to go out there and punish the world."

Let me give you a third option. Salt stings. Not only is it white and adds flavor, it has a medicinal or healing property when put into a wound. So some say that the Lord is saying, "Believers are not to be honey to soothe the sinful world, you are to be salt in the world, so whenever you see a place where there is a problem, you should just throw yourselves in and make it sting." I like that. I don't think we do near enough of that. - John MacArthur

This is sad. To take that beautiful message and pretend that Jesus actually meant salt as in the white granular stuff we put on our mashed potatoes is horribly wrong. Jesus no more meant actual salt than in the next verse -- "You are the light of the world" -- did he mean you were an actual incandescent bulb.

Another metaphor that is often taken out of context is Matthew 10:34: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Street preachers love to use this verse to justify delivering their message where it is not welcomed, even though Jesus clearly did not mean a real sword here, but rather explaining how His message would be accepted by some and not others, and how that would come between them.

Ironically, this entire chapter is about Jesus sending his disciples out to deliver His message. He says this in Matthew 10:14: "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet." That is not a metaphor, but simple words that go directly against a street preacher's tactics.

I have several friends who take to the streets almost every weekend with a wooden box and megaphone to shout out their biblical message to people going about their day. These actions are not sponsored or endorsed by their church, but these friends have found a stronger calling from the teachings of John MacArthur and other Calvinist preachers.

"We set up at the Dallas airport and a security guard came by and told us a lot of people were complaining. I praised God that we were doing it right." This was posted on a friend's Facebook page after they had set up with their boxes and megaphones at the airport. Like so many posts I have read after a street preaching event, the emphasis seems to be more on how they bothered people, or of confrontations with passersby, or even conflicts with local authorities.

I responded to the post by writing, "What would you have done if someone had approached you and sincerely thanked you for your message, saying that it opened their eyes and inspired them to seek a relationship with the Lord? Would you apologize to God for doing it wrong?"

However, I have never seen or heard any street preacher claim that they reached people with their message. But isn't that the reason for witnessing to people? Isn't the goal to bring people to God, not drive them away? Why would you rejoice in upsetting people instead of saving them?

In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul says:

"Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

This explains that if you want to truly reach people, you try to fit in, to conform, not go against the grain. When I read this Scripture, I always think of a biker bar. If you want to fit in and be heard there, you better ride up on a Harley Davidson wearing a leather or denim jacket.

Yes, we are to share the Word and witness to others, but only when it's productive. This is why street preaching goes against this very concept.

*All Bible verses are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.