Universities are back in session. Among other things, that means that the street-corner preachers are out in full force. You know the guys I am talking about? They stand on a busy corner and yell at students as they pass. “You are going to hell.” “Repent of your filth.”
I have received a couple of emails asking my thoughts on these folks and their tactics. Here then are my thoughts, written to the street preachers.
Dear Mr Street Preacher,
I appreciate your desire to see people come into the kingdom. I trust Christ has made a difference in your life and you want to see others come to have a relationship with him. However, your tactics are actually working against you. How many people have you led to Christ by your efforts? I’m not trying to be smug, I’m simply asking you to evaluate the fruit of your efforts. I can tell you what I see as a result of your efforts: People outside of Christ feel hated.
That girl that you yelled at today, the one you called a whore for being in a sorority, she is dealing with depression. Much of it stems from the sexual abuse she endured as a child. Beyond that, she felt abandoned by her mother. Just getting through the day is a struggle for her. She was sensing some hope and felt like maybe God was helping her. She was even contemplating going back to church on Sunday to see if she could rediscover God. Then she ran into you. Your words tore into her, undoing the work that God had begun in her life.
How about the guy that you told was going to hell. Remember him? You were sure he was traveling down the wrong road and destined for a life of destruction. He has a name. Did you bother to ask his name? He has dreams. Do you know what they are? He has a future. He has a past. When you told him he was going to hell, he felt worthless. He knows the feeling of worthlessness. His Father continually reminds him that he is nothing. Your voice just confirmed what he feared. However, our heavenly Father is crazy about this young man. He has been trying to get his attention and speak life into this student. However with the current volume of voices, it’s hard to hear The Father. Your condemnation just added to the noise, moving this young man a step further away from Christ.
There was another girl that you yelled at. She is my daughter. She is a sold-out follower of Christ. She spends time listening to God, honors him by tithing, serves in a variety of ways, and has open conversations with people about spirituality and their relationship with Christ. Yet you stand as a voice of condemnation toward her? You are deeply misguided.
I know, I know, you are thinking “Well, the prophets in the Bible were hated, so I am in good company.” God did call prophets in Biblical times, especially in the Old Testament. But when he called people to strong in-your-face prophesy, it was typically to those who had been in covenant with God and had broken that covenant. Even if (a big “if”) you are supposed to be that voice today, you are targeting the wrong audience. Do people need to repent? Yes. Are some on a fast track to hell? Yes. But your tactics are not producing the results you desire. My guess is that something in your heart is wrong, terribly wrong.
Because of your actions, people make fun of the church. Because of the way you are saying things, students swear they will never hang out with Christians. They think we all hate them. People will not talk to me as a Pastor because they think I am like you – filled with hate and condemnation.
Your actions are producing the opposite results that you desire.
My life is about helping people take a step closer to Christ. Do you desire to do the same thing? If so, I am asking that you take a hard look at the results of your actions. As yourself, “Are these actions helping people take a step closer to Christ, or pushing them away?”