SOS Monthly Newsletter - November 2003
A HISTORY OF STREET PREACHING
Edited from the Internet:
In last month's newsletter, we traced the history of street preachers up to the time of John Wycliffe. This month, we will conclude this history, starting with the Protestant reformation. The early Protestant reformers necessarily had to be outdoor preachers, since the churches were in the hands of the papacy. William Farel (1489-1565), who has been called the pioneer of Protestantism in Western Switzerland, was a street preacher. "He turned every stump and stone into a pulpit, every house, every street, and market-place into a church."
The Presbyterian Church was founded in Scotland by John Knox (1513-1572), who started out as a bodyguard for a street preacher named George Wishart. After Wishart was martyred in 1546, Knox took over as leader of the Reformation. Wishart was not allowed to preach in the churches and so preached in the market places and fields. John Knox accompanied him on his preaching tours, sword in hand, to protect him from violence. The Presbyterian Church was started by street preachers!
Later, when the Church of England was established in Scotland, Protestant preachers were banned from their pulpits and became field preachers, proclaiming their message in the open air.
After the Reformation, other great movements were started by street preachers. The Methodist Church, co-founded by George Whitefield (1714-1770) and John Wesley (1703-1791), is an example of this period. These two were Anglicans, but being banned from speaking in churches since they were not "licensed," they took to field preaching, boldly proclaiming God's Word to large crowds in streets and markets. Whitefield spoke to estimated crowds of up to 20,000 people in the open air. They traveled throughout England and the American colonies, and were instrumental in the great awakening, a mighty revival that swept the colonies in the eighteenth century. The Methodist Church was started by street preachers!
George Whitefield stated: "I believe I never was more acceptable to my Master than when I was standing to teach those hearers in the open fields." ... "I now preach to ten times more people than I should, if had been confined to the Churches."
Also from John Wesley: "I am well assured that I did far more good to my Lincolnshire parishioners by preaching three days on my father's tomb than I did by preaching three years in his pulpit." ... "To this day field preaching is a cross to me, but I know my commission and see no other way of preaching the gospel to every creature."
Another great Methodist outdoor preacher at this time was Gideon Ouseley (1762-1839). He traveled on horseback and preached several times a day, without dismounting, in streets, fairs and markets throughout Ireland. Methodists were also instrumental in America's second Great Awakening, typified by outdoor camp meetings, started in 1800 by James McReady.
A great Baptist revival in Scotland was the result of the field preaching of Robert (1764-1842) and James Haldane and Rowland Hill. They were Anglicans, but became Baptist when the established Church forbade their field preaching. Robert and James left their business and sold their estate to devote their time to preaching the gospel.
The first modern Protestant missionary society was started by William Carey (1761-1834), the first missionary to India. Carey went to India and started by preaching to large crowds that gathered in the streets of the brothel district. One of his converts was a young British sailor named Robert Flockhart (1778-1857), who went back to the British Isles and preached in the streets of Edinburgh for 43 years until his death. One of Carey's associates, Mr. Chamberlain, would go to the Ganges River where Hindus gathered, and start an argument with one of the Brahmins. When the argument drew a crowd, he would preach to the assembled Hindus. The modern missions movement was started by street preachers!
Other famous preachers started their ministries by preaching in the streets, such as C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, and Billy Graham. Spurgeon began preaching in the streets of London at the age of 16, which he continued until he became pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle at 19.
Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) was a well-known preacher in the Chicago area. "One of his regular practices in the late sixties was to exhort the passersby in the evenings from the steps of the court house. Often these impromptu gathering drew as many hecklers as supporters." Moody was a street preacher!
The Salvation Army and the YMCA both started out doing a lot of street preaching. Today, they are mainly known for operating thrift stores, hotels and health clubs.
Within this paper we have only scratched the surface concerning the impact that street preachers have had on the world. This information is often neglected in today's churches. It is our hope that by remembering and publicizing this history, hearts and minds will be inspired to see the timelessness and power of this simple approach.
Street preaching has been the most powerful tool for reaching the world, not only throughout Biblical times, but also in every age of history. We believe that in today's critical times the Church of Jesus Christ needs now more than ever to revive the proven ministry of street preaching.
As we have outlined in our doctrinal treatment of this subject, street preaching is the most obvious approach in consideration of the subject matter (heaven, hell, etc.) and the exhortation and command of Christ. Examples of this approach are found from Genesis to Revelation, and the reality of its practice is clearly seen throughout history.
The large, expensive, and bureaucratic methods of today, targeting only those who will come to hear, are unbiblical, ineffective, and ill-informed. If half the time, money, and energy were devoted to the promotion of preaching as shown through this history and the Word of God, the realities of the Bible would not only reach more ears, but would have untold impact on our society.
As Charles Spurgeon testified: "No sort of defense is needed for preaching out of doors, but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his meeting-house. More defense is required for services within buildings than for worship outside of them."
ON THE STREETS
On September 26, we preached the gospel to about 20,000 people at the Giants baseball game at PacBell Park. This past year, we have preached to over 100,000 people at that one location!
On October 11, Independent Community Church from Richmond ministered at Powell and Market and at UN Plaza. A large crowd gathered at both locations to hear the music and preaching. Their leader, Raymond Landry, had been a homeless drug addict in San Francisco before he was saved 15 years ago. John Kindrigan prayed for the sick. He had lived in a Catholic monastery where he was not allowed to speak for over 20 years! Finally, God delivered him from this religious bondage.
Two dance/drama groups joined us -- Acts in Motion from San Jose and Message of Peace from South San Francisco. Christ the Rock Church from Redding brought 700 sandwiches to give to the homeless. Youth With a Mission had a prayer booth a few feet from us. The combined ministry of these various groups was very powerful. We prayed with about 30 people that afternoon for salvation and personal needs.
Harper’s Magazine article on street preaching by the YMCA 1870.
It sure has changed!
Christ the King Church
gives out food at UN Plaza.
Praying for people at UN Plaza.
Note: Outreaches are subject to change. Call (510) 531-5325 or 541-9903 (cell phone) to confirm outreaches or for more information.
Friday October 31, November 14, 21, Dec. 5, 12, 19 7:30-10 PM Witnessing in San Francisco neighborhoods. (Call for location).
Sat. November 15, December 6 12:30-4:30 PM Berkeley Outreach. Telegraph and Haste St.
Sat. November 1, 22, December 13 12-1 PM Powell and Market St. 2:30-4:30 PM Union Square (Powell and Geary St.), SF.
Ministry News and Needs
We have set the dates for next summer's SOS-San Francisco (Year 25!): June 18-26. Please set aside these dates to attend this important outreach. Also, pray that we will have more workers to help us on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
Thank you for your prayers and financial support for this ministry. We have printed about 100, 000 tracts and need to print another 100,000 tracts. Our Tape of the Month is True and False Conversion by Ray Comfort. We need to see real converts, not merely people who make "professions of faith."
Yours in His love,