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Introduction: Street Evangelism


Reformed Street Evangelism?


What comes to your mind when you think of a street evangelist? There was a time when the only image in my mind was that of a man dressed in neon attire, holding a sign, while delivering pure Pelagian legalism[1] through a bullhorn. Some of us may picture a gentler man whose character is more in line with Christianity, yet his methods seem to be more characterized by bait and switch tactics than by what we see unfolding in the book of Acts. I am sure we could list many more examples, but regardless of the image that enters your mind, we all seem to be unanimously united in natural suspicion towards modern-day street evangelism (and in most cases, rightly so). We may not know how to voice our complaints, or even where to begin with solutions, yet we all seem to agree that “the so-called evangelism of our day is a grief to genuine Christians”.[2]

Do We Have Anything to Offer?


With all of that in mind, what are we to make of Street Evangelism? Despite the existence of so many bad examples, does our Reformed heritage, which brings with it an uncompromising commitment to Calvinism, have anything to offer or contribute? Well, I am convinced that, as Calvinists, we do not merely have something to offer or something to contribute, but we have everything to offer and everything to contribute to this age-old practice of acquainting lost sinners with the Gospel under God’s blue sky. Follow along as I try to unfold exactly what I mean by that.


Pure and Stable Evangelism


The great Princeton Theologian, B.B. Warfield, once said that “Calvinism is evangelicalism in its pure and only stable expression”[3]. He is essentially saying that the health and strength of evangelicalism stands or falls primarily with our view of God and our proper acknowledgement of His sovereignty. This includes with it a biblical view of ourselves, sin, and salvation. To whatever degree these are misrepresented, obscured, or denied, is the exact degree to which the church’s life and activity will be characterized by impurity or instability.


Bringing this down to a personal leveI, I know this Warfield quote resonates with many of us, and with what we have seen take place in our own lives. How many of us can summarize our Christian life by just two events: the day we came to Christ, and then the day we came to accept the doctrines of grace[4]?


Many of us came out of a very shallow, unstable, and inconsistent evangelicalism, and have been brought to find this exact Calvinistic purity and stability that Warfield speaks of. We now find it in our worship, our preaching, our prayer meetings, and bible studies. We are surprised to see how it sustains us in trials and fuels greater heights of assurance and obedience to the Lord. Even the things we didn't give much thought to before, such as the church, our home-life, or civil government, have all been re-arranged by a new God-centered perspective. It is almost as though everything has now been infused with new life! God is big and nothing is off-limits! Nothing is safe! Glorifying God and enjoying Him is now our ‘meat and drink’. But has the same thing happened with our evangelism? Has it undergone this Reformed transformation? I believe many of us still need to baptize (or re-baptize) our understanding of evangelism in this God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-dependent, Word-Centered, man-humbling, Calvinistic purity and stability, so that it also may be infused with new life.


My heart’s desire is that every one of us would be able to say (with Warfield’s opening statement in mind): Reformed Christianity alone presents evangelism in its pure and only stable expression.


What To Look Forward To


Before we consider Reformed Street Evangelism itself, we will need to ask the most basic question: What is evangelism? Second, we have to take some time to truly ask ourselves, “What is the main goal of evangelism?” These may seem like simple questions with obvious answers, but I assure you that most of the headaches associated with evangelism stem from subtle misconceptions in these two areas. It is not enough that we are grieved by modern-day examples and want to see them uprooted from our midst, but we must be able to provide God-honoring solutions in their place.


While Street Evangelism is where we are ultimately headed, I can tell you that everything we visit on the way will be fully applicable to every believer, of every stature, in every context. My goal has never been to exalt street evangelism itself higher than it deserves. Street preaching and distributing gospel tracts are merely a way to evangelize; they are not the way to evangelize. So, it does not matter whether you are serving the Lord at home with your children or in an office filled with spiritually disinterested people. You may be the minister of a rural congregation or the only believer among generations of unbelieving family members. If you genuinely desire the glorification of God and the salvation of others within your reach, yet the thought of evangelism fills your heart with fear and confusion, anxiety or unnecessary guilt over results, then these articles were written for you. I welcome you to see evangelism with fresh eyes in its pure and only stable expression.


Up Next: What is Evangelism?


 

[1] A combination of two heretical teachings. Pelagianism: A 5th century heresy which denies original sin, teaches that men are morally unaffected by the fall, and can therefore acceptably obey God, or come to Christ, without the regenerating grace of God. Legalism: Any teaching that associates our obedience to God’s Law with the cause of a secure salvation, rather than the fruit of a secure salvation. The combination of these two brings about the deadly, gospel-less, self-righteous, characteristic of most street preaching. Popular street evangelism signs that say “Stop Sinning!”, or “Obey Jesus!” are the direct fruit of knowingly, or unknowingly, holding to these heretical teachings. [2] AW Pink, Present Day Evangelism, Pg. 1, See Chapellibrary.org/read/pdev [3] Calvinism Today, Thechristianmindng.org/2013/03/02/calvinism-by-b-b-warfield/ [4] A synonym for Calvinism

 

James Dorman IV is a street evangelist and a member of Mt. Rose Reformed OPC in Reno, NV. He is husband to Janet and father of four. You can follow him on Twitter @alfredsparks.

 

Note: The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of other contributors on this site

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