Open Air: So You Want To Be A Street Preacher

Well, here it is: my copy of Jim Hamilton’s “So You Want To Be A Street Preacher”, coming with this morning’s mail, slipping through the letterbox with plenty of space to spare, since it turns out to be only one hundred and six pages in length. Not to worry, it’s less than a tenner on Amazon at the moment. Will it be worth reading? I’m absolutely sure it will. Will I agree with everything that Mr Hamilton has to say? I very much doubt it - but don’t let that put you off.

Allow me to quote from the back of the book: "So You Want To Be A Street Preacher" offers advice for men looking to fill this role, those who believe they have a gift to preach God’s Word and desire to reach the lost of this world. Author Jimmy Hamilton, a.k.a. the Street Preacher (sic), writes in the hope that God will raise up an army of street preachers throughout the world and send them into cities, towns, and villages to herald Christ once again. In this way, God will be glorified, Christ lifted up, and the church gathered in from the four corners of the earth.

I couldn’t agree more. Nevertheless, if you had to have a licence to preach in the street, and Jim Hamilton was in charge of issuing them, I suspect that we wouldn’t get one. And even if I was disappointed, I would sympathise with him, in some ways.

So why do we carry on, then?

It goes back to an occasion several years ago, in a city centre with Rev. Stephen Holland. There seemed to be no interest at all in what was being preached, and the excellent Mr Holland, normally so sanguine, looked a little dejected. “No one seems to be listening,” he sighed. “I wonder if it’s even worth bothering.”

I pointed up towards the station. “Can you see that man preaching to a crowd up that way?” He looked. “No, I can’t see anyone.” I pointed down the street towards the shopping centre. “Well, can you see that preacher working away down there?” He narrowed his eyes. “No, there’s no one there, either.” Well, why don’t we just keep going until the really great preachers come out from wherever they’re hiding and take over? Then we can give it a rest and go into Debenhams and get a nice cup of tea.”

And there you have it. That said, if you see someone preaching in the street and you think, “What on earth is he on about?” or “Dearie me, I could do better than that!” well, why don’t you step into the breach? Of course, there are some very necessary qualifications that you ought to have - but any earnest enquirer who will pray with persistence and read widely and well on the topic will find out what they are.

Calling yourself a street preacher and putting innumerable awful videos on YouTube is not necessarily proof that you are one. You won’t learn much from most of the folk on there. I’d start with Spurgeon’s advice in “Lectures To My Students”, chapters 4 and 5 of the second series, and then go on to someone like Jim Hamilton, then scour the internet for more men of the Reformed persuasion. And don’t forget - you need your church behind you, and men to whom you are directly answerable. I’m pretty well sick and tired of meeting men - and women - who are a law unto themselves and thus a stumbling block to others. Don’t go down that road.

There is much more to say on the subject, but there are other tasks ahead of me today - and ahead of you, too, I suppose. Let me close by pointing out that if you think street preaching is somehow going to get you any of the three g’s - the gold, the girls and the glory (and yes, some men do have that as their aim, even if they will never admit to it) - then you will end up being badly disappointed, even if you experience seeming success for a season. It will not end well.

Don’t bother coming out with us, either. As I’ve said to Stephen, after we’ve waved goodbye to someone entirely unsuitable after a week or two: “There’s only room for one prima donna in this Open Air…”

It’s the way I tell ’em...