I recently saw a video of a gentleman with a portable loud speaker and microphone petitioning the crowd to follow Jesus. With great passion, he wanted them that God was angry and they were heading to hell unless they repented. One lady stepped forward to confront him, he passed her a mic and an angry exchange of words followed (in both directions).
I could only stomach to watch about half of the video.
This gentleman, convinced he was arguing from God’s perspective, left a bad taste in my mouth.
As I closed the window the video was playing in, I thought, “If you’ve won the argument but lost the relationships, you’ve lost everything.”
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:42-52
I see two big differences between the man doing “street evangelism” and Paul.
1.) Paul’s preaching made people hungrier to know God. In contrast to this, the crowd wanted nothing to do with the street preacher or God. We as Christians have taken passages about how the world will hate us, and used it to justify our poor actions. Our ‘preaching’ that people find so offensive (because it is) can then be treated as a self-fulfilling prophecy. What we fail to realize is that people aren’t hating God or his word, they are hating our actions. We think it is our job to make people hate us, and only by doing that can we be in God’s will. That’s not Gospel ministry, it’s being an egotistical jerk.
2.) People responded enthusiastically to Paul’s message. There were people in the crowd that hated Paul’s message: the religious elite who were losing power. Paul’s message sparked societal and religious transformation to the point where the ruling power no longer felt like it had control. But crowd’s responded, and they were excited. They wanted to know more. Paul revealed a hungering and a thirst that was buried within them, and shared how Jesus could satisfy those.
The young lady that stepped forward to confront the street preacher exuded love and grace. She said that she actually agreed with the street preacher’s view on Jesus. All she had issue with was how he was going about it.
What we see in Paul’s preaching at the end of Acts 13, is that their care and concern for people to follow Jesus broadened the scope of God’s mission. They passionately revealed God’s plan for the Gentiles and confronted those that tried to limit the scope and measure of grace.
May we be described like the disciples of the early church: And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.