I was driving to a meeting yesterday when I stopped at a traffic light behind a man on a bike. On the back of his bike he had a huge sign that had some kind of message about Jesus and a bible verse. I didn't take too much notice to be honest because I find this kind of thing ridiculous.
I've had conversations before with people about street preachers. Most people find the whole thing strange and thoroughly off-putting. But I do meet the odd person who loves the idea of street preaching and thinks that Christians should be doing more of it.
There is good reason why Christians need to stop street preaching.
Street preaching really finds its root in the belief that everyone has the ability to understand the bible and 'make up their own minds' as to whether the gospel is true or not. It is the belief that if the preacher just tells everyone that God made the heavens and the earth then people will use their common sense and realise that what the preacher is saying is true. It is the belief that if the preacher just tells you 'this' or 'that' about the bible then people will understand the text and then 'make a decision'.
The massive problem with all of this is that the street preacher is completely oblivious to the truth that Scripture is a text for the church community that is read and heard in the context of church community, where people are being transformed, where there is confession and forgiveness and where the Bible is understood through the life of community.
The Beatitudes for instance only make sense within the church community in that together we see that God has brought together into the church peacemakers, the poor, the meek and the persecuted.
Jesus' call to love one another as he has loves us only makes sense when you know how Jesus has loved us. And you only know how Jesus has loved us when you become his disciple and daily walk with him and see your own life in the shadow of his cross.
The street preacher does not realise that they are simply turning the bible into another rule book with a tick box of beliefs. They turn grace into law and deny the very gospel they think they are preaching.
Scripture only makes sense within the life of the Church and the history of God's people.
That is why the street preacher and the militant atheist are so similar to each other and have so much in common. They create a god in their own image that bears no resemblance to the God revealed in Jesus Christ. Scripture is like a machine gun that they use to kill the god they have made in their own image. They go on and on about what the bible apparently says without any clue as to what the bible actually says.
When you see how much the street preacher and militant atheist have in common you realise how the bible belongs to the Church and the Church to the bible.