You can’t teach people who don’t want to learn.
Jesus said to feed his lambs and to feed his sheep, not to force-feed them.
He himself only taught and preached to those who came to him to learn.
We have to be mindful to do the same.
“But” (someone will inevitably say), “God’s Truth must be spoken both in and out of season”.
That’s true – Jesus’ brilliant responses to the religious powers-that-be are legendary, but he didn’t go looking for a fight. He didn’t seek out his enemies or confront them. He didn’t poke a stick into the proverbial hornets’ nest. His enemies attacked him with lies and provocations, and Jesus responded with just enough Truth to set the record straight. More would have been wasted on them.
I mention this as a caution against street preaching and witnessing to strangers. People get deeply discouraged by trying to force-feed God and Jesus to people who have no appetite for them. There is a misconception among many evangelical Christians that they need to harass people on public streets, shoving pamphlets in their faces and waving Bibles at them. This approach has never worked to sway people, other than to sway them to curse you.
Jesus was not an evangelical preacher, he was an itinerant one. He only went where he knew people wanted to hear what he had to say. He instructed his disciples to follow his example by moving around from village to village and staying only in those places that welcomed them. Those homes or villages that didn’t welcome them were to be avoided. God would deal with them in his time.
When Jesus, at his ascension, instructed his disciples to first wait for the “promise of my Father” and then to go out into the world to preach the Good News, he did not mean they should go out to people who did not want to hear the Word or who would feel coerced into hearing it. His earlier instruction to the disciples still stood: to go only where people wanted to hear what they had to say. He also did not mean they should go out willy-nilly, on their own steam and motivated by their own ego. These two factors – 1) only going to people who are receptive to God’s Word and 2) waiting for God’s Spirit to embolden you – are foundational tenets for preaching the Word.
I converted to Christianity from atheism, so I am intimately acquainted with how unbelievers react spiritually to the Word of God. It’s not a pretty thing, their reaction, and it shouldn’t be provoked. No-one who ever tried shoving God in my face when I was an atheist succeeded in anything but getting laughed at or cursed out for their efforts. They accomplished nothing, because God’s Spirit was not with them. They were operating on their own steam. You accomplish nothing when you attempt to preach God’s Word where it’s not welcome and on your own steam.
It’s better not to preach at all then to preach without the blessing and power and guidance of God and Jesus, through God’s Holy Spirit. It’s better to remain silent than to cheapen God’s Word. It is the highest privilege and office in the mortal universe to be a prophet of God and to preach and teach God’s Word. There is no higher privilege, but it isn’t self-bestowed or bestowed by another person: It is bestowed by God.
This is why Jesus cautioned his followers to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit before starting their ministry. When they initially went out in twos, Jesus was physically there with them to guide them, correct them, and oversee their progress, and they also had their partner as a fallback. But this approach to preaching was meant only to be temporary, as a form of training for the time when Jesus would not physically be among them. The baptism of the Holy Spirit, which gave them a direct line of communication with God and Jesus, later emboldened them to speak without the safety net of a partner and with miracles accompanying their witness, like they accompanied Jesus’ witness. The miracles were God’s very public seal of approval and evidence that the followers spoke not from their own power, but from God’s.
I do not know you and you do not know me, but God knows us and also knows whether or not we are equipped to preach his Word. You’ll know whether or not you’re equipped to preach the Word because you’ll open your mouth and God’s words will come out, not yours. God will speak through you. That is the very definition of a prophet – one who speaks God’s Truth – and born-again believers are prophets by spiritual nature. If they’re not a prophet, they’re not born-again.
So before you take to the streets or to a virtual format to preach and teach the Word, first make sure you’ve been sent by God – not by your Bible college or your pastor or yourself – BY GOD. If you’re unsure whether or not you’ve been sent by God, you haven’t been and should remain silent. Otherwise, the devil will put his words in your mouth and you’ll turn into a false prophet.
These words are meant to discourage you from doing something you know you shouldn’t, and to encourage you to do something you know you should. The guidance to “tarry in Jerusalem until you receive the power from on high” is as much meant for us today as it was meant for the disciples nearly 2000 years ago. We dare not go where we have not been sent, and we dare not speak in God’s name unless we do so with God’s words, put there by God himself. If we presume an office and a privilege that God has not given us, we will not succeed in our preaching and we will place ourselves firmly in the camp of Satan, who also presumed an office and a privilege, leading to his fall.
“Wait on the Lord:
be of good courage, and he will strengthen thine heart:
wait, I say, on the Lord.”