Definition: rules of engagement — directives issued by competent military authority which delineate the circumstances and limitations under which military forces will initiate and/or continue combat engagement with other forces encountered. Reference: encyclopedia.com My son who served in Iraq told me the US Army’s “rules of engagement” in Baghdad were good and necessary. This was to prevent true civilians from being shot and other “Collateral Damage” taking place. We can apply this principle to the army of God out there evangelizing. I can think of many situations when we need rules of engagement. Out on the street there are many forces to deal with. We engage the enemy. We engage people in conversations, the police, and we engage hostile people. We also engage other Christians too. We have to have Biblical guidelines and the Holy Spirit to prevent us from doing something that would not glorify God, or would actually destroy our witness and testimony. Charles Spurgeon was quoted as saying, “The Gospel is offensive enough, let’s not add to it.” Situations come up on a regular basis that really puts us to the test regarding how we respond, and our general behavior. My friend Eric Baxter had a saying; “pray that when the devil squeezes you, Jesus comes out.”
Being A Soldier for Christ
As we are soldiers for Christ, we are engaged in warfare. 2 Tim 2:4 If you desire to be a good street preacher, then you must lose your cares for this life and get serious about following the Lord Jesus Christ. I have in no way arrived, but we need to focus on the Lord and on our ministry. I used to be a mailman for a time. Probably 70% of the total job was in the post office before I ever left to deliver the mail. If you didn’t properly prepare the mail for delivery it would cost you time, accuracy, and it would just be a giant headache. Likewise, it takes much careful time preparing to go out preaching. Time spent with the Lord in prayer and reading His Word. I can’t emphasize this enough. Also allowing the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to make us a pure vessel for the Lord to use; this is very important. 2 Tim 2:20-21
Dealing With The Forces of Darkness
There is a host of teaching out there on spiritual warfare. Some of it is good, and much of it is bad. I decided not to get into this subject except just to say that as a Christian you are in a spiritual battle and preachers are in a heavy battle as well. Remember that the devil can use people like pawns to attack us. We are in a spiritual battle. Eph. 6:10-12
We are told in scripture to resist the devil. 1 Pet. 5:8-10and James 4:7 Asking God for strength and a way of escape we must resist temptation, whatever form is comes in.
The Word of God as our sword to put to silence the enemy’s temptations as Jesus did while He was being tempted in the wilderness. Matt 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13
Do not hold un-forgiveness or bitterness against anyone. 2 Cor. 2:10-11
Pray so that you will not enter into temptation. Matt 26:41
Other scriptures on spiritual warfare; Luke 10:18 John 16:11 Acts 26:18 Romans 16:20
Dealing with Hostile People
To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ glorifying God so that sinners may be saved! All this in a hostile world. John 15:20This is a tall order. It can and will be done.
Prevention is always a first line of defense, but not always possible. Foreseeing a chaotic or bad situation and avoiding it is always prudent. Prov 22:3 Prov 27:12 In the book of Acts, although Paul did not see it, his disciples saw it not wise to have Paul enter into a bad situation even though Paul probably thought He could preach there. This was with the uproar in Ephesus. Acts 19:30-31 Most evangelists want to go where there are people, and lots of them. Special events come to mind. In the past I would go to most events without considering what my objective was. If the objective is to cause controversy or show that you are the boldest preacher on the planet, then you have not considered a careful battle plan. We also have to check our motives as well.
If possible assess the person’s level of hostility in the shortest possible time. Although it maybe rare it could be the time to run.
Proverbs 15:1 Phil. 2:5-8 1 Pet. 2:21-23 Rom. 12:20 James 1:19-20
Dealing with Police
Refer to: The Police & The Street Preacher
The term “friendly fire” taken from the military vocabulary is when a soldier is injured or killed by another soldier that is on the same side. This is a real travesty and yet it is part of warfare. It may never be eliminated from happening but the goal is to minimize it. I have coined this term to describe what takes place out on the street. Many times well-meaning Christians can distract, interrupt, and hinder the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes they can even be used by Satan, as was Simon Peter. Extended grace is needed on part of the preacher to discern and respond in a God honoring way. Remember, attacks can come from within the church too.
In our day and age street preaching is considered archaic by most Christians. It is not an overly accepted ministry therefore there may be opposition from the Christians. A normal reasoning process and a scriptural mandate usually satisifys most inquirys as to “why are you doing this”, or “this is not the way to witness” comments.
In a military operation “Collateral Damage” occurs when other things get damaged instead of the intended target. These can be infrastructure, but we are mostly talking about people here. In modern warfare there are civilians that are not intended to be killed, but in fact are part of the loss. Again, although this is a part of warfare, the military tries to minimize it as much as possible. Besides an outright mistake, collateral damage can also occur when the battle objective is lost. In street preaching there is sometimes collateral damage. When this happens it is best to abort, that is, pack up and leave the area. I am not afraid to concede an area if things get out of hand for one reason or another. Here is an example of what I call collateral damage when preaching in public; I was with some brothers a couple of years ago preaching at an event. During this time, one of us, (not me in case you’re wondering) got on what I call a bit of a tangent and started preaching fervently against sexual sins. In particular, the sin of homosexuality was focused on. It all turned south when some descriptive information of that behavior was mentioned in graphic detail. At the time, I didn’t hear what was said until after the fact. I was not the leader on this outreach either. Well, several people including mothers of small children came up and verbally objected to that kind of speech. At that point I thought we should have left. The others didn’t feel the same way. I guess they wanted somehow to save face, but the damage was done. We did end up leaving a short time later and talked about it over coffee afterwards. I could give more opinion here but I just wanted to share a real experience to give the picture of what I think collateral damage is when it comes to evangelism.
Other Past Experiences
I learned early on in witnessing that you shouldn’t approach a person at a cash machine to hand them a tract, or to converse, until they have finished their transaction. Personally I don’t like anyone bothering me or talking to me while I am counting my money such as at a check stand in the grocery store. Another issue is that the person at the cash machine may feel threatened by your presence. If you notice the unwritten code while waiting for the cash machine is that people stand back behind an imaginary line to give the person at the machine time and space to take care of their business. Some people wouldn’t like you looking at their numbers or amount of money, etc.
One time my friend and I were preaching in San Francisco when suddenly an elderly gentleman collapsed to the ground. He apparently was having a heart attack or something. I was preaching and I stopped. I said over our amp that there was medical attention needed. There are a number of police in the area and this was the fastest way to get help. After that I was just standing there watching as a number of people were already giving the man some aid. My partner thought I should keep on preaching and when I wouldn’t he grabbed the mic, and being very agitated at me, began to preach. The crowd overwhelmingly voiced their disapproval. It was a little embarrassing I thought for such behavior on our part. The same people had just heard the Gospel.
We all realize that salvation is the most important issue in a person’s life. Because of the importance and urgency of the message it would seem there is no place that would be off limits. Having said that I do believe there are places that are off limits, although most would not agree with me. The better the environment for the reception of the Gospel to the hearers the better. As much as possible I do not try to compete for the persons attention. For example: at a parade I witness (preach or otherwise) before the parade starts while people are waiting. Once the parade starts I do not try to preach while they are watching the parade, thus competing with the parade. This to me is not very productive. Therefore there are times when I put limitations on where I will preach. I won’t preach to the people in those outside cafes while they are dining. I will not preach in a confined area like a train, or bus, however; I will preach outside of the station. In this way people are free to leave. I don’t believe in corralling them. I suppose an exception would be if we were trapped in a burning building where their death is imminent. I will not point my amp directly into a doorway. Sometimes using common sense is helpful. When you make a mistake, the next best thing is to admit it and make amends or apologies. Or do whatever is necessary to correct the situation. Many times there is not opportunity to do so.