Jimmy Hamilton got saved in 1975 in his mid-thirties. “In coming to Christ I was broken, in great distress. I called upon his name and he rescued me” (30). And from that moment he has desired to tell others about his Lord and Savior, “I’ve been a street preacher for thirty-eight of my forty years as a Christian. ” (30).
Now 75, Jimmy Hamilton continues his peripatetic (an English transliteration of the Greek word meaning “itinerant”) preaching ministry, daily sharing Christ on the streets of his native Glasgow, Scotland. And having just written his first book, he clearly has no plans to slow down yet. “The Lord called me to preach the gospel,” he writes, “so I’ll stop when he tells me to stop or when he calls me home” (202).
Not Just for Preachers
In the opening words of Hamilton’s Introduction he writes, “Let it be stated from the outset, this book is not written for theologians nor ordained ministers. It is mainly written for young men who believe they have a gift to preach God’s Word and desire to reach the lost of this world” (15).
I would put the stress on the word “mainly”. While Preacher is primarily a book for current street preachers and those men believing themselves also called to an itinerant preaching ministry, it is more than that. This book is a book for Christians, all Christians, because we are all called to tell others about Christ, to be armed with ready answers, to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, to have our feet shod with the gospel of peace. This brother in Christ who has been walking with his Savior some 40 years imparts four decades’ worth of wisdom to equip each of us to do our part.
Jimmy Hamilton On Preaching
Why street preaching? “The church,” Hamilton writes, “is gathered from the four corners of the earth by the preaching in every age. The preaching reaches those whom God intends it to reach, not every man head for head. The content of preaching is the gospel, nothing else. The result of preaching is either the regeneration, repentance and faith required for salvation, or the hardening of sinners’ hearts: it will accomplish one or the other” (26).
What follows for 28 mini chapters and three appendices (including an account of Hamilton’s personal testimony) are biblical exhortations, examples from church history, instruction from historical confessions, catechisms, and the Scottish psalter, and, of course, insights from his four decades of front-line service. Initial topics covered include the spiritual and character pre-requisites of the man called to an itinerant preaching ministry (and yes, it is calling reserved by God for men, which we’ll get to) and the preacher’s submission and relationship to the local church. The preacher’s voice, his uses of electronic “gadgets”, notes, handling distractions, sermon preparation, answering skeptics, a preacher’s income, and the fear of man are some, though not all, of the additional topics Hamilton addresses.
Preaching itself, as would be expected, makes up much of the book. But again, because Hamilton packs so much sound theology in what he says, any Christian can benefit from reading it. The message to be preached is the simple gospel, Law and Grace, always with the call to repent and believe, but never manipulated for results. Three short quotes are worth highlighting:
““The Word of God is what the Holy Spirit uses, and nothing else, to bring men to faith in Jesus Christ— not the antics, not the theatrics, not the rhetoric, not the oratory gifts of men” (78).
“In all true preaching, Christ is central” (87).
“The law (Moses) tells the broken sinner to go to Christ and live” (98). This is one of my two favorite statements (among many excellent one) in the book. I read it to my wife and she said, “Wow, that’s about as simple an explanation as I ever heard. I like that!”
Vivid, Articulate, and Biblical
Jimmy Hamilton does an excellent job presenting the biblical reasons why God has uniquely called men to preach. Even though it is not very long, it is too much to elaborate on here and to try would only be a disservice to the Hamilton’s efforts to explain why. Once having dealt with Scriptures’ restriction of the office, however, Hamilton encourages ladies about the important role they can also play in evangelism, “Does this mean that women have no part to play in evangelistic work? Not at all. I know of many ladies who accompany the menfolk, some their husbands, on the streets. They pray, they distribute literature, and they engage people in conversation. Some have proved themselves to be excellent helpers” (90).
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Hamilton’s writing is vivid and articulate, but not flowery and redundant (as I sometimes find Spurgeon to be). One of my favorite examples of his writing is in his discussion of the fallen world we live in:
“The world of man is “the present evil world” (Galatians 1:4). It’s a swamp, and it’s full of the garbage and sewage of man’s sin: it is unbelievably stinking, vile, poisonous. And natural man delights to swim in the swamp. It’s his pleasure, a delight to him. But what he cannot see is that at the far edge of the swamp there’s a drop, a waterfall if you like, that plunges over and down into hell. When the gospel lifeline is thrown to him by the street preacher, he just ignores it. When the preacher cries out with the gospel of salvation to him, he sticks his fingers in his ears. His choice is always to stay in the swamp. Only the power of Christ can rescue him, in a day of his power (Psalm 110:3). But we must warn him, there is coming a day when the swamp will be fully purged by fire, the fiery judgment of God’s full and final and fierce wrath” (133-4).
But the street preacher Jimmy Hamilton hopes God raises up through the publication of his book is by no means to be rabid, frothing, and arrogant. Showing his pastor’s heart (a role he did for nearly two decades), Hamilton offers a tender word too, of which I’ll quote only part, “You’ll come across poor souls that have been damaged by church experiences and won’t return for love nor money. Seek to bind up their wounds, point and draw them to Christ the great healer….” (141).
It would be impossible to cover every subject adequately, but what is covered is given a thorough, compelling, and Christ-centered treatment well worth consideration. May the Lord stir the hearts of young men to answer the call.
So You Want to be a Street Preacher was released December 2019 and published by WestBow Press A Division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan. I did not receive a promotional copy of this book, I purchased it myself. Readers can follow Jimmy at his website https://folereformedpulpit.com.