Revival

Keller | Questions for Sleepy or Nominal Christians

Tim Keller PostPhoto

Helpful post today from Tim Keller on revival and the Spirit's work on sleepy and nominal Christians. Here's a teaser...

So how do you wake up sleepy Christians and convert nominal Christians? Let me give you what I would call my modernized American versions of the kinds of questions I would ask people if I was trying to get them to really think about whether or not they know Christ. These questions are adapted from The Experience Meeting by William Williams, based on the Welsh revivals during the Great Awakening. He would ask people to share about these types of questions in small group settings each week...

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Have you been finding Scripture to be alive and active? Instead of just being a book, do you feel like Scripture is coming after you?

You are going to have to go to Tim Keller's blog to read the rest of the questions. This is an issue near and dear to me as I think there are few things more important for the American church than to work for the conversion of "Christians." You have to ask questions that will show them who they are, and who they aren't.

5 Characteristics of Gospel Renewal Preaching

Center Church Crop

I listed the three basic traits of frontline prayer yesterday from chapter 6 of Tim Keller's Center Church. Chapter 6 is "The Work of Gospel Renewal." Today, from the same chaper, Keller's five characteristics that define preaching for gospel renewal. He explains all five in some detail, so pick up the book. 

  1. Preach to distinguish between religion and the gospel
  2. Preach both the holiness and the love of God to convey the richness of grace
  3. Preach not only to make the truth clear but also to make it real
  4. Preach Christ from every text
  5. Preach to both Christians and non-Christians at once

(Center Church, pages 77-79)

Three Basic Traits of Frontline Prayer

Center Church Crop

In chapter 6 of Center Church, Tim Keller discusses "The Work of Gospel Renewal." The first means of Gospel renewal Keller mentions is Extraordinary Prayer. There he lists the three basic traits of frontline prayer (as contrasted with "maintenance prayer")...

  1. A request for grace to confess sins and to humble ourselves
  2. A compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church and the reaching of the lost
  3. A yearning to know God, to see his face, to glimpse his glory

Keller then states, "If you pay attention at a prayer meeting, you can tell quite clearly whether these traits are present."

Use these 3 traits as a guide when you lead times of focused prayer in your church, small group, and prayer meetings. As Keller writes, "To kindle every revival, the Holy Spirit initially uses what Jonathan Edwards called 'extraordinary prayer' -- united, persistent, and kingdom centered."

(Center Church, page 73)

The Secret of Whitefield's Success

Whitefield Head

The Secret of George Whitefield's Success, five points (via)...

1. Natural eloquence -- a gift from God - used by the power of God's Holy Spirit.
2. Fellowship with God -- Whitefield gives us a glimpse in his Journal of his walk with God. 'Early in the morning, at noonday, evening and midnight, nay, all day long, did the blessed Jesus visit and refresh my soul. At other times I would be overpowered with a sense of God's Infinite Majesty'.
3. Godliness -- 'Above all he was a great saint, and Wesley and others bore tribute to this during his life and his death. This was the ultimate secret of his preaching power' (Lloyd-Jones).
4. Concern for the lost and the conviction that sinners are in danger of an everlasting hell
5. Wholehearted commitment to God -- 'If ever a man burnt himself out in the service of God, it was Whitefield. He was tireless and relentless in his efforts to win souls. Throughout his life he enjoyed the presence of God in his preaching. Even on his last day in this world he preached, though he was very ill. He was a man whose sole desire was to preach Christ crucified' (Nigel Clifford, Christian Preachers, Bryntirion Press).

Read the rest of the article/short bio at Banner of Truth. Check out my George Whitefield Resources page.

The Sermons of George Whitefield

Whitefield sermons 2 vol

Lee Gatiss has edited George Whitefield's original 57 published sermons into two large volumes (976 pgs, Crossway). You can get the hardcover set for $40+ from WTS or $33+ from Amazon...OR $9.99 FOR KINDLE! That's a deal! From Crossway...

Gatiss includes careful and extensive footnotes detailing the historical and theological background to Whitefield’s preaching, which puts the man and his messages into context for a new generation of readers. The text has also been updated for the twenty-first century with modern grammar, spelling, and punctuation - revised in a manner that leaves Whitefield’s distinct voice intact and coherent for today’s reader. 

Emotions That Correspond With the Weight of Reality

George whitefield post header

John Piper on George Whitefield again, on the acting of preaching as "real acting" (bold is mine)...

If a woman has a role in a movie, say, the mother of child in a burning house, and as the cameras are focused on her, she is screaming to the firemen and pointing to the window in the second floor, we all say she is acting. But if a house is on fire in your neighborhood, and you see a mother screaming to the firemen and pointing to the window in the second floor, nobody says she’s acting. Why not? They look exactly the same.

It’s because there really is a child up there in the fire. This woman really is the child’s mother. There is real danger that the child could die. Everything is real. And that’s the way it was for Whitefield. The new birth had opened his eyes to what was real, and to the magnitude of what was real: God, creation, humanity, sin, Satan, divine justice and wrath, heaven, hell, incarnation, the perfections of Christ, his death, atonement, redemption, propitiation, resurrection, the Holy Spirit, saving grace, forgiveness, justification, reconciliation with God, peace, sanctification, love, the second coming of Christ, the new heavens and the new earth, everlasting joy. These were real. Overwhelmingly real to him. He had been born again. He had eyes to see.

When he warned of wrath, and pleaded for people to escape, and lifted up Christ, he wasn’t play-acting. He was calling down the kind of emotions and actions that correspond with such realities. That’s what preaching does. It seeks to exalt Christ, and describe sin, and offer salvation, and persuade sinners with emotions and words and actions that correspond to the weight of these realities.

If you see these realities with the eyes of your heart, and if you feel the weight of them, you will know that such preaching is not play-acting. The house is burning. There are people trapped on the second floor. We love them. And there is a way of escape.

Read or listen to the rest of Piper's powerful talk on Whitefield. A great example and explanation of what preaching should be like. I don't think we do this well, not nearly well enough. Maybe this kind of preaching would change the face of Christianity in America and the western world today. Maybe it's not just the *how* of preaching but the *where* that would enact this change.

What do you think?

Open-Air Preaching in Portland

Josh

I was connected through a common friend with Josh White, pastor of Door of Hope church in Portland, Oregon. My friend knew of my posts on open-air preaching and he knew that Josh White is doing it. After a couple of emails the last few weeks and then a phone call today, I'm very excited to share some of what Josh and Door of Hope are doing. (By the way, Josh is lead singer of the Christian band Telecast. I saw them open for Crowder in Lexington, KY years ago and had to pick up their CD, Eternity is Now. Still gets play time. Had no idea until the end of our phone conversation that he leads Telecast. Door of Hope also has connection with Blitzen Trapper and other solid indie bands in Portland. See more of their music family, friends, and favorites.)

After a great, descriptive email from Josh of what their open-air work looks like, I asked if I could turn what he wrote into a post. He said yes, but then he tweaked it so it could be on the church's website. Even better. So here is what Josh wrote about Church in the Park. What if more churches did this!?

Why do Church in the Park?

How do we bring the gospel to our neighborhood? How are we to be supernaturally natural in an urban environment that is less than 1% Christian? How do we encourage our Church community to stop treating their faith like a secret society? We do not see the early church primarily praying for the lost but praying for boldness. We are convinced that if our love for Christ surpasses our fear of people, we will begin to see revival occur in Portland. Church in the Park is our opportunity as a church family to declare together the good news of Jesus. However, the only exposure most of us have had to open air preaching is the zealous guy who stands alone and shouts at people, which never seems very effective. Or we see large irregular church events done with permits and sound systems, which is equally unnatural.

When do you meet?

Thursdays at 7pm.

Where do you meet?

Colonel Summer's Park
Between 19th and 20th Avenue on SE Taylor Street.

What is Church in the Park?

BRING THE CHURCH GATHERING TO THE PARK. Jesus said “they shall know you are my disciples by your love for one another.” When the body is together in a public space it gives authority and validity to the preaching of the gospel. It also allows for a lot of conversations to occur that would not in the confines of a building for the park is a place where the world and the church can truly intersect.

TOTALLY UNPLUGGED. No amplification allows us to meet with out permits and allows people to listen of their own accord with out us being a giant bear in their picnic. Every week people have walked over to the fringe of our gathering and listened - and sometimes heckled.

DIRECT THE MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH. This allows outsiders to witness a body of faith taking in the word while trusting the Holy Spirit will draw many to Himself if Jesus is lifted up.

MUSIC. We are blessed at Door of Hope to be in Portland and to have so many talented musicians. We are a singing church, and it is powerful witness to have a church body singing worship together in a public space.

CONSISTENCY. We do church in the park regularly. Cynicism dissipates as the people see that we are part of this neighborhood too, and that we aren't going anywhere. As long as it is not raining we will do it every week.

Is childcare provided?

Unfortunately, we do not currently offer childcare at Church in the Park.

Summary

All of this is having a tremendous effect on our church. It gives us greater confidence in the Spirit's ability to use us for Kingdom work, exposing many to the gospel for first time. Church in the park is definitely creating a stir, given that gospel proclamation is not popular in our beloved city. But we believe it will make an impact for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God”.

Revival: Hansen, Keller, DeMoss

Collin Hansen interviews Tim Keller and Nancy Leigh DeMoss on revival. Great conversation. So many things I could quote, but here's one of my favorite quotes by Keller (35 seconds in)...

In the last 20 or 30 years, because the society's changed and because we are finding it harder to reach people, there's been an enormous amount of intellectual and emotional energy given to: How are we reaching these people? And we've actually, I think, put all of our energy into that and it seems to have sucked a lot of the air out of the room. So people just aren't, they're more concerned with: How are we going to reach people who are so hard to reach? When I think Dr. Lloyd-Jones in his lectures on revival has actually said that you need revival more in a time like that, because what the world doesn't see is a beautiful church. A church with people filled with the Spirit, people who the Gospel's changed their lives and are loving one another. And honestly the best way to reach people is to show them something gorgeous here. And we shouldn't be too worried about all the various kinds of new strategies we're supposed use. So I actually feel like the strategies for evangelism, and, you know, I'm an evangelist, and I still feel like it's taken a lot of the emphasis away from asking God to revive our churches. (emphasis mine)

HT: Jared

A Different Style of Evangelist: Laborers on the Loose

This article is so profoundly affecting me right now as I have been thinking about revival, open-air preaching, and the need for a resurgence of evangelists, that I asked Jim Elliff for permission to put it up here in full. I honestly think this article is one of the most important things I've ever read on evangelism. Let's discuss it in the comments. Feel free push-back where you disagree.

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A Different Style of Evangelist: Laborers on the Loose
Jim Elliff

The disparity between what Christ and Paul did in evangelism and what we do, at least in the West, is dramatic. There is a certain sadness in me as I think about this, not just because it is so, but because I am now far along in years and I have not done enough to explore and experiment with apostolic methods for today. Therefore I will have to attempt to pass on what I am learning in hopes that whatever aspects of this cannot be substantiated through long periods of personal trial and error, may be tried out by others over a longer time.

Let me explain a few of those differences:

1. The first radical departure from Jesus and Paul is our concept of time-specific, meeting-oriented evangelism. You will read in vain in the New Testament to find so many days of evangelistic preaching scheduled for Jesus or Paul and conducted at 7 p.m. in a certain location, etc. You do not find one-day events for evangelism on such-and-such a date. We are, to be sure, more time-conscious than the first century culture of Israel or Asia Minor. But it remains a fact that Jesus and Paul never went to an advertised meeting for evangelism. This is not a moral issue; I'm only showing the significant differences.

The School of Tyrannus experience in Ephesus might seem to speak otherwise. Paul reasoned in that school on a regular basis for two years, perhaps in the afternoon during the time the people of the school rested. But note the words more closely:

But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:9-10, emphasis added).

This was a meeting of disciples, not an evangelistic gathering. I do not doubt that evangelism took place in some ways, but only believers are mentioned as being in attendance. They, in turn, must have had a huge impact on the larger public. So, the apostles were willing to trainbelievers at regular times, but this is not the same as scheduled evangelistic meetings.

2. Jesus and Paul never "took invitations" to evangelistic meetings. They never filled their calendars with events planned out in advance. Their schedules were entirely flexible and never were "filled." They might wish to go to a certain place, and be restrained, or even determine notto go as originally hoped. If a certain place took more effort than was expected, they stayed on until the job was done before leaving for another location. They were busy, but not because of a schedule. The use of their time was not only flexible, it was entirely determined by them (under the Spirit's guidance). They were never subject to the calendars of others who wanted them to come over and speak to people in their area.

The first evangelists could have done otherwise. The scheduling of events was certainly a part of first century life. The Roman circus and games, for example, were planned as calendar events. But the earliest and greatest evangelists did not plan their evangelism in advance in the way we do. I don't mean that they never said to themselves, "I will go to a certain city tomorrow." But there is no reason to believe they bound themselves to meeting dates or filled up their date books with scheduled appearances.

3. Jesus and Paul avoided all that could be associated with "production" in their evangelism. There was no stage to their work. It took place in the common world of streets, shops, schools, and porches. It took place on roads. If Paul were traveling from one town to another taking four days walking, if asked, he would likely have described his activity during this period as "preaching the gospel." They evangelized on the go, not by the event.

4. First century evangelism never involved strategizing about how to gather a crowd. There were crowds that gathered on occasion, but they were not the result of careful planning. Rather, they "happened." On certain occasions they came about through apostolic miracles, in other cases through persecution, and on others simply through the magnetism of the men themselves. I know that God planned those crowds from eternity past, but I'm speaking of planning in the temporal level. It never seemed to occur to Paul that a crowd was necessary for evangelism to be effective. Philip is said to have preached Jesus to one man. Paul went for long periods without a large group ever forming around him. He might have spoken to five people here, two there, and twenty in another place. But he never gathered the other evangelists around him and asked, "What can we do to get up a crowd for the gospel?"

5. Paul and Jesus never used entertainment to attract people. This is true despite the fact that there was plenty of it around. There were balladeers, circus clowns, sports heroes, chariot drivers, gladiators, poets, actors, musicians, and even stilt-walkers. But there is no record of the first evangelists ever attempting to attract people in this way.

This is a clear case in which one departure from biblical precedent leads naturally to another. Think back to number four—strategizing about how to attract a crowd. If you are to draw large numbers of spiritually dead people to listen to the gospel you have to do something to entertain them. In their natural condition of depravity, they run from the gospel (John 3:19-21). And when unregenerate people come to such events, the entertainment itself often plays a role in a deadly form of deception. The emotional responses that are often prompted by touching performances of drama or music are often mistaken for spiritual responses to the preaching of the gospel. The sad results, in many cases, are emotionally-prompted and seemingly sincere, yet false professions of faith, made by people who leave the event more deceived than they were before attending. There are exceptions, of course, but close scrutiny will reveal that not so much is happening as it might seem.

6. The first evangelists did not use the meetings of the local church as the primary place for evangelism. They did evangelize in synagogues among non-believing Jews and Gentile proselytes. This was a clearly identifiable aspect of their strategy. But in the meetings of Christians they did not primarily seek to evangelize. Of course, I'm speaking of Paul and the other apostles here; a New Testament church was not formed during Jesus' time. The church, in other words, was about believers. When they gathered they were to edify each other, receive edification, and worship. A non-believer might come in to their meeting who would feel convicted (1 Cor. 14:23-25), but evangelism was not the primary reason for the meeting.

I'm not saying that the gospel was not preached in local church gatherings, or that people could not be converted in such a setting. Romans, Ephesians, Galatians, etc. are the gospel in comprehensive form, and such truths were expounded and discussed. But there was nothing like the focus we find in many evangelical churches who believe that the Sunday gathering is principally about winning lost people and gaining new members.

There is a difference here that should be obvious, along with another form of danger when this distinction is lost. In such a result-oriented meeting, pastors will have a hard time doing what is important for the spiritual health and growth of the believers who have been entrusted to them (i.e. praying for long periods, talking straightforwardly to the church about disobedience and even discipline, going into depth in teaching the Bible, etc.). Because unbelievers in attendance might be offended or disinterested in such aspects of church life, the necessities are all-too-often neglected in favor of activities that are geared toward church growth.

7. First century evangelists were not dependent upon or driven by money. It is true that a laborer is worthy of his hire, but Jesus did not mean by this that the laborer would always have enough money even to eat. Paul often went without food. Jesus did mean that it should be theresponsibility of the believers to support such a work among them. However, the ministry of the laborer was not determined by this. Nothing apparently was guaranteed in advance for his support. In fact, the only thing that appears to be mentioned in the context of "hire" is that food and lodging be provided (see Matt. 10:9-11)—far less than what we mean by that statement. In fact, in his sending out of the 70, Jesus forbade the collecting of funds in preparation for their ministry:

Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support (Matt. 10:9-10).

And stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. (Luke 10:7).

In our day many otherwise fine men would never consider paying for the privilege of preaching the gospel (as opposed to being paid). The laborer of the NT, however, paid dearly for that joy. There were false apostles that violated that principle, but such were severely rebuked in Paul's letters. The true New Testament laborer was sacrificial.

What Does Such a Laborer Look and Act Like?

Laborers are needed for the harvest. We should pray for them and we may well be among them (Matt. 9:37-38). What would such a person be like who is sent out into the harvest? And what would his job entail?

Before answering this, I might add that not all faithful people are to be "laborers" in this sense. Some are called as pastors of churches, paid or unpaid, vocational or bi-vocational. Others are active and evangelistic church members. But there is such a thing as an evangelistic laborer, and this is who I'm describing. These were the evangelists and church planters of their day. This included the original apostles and all others who were apostolic in their mission. By this I do not mean to imply there are more apostles of Christ than the original twelve (including Paul, Rom. 1:1). But there are those who labor like them, evangelizing and starting churches. If there were no apostolic types today, we would have no missionaries. The word "missionary" does not appear in the Bible, yet it is the Latin way of saying the Greek word, "apostolos," meaning "sent one." In some ways it is inconsistent to speak of missionaries and not believe in ongoing apostolic work. The fact that there were false apostles, presupposes that there were others who were doing such apostolic work, regardless of what we prefer to call them.

Jesus said that we should pray that the Lord of the harvest would thrust such men into the harvest because the harvest is great (Matt. 9:37-38).

Some, if not most of these people should be unmarried. Paul and Timothy and Titus and even Jesus fit into this category. Perhaps others of the original apostles were not married, but it is hard to discern this. They certainly were free to be gone from their families for extensive periods if they were married. Peter was said to take along a believing wife (1 Cor. 9:5). Perhaps they traveled together without children. But the reasons why many who are called to this life are unmarried should be obvious.

It also might be gathered from the New Testament that such a calling may have different phases. For instance, John and Peter appear to have settled down in a region after their initial work. James stayed in Jerusalem, where he labored alongside the elders of a mammoth church. Paul, on the other hand, remained a traveling man with an ever-broadening sphere of influence.

They must be willing to live off of little. There can be no greed in such people. This is not to say that the people who know and love them should not be supportive to the best of their ability. But nothing can be counted on by the laborer except that God will take care of him. He should not go only after he has raised support. He should just go, trusting God while remaining in vital relationship with the church(es). Rather than calculating funds and expenses, he should learn to exercise faith. In our day, this may mean that the local church will receive some of the support that comes in for him as a useful channel for reporting income tax matters. However, all will not be received in this way. A set salary from a church should not be required by the laborer. On the part of the church most closely associated with him, they should be willing to participate in support as much as possible. But waiting until the finances of the church are sufficient should not be an issue. I do have experience in this—twenty years of it. God can be trusted. We have already lost too much time waiting to raise money.

It appears that neither Paul nor Jesus, nor the apostles, had a permanent dwelling in their traveling stage. We don't know everything about this. God did not choose to tell us, mainly because it is not the important thing. God is not against believers having homes. But because of this man's responsibilities, we do know that he cannot be hampered by the cares of home ownership. "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier" (2 Tim. 2:4). He may have to rent a place to stay for a time, or stay in the homes of good, hospitable church members, but he needs to keep himself as free for his work as possible.

This person would have to be a "self-starter," not dependent upon someone else to get him up and going for the gospel. He cannot be lazy. And, of course, other qualities should be found in such a man who will be called into this service. He must, to say the least, be exemplary in his behavior, for his life will speak as loudly as his words.

With mobility as it is these days, a man may be able to stay in one place as a hub for a longer period of time. This might mean that he will work in various places throughout the area, seeking to lead people to Christ, to strengthen the believers, to congregationalize them or to add to the church that is there.

Obviously, the evangelistic laborer must have God-given abilities in evangelism and with organizing a group concerning the basics of church life.

A Possible Scenario

Here is only one scenario to show how this might come to pass:

There is a young man who comes to your church from a seminary. He shows signs of being an evangelistic laborer in the way we have described. The leaders encourage him with the possibilities. He moves into the home with an elder, or a faithful family and begins his work without any guaranteed pay. Perhaps this man is joined by another young man who was raised in the church. That second man, let's say, will live at his own home with his parents. Both of these men may rent an apartment later on. Or, if the church wishes, it might provide a house just for this kind of team.

On a daily basis they throw themselves into personal growth, prayer, evangelism and training of converts. Perhaps they spend time on the local college campus each day, seeking to build relationships, and to evangelize. College students who are eventually won to Christ receive training from these men. The laborers begin a church around the handful of students won to Christ. More are added until there is a viable work going on—a new church.

Simultaneously the young men are driving on some days to a nearby town where there is a need for a solid work. They hang out in the regular places, building relationships as before. Eventually a church is born there as well. This sort of thing might happen in various places, depending on the time of the workers and the blessing of God.

The men make no appeal for funds, but the church members are sensitive to their needs. The church invites them for meals, provides some unsolicited money, and does all that they can to supply the need because these men are extensions of them in many ways.

It is not wrong for these men to have a way to make some of their money, doing "tent-making" as necessary, provided it does not hinder their main work. For instance, they might consider having some kind of online sales that could be handled on their own time. Direct face-to-face sales are not recommended, since it has a way of distorting evangelism. Or, there might be a way for some of the men to work in the businesses of some of the members, as needed. Or, yet another way is for these men to have a skill that can be used by the church members and others. They can work in such a way that will not totally keep them from their task.

The men report on what God is doing. Perhaps later a third team member is added, and so on. It is certainly best to work in teams, for the sake of accountability. When possible, the men should seek to be related to godly men and/or the pastors of the local church—men who recognize their gifts, encourage them, teach them, and hold them accountable.

Later, two members of the team leave for another part of the country. In this area, there may be no church and they will not be able to worship with believers until they are able to start a work. It was out of such a pool of available laborers that Barnabas and Paul were commissioned for their travels, if you remember the Antioch church experience (Acts 13:1-3).

As you can see, only the most responsible of men can do this. Some men might seek to do this work precisely because they do not want to work a regular job. Therefore, much care should be given as to who is encouraged to do this. This is hard work for those who do it right. There can be no slackers, no whiners, no dependent types who must be told every move to make.

In the case of my own church which is made up of home congregations, these laborers might be instrumental in starting new congregations in a variety of areas. This could be one of the many ways that congregations (really small churches) could begin.

Now, of course, all of this seems foreign to us. If we lived in India or the Philippines, it might not seem so unusual, but we in the West cannot easily fathom such a method of evangelism and church expansion. Despite the radical differences between this idea and typical modern evangelism, please do not be too harsh or abrupt in your response. I am only exploring possibilities by setting out what seem to be obvious differences between the modern church and the New Testament model. And I am wondering if there might not be something wrong, or at least something that can be done better.

If you have comments, please don't hesitate to forward them to me at info@ccwonline.org. If you wish to include this issue in your chat rooms discussions or blogs, please feel free to do so. But let me know, so I can gain from your insights.

Copyright © 2005 Jim Elliff | Christian Communicators Worldwide, Inc.
Permission granted for not-for-sale reproduction in unedited form including author's name, title, complete content, copyright and weblink. Other uses require written permission.

The Ultimatum of God

Charles Spurgeon Archives

In the first place preach, and in the second place preach, and in the third place preach.

Believe in preaching the love of Christ, believe in preaching the atoning sacrifice, believe in preaching the new birth, believe in preaching the whole council of God. The old hammer of the gospel will still break the rock in pieces; the ancient fire of Pentecost will still burn among the multitude. Try nothing new, but go on with preaching, and if we all preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, the results of preaching will astound us.

[...]

Have great hope yet, brothers, have great hope yet, despite yon shameless midnight streets, despite yon flaming gin-palaces at the corner of every street, despite the wickedness of the rich, despite the ignorance of the poor. Go on; go on; go on; in God's name go on, for if the preaching of the gospel does not save men, nothing will. If the Lord's own way of mercy fails, then hang the skies in mourning, and blot out the sun in everlasting midnight, for there remaineth nothing before our race but the blackness of darkness. Salvation by the sacrifice of Jesus is the ultimatum of God. Rejoice that it cannot fail. Let us believe without reserve, and then go straight ahead with the preaching of the Word.

The Soul Winner | Charles Spurgeon | p179

Open-Air Preaching, Gospel Power, & Interruption

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I think we need to regain a healthy, biblical view of interruption.

Interruption can be good or bad. When I'm hurt and a doctor tells me I need to go to the emergency room, that's a good interruption. When I'm leading family worship and I get a recorded phone call from a politician, it's a bad interruption. Much open-air preaching is bad interruption. Sometimes very judgmental. Even cruel. Good open-air preaching, humble and loving preaching, would be the best interruption we could ever have. 

God has called us to the mission of good interruption. We don't need permission. We don't need to find an invitation to speak. We speak. We declare. We preach. We have been given the command to interrupt the world before they face the judgment of God. We are physicians crying out to a sick world to get life-saving medicine. We are ambassadors of another Kingdom warning that the current Kingdom will be destroyed and the only rescue is to join the Kingdom of the Good King. That's what the Gospel does. It forces the issue. It interrupts.

Praise God, the Gospel interrupts with power. The Bible tells us we have the power of the Gospel for salvation, the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses. We have the Word that is fire and a hammer that shatters the rock and won't return empty but accomplishes what God's purpose for it. We have a sword that separates joints from marrow, the sword of the Spirit. God doesn't give us an ineffective Word, but an effective one. It saves. 

If we have this power at our fingertips as preachers, and given God's permission to interrupt the lives of everyone around us, how can we not preach to everyone? How can we be content to confine our preaching to those who show up? 

(Check out all my posts & resources on open-air preaching)

Open-Air Preaching & Revival

JohnWesley2

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of sitting down with Richard Owen Roberts to discuss revival. He was interim at my church before I cam seven years ago and I've been able to sit with him from time to time and pick his brain. If you don't know, Mr. Roberts is a bookseller in Wheaton, IL, an author/editor, and a well-known expert and preacher on the issue of revival.

Toward the end of the conversation I asked him about open-air preaching. This was well before I wrote the five main posts on open-air preaching (as well as posting several quotes on Reformissionary and Twitter on the subject). I specifically asked for his thoughts about the role of open-air preaching and a desire for revival.

He first said that he thinks most open-air preaching is bad. His words were stronger than that, but I don't want to overstate. Then he said this (this isn't a direct quote, but close)...

I can't imagine that we will ever see revival without seeing preaching in the open-air again.

I hope to return to talk to him more about the subject.

Guidelines for Open-Air Preaching

Kevin Williams Street Preaching

Thanks for the great response to yesterday's post on a call for sane open-air preaching: The Gospel in the Open-Air Again. I believe God is doing something. I really do. Keep commenting as we all need (at least I need) this discussion so we can figure out what this would look like in America today.

After that post I received a link to some videos from @FrankFusion. Honestly, I'm shocked at how good this is, and how well it explains the practicals of open-air preaching, who should do it, what you shouldn't do, how it fits with local churches, and tons more.

This is exactly what we need to follow up my previous post and figure out how to do this. Would love to know if your reaction to this is as positive as mine.

The first video is a shorter excerpt from the second video on whether you preach apologetically or preach Christ. Really good. It made me want to watch the second. The second video is an hour long and well worth the time. Check the PDF that coincides with the video (found below the video here). You can also download the audio. Under the second video below are the points discussed and the times where they start on the video. Those talking are Kevin Williams and Ryan Skinner.

1. How do I know I am called to street preach? 00:00:44
2. Taping yourself open-air preaching and putting it up on youtube, why? 00:03:40
3. What does bad and good open-air preaching look like? 00:05:43
4. Is “drive by” open-air preaching wrong? How important is a local church? 00:09:00
5. Is it important to be part of a local church and have accountability? 00:12:28
6. How do you respond to the hatred you are met with? 00:13:49
7. How important are one on one conversations? 00:16:15
8. Are you going out in love? 00:17:37
9. Is doing “shock and awe” evangelism biblical? 00:20:12
10. Do people understand the Christian terms that you are using? 00:24:25
11. How important is it to have scripture memorized? 00:25:32
12. Is it important to know the LAWS of the land? 00:26:11
13. Is Christ or Apologetics your Focus in Open-Air Preaching? 00:28:07
14. How do you engage a heckler? 00:33:17
15. Where is a good spot to open-air preach at? 00:36:01
16. Don’t let getting large crowds become an idol. 00:40:56
17. Are there open-air preachers who are lost and not saved themselves? 00:42:45
18. Be careful to not appear self-righteousness while open-air preaching. 00:46:17
19. Advice on answering people’s questions in the open-air. 00:49:35
20. What should the length of my message be? 00:53:56
21. What makes a solid gospel tract? 00:55:03
22. Is it biblical to hand out cartoon gospel tracts that are gimmicky? 00:56:04

Robert Flockhart | Need for Hundreds of His Noble Order

I must linger a moment over Robert Flockhart, of Edinburgh, who, though a lesser light, was a constant one, and a fit example to the bulk of Christ's street witnesses. Every evening, in all weathers and amid many persecutions, did this brave man continue to speak in the street for forty-three years. Think of that, and never be discouraged. When he was tottering to the grave the old soldier was still at his post. "Compassion to the souls of men drove me," said he, "to the streets and lanes of my native city, to plead with sinners and persuade them to come to Jesus. The love of Christ constrained me." Neither the hostility of the police, nor the insults of Papists, Unitarians, and the like could move him; he rebuked error in the plainest terms, and preached salvation by grace with all his might. So lately has he passed away that Edinburgh remembers him still. There is room for such in all our cities and towns, and need for hundreds of his noble order in this huge nation of London—can I call it less?

Lectures to My Students, page 251 | Charles Spurgeon

The Gospel in the Open-Air Again

This is first post in a series. Here are links to posts that follow.

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Something has been burning in my belly. I can't shake it. I have a picture in my head of movement of preachers that, I believe, will shake up the culture and change the face of American Christianity in a myriad of good ways. I have much more to say about it, but let me start simply.

John Bunyan Open-Air Preaching

What if evangelicals hit America with 200, or 500, or 1,000 theologically strong, gospel-centered pastors who start preaching in open-air and public places in their cities, beyond their Sunday morning worship services, at least once a week for the rest of 2011? What would happen? What if even more did it, or what if it was done more often (Whitefield preached an average of 20 times a week for 34 years)? This idea has been on my mind in some form since my first few weeks as a new Christian (almost exactly 17 years ago). It continued through seminary as I did many outdoor evangelism projects and wrote a paper in seminary on open-air preaching. I've discussed it over the past few years with Joe Thorn. In the last few weeks I believe God has pressed this idea into me. I'm compelled to put it out there knowing many will probably think I'm stupid or crazy, and I'm ok with that.

In my opinion and in no particular order, here are some things that will probably happen if a movement of solid preachers would take to the open-air in America...

1. The Gospel would spread, maybe in an unprecedented way, across our land. It would be heard by people who would never set foot in our churches. It would spread in other ways explained below.

2. Our pastors and our people would be forced to learn to explain the Gospel simply, answer objections, etc. This would spark more training in theology, evangelism, apologetics, etc, but this time with a sense of need rather than something we too often learn for our "personal growth" only.

3. A *buzz* would grow among our neighbors. Suddenly it would be hard to miss seeing and/or hearing the Gospel where we live and in the places we go. People will stumble across it sooner or later, and probably more than once, and it will shake people up. Instead of being the odd guy down at the outdoor mall, it will be respected, calm, thoughtful, theological, loving people doing it. It will open a conversation as to "why" this is suddenly everywhere.

4. Persecution of one form or another (or all forms) would naturally increase. We are mostly left alone in our buildings, but when we preach with biblical power in the open-air the Devil will not be pleased.

5. The stereotype would change of open-air preaching and open-air preachers as the "turn or burn" and "sandwich board" folks would be drowned out by good, biblical, evangelistic preaching. It would come across as more normal because good preachers are doing it, yet it would still shake things up.

6. The media would take notice and start asking us what's going on, and we'd get free airtime to talk about Jesus. It would spark a growing public conversation about things on our agenda instead of merely getting asked to chime in when we fit in with the world's agenda. 

7. Dozens, hundreds of doors for personal evangelism would open up in every place public preaching is done because some of our people will attend and strike up conversations with those who stop to listen. In other words, we create a clear pathway for immediate personal evangelism. The preachers cast nets to draw them in, our people cast hooks, and together we work out our different roles in evangelism.

8. We would begin to pray with a new fervency, boldness, and deep need like in the end of Acts 4.. We would find ourselves relying on God in ways we've ignored because we take few risks. Our prayer meetings would, without question, see less "pray for aunt Sally's leg" and see more prayer for salvation, for strength, for the words to speak, for courage and boldness, for the many different issues that will result from the preaching, and so on.

9. Our churches would immediately start to see more visitors. The seeker kind. The skeptic kind. The curious kind. This would come because of the people who want to hear more from the preacher and the people who have connected personally with Christians during public preaching. They will come because this is the preacher who doesn't play well with others, and this time not because they spew judgments but because they won't stay away in their safe, warm buildings.

10. Christians will be separated from "Christians." Dead churches and denominations, the ones that don't have nor preach the Gospel, will start to look clearly different from evangelical ones. Our preaching will force the issue because people of various "Christian" groups will hear and react differently. Christians without Christ will be challenged to leave their Gospel-less churches and denominations. It will create a challenge to the peaceful, live-and-let-live relationship happening among all groups called "Christian" in our cities and it will reopen a necessary discussion on issues of Gospel, truth, theology, heresy, etc... and all in a much more public way.

I'm sure you can imagine that doors would open for a hundred other things. We don't know all that would happen as this has essentially been left untried. I don't believe there is even a need to discuss whether or not this is biblical. If anything preaching only in our buildings is what needs to be biblically challenged. Spurgeon wrote on page 254 of Lectures to My Students...

No sort of defense is needed for preaching out of doors; but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his meeting-house. A defense is required rather for services within buildings than for worship outside of them. 

I believe that if in the next couple of months hundreds of preachers in America would embrace this, and public preaching started happening all over the place, especially with the spring and summer months coming as the perfect opportunity, that we would see amazing things happen by the hand of our good and gracious God. I believe we would see mighty works by the Holy Spirit. I believe it would be amazing, but we would have to do it in order to see it.

A lot of questions remain, I know. A lot of doubts. You may be skeptical that it can work. You may be wondering where you could even do it in your particular community. You may have fears of doing it and desire to stay in the comfort of your pulpit. I hear you, but I think there are good answers and motivations for all of this. More soon.

My prayer as this goes up is that God will stir in us by His Spirit a movement of preachers who preach the Gospel publicly, beyond the walls of our buildings. I'm praying first for myself, then for many of my friends and pastoral acquaintances by name, and then for a number of well-known pastors who I think God has put in places of influence for their theological strength and solid preaching of the Gospel. I believe we need older, mature pastors to lead us in something like this. God help us to preach the Gospel boldly and publicly.

Bryan Chapell Discussion with Tim Keller

Tim_keller_image

Tim Keller was at Covenant Seminary and had a discussion with his friend and Covenant President Bryan Chapell (podcasted in December of 2010). Bryan Chapell led a two part discussion with him followed by a two part question & answer time.

The heart of the conversation was Counterfeit Gods, but tons of other rich, helpful stuff. We get stuff from Keller's prayer life, to the three year revival at Redeemer (according to Jonathan Edwards' standards), to the difficulties and blessings of 9/11 at Redeemer, to his thoughts on how getting "fame" as a pastor late in life has impacted Redeemer and their future and the push for leadership development, to how he prepares sermons, and bunches more. So good.

MP3's are below (original source). Or do as I did: go subscribe to Living Christ Today podcast and find the episodes from December. Tons of other great stuff there from Chapell and others. 

Click to listen, right click to download...

Discussion 1 | Discussion 2 || Q&A 1 | Q&A 2

The Great Benefit of Open-Air Preaching

Spurgeon

The great benefit of open-air preaching is that we get so many newcomers to hear the gospel who otherwise would never hear it. The gospel command is, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," but it is so little obeyed that one would imagine that it ran thus, "Go into your own place of worship and preach the gospel to the few creatures who will come inside."

Lectures to My Students, p 255 | Charles Spurgeon

Beyond the Walls of Your Meeting-House

Wesley-preaching-outdoors32

No sort of defense is needed for preaching out of doors; but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his meeting-house. A defense is required rather for services within building than for worship outside of them. Apologies are certainly wanted for architects who pile up brick and stone into the skies when there is so much need for preaching rooms among poor sinners down below.

Lectures to My Students, p 254 | Charles Spurgeon