Steps Toward Open-Air Preaching

Areopagus turn crop words2

Posts in my open-air series so far (for context)...
  1. The Gospel in the Open-Air Again
  2. Guidelines for Open-Air Preaching
  3. Open-Air Preaching is Optional?
  4. Missional Open-Air Preaching

Jesse Winkler put up a very helpful comment today on my Missional Open-Air Preaching post. Jesse writes...

After I read some stuff and watched the vids you posted I made a short list of things I can do right now as I'm not ready to go stand on the street and start preaching. My list was 1) begin to pray for the right heart, 2) make a solid intentional list of verses and memorize them, 3) find the right spots in my community, 4) compile a list of texts conducive to preaching the gospel in open air.

Great stuff, Jesse. One of the things I've failed to do yet in this series, though I've done some sporadically throughout, is to let people know what I'm doing before I start some form of open-air preaching. I think the preparation is crucial to doing it well. Jesse's four points are excellent and are clearly reflective of things I'm doing. Here's what I'm doing to take steps toward open-air preaching...

1. Praying | I'm not spending a lot of time praying for the right heart, as I feel like the right heart is what God has been preparing in me to even do this series of posts and head in this direction evangelistically. But Jesse's comment reminds me I need to do this more. I'm praying currently more for revival in our church, for the Spirit to guide me toward the right places, right times, & right means, for the Spirit to be working in the hearts of the lost so the seeds of the Gospel will grow, etc. 

I'm also praying for a handful of guys who have expressed interest, who I've been in contact with privately about it, and for others who I hope will consider open-air preaching because they would be good at it. I think I mentioned that in a previous post, but worth noting here.

Some of the prayer for evangelism and toward the lostness of our neighbors is with my wife and kids. The kids know varying amounts of info about my growing plans (depending on their age and maturity), but they are a part of this for sure. They will know (generally) what I'm doing when I do it.

2. Brainstorming | I'm spending a significant amount of time just brainstorming. Ideas sometimes come out of prayer, and prayer is my response to ideas. Often listening to podcasts helps to spark my thinking (preaching on particular passages, on revival, on evangelism; Jerram Barrs iTunes U evangelism class), drawing stuff on my whiteboard or in my Moleskine workbook, making lists, playing with acrostics for different things I'm doing or want to do, making notes in a personal journal, etc. I can't emphasize how important untethered time has been in thinking this stuff through. 

I could make a whole other point on stuff I'm reading that's a part of my brainstorming, but it's more pieces of things. Much I've found helpful I've tweeted or posted as quotes. But I'll just say I'm reading Scripture, books, stuff out of theology books, evangelism books, etc and so on to help me continue to brainstorm.

I'm also watching videos of people doing open-air preaching. Even the bad stuff is informative on at least what NOT to do. :) I notice a lot of patterns found in nearly all preachers, which helps in brainstorming as well.

3. Bouncing Ideas & Seeking Advice | Molly gets a lot of it. She's pumped, and always has good wifely advice as well as godly advice. Important because of of who she is in my life, and because she needs to be prayed up and prepared for any possible negative consequences. I've been on the phone more the last 3 days than in the last month, just picking brains. Joe Thorn gets plenty of that, but other guys elsewhere are getting some of that. Emails and DM's on Twitter are hopping. I've started sending a list of my posts to some respected guys out there (pastors, authors, missiologists) for their advice, feedback, or whatever. I need people to tell me if/where I'm wrong! I'm thinking it through and I KNOW some guys out there think I'm a nutjob for saying all this, but few are saying it to me. Dear "that guy," please tell me. Help me. Sharpen me. 

4. Canvassing My City (County) | I've done this for a while, but it's ramping up. I'm doing drive-bys and paying visits to places at certain times to gauge people-flow. I somewhat regularly do work at the local community college to see the flow of students to and from campus, to and from the cafeteria, etc. Last night, for example, I left the house and did a drive-by the local bars. How busy are they on a Wednesday night?

I have some workbook notes on specific times and places of things that happen, as well as spaces that might be conducive. Helpful for praying and planning for open-air preaching.

5. Texts for Memorizing/Preaching | Jesse's point here is important. I'm looking particularly to the parables at the moment for preaching. I'm focusing more on gospel Scriptures than apologetics Scriptures, but both have a place. 

I'm also convicted after some discussion with Jim Elliff that I need to spend more time reading Scripture than reading other good things, books, etc. Trying to ramp up that pursuit.

6. Preparing My Local Church | I'm telling my church in sermons what I'm planning (more vaguely). I'm telling my church in community groups and prayer meetings in as much detail as is helpful. They are responding with more prayer, with more focused prayer, prayer for boldness, etc. After worship on Sunday they spontaneously (led by a couple people) surrounded me, laid their hands on me, and prayed for boldness.

7. Seeking Partners | I've also told my people I need them in the work. Some need to be there to observe, respond relationally and conversationally to follow-up. A few have already stepped forward for that.

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Jesse had a second thing he brought up and I'll briefly respond to...

My hang up is, in addition to the qualities you mention that you're calling for in open air preaching, doesn't there have to be an attractional element to gather people? What does that look like other than being in a public place and raising your voice really loud?

I'm going to have more to say about this when I start talking about a particular approach I'm planning on taking. But I'm hoping to take a gradual approach to public preaching, meaning to start preaching out of other things that are occurring. In Acts 2 Peter's preaching is responding to the drunkenness comments of the crowd after tongues are spoken. In Acts 3 Peter's preaching is responding to the lame guy leaping around after healing takes place. Paul (generally speaking) often moves from Synagogue to marketplace to further opportunity (Areopagus, Hall of Tyrannus). Public preaching (of some sort) of Jesus is often in response to his healing, his helping the woman caught in adultery, to the crowds surrounding him because of other things going on. 

Now, we for some reason have taken that to mean we should learn some clever magic tricks and juggling in order to draw a crowd. I think more biblical ways above are better ways.

While I'm probably not going to take a lame guy and make him walk (unless the Lord wills!), I can start small with a conversation with one or two in such a way and in such a place that it leads to others joining in as they either eavesdrop (which we hope for) or because they are invited to join. 

In other words, I'm not planning at this point on being the dude who brings in his ladder and microphone and says my name and starts preaching to a crowd. I'm planning on starting with a few, loudly enough and in a public gathering area in order that others will overhear, and with the hope it draws a crowd and larger-scale open-air preaching is the result. AND, I believe I've found at least one way to do that in my city, though I'm not ready to post that specifically here. I've told a few friends. I'm happy to give a little more info to anyone who desires more. But what I gave should be enough to spark some thought in your context.

Hope that's helpful. Again, thinking it all through. Trying to find a way to do it better. And I'm desperate for negative or positive feedback so I'm not just some blogger out there saying a bunch stuff that will amount to nothing. What would you add to my list?