After writing my series on open-air preaching, which I will likely add to at some point, I've become convinced of what I'm going to suggest in this post. I'd like to see an open discussion on it. Feel free to agree, disagree, or push-back in the comments.
Let me say this at the outset. My open-air posts were mostly geared toward local pastors preaching publicly in their local places. This post is looking beyond a pastor preaching locally.
Here's my thesis: The future of the evangelist, specifically the evangelist who moves beyond the barriers of their own community, city, or "parish," will be embraced by a well-known pastor (or a few of them) who will fill auditoriums, university campuses, and public spaces around the country with the preaching of the Gospel. Their reputation as planters, pastors, authors, and conference speakers have rightly given them reputations as powerful speakers who have a certain unction, and on that platform they will be able to gather crowds like few can and benefit the church wherever they preach.
Now, I want to be careful here. I'm not railing against pastors who have used their reputations to write books, speak at conferences, and create large ministries. For example, John Piper has an amazing and wonderful ministry of creating and distributing resources for the glory of God and the good of the church. I recommend Desiring God often and heartily. Such a blessing. So please don't hear me as saying that prominence that leads to these sorts of ministries is wrong. Not at all
My contention is this, and I have to make it concrete by using a real example: What would happen if Mark Driscoll became the staff evangelist of Mars Hill. They pay him well and give him a sufficient ministry budget. Then they commission him to spend X weeks a year preaching evangelistically around the country...indoors, outdoors, at scheduled times, at unscheduled times, in season, out of season, etc. His church reputation as well as a growing public reputation will open many doors for the Gospel.
I think this could be true of a number of people, such as Tim Keller, Mark Dever, Darrin Patrick, Francis Chan, Matt Chandler, and others.
Imagine someone with public prominence, a good reputation among churches, and who is a compelling Gospel preacher set loose upon the world to preach to the many and to the one. These men not only have the reputations that have already laid the groundwork for this sort of evangelism, but they have the connections in major and minor U.S. cities (and beyond!) with good theologically sound, gospel-preaching churches so that their evangelistic work will immediately connect people to local churches rather than leave them hanging as the evangelist leaves town.
I'm not suggesting I know what God is leading any man to do. But I can't help but think that the right response for some preachers, who are seeing remarkable results and explosive church growth from their evangelistic preaching, is to take their preaching of the Gospel far beyond their city. Could this be the future of mass evangelism? Could this lead to the resurgence of good, theologically-sound missional open-air preachers?
I wonder if any of our great preachers are thinking in this direction. I wonder how some of the men I listed above would respond to this idea. I hope they will consider it. I think it would be an amazing development for the good of the church.