I listened to Mark Dever's 9 Marks interview with Mack Stiles (& others) on Contact Evangelism last night. I was provoked to good thoughts on evangelism as well as some questions about my approach. I just realized I'm still holding a bit of inner dialogue on some of the things they said, so I thought it would be good to share. Books that were mentioned in/influenced the conversation included...
I have a copyright 1898 edition of John Broadus' On the Preparation & Delivery of Sermons. The first edition was printed in 1870. Broadus was professor of homiletics at SBTS in Louisville, KY and died in 1895. Here he lists and explains "helps" concerning freshness in preaching (pgs 146-149). "The basis of preaching and the truth preached must ever be the same. Yet there is a freshness in the treatment of old truths, and in discoursing on the unchangeable basis of God's Word, that is eminently desirable and should be maintained though life."
1. Study the Scriptures. Earnest and continued study both of the Bible in general, and of each text in particular, will greatly enhance and sustain a preacher's freshness. Let him...seek not mere novelties and fancies in interpretation, but the exact meaning of the inspired Word. No matter how often he has studied the book or the text before, let him keep on, and new thoughts will be suggested. A man cannot fail to keep fresh in his preaching who continues through life really and properly to study the Word of God.
2. Study Theology. Keep in touch with the great books, both general treatises and special discussions, on Systematic Theology. Doctrine -- real doctrine -- is needed as a novelty in much of the preaching of our times. By all means should a man reflect profoundly upon the commonplaces of religious truth. Vinet well said that the basis of eloquence is commonplace; and another has remarked that the pulpit often "makes the mistake of giving us common thoughts about deep things, when what we need would be deep thoughts about common things." We get these deep thoughts about common things only by penetrating and persevering reflection.
3. Study occasions. Here, again, we should not be directly seeking freshness in itself, but the reality of things. The best freshness is found by simply seeking real adaptation to the real occasion. Study the general condition of the congregation; reflect upon the special occurrences of religious interest, and upon any of secular interest that may furnish illustration or call for passing application or remark. Whenever you repeat a sermon on a new occasion adjust it in your study beforehand to the new conditions. A sermon that suits equally well all occasions does not thoroughly suit any one of them. This adaptation to circumstances often depends upon apparently slight matters.
4. Study individual cases. Physicians and lawyers may set us here a valuable lesson. The wise preacher will know people individually, and how to apply the truth to their special needs. He may thus have the advantage of the Romish confessional without its grave objections. Sometimes a hint in conversation will be a rich germ of suggestion. No man can keep fresh in the pulpit without keeping up both spiritual and social contact with people.
5. Study the age in which we live. Let the preacher strive to understand the strength and the weakness of the age -- its healthy tendencies and its diseases -- its illusions and its well-founded hopes. Particularly should he endeavor to discover and proclaim the true relations of Christianity to the age -- what it needs from Christianity, and what Christianity needs from it. Its currents of thought and sentiment, religious and irreligious -- its difficulties and yearnings -- its movements and changes -- demand the thoughtful attention of the gospel preacher. Yet he should let the fruits of his study and reflection appear not so much in formal discussions through set discourses, as in apt allusion and application here and there in his ordinary sermons. Thus he may be constantly showing how truly Christianity meets all real human wants; and thus he may restrain and fortify his hearers without perplexing them with plausible errors. Excellence in preaching, like the truly excellent in literature and art, must either take hold of things present, even transient things, and penetrate though them to permanent eternal principles; or, if it begins with general principles, it must always bring them to bear upon living characters and actual wants.
6. Study yourself. A man should continue through life to learn from his mistakes. Certainly the young preacher should do this, and even more imperatively the elder. Never fall into stereotyped methods of treating your subjects; cherish and cultivate a restless longing to preach better, and try frequent experiments in preaching differently. There is among preachers a deal of latent power which never gets itself developed. By all means should the inventive faculty be kept healthy and active. Some one has said, "Attention is the mother of invention." Fasten the mind on your subject by resolute effort of the will, and compel yourself to the task of analysis and association of ideas, which are the principal parts of invention. This may also be greatly stimulated by reading and conversation. And let us remember that our very best, our richest invention, is not achieved in preparing next Sunday's sermons, but in general reading, conversation, reflection, when the mind is quiet, throws off its accustomed burdens, and springs up elastic. All the labor and thought thus bestowed in cultivating and maintaining freshness will be richly repaid many times over in sustained power and usefulness in the pulpit.
Anyone who works with people will face frustration. How much of this Jesus faced with his disciples! We preachers should not try to avoid frustration by handing over unpleasant things to others so that we can concentrate on our preaching ministry. Facing frustration is part of our preparation for penetrative preaching.
Ajith Fernando, Jesus Driven Ministry, p26.
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).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that George Whitefield was "the most neglected man in the whole of church history. The ignorance concerning him is appalling" (pg 105 here). He's one of the great dead guys that I am spending some time studying. This page exists to bring together various Whitefield Resources: journals, sermons, letters, biographies, websites, etc. My hope is to create a resource page of every known good Whitefield resource for my readers. Thank you for sharing it through social media, linking to it on your website or blog, etc. If you find resources I'm missing, please email them to me so I can add them.
- See all my posts on Whitefield
- A Sketch of the Life & Labors of George Whitefield | J.C. Ryle
- The Works of George Whitefield | 6 Volumes - FREE as PDF, Mobi, ePub, Txt, or Internet Page
- Quinta Press - All works available via CD-ROM for $125
- A Collection of Hymns for Social Worship (collected by Whitefield)
- Anecdotes of George Whitefield | by Wakeley
- The Works of George Whitefield - Vol 5 Sermons
- The Works of George Whitefield - Vol 6 Sermons
- The Works of George Whitefield: Additional Sermons
- Sermons of George Whitefield (59, with Indexes) | CCEL
- Sermons of George Whitefield (59) | CRTA
- Sermons of George Whitefield (59) | Anglican Library
- For a list of all published sermons of Whitefield, Quinta Press has both title and text listed
- How to Listen to a Sermon (from sermon 28 in works)
- The Sermons of George Whitefield | 2 Vols, ed. Lee Gattis, footnoted, modern grammar
- Select Sermons of George Whitefield: With An Account of His Life | Banner of Truth
NEVER REPRINTED: Sermons of George Whitefield (via Quinta Press)
- Genesis 3:15, Serpents beguiling Eve
- Matthew 9:12, Christ the Physician of the Soul
- Matthew 16:26, The polite & Fashionable Diversions of the Age, destructive to Soul & Body
- Matthew 22:42, The Danger of man resulting from sin
- Mark 11:13f, The Barren Fig-Tree
- Numbers 6:25f, Aaron’s Blessing the Children of Israel
- John 20, The Unbeliever Convicted
- John 3:3, Jesus Christ the only Way to Salvation
- Matthew 5:4, The Happy Mourner Comforted
- Luke 4:29, The Spirit, Doctrines & Lives of our Modern Clergy
- Romans 12:2, The great Danger of Conformity to the World
- Isaiah 54:5, The Best Match
- Jeremiah 8:20–22, The Balm of Gilead Displayed
- Song of Solomon 5:16, Christ our Friend & 2 Kings 4, A Lecture
- Psalm 105:45, A Farewell Sermon
- Luke 15:11, The Prodigal Son
- 1 Corinthians 1:15, The Believer's Golden Chain
- Ephesians 4:24, Putting on the New Man a certain mark of the real Christian
- Philippians 1:27–28, The Faith of the Gospel
- Matthew 3:7, Flying from the Wrath to Come
- Mark 8:36f, The Invaluable Worth of a Soul
- John 11:36, The Amazing Love of Christ
- Luke 19:9–10, Exhortation to come and see Jesus
- John 1:35–36, The True Nature of Beholding the Lamb of God & Matthew 26:75, Peter’s denial of his Lord
- John 14:16, The Promise of the Spirit (final leaf of original is missing)
- Romans 8:30, A Farewell Parochial Sermon (Stonehouse)
- Matthew 25:13, Watching, the peculiar duty of a Christian
- Romans 4:16 (is this in fact by Whitefield, or is it by an Erskine?)
- The Works of George Whitefield: Journals
- Complete Journals PDF (via, not proof-read)
- Third Journal PDF (via, proof-read)
- The Works of George Whitefield: Letters 1735-1742
- The Works of George Whitefield: Letters 1742-1753
- The Works of George Whitefield: Letters 1753-1770
- The Works of George Whitefield: Additional Letters
- Wesley's sermon "Free Grace"
- A Letter from George Whitefield to the Rev. John Wesley
- Iain Murray on Whitefield & Wesley
- George Whitefield in 2 Volumes | Arnold Dallimore, Banner of Truth
- George Whitefield | Arnold Dallimore, 1 Vol (also Crossway edition)
- The Life & Times of George Whitefield | Robert Philip
- The Divine Dramatist | Harry Stout (NOT recommended, per John Piper)
FREE ONLINE BIOGRAPHIES
- A Sketch of the Life & Labors of George Whitefield | J.C. Ryle
- George Whitefield & His Ministry | J.C. Ryle
- George Whitefield: Portrait of a Revival Preacher | Leonard Ravenhill
- The Life & Times of the Rev. George Whitefield | Robert Philip
- Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. George Whitefield | John Gilles
- George Whitefield, M.A., Field Preacher | James Peterson Gledstone
- The Life of George Whitefield | J.R. Andrews
- Sensational Evangelist of England & America | Christian History
VARIOUS MEDIA | on WHITEFIELD
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones documentary on George Whitefield | video
- "I Will Not Be A Velvet-Mouthed Preacher!" | John Piper audio, text
- "George Whitefield, A Spur to the Minister" | Iain Murray audio
- "Whitefield Contrasted with Spurgeon" | Iain Murray audio
- "Whitefield & Catholicity" | Iain Murray audio via 9Marks
- "The Greatest Evangelist" | Banner of Truth
- "George Whitefield - Revival Preacher" | Banner of Truth article
- "George Whitefield" | Michael Haykin audio
- "The Power of God in George Whitefield's Life" | Steve Lawson video
- "The Preaching of George Whitefield" | Steve Lawson video
- "On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield" | John Wesley
BOOKS | ON WHITEFIELD
- The Revived Puritan | Michael Haykin
- The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield & The Wesleys | Mark Noll
- George Whitefield Daily Readings | Ed. Randall Pederson
BOOKS | THE GREAT AWAKENING
- The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America | Thomas S. Kidd
- The Great Awakening: A Brief History with Documents | Thomas S. Kidd
- The Great Awakening: Documents on the Revival of Religion, 1740-1745 | Richard Bushman
- Contested Boundaries: Itinerancy & the Reshaping of Colonial American Religious World | Timothy D. Hall
PICTURES, PLACES, THINGS
Tons of photos, sketches, artwork, locations, etc., from Quinta Press...
John Piper on George Whitefield and his dramatic preaching...
But the question is: Why was Whitefield “acting”? Why was he so full of action and drama? Was he, as Stout claims, “plying a religious trade”? Pursuing “spiritual fame”? Craving “respect and power”? Driven by “egotism”? Putting on “performances” and “integrating religious discourse into the emerging language of consumption”?
I think the most penetrating answer comes from something Whitefield himself said about acting in a sermon in London. In fact, I think it’s a key to understand the power of his preaching—and all preaching. James Lockington was present at this sermon and recorded this verbatim. Whitefield is speaking.
“I’ll tell you a story. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1675 was acquainted with Mr. Butterton the [actor]. One day the Archbishop . . . said to Butterton . . . ‘pray inform me Mr. Butterton, what is the reason you actors on stage can affect your congregations with speaking of things imaginary, as if they were real, while we in church speak of things real, which our congregations only receive as if they were imaginary?’ ‘Why my Lord,’ says Butterton, ‘the reason is very plain. We actors on stage speak of things imaginary, as if they were real and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.’”
“Therefore,” added Whitefield, ‘I will bawl [shout loudly], I will not be a velvet-mouthed preacher.”
This means that there are three ways to speak. First, you can speak of an unreal, imaginary world as if it were real—that is what actors do in a play. Second, you can speak about a real world as if it were unreal—that is what half-hearted pastors do when they preach about glorious things in a way that says they are not as terrifying and wonderful as they are. And third is: You can speak about a real spiritual world as if it were wonderfully, terrifyingly, magnificently real (because it is).
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.
Some excellent, brief advice on open-air preaching from Doug Wilson. First, he's for it. Second, he's wise to recommend it in the context of a "commission" through your local church and leadership. More...
Everything I've written and will write on open-air preaching I've consolidated for easy reference: Open-Air Preaching. It's available on the side-bar under "Compass." It includes open-air preaching posts, posts on relevant topics and open-air quotes, and a small, but hopefully growing list of resources beyond my blog. These are the resources I feel are worth recommending.
Here's my growing list of open-air preaching posts, quotes, and as I find ones worth recommending, resources. I'm only going to link the resources I like best, and there's a lot of stuff I don't like. For future reference, this page can be found under "Compass" on the right side-bar.
- *The Gospel in the Open-Air Again | start here
- Guidelines for Open-Air Preaching
- Open-Air Preaching is Optional?
- Missional Open-Air Preaching
- Steps Toward Open-Air Preaching
- Open-Air Preaching, Gospel Power, & Interruption
- Preaching Has Great POWER
- The Future of the Evangelist
- The Dismissal of Open-Air Preaching | Spurgeon
- Open-Air Preaching and Revival | Richard Owen Roberts
- What Is Preaching? | John Frame
- Need for Hundreds of His Noble Order | Spurgeon on Flockhart
- The Great Benefit of Open-Air Preaching | Spurgeon
- Beyond the Walls of your Meeting House | Spurgeon
- Faces Set Like Flints | Spurgeon
- The Ultimatum of God | Spurgeon
MY RELATED POSTS
First three are precursors to the open-air series above. I didn't know they were going to spark so much on the blog.
- Why Jesus Taught In Parables: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 - these written with open-air in mind
- 10 Commandments for Reluctant Evangelists
Lectures To My Students | Two chapters on open-air preaching. Easily the most helpful stuff I've read on the subject. I believe he shows the best grasp of the goodness of and need for open-air preaching. His teaching on the how, where, when is just as relevant today as ever. Principles stay the same.
Open-Air Preaching: A sketch of it's history and remarks thereon | Not sure how much of this is from Spurgeon's book or elsewhere.
Evangelism in the Early Church | One of the key sources I've used to think about open-air preaching as seen in the Bible.
Thirty Years That Changed The World: The Book of Acts for Today | There's a small section in which Green talks about Acts preaching and then proposes some ways to do open-air today. I don't love all his suggestions, but it's worth checking out.
I FEAR that in some of our less enlightened country churches there are conservative individuals who almost believe that to preach anywhere except in the chapel would be a shocking innovation, a sure token of heretical tendencies, and a mark of zeal without knowledge. Any young brother who studies his comfort among them must not suggest anything so irregular as a sermon outside the walls of their Zion. In the olden times we are told "Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets, she crieth in the chief places of concourse, in the openings of the gates"; but the wise men of orthodoxy would have wisdom gagged except beneath the roof of a licensed building. These people believe in a New Testament which says, "Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in," and yet they dislike a literal obedience to the command.
Other posts in this series...
- The Gospel in the Open-Air Again
- Guidelines for Open-Air Preaching
- Open-Air Preaching is Optional?
- Missional Open-Air Preaching
- Steps Toward Open-Air Preaching
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.
- The Gospel in the Open-Air Again
- Guidelines for Open-Air Preaching
- Open-Air Preaching is Optional?
- Missional Open-Air Preaching
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.
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?
If you are new to the conversation, see my previous posts:
It would also be helpful to peruse the various quotes over the last few weeks I've posted from Spurgeon and others. I just want everyone to know what the context is, that I feel there needs to be a movement of sane, theologically-sound, gospel-centered preachers into the open-air again. Now, to the post. And this is where the "sane" part comes in.
One question I get is, How does the idea of public preaching jibe with being missional? My response is that I think it will enhance it...if we do it well. Mean open-air preaching is obviously bad and will kill relationship opportunities. Or even preaching good words but with a bad, unfriendly demeanor can hurt. So my take on good open-air preaching is that it's the guys who get "missional" that will do it well and better.
So here are my thoughts. I don't have it all figured out by any means. Trying to get these thoughts down takes a lot of editing and I probably still need to change some things. So I very much need your feedback.
To be Missional is to live as "sent." The church lives sent as the missionary, we are all missionaries. Somehow we make that about being only relational, meaning evangelism must almost always take 6 months to get to the gospel. I may be overstating it, but at least hear where I'm coming from. I'm sensitive to this approach, embrace it, and want to do evangelism well in whatever form it comes and however long it takes.
But for those called of God to preach, we then by preaching publicly (outside our buildings, apart from Sunday mornings) will be scattering seeds that will lead to better opportunities for our people to live missionally. It provides the chance for Christians who attend our open-air preaching to connect with the listeners with a relational response. It will also create a larger swath of people in our communities who are hearing the Gospel or at least touched by the positive or negative buzz it creates.
Let me illustrate, and I think I remember most details correctly. I would not do it this way, but it helps to show that even in a less than ideal approach, we can still through a kind of open-air preaching make missional connections.
I remember reading of a guy who would go sit in a bar next to folks and order a soda. A bit later a friend would come in, start preaching the Gospel openly and loudly, and then fairly quickly would get kicked out for obvious reasons. The dude at the bar would then look at the shocked people around him and begin to say, "Wow, that was weird. What do you think about what that guy was saying about Jesus and salvation?" And then would in a more relational way, connect with the lost.
Even a bad way of doing open-air preaching led to conversations about the Gospel. So "missional" in this way means that any sort of public preaching can be used positively (or negatively) to start a conversation that leads to a relationship, Gospel disucssion, and more. (Remember, I'm not advocating this approach.)
BUT, imagine if our open-air preaching IN ITSELF is missional-flavored? I'm not just meaning it's a way of getting our "missional" people there to make "missional" contact. I mean that being missional should affect the preacher's approach to the audience. That our desire to be relational should affect very much what we say in public preaching, and how we say it.
What would missional open-air preaching look like?
We see ourselves as local. My posts have not been about itinerant open-air Gospel bombers who hit-and-run and let the locals figure it out. I'm talking about pastors who are called to love their cities toward Jesus getting the Gospel in the open-air again. So the ultimate goal in evangelism, of whatever sort, is to make disciples. Disciples are made in relationships, though it may start without it (Acts 2). And that means we aim that our hearers in open-air preaching will eventually (Lord-willing) join our churches and connect in Gospel-centered community with us. Our open-air preaching will be winsome to those being saved, though it will be foolishness to those who are not (1 Cor 1:22-24).
So with that mission in mind we need open-air preaching to be quite different from what we typically see in America. Here are a few ways our open-air preaching can, and I think must, be missional. They blend together so much that separating these ideas isn't easy. But I'm going to try...
Be Prayerfully Broken First | Don't start preaching until you feel heat from the flames of hell that the people you are about to preach to will face one day soon. Don't start until you weep over them in prayer. Don't pump yourself up beforehand with rock music, trying to gain the courage to get out there and "go get'em." Calm yourself by seeking the Lord for them, remembering your own helplessness to change any hearts apart from the Spirit's work. Remember you want to gain a relationship with the people you will speak to.
Be Real | When have you seen and heard an open-air preacher who seemed like a guy who really cares about you? Who didn't seem distant? I've never experienced that, except one time after conversion watching a friend doing it. I watched him truly listen, look in their eyes. Compassion was written on his face. Longing for the hearers to be saved was clear in his words. His heart was on his sleeve. Missional open-air preaching demands that you are acting like a person who wants to relate to people. That you not only feel compassion toward your hearers, but that it's apparent. You are genuine. You have a personality. You are appropriately transparent. You don't take attack personally, but absorb it because it may help that guy or that girl to see your suffering or the insults and see something different about you.
Leave your placards and signs and clever tricks behind. Leave your creative canned presentations behind. Just be a guy who loves Jesus and these people, and has no desire to argue. Talk how you talk. Be who you are. Speak to who they are. And speak through your longing for them to know our great God.
Be Gentle & Respectful | They will expect you to judge them, to yell, to stand in pride of your position over them. What if you don't respond as loudly as them? Teachers at our local school were telling us that getting louder to talk above a class full of loud students just keeps escalating. If you lower your voice, they will lower theirs to hear what you are saying. Has any open-air guy tried that? Most preachers I've seen just keep ramping up. Even the ones preaching the Gospel more clearly! We are called to gentleness in the hope that we lead people to repentance.
2 Timothy 2:23-26 | Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
1 Peter 3:14-16 | But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
I'm not calling for more open-air preaching like we have. I'm aiming at something relational, gentle, humble, respectful, honest, calm, reasoned, genuine, real, and heartbroken.
Please help me think this through.