The first 40 seconds of this video is EASILY the best example of what Sunday morning is like as a preacher. It's from The Gathering Storm, and this is Winston Churchill. Warning: He's in a bathroom after waking up, so...you know.
George Whitefield, on this day, September 30, 1770, woke at 2am with an the beginning of breathing problems that he suffered from for some time and thought was asthma. He decided to take 2-3 days off of preaching to recover. Then soon after decided it would be better to preach that day. "A good pulpit sweat today may give me relief. I shall be better after preaching."
Richard Smith, his assistant, responded, "I wish you would not preach so often, sir."
Whitefield: "I would rather wear out than rust out."
He sat up in bed, praying. When finished, he went back to sleep for an hour and then awoke at 4am barely able to breathe. That morning George Whitefield died, fighting for each breath, until he met his Savior face to face.
My friend, Darryl Dash, attends a study group for pastors that I've known about for a while and is a great idea. Here's a blurb...
Every May I gather with a group of pastors from Monday to Friday. The agenda is simple: to work through a book of the Bible together as we think about preaching it. Every year we bring in a different scholar who has written a commentary on that book. We also have our former preaching professor (Haddon Robinson) help us think through how to preach that book.
We've had Bruce Waltke, George Guthrie, Douglas Moo, Daniel Block, and more. This week we've had D.A. Carson. It's hard to beat. I've been to a lot of conferences, but this by far is my favorite learning event of the year.
You should start one too.
Darryl goes on to explain how a study group can be started and run. You should check it out.
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.
- Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty
- Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God
- Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister
- Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think
- Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered
- Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon
Read more of Whitefield's thoughts on listening to a sermon.
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...
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...
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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
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.
Most of the pastors and preachers I know believe that open-air preaching is optional at best, and some go so far to say it's unhelpful and passé.
What if it's NOT optional? What if it's expected? What if it should be normal and natural for preachers?
How would you respond if I said God expects every man called to fill a pulpit is also to fill the open-air, the marketplace, the fields, the empty lots, etc, with the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? (And I don't just mean through personal evangelism, but through public proclamation.) If you think it is optional, can you provide any Scriptural argument for that? I honestly want to know if you disagree and what you base your position on.
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