proclamation

How We Appeal To Unbelievers To Believe The Gospel

Center Church Crop

Tim Keller discusses biblical contextualization in his book Center Church (Kindle version). In one section he talks about how to persuade unbelievers, and specifically that you can't only persuade in one way only since "people of different temperaments and from different cultures reason differently." (p 114) We can't take one biblical story and draw out a one-size-fits-all appeal to believe the Gospel. Here's Keller's list of the different ways we appeal to unbelievers to believe the Gospel. He explains them further in the book with Scripture, so please go read more on pages 114-115.

  1. Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of fear of judgment and death.
  2. Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of a desire for release from the burdens of guilt and shame.
  3. Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of appreciation for the “attractiveness of truth.”
  4. Sometimes the appeal is to come to God to satisfy unfulfilled existential longings.
  5. Sometimes the appeal is to come to God for help with a problem.
  6. Lastly, the appeal is to come to God simply out of a desire to be loved.

Keller | Preaching in a Secular Culture

Keller preachingFrom Tim Keller's new article, "Preaching in a Secular Culture," on some practices for preaching to secular people...

  • Solve all problems with the gospel
  • Beware of assumptions
  • Engage in apologetics
  • Provide applications for both parties
  • Be authentic
  • Be conscious of alienating language
  • Expect, and respect, doubt
  • Address the wider community
  • Draw on cultural references
  • Read across the spectrum

For more on these 10 practices and a lot more on preaching in a secular culture, go read the whole article.

Open-Air Preaching in Portland

Josh

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

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

Why do Church in the Park?

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

When do you meet?

Thursdays at 7pm.

Where do you meet?

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

What is Church in the Park?

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

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

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

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

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

Is childcare provided?

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

Summary

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

Tim Keller: Dispersed Ministry

From Dr. Keller's latest blog post "Lloyd-Jones on the Practice of Real Preaching"...

I would argue that in a post-Christian culture, preaching will not be effective in the gathered assembly if Christians are not also highly effective in their scattered state. In our times, people will be indifferent or hostile to the idea of attending church services without positive contact with Christians living out their lives in love and service. Therefore the incarnational "dispersed" ministry of the church is extremely vital and necessary.

Keller | Lloyd-Jones on the Efficacy of Preaching Today

Tim Keller has a new blog post on Lloyd-Jones on the Efficacy of Preaching. A blurb...

...if you make preaching central to your ministry, you are indeed expecting that the public ministry of the Word will be attractive and draw people in. At this point the Doctor takes the main objection—"they won't come"—head on. He says bluntly, "The answer is that they will come, and that they do come…" Now the Doctor was speaking of his own ministry at Westminster Chapel in central London after World War II. Church attendance throughout Europe plunged after the war, for a mixture of reasons. In that situation, he began preaching his long, theological, expositional sermons, and slowly the huge auditorium filled. His evening services were twice the size of the morning services, since people from all over London came to bring their non-Christian friends. I dare say that something similar happened to us in New York City over the past two decades, and in an analogous context. (emphasis mine)

Read the whole post: Lloyd-Jones on the Efficacy of Preaching

Keller | Lloyd-Jones on the Primacy of Preaching

Mljpreach1

Here's a snippit from Tim Keller's blog post today: Lloyd-Jones on the Primacy of Preaching...

Dr. Lloyd-Jones effectively dismantles the idea that watching a video or listening to an audio of a sermon is as good as coming physically into an assembly and listening to a sermon with a body of people. It is obviously a good thing if a person who never hears or reads the Bible listens to the recording of a good gospel message and is helped by it. But the Doctor argues that people experience the sermon in a radically different way if they hear it together with a body of listeners and if they see the preacher. Watching on a screen or listening as you walk detaches you and the sermon becomes mere information, not a whole experience. There is a power and impact that the media cannot convey.

Read Dr. Keller's entire post.

Open-Air Preaching, Gospel Power, & Interruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open-Air Preaching & Revival

JohnWesley2

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

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

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

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

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

Open-Air Preaching is Optional?

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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.

Guidelines for Open-Air Preaching

Kevin Williams Street Preaching

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel in the Open-Air Again

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

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

John Bunyan Open-Air Preaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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