public preaching

Joshua Elsom | Open-Air Preaching

Joshua Elsom wrote a nice piece that you need to read: "Open-Air Preaching and the Missional Church." A blurb from the beginning...

The combining of the words ‘open-air’ with the word ‘preaching’ is likely to elicit a wide range of images and opinions in the mind of the person reading them. For some they bring to mind the great evangelists of the explosive revivals of the eighteenth century — Wesley, Whitefield, Tennent, and Edwards; or the prophets of the Old and New Testaments — Jeremiah, Isaiah, Peter, and Paul. While for others, these words conjure up negative images of angry street heralds, with sandwich boards strung over their shoulders, thundering down threatenings of heaven upon all who would wander unawares into their field of preaching. Whatever one happens to think about, few typically associate the practice of preaching in the public square with the missional church movement. Because the missional church places such a high priority on practicing evangelism in the context of ongoing discipleship — on mission and in community — the thought of preaching to strangers who are dissociated from church or discipling relationships may seem at first to be counterintuitive. It should not be.

Check out all my open-air preaching posts and quotes.

The Secret of Whitefield's Success

Whitefield Head

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).

Read the rest of the article/short bio at Banner of Truth. Check out my George Whitefield Resources page.

New *George Whitefield Resources* Page

I just launched a George Whitefield Resources page. As I searched the internet I found various, helpful resources in various places. I hope this page will serve you well by trying to bring all the links and books and journals and letters to one place. Check it out and let me know what you think.

George whitefield post header Resources 2

The Sermons of George Whitefield

Whitefield sermons 2 vol

Lee Gatiss has edited George Whitefield's original 57 published sermons into two large volumes (976 pgs, Crossway). You can get the hardcover set for $40+ from WTS or $33+ from Amazon...OR $9.99 FOR KINDLE! That's a deal! From Crossway...

Gatiss includes careful and extensive footnotes detailing the historical and theological background to Whitefield’s preaching, which puts the man and his messages into context for a new generation of readers. The text has also been updated for the twenty-first century with modern grammar, spelling, and punctuation - revised in a manner that leaves Whitefield’s distinct voice intact and coherent for today’s reader. 

George Whitefield Resources

George whitefield post header Resources 2Martyn 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.

UPDATE 9.12.12 | Not sure for how long, but The Sermons of George Whitefield (2 Vols, 976 pages, ed. Lee Gattis, footnoted, modern grammar) is $9.99 for Kindle.

START HERE

SERMONS

In Print...

NEVER REPRINTED: Sermons of George Whitefield (via Quinta Press)

JOURNALS

LETTERS

Whitefield/Wesley Exchange...

PUBLISHED BIOGRAPHIES

FREE ONLINE BIOGRAPHIES

VARIOUS MEDIA | on WHITEFIELD

BOOKS | ON WHITEFIELD

BOOKS | THE GREAT AWAKENING

Not my recommendations, but a listing of the books I have had recommended (to some degree) to me. Please let me know other books worth listing here.

PICTURES, PLACES, THINGS

Tons of photos, sketches, artwork, locations, etc., from Quinta Press...

Emotions That Correspond With the Weight of Reality

George whitefield post header

John Piper on George Whitefield again, on the acting of preaching as "real acting" (bold is mine)...

If a woman has a role in a movie, say, the mother of child in a burning house, and as the cameras are focused on her, she is screaming to the firemen and pointing to the window in the second floor, we all say she is acting. But if a house is on fire in your neighborhood, and you see a mother screaming to the firemen and pointing to the window in the second floor, nobody says she’s acting. Why not? They look exactly the same.

It’s because there really is a child up there in the fire. This woman really is the child’s mother. There is real danger that the child could die. Everything is real. And that’s the way it was for Whitefield. The new birth had opened his eyes to what was real, and to the magnitude of what was real: God, creation, humanity, sin, Satan, divine justice and wrath, heaven, hell, incarnation, the perfections of Christ, his death, atonement, redemption, propitiation, resurrection, the Holy Spirit, saving grace, forgiveness, justification, reconciliation with God, peace, sanctification, love, the second coming of Christ, the new heavens and the new earth, everlasting joy. These were real. Overwhelmingly real to him. He had been born again. He had eyes to see.

When he warned of wrath, and pleaded for people to escape, and lifted up Christ, he wasn’t play-acting. He was calling down the kind of emotions and actions that correspond with such realities. That’s what preaching does. It seeks to exalt Christ, and describe sin, and offer salvation, and persuade sinners with emotions and words and actions that correspond to the weight of these realities.

If you see these realities with the eyes of your heart, and if you feel the weight of them, you will know that such preaching is not play-acting. The house is burning. There are people trapped on the second floor. We love them. And there is a way of escape.

Read or listen to the rest of Piper's powerful talk on Whitefield. A great example and explanation of what preaching should be like. I don't think we do this well, not nearly well enough. Maybe this kind of preaching would change the face of Christianity in America and the western world today. Maybe it's not just the *how* of preaching but the *where* that would enact this change.

What do you think?

Tim Keller: "Losing My Religion" Open Forum

Keller open forum

If you want to listen to what Tim Keller does when he holds Open Forums for non-Christians, skeptics, seekers, etc...listen to "Losing My Religion: Why Christians Should Drop Their Religion." Redeemer has audio from 44 Open Forums, though I haven't checked if audio for others is offered free like this one. MP3s are typically $2.50, but this one is free.

I listened today. Instructive for us as missionaries and preachers, evangelists and apologists, disciples and strugglers with religiosity. He confronts religion, truths, psychology, philosophy, and truth-claims respectfully, yet still directly. 

How can we as pastors and ministers speak to our city, our culture, with intellect, wisdom, courage, and charity? Keller's example helps me, and I hope it will help you too.

Speak Dramatically...Because It's Real

Pgeorge-whitefield

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).

Read or hear John Piper's entire bio of George Whitefield from the 2009 Desiring God Pastors' Conference.

David Murray On Evangelistic Preaching

AboutUs-Murray1

David Murray begins some posts on evangelistic preaching. A blurb...

What do I mean, then, by evangelistic preaching? Let me put it positively:Evangelistic preaching expounds God’s Word (it is expository) with the primary aim of the salvation of lost souls (rather than the instruction of God’s people). Stuart Olyott says it is to “preach from the Bible with the immediate aim of the immediate conversion of every soul in front of us.”

So, what really distinguishes evangelistic preaching from all other kinds of preaching is its obvious and unmistakable aim – conversion. Its target is unconverted hearers. And its conscious and deliberate aim is to call, invite, and command needy souls to repent and believe the Gospel.

Why has this kind of preaching become increasingly rare in many Reformed Churches? I’ll give you my answer next week, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on it first.

Go read the whole post and comment.

The Future of the Evangelist

BillySunday12

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.

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”.

A Different Style of Evangelist: Laborers on the Loose

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.

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A Different Style of Evangelist: Laborers on the Loose
Jim Elliff

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 info@ccwonline.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.

Preaching Has Great POWER

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Preachers, we talk big about the power of the Gospel and the power of preaching. But for most of us, our Gospel preaching is limited. It stays in our buildings at announced times to mostly our people. (I understand that one-on-one witnessing is a kind of preaching, but I'm talking to preachers and about our calling.)

My question is this: If preaching has power, God-designed and Spirit-delivered power, why are we not taking it everywhere, to the most people we can, with urgency? Why are we not preaching on the street corners, in public parks, in places of commerce and theater and government? It seems to me we believe Gospel preaching has power as long as it's in a pulpit, but out of the pulpit our language changes. Now the audience has power. Now they determine whether or not we preach to them. Their ears and wills and tastes and distastes become sovereign. Our the bad examples of bad public preachers tells us that approach isn't viable or helpful anymore.

We have excuses for it all from our demographics, city designs, lack of public dialogue, etc. And so the Gospel that comes with power is left in the sheath. We try to convince people to visit our church where it's taken out of the sheath. Where the power will be on display. Or we start emphasizing the power of other things, like our good examples and righteous living. 

But the truth is, the Gospel proclaimed is POWERFUL. It's like Ezekiel prophesying to the dry bones and then to the breath resulting in an army rising from the deadest of the dead. Preaching to bones is silly. Bones don't listen. Bones don't want your preaching. Bones aren't an attentive audience. But if the Gospel is preached, the worst audience and least conducive situations will be places of spiritual birth! Of salvation! Of army creation! The audience changes nothing about whether or not we preach. The audience only changes some of the bridges we use in preaching, like Paul in Acts 17.

How can we any longer fail to preach to everyone, everywhere? How can we have such a powerful Gospel and fail to unleash it? 

Let's make it public again.

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: Posts, Quotes, Resources

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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.

Open-Air Preaching

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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.

MY POSTS

  1. *The Gospel in the Open-Air Again | start here
  2. Guidelines for Open-Air Preaching
  3. Open-Air Preaching is Optional?
  4. Missional Open-Air Preaching
  5. Steps Toward Open-Air Preaching
  6. Open-Air Preaching, Gospel Power, & Interruption
  7. Preaching Has Great POWER
  8. The Future of the Evangelist

QUOTES

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. 

  1. The Public Square and the Open-Air 
  2. The Kids Downtown
  3. Know Your City - Remember the Poor

RESOURCES

Charles Spurgeon

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. 

Michael Green

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.

The Dismissal of Open-Air Preaching

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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

Lectures to My Students (pdf) | Charles Spurgeon

Other posts in this series...

 

Steps Toward Open-Air Preaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missional Open-Air Preaching

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If you are new to the conversation, see my previous posts:

  1. The Gospel in the Open-Air Again
  2. Guidelines for Open-Air Preaching
  3. Open-Air Preaching is Optional?

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.

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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.