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.
In the first place preach, and in the second place preach, and in the third place preach.
Believe in preaching the love of Christ, believe in preaching the atoning sacrifice, believe in preaching the new birth, believe in preaching the whole council of God. The old hammer of the gospel will still break the rock in pieces; the ancient fire of Pentecost will still burn among the multitude. Try nothing new, but go on with preaching, and if we all preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, the results of preaching will astound us.
Have great hope yet, brothers, have great hope yet, despite yon shameless midnight streets, despite yon flaming gin-palaces at the corner of every street, despite the wickedness of the rich, despite the ignorance of the poor. Go on; go on; go on; in God's name go on, for if the preaching of the gospel does not save men, nothing will. If the Lord's own way of mercy fails, then hang the skies in mourning, and blot out the sun in everlasting midnight, for there remaineth nothing before our race but the blackness of darkness. Salvation by the sacrifice of Jesus is the ultimatum of God. Rejoice that it cannot fail. Let us believe without reserve, and then go straight ahead with the preaching of the Word.
The Soul Winner | Charles Spurgeon | p179
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.
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)
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
- The Gospel in the Open-Air Again
- Guidelines for Open-Air Preaching
- Open-Air Preaching is Optional?
- Missional Open-Air Preaching
After I read some stuff and watched the vids you posted I made a short list of things I can do right now as I'm not ready to go stand on the street and start preaching. My list was 1) begin to pray for the right heart, 2) make a solid intentional list of verses and memorize them, 3) find the right spots in my community, 4) compile a list of texts conducive to preaching the gospel in open air.
Great stuff, Jesse. One of the things I've failed to do yet in this series, though I've done some sporadically throughout, is to let people know what I'm doing before I start some form of open-air preaching. I think the preparation is crucial to doing it well. Jesse's four points are excellent and are clearly reflective of things I'm doing. Here's what I'm doing to take steps toward open-air preaching...
1. Praying | I'm not spending a lot of time praying for the right heart, as I feel like the right heart is what God has been preparing in me to even do this series of posts and head in this direction evangelistically. But Jesse's comment reminds me I need to do this more. I'm praying currently more for revival in our church, for the Spirit to guide me toward the right places, right times, & right means, for the Spirit to be working in the hearts of the lost so the seeds of the Gospel will grow, etc.
I'm also praying for a handful of guys who have expressed interest, who I've been in contact with privately about it, and for others who I hope will consider open-air preaching because they would be good at it. I think I mentioned that in a previous post, but worth noting here.
Some of the prayer for evangelism and toward the lostness of our neighbors is with my wife and kids. The kids know varying amounts of info about my growing plans (depending on their age and maturity), but they are a part of this for sure. They will know (generally) what I'm doing when I do it.
2. Brainstorming | I'm spending a significant amount of time just brainstorming. Ideas sometimes come out of prayer, and prayer is my response to ideas. Often listening to podcasts helps to spark my thinking (preaching on particular passages, on revival, on evangelism; Jerram Barrs iTunes U evangelism class), drawing stuff on my whiteboard or in my Moleskine workbook, making lists, playing with acrostics for different things I'm doing or want to do, making notes in a personal journal, etc. I can't emphasize how important untethered time has been in thinking this stuff through.
I could make a whole other point on stuff I'm reading that's a part of my brainstorming, but it's more pieces of things. Much I've found helpful I've tweeted or posted as quotes. But I'll just say I'm reading Scripture, books, stuff out of theology books, evangelism books, etc and so on to help me continue to brainstorm.
I'm also watching videos of people doing open-air preaching. Even the bad stuff is informative on at least what NOT to do. :) I notice a lot of patterns found in nearly all preachers, which helps in brainstorming as well.
3. Bouncing Ideas & Seeking Advice | Molly gets a lot of it. She's pumped, and always has good wifely advice as well as godly advice. Important because of of who she is in my life, and because she needs to be prayed up and prepared for any possible negative consequences. I've been on the phone more the last 3 days than in the last month, just picking brains. Joe Thorn gets plenty of that, but other guys elsewhere are getting some of that. Emails and DM's on Twitter are hopping. I've started sending a list of my posts to some respected guys out there (pastors, authors, missiologists) for their advice, feedback, or whatever. I need people to tell me if/where I'm wrong! I'm thinking it through and I KNOW some guys out there think I'm a nutjob for saying all this, but few are saying it to me. Dear "that guy," please tell me. Help me. Sharpen me.
4. Canvassing My City (County) | I've done this for a while, but it's ramping up. I'm doing drive-bys and paying visits to places at certain times to gauge people-flow. I somewhat regularly do work at the local community college to see the flow of students to and from campus, to and from the cafeteria, etc. Last night, for example, I left the house and did a drive-by the local bars. How busy are they on a Wednesday night?
I have some workbook notes on specific times and places of things that happen, as well as spaces that might be conducive. Helpful for praying and planning for open-air preaching.
5. Texts for Memorizing/Preaching | Jesse's point here is important. I'm looking particularly to the parables at the moment for preaching. I'm focusing more on gospel Scriptures than apologetics Scriptures, but both have a place.
I'm also convicted after some discussion with Jim Elliff that I need to spend more time reading Scripture than reading other good things, books, etc. Trying to ramp up that pursuit.
6. Preparing My Local Church | I'm telling my church in sermons what I'm planning (more vaguely). I'm telling my church in community groups and prayer meetings in as much detail as is helpful. They are responding with more prayer, with more focused prayer, prayer for boldness, etc. After worship on Sunday they spontaneously (led by a couple people) surrounded me, laid their hands on me, and prayed for boldness.
7. Seeking Partners | I've also told my people I need them in the work. Some need to be there to observe, respond relationally and conversationally to follow-up. A few have already stepped forward for that.
Jesse had a second thing he brought up and I'll briefly respond to...
My hang up is, in addition to the qualities you mention that you're calling for in open air preaching, doesn't there have to be an attractional element to gather people? What does that look like other than being in a public place and raising your voice really loud?
I'm going to have more to say about this when I start talking about a particular approach I'm planning on taking. But I'm hoping to take a gradual approach to public preaching, meaning to start preaching out of other things that are occurring. In Acts 2 Peter's preaching is responding to the drunkenness comments of the crowd after tongues are spoken. In Acts 3 Peter's preaching is responding to the lame guy leaping around after healing takes place. Paul (generally speaking) often moves from Synagogue to marketplace to further opportunity (Areopagus, Hall of Tyrannus). Public preaching (of some sort) of Jesus is often in response to his healing, his helping the woman caught in adultery, to the crowds surrounding him because of other things going on.
Now, we for some reason have taken that to mean we should learn some clever magic tricks and juggling in order to draw a crowd. I think more biblical ways above are better ways.
While I'm probably not going to take a lame guy and make him walk (unless the Lord wills!), I can start small with a conversation with one or two in such a way and in such a place that it leads to others joining in as they either eavesdrop (which we hope for) or because they are invited to join.
In other words, I'm not planning at this point on being the dude who brings in his ladder and microphone and says my name and starts preaching to a crowd. I'm planning on starting with a few, loudly enough and in a public gathering area in order that others will overhear, and with the hope it draws a crowd and larger-scale open-air preaching is the result. AND, I believe I've found at least one way to do that in my city, though I'm not ready to post that specifically here. I've told a few friends. I'm happy to give a little more info to anyone who desires more. But what I gave should be enough to spark some thought in your context.
Hope that's helpful. Again, thinking it all through. Trying to find a way to do it better. And I'm desperate for negative or positive feedback so I'm not just some blogger out there saying a bunch stuff that will amount to nothing. What would you add to my list?
If you are new to the conversation, see my previous posts:
It would also be helpful to peruse the various quotes over the last few weeks I've posted from Spurgeon and others. I just want everyone to know what the context is, that I feel there needs to be a movement of sane, theologically-sound, gospel-centered preachers into the open-air again. Now, to the post. And this is where the "sane" part comes in.
One question I get is, How does the idea of public preaching jibe with being missional? My response is that I think it will enhance it...if we do it well. Mean open-air preaching is obviously bad and will kill relationship opportunities. Or even preaching good words but with a bad, unfriendly demeanor can hurt. So my take on good open-air preaching is that it's the guys who get "missional" that will do it well and better.
So here are my thoughts. I don't have it all figured out by any means. Trying to get these thoughts down takes a lot of editing and I probably still need to change some things. So I very much need your feedback.
To be Missional is to live as "sent." The church lives sent as the missionary, we are all missionaries. Somehow we make that about being only relational, meaning evangelism must almost always take 6 months to get to the gospel. I may be overstating it, but at least hear where I'm coming from. I'm sensitive to this approach, embrace it, and want to do evangelism well in whatever form it comes and however long it takes.
But for those called of God to preach, we then by preaching publicly (outside our buildings, apart from Sunday mornings) will be scattering seeds that will lead to better opportunities for our people to live missionally. It provides the chance for Christians who attend our open-air preaching to connect with the listeners with a relational response. It will also create a larger swath of people in our communities who are hearing the Gospel or at least touched by the positive or negative buzz it creates.
Let me illustrate, and I think I remember most details correctly. I would not do it this way, but it helps to show that even in a less than ideal approach, we can still through a kind of open-air preaching make missional connections.
I remember reading of a guy who would go sit in a bar next to folks and order a soda. A bit later a friend would come in, start preaching the Gospel openly and loudly, and then fairly quickly would get kicked out for obvious reasons. The dude at the bar would then look at the shocked people around him and begin to say, "Wow, that was weird. What do you think about what that guy was saying about Jesus and salvation?" And then would in a more relational way, connect with the lost.
Even a bad way of doing open-air preaching led to conversations about the Gospel. So "missional" in this way means that any sort of public preaching can be used positively (or negatively) to start a conversation that leads to a relationship, Gospel disucssion, and more. (Remember, I'm not advocating this approach.)
BUT, imagine if our open-air preaching IN ITSELF is missional-flavored? I'm not just meaning it's a way of getting our "missional" people there to make "missional" contact. I mean that being missional should affect the preacher's approach to the audience. That our desire to be relational should affect very much what we say in public preaching, and how we say it.
What would missional open-air preaching look like?
We see ourselves as local. My posts have not been about itinerant open-air Gospel bombers who hit-and-run and let the locals figure it out. I'm talking about pastors who are called to love their cities toward Jesus getting the Gospel in the open-air again. So the ultimate goal in evangelism, of whatever sort, is to make disciples. Disciples are made in relationships, though it may start without it (Acts 2). And that means we aim that our hearers in open-air preaching will eventually (Lord-willing) join our churches and connect in Gospel-centered community with us. Our open-air preaching will be winsome to those being saved, though it will be foolishness to those who are not (1 Cor 1:22-24).
So with that mission in mind we need open-air preaching to be quite different from what we typically see in America. Here are a few ways our open-air preaching can, and I think must, be missional. They blend together so much that separating these ideas isn't easy. But I'm going to try...
Be Prayerfully Broken First | Don't start preaching until you feel heat from the flames of hell that the people you are about to preach to will face one day soon. Don't start until you weep over them in prayer. Don't pump yourself up beforehand with rock music, trying to gain the courage to get out there and "go get'em." Calm yourself by seeking the Lord for them, remembering your own helplessness to change any hearts apart from the Spirit's work. Remember you want to gain a relationship with the people you will speak to.
Be Real | When have you seen and heard an open-air preacher who seemed like a guy who really cares about you? Who didn't seem distant? I've never experienced that, except one time after conversion watching a friend doing it. I watched him truly listen, look in their eyes. Compassion was written on his face. Longing for the hearers to be saved was clear in his words. His heart was on his sleeve. Missional open-air preaching demands that you are acting like a person who wants to relate to people. That you not only feel compassion toward your hearers, but that it's apparent. You are genuine. You have a personality. You are appropriately transparent. You don't take attack personally, but absorb it because it may help that guy or that girl to see your suffering or the insults and see something different about you.
Leave your placards and signs and clever tricks behind. Leave your creative canned presentations behind. Just be a guy who loves Jesus and these people, and has no desire to argue. Talk how you talk. Be who you are. Speak to who they are. And speak through your longing for them to know our great God.
Be Gentle & Respectful | They will expect you to judge them, to yell, to stand in pride of your position over them. What if you don't respond as loudly as them? Teachers at our local school were telling us that getting louder to talk above a class full of loud students just keeps escalating. If you lower your voice, they will lower theirs to hear what you are saying. Has any open-air guy tried that? Most preachers I've seen just keep ramping up. Even the ones preaching the Gospel more clearly! We are called to gentleness in the hope that we lead people to repentance.
2 Timothy 2:23-26 | Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
1 Peter 3:14-16 | But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
I'm not calling for more open-air preaching like we have. I'm aiming at something relational, gentle, humble, respectful, honest, calm, reasoned, genuine, real, and heartbroken.
Please help me think this through.
The kerusso terms [kerysso, keryx, kerygma] represent a more dramatic form of communication, that of a herald, a proclamation.
Preaching (kerussein) in the NT tends to be used most of for the proclamation of the gospel to a group for the first time, so it is associated with the most basic elements of the gospel. Jesus engaged in preaching, but the NT uses the term most often to refer to the apostolic proclamation, especially that of Paul. The apostles preached Christ to Jews in their synagogues (as Acts 9:20), to Samaritans (8:5), and to Gentiles in their cities (14:1-7).
We are accustomed to think of preaching as what takes place in our Sunday-morning sermons. But it is perhaps significant that the NT never uses kerusso terminology to refer to anything in the Christian worship service.
The Doctrine of the Word of God | p 259 | John Frame -- In this section Dr. Frame is comparing preaching to teaching, kerysso to didasko. I mostly pulled, obviously, from the kerysso parts. For context, Dr. Frame says, "The didasko terms seem especially appropriate in a church context" because it broadly refers "to communication of ideas." He sees some overlap, but I felt the "preaching" part was particularly helpful in the open-air/public preaching discussion.
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.
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
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