- Get Grounded In The Gospel
- Learn Your City's Story
- Engage In The Life Of Your City
- Discern Your City's Idols
- Retell Your City's Story With The Gospel
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.
When I was in high school I worked in landscaping: trimming hedges, mowing lawns, planting trees, hooking up decorative fountains and surrounding it with decorative rock. It was hard work, but something I enjoyed as a young man. And it provided me with a killer tan.
The owner of the business lived on a farm that had a well. This wasn’t a bucket on a rope well; it was equipped with a pump. And if you’ve ever pumped water from a well you know that the pump never works right away. You have to “prime the pump” by cranking the lever a few times. A pump that hasn’t been used for a while is full of air from the pump down closer to water level. It takes a couple of pumps on the handle for the water to fill the tube that delivers it above ground. It’s those first couple of pumps that bring the water to ground level and to usefulness.
As missionaries and evangelists for the supplier of living water, we have to prime the pump in our own hearts so that we are ready to tell all of our King. We need Gospel-readiness and Spirit-reliance right there at ground level. We need to battle with sin and push back against apathy. Evangelism is one of those things that takes God-confidence, courage, and risk. We need a heart that has been primed through dying to self, a reoriented life, a renewed mind, fixing our eyes on Jesus, filled with His Spirit, meditating on His Word, loving Him with all our strength.
Too often we haven’t prayed as we should and wrestled with our fleeting emotions, doubts, and timidity. We haven’t developed a state of readiness and anticipation. We won’t dispense living water efficiently and effectively unless we prime the pump of our hearts, remembering who God is, what God has done, who we are, and what God has called us to do. We need daily motivation for Gospel-readiness.
When we drink from the stream of living water at the outset of our day, and throughout our day, we’ve already brought it to ground level and are ready to point others to it. We will not only find our thirst quenched, but we will be motivated by our own satisfaction in Jesus Christ to help others to quench their thirst.
What do you do to prime the pump for evangelism? What resources do you use other than Scripture?
If the church leaders say to people, "Living on mission in our city is vital," yet they rarely if ever offer opportunities for people to serve the city, then a chasm exists between how the leaders see the church and how others see her.
Helpful post today from Tim Keller on revival and the Spirit's work on sleepy and nominal Christians. Here's a teaser...
So how do you wake up sleepy Christians and convert nominal Christians? Let me give you what I would call my modernized American versions of the kinds of questions I would ask people if I was trying to get them to really think about whether or not they know Christ. These questions are adapted from The Experience Meeting by William Williams, based on the Welsh revivals during the Great Awakening. He would ask people to share about these types of questions in small group settings each week...
Have you been finding Scripture to be alive and active? Instead of just being a book, do you feel like Scripture is coming after you?
You are going to have to go to Tim Keller's blog to read the rest of the questions. This is an issue near and dear to me as I think there are few things more important for the American church than to work for the conversion of "Christians." You have to ask questions that will show them who they are, and who they aren't.
Dr. Timothy Keller's second installment in the eBook series, Encounters With Jesus, is out. Go download The Insider & The Outcast for $1.99. I just did. Also pick up the first installment: The Skeptical Student. These are coming out monthly.
About the Encounters With Jesus Series | "Those who met Jesus were often profoundly affected by their conversations with him. In his Encounters with Jesus series, Timothy Keller, pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God, explores these conversations to show how they can still change our lives today."
I asked on Facebook, Twitter, and to one particular friend through email which books would be most helpful in thinking about/doing ministry to the poor. Here's what I got (with an attempt to put them in order of those most mentioned). I can't comment on most of them because I haven't read them, so don't see this as my recommendation. But you might want to look into these. I am. Also feel free to add more recommendations in the comments.
I listened to Mark Dever's 9 Marks interview with Mack Stiles (& others) on Contact Evangelism last night. I was provoked to good thoughts on evangelism as well as some questions about my approach. I just realized I'm still holding a bit of inner dialogue on some of the things they said, so I thought it would be good to share. Books that were mentioned in/influenced the conversation included...
Dr. Timothy Keller continues to add to his library helpful books, now in a new format. Check this announcement from the publisher, Dutton...
On December 4th, Dutton will release the first essay in a new e-book series by renowned pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller. The series, entitled ENCOUNTERS WITH JESUS (December 4, 2012; $1.99), will feature ten installments, launching with The Skeptical Student.
The Skeptical Student is based on a series of talks Keller gave in Oxford, England to a campus group – most of them skeptics – earlier this year. During these talks, Keller explored the inspiring story of Nathaniel’s life-changing encounter in the Gospel of John. It has lessons for those who are skeptical themselves about Christianity and also for Christians who encounter skepticism from those who do not believe.
Timothy Keller is the pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and the author of The Reason for God and the recently published Every Good Endeavor. The other titles in the ENCOUNTERS WITH JESUS series include:
- The Insider and the Outcast
- The Grieving Sisters
- The Wedding Party
- The First Christian
I doubt I'm the only one excited about this project. I've just received the first installment look forward to the rest. It should be a valuable resource for pastors, apologists & evangelists, and probably most of all to the everyday witness to Christ...those who love their neighbors.
Don't miss these Kindle books on sale right now. I think I heard some may not be on sale after today, so if you're going to pull the trigger on these, do it now. And if you don't have the Kindle Paperwhite, I highly recommend it. It was difficult for me to start reading consistently on a Kindle, and I still buy hard copies of all books I consider worthy of reading more than once and/or using for reference, but the Paperwhite is a game-changer for me because of the screen, nighttime reading, ease of use, etc. Grab a 3G or Wifi Kindle Paperwhite.
UPDATE - Now also on sale...
Tim Keller discusses biblical contextualization in his book Center Church (Kindle version). In one section he talks about how to persuade unbelievers, and specifically that you can't only persuade in one way only since "people of different temperaments and from different cultures reason differently." (p 114) We can't take one biblical story and draw out a one-size-fits-all appeal to believe the Gospel. Here's Keller's list of the different ways we appeal to unbelievers to believe the Gospel. He explains them further in the book with Scripture, so please go read more on pages 114-115.
"This website exists as the on-line presence of Authentic Manhood, a bold movement to lead men to live the life of truth, passion, and purpose they were created to live." Contributors include Justin Buzzard, Eric Geiger, and others.
Joe Thorn: Praying for Your Pastor
There are a number of pastors I pray for regularly, and these are some of they ways I lift them up. I hope you will join me as you pray for the leaders God has given you.
9 Writing Books That Will Inspire You To Write -- Today (Check the whole list. I really like the top 3.)
A Street Pastor is a Church leader/minister or member with a concern for society - in particular young people who feel themselves to be excluded and marginalised - and who is willing to engage people where they are, in terms of their thinking (i.e. their perspective of life) and location (i.e. where they hang out - be it on the streets, in the pubs and clubs or at parties etc).
Street Pastors will also be willing to work with fellow activists, church and community leaders, and with agencies and projects, both statutory and voluntary, to look at collaborative ways of working on issues affecting youth, and initiatives that will build trust between them and the Street Pastors.
From "Empowering Evangelists: InterVarsity's Ignite Conference," Beau Crosetto taught a seminar about turning everyday conversations into spiritual ones. He discussed five things evangelists do (using Philip in Acts 8)...
Go read the rest of the post for more.
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?
Release the APE is all about activating the Apostolic, Prophetic, and Evangelistic vocations into the world. We are committed to telling real time APE stories, sharing thoughts that shape the APE, and encouraging believers to live into APE vocations so that all the potential for God movements can be unleashed everywhere.
You may know A.P.E.S.T. from Alan Hirsch's books & teaching. That's where the APE comes from. Who should read the blog? Here's their list
I align with several camps: I'm baptist. I'm reformed. I'm missional. Etc. This looks like a good site for the missional camp to engage, so I'll be reading. Would love to know what you think about their site as the first couple of posts have gone up: "Release the Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic" Part 1 & Part 2. Also check them out on Twitter, Facebook.
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.
Five $2 Tuesdays deals at The Good Book Company...
It sounded like a cheesy title, but Michael Frost (Exiles, The Shaping of Things to Come, ReJesus, The Road to Missional) delivered a simple, thought-provoking breakout at Exponential 2012 that I listened to by podcast last night. He compares a good marriage to how we say "I do" and "To death do us part" and the ongoing romance with our spouse with how a church loves her neighborhood (or city). I'd have some minor quibbles, but it was quite helpful for me.
Here are some of his thoughts and points from my sketchy notes, which you can see are comparable to marriage. Should we commit to our neighborhoods (cities) to a lifelong romance, till death do we part? Good thoughts here...
- Talk to your mayor, police chief, fire chief, school principals
- Eat in local restaurants, get in local cafes, walk the neighborhood
- Ask people what they want, long for, desire
- NOTE: Interesting section on midnight-5am "street pastors" 16:45 mark
- "Listen to your neighborhood, it is telling you--if you listen hard enough--how to evangelize them, how to serve them, how to unleash an awareness of the reign of God in that place."
- You will move culture to a tipping point by transforming hundreds of thousands of villages across the nation.
- If this place goes down, we will go down with you.
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).
The Lord Jesus saw a vast harvest waiting to be gathered in but hardly any workers to do the job. So he issued an instruction to his followers: 'Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field' (Matthew 9:38).
That command still applies today. Although 2000 years of Christian witness have past, there are still millions in our world who have never even heard the name of Christ. Even in countries where many profess to be Christians there is great ignorance, and a spiritual great hunger - which only the Gospel of Christ can answer.
This book is an attempt to describe the nature of gospel ministry and to answer the questions that those who are considering it may have. The aim is not to persuade everyone that they should give up their present jobs and offer themselves as workers to churches and missionary organizations. We all have different gifts. But we should all be asking ourselves this question: 'What is it that I could do that would most bring glory to God through the spread of the gospel?' For some that will mean staying where they are, for others it will mean a significant change of direction.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Go pick up Workers For The Harvest Field or another $2 Tuesdays deal.
- Introduction (Vaughan Roberts)
- Section 1: What is gospel ministry?
- 1. What is Gospel Ministry? (Vaughan Roberts)
- 2. The Character of Gospel Ministry (David Jackman)
- 3. The Priority of Gospel Ministry (Richard Coekin)
- Section 2: Varieties of gospel ministry
- 4. The pastor-teacher (Andy Gemmill)
- 5. The realities of being an evangelist (Roger Carswell)
- 6. Church planters for the harvest field (Tim Chester)
- 7. Gospel ministry overseas (Andy Lines)
- 8. Cross-cultural ministry in the UK (Andrew Raynes)
I was very isolated from my laptop on vacation (which lasted 2 weeks), but I did find stuff that looked interesting on my feed reader and my Twitter feed and then saved them for later. Here are a few things that caught my eye...
From Tim Keller, part 2 of his posts on how the Gospel changes our apologetics...
...a gospel-shaped apologetic starts not with telling people what to believe, but by showing them their real problem. In this case we are showing secular people that they have less warrant for their faith assumptions than we do for ours. We need to show that it takes faith even to doubt.
There is a way of telling the gospel that makes people say, “I don’t believe it’s true, but I wish it were.” You have to get to the beauty of it, and then go back to the reasons for it. Only then, when you show that it takes more faith to doubt it than to believe it; when the things you see out there in the world are better explained by the Christian account of things than the secular account of things; and when they experience a community in which they actually do see Christianity embodied, in healthy Christian lives and solid Christian community, that many will believe.
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.
The salternlite blog transcribes 10 "evangelism tips" from Tim Keller. I believe these come from this talk. By the way, for some reason blog trolls love commenting on how "preach the gospel" isn't on the list. If you assume Tim Keller isn't talking about preaching the gospel in and through these things, you are dense and your comments will not be appreciated. For those of us who are thinking about how we can bring the gospel to our neighbors, these suggestions should be simple and helpful. A bit more context is given at the end.
- Let people around you know you are a Christian (in a natural, unforced way)
- Ask friends about their faith – and just listen!
- Listen to your friends problems – maybe offer to pray for them
- Share your problems with others – testify to how your faith helps you
- Give them a book to read
- Share your story
- Answer objections and questions
- Invite them to a church event
- Offer to read the Bible with them
- Take them to an explore course
Keller suggests, according to salternlite, to start with 1-4, move to 5-7, and then 8-10. Too often we start at the bottom.
Over the last couple of weeks I've been enjoying working out with Jerram Barrs audio from his two classes on Francis Schaeffer (Early Years & Later Years) at Covenant Seminary. Specifically, I've been listening by streaming through the Covenant Seminary Worldwide Classroom app on my Android phone.
I've thought for several years that one of the best things that could happen in American churches is that we would take a more L'Abri-like approach to our mission. You can read the Schaeffer's ministry at L'Abri in The Tapestry (out of print, but I just picked one up used but in perfect condition for $25) and L'Abri. I think churches like Soma Communities are doing this kind of thing better than most.
Whether or not you pick up the books, please go pick up these very helpful, free audio classes from Jerram Barrs are hard to beat as resources in thinking about mission, apologetics, living missionally, hospitality, etc. Download Francis Schaeffer: The Early Years and Francis Schaeffer: The Later Years now. You can get them through iTunes, or stream them over the Worldwide Classroom. While you are at it, find more great stuff from Jerram Barrs including his books The Heart of Evangelism and Learning Evangelism From Jesus.
I'm trying hard to figure out how to explain Soma School. For a couple of weeks now I've been in processing mode while unfolding the story of my week in Tacoma for my wife and kids, our church leaders and some of our members, our community group, and our church as a whole.
As a part of processing I'm working on a few posts to explain what I did at Soma School and what God is doing through what I learned there. First, what we did. The Soma School schedule for the week was well constructed to immerse us both in what they say and what they do by hearing it and actually doing it. You can view a general schedule online but it has been tweaked. Here's my brief overview with the tweaks included as well as some of my experience. I tried to be brief. Also, click on photos for larger version.
Tuesday: Fly in. Reception dinner & introductions at Shakabrah (Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski's restaurant). GCM vision, Soma vision, & expectations for the week were also discussed, along with some exhortations about being teachable.
I enjoyed some time with a few other Soma attendees from Toronto between landing and the evening beginning. We met on the car ride from the airport and had an amazing story. More on that another time.
We each left with our host family as they came to pick us up.
Wednesday: Story of God. 10 hour story from creation to consummation, compressed to about 6 hours. and taught in two 3 hour sessions. In between we visited Network Tacoma for lunch and to see how they serve the homeless community.
Everyone was assigned a missional community (MC, more info) to attend either Wednesday evening or Thursday evening. I was assigned Jeff Vanderstelt's MC on Wednesday. Jeff brought us to their house and people started showing up. A few folks brought dinner and cooked it as most folks were hanging out and talking. Dinner was served and people were spread all around the house, still talking. Then we all gathered in one room as the MC was finalizing their MC covenant. They didn't talk much about it after the conversation got side-tracked to one woman's concern with how often Jeff, the leader of Soma and the MC, travels. It made for an interesting and eye-opening discussion on expectations, some good ones and some not as much. But it was an open, beautifully messy conversation about who they are and what they are trying to do together.
Both Wednesday and Thursday included pub nights, where Soma School attenders could go out with some Soma guys and talk about pretty much anything. I went both nights (Parkway Tavern), and it was lively conversation.
Thursday: 6 hours on Identities and Rhythms. Lunch in between with Seth McBee and other Soma School attenders to discuss various topics. A handful of Soma leaders were available so attenders could choose who to go to lunch with to discuss their areas of expertise. Really smart and helpful.
Without an MC to attend, Josh Cousineau and I grabbed dinner, late coffee, and headed to pub night. Banter with Jeff Vanderstelt and Sam DeSocio, stories of other conferences, and a packed table with tons of laughter filled the evening.
Friday: 6 hours on the 4 G's: God is Great, God is Glorious, God is Good, and God is Gracious. Followed by 90 minutes of time to repent together in triads. Wow. Powerful. I hate when I'm forced into something like that. It was a running joke that if we knew that was coming we might not have attended Soma School. But it was one of the best experiences of the trip for me, to have 30 minutes for me to tell two brothers how I'm struggling to believe in my heart that God really is these things. Lunch was with Seth McBee again. Also Caesar Kalinowski. Teriyaki. Mmm, good.
Friday night was the songwriters's showcase at Shakabrah featuring Aaron Spiro and others. Packed room enjoying good music.
Saturday: Sacred Space work. Nearly 6 hours of work at Wapato Park. We attacked a large section of the park and took out massive amounts of unwanted growth. Exhausting, but dozens from Soma and Soma School did some beautiful work. What a lesson in a community of faith serving her city.
Then I showered and tried to rest a bit before an expression dinner that my host family is connected with. Great conversation with Justin and Chris and their wives, as well as many others. It was one lady's birthday and they took significant time to surround her and let her know how they see God at work in her life and then pray for her. Eye-opening, beautiful, and something I'd never seen done except very superficially.
Sunday: Attended both morning Soma Tacoma Gatherings with Josh Cousineau. Loved how they did the Lord's Supper. MC's are encouraged to take it together. So they go to a table with a loaf of bread and both juice & wine (intinction), and then they walk away together to circle-up and pray. I took at the 9am gathering with my host family and at the 11:15am gathering with Josh and a couple other Soma School guys.
After, our Soma buddy Lairs took us to Seattle for some burgers and the 5pm Mars Hill service. This was optional, and most other Soma School attenders carpooled up for sightseeing in Seattle. But we did our own thing.
Monday: This is where it all came together. About 6 hours of teaching on building a missional community, which included significant time for questions and answers from two different panels of Soma folks and other discussion.
Lunch for me and a handful of others was with Sam Ticas where we discussed various Soma things, systems, etc.
Dinner was with my host family, John, Trisha and little Aaron before we went to Shakabrah one more time. This time it was host family (John & Trisha, for me) & Soma School attenders together to close out the week, with the opportunity for each attender to share one takeaway from the week. I'll share mine in a future post.
There was a great move of the Spirit in the room as attenders opened up and shared amazing things God was doing. Someone asked Jeff Vanderstelt how we (attenders) could pray for Soma. We then spent a significant amount of time praying for Soma, which was completely unplanned. Wonderful. Then they prayed for us and we left. I packed up and prepared for my flight home on Tuesday.
That's a brief overview of the week not only according to the schedule, but as I experienced it. I probably forgot a few significant things. I purposefully left out some of what God was doing in me as I want to give that a more singular focus. All in all it was a week I'll never forget. John & Trisha were great hosts, loving me and serving me well. Teaching from Caesar Kalinowski, Abe Meysenburg, and Jeff Vanderstelt was excellent. But the whole week learning with head, heart, and hands was remarkable and is incomparable with anything else I've experienced. If you are considering attending Soma School, I highly recommend it. More posts to come.
Mark Beeson on community & mission...
Church is not an event; it's a community. Mission is not an event; it's a lifestyle.
Tim Chester on meals, discipleship, & mission...
People often complain that they lack time for mission. But we all have to eat. Three meals a day, seven days a week. That’s twenty-one opportunities for mission and community without adding anything to your schedule. You could meet up with another Christian for breakfast on the way to work—read the Bible together, offer accountability, pray for one another. You could meet up with colleagues at lunchtime. ...chat to the person across the table from you in the cafeteria. You could invite your neighbors over for a meal. Better still, invite them over with another family from church. That way you get to do mission and community at the same time; plus your unbelieving neighbors will get to see the way the gospel impacts our relationships as Christians (John 13:34–35; 17:20–21). You could invite someone who lives alone to share your family meal and follow it with board games, giving your children an opportunity to serve others through their welcome.
Mike Wilkersen at Resurgence on Journal of Biblical Counseling's return...
Tim Keller on NYC ban of churches renting schools for worship gatherings...
I am grieved that New York City is planning to take the unwise step of removing 68 churches from the spaces that they rent in public schools. It is my conviction that those churches housed in schools are invaluable assets to the neighborhoods that they serve.
Seth McBee on multiplying disciples...
You must regularly talk about multiplication and train the next group for its certainty. It must always be on your lips and prayers, and always on your people’s lips and prayers. If it’s not, then it will be very difficult when it happens–like kicking out your unsuspecting child and telling them it’s healthy.
Been a while since I did a links post. Some you need to check out...
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.
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”.
Collin Hansen interviews Tim Keller and Nancy Leigh DeMoss on revival. Great conversation. So many things I could quote, but here's one of my favorite quotes by Keller (35 seconds in)...
In the last 20 or 30 years, because the society's changed and because we are finding it harder to reach people, there's been an enormous amount of intellectual and emotional energy given to: How are we reaching these people? And we've actually, I think, put all of our energy into that and it seems to have sucked a lot of the air out of the room. So people just aren't, they're more concerned with: How are we going to reach people who are so hard to reach? When I think Dr. Lloyd-Jones in his lectures on revival has actually said that you need revival more in a time like that, because what the world doesn't see is a beautiful church. A church with people filled with the Spirit, people who the Gospel's changed their lives and are loving one another. And honestly the best way to reach people is to show them something gorgeous here. And we shouldn't be too worried about all the various kinds of new strategies we're supposed use. So I actually feel like the strategies for evangelism, and, you know, I'm an evangelist, and I still feel like it's taken a lot of the emphasis away from asking God to revive our churches. (emphasis mine)
I just love the new album by Frank Turner, England Keep My Bones (I have the extended edition). It's like The Gaslight Anthem mixed with Flogging Molly mixed with David Ford. One of the songs all my Christian brothers and sisters need to hear is "Glory Hallelujah." It's an atheistic anthem (worship song) and instructive of the new atheism. Lyrics are below the video.
Brothers and sisters, have you heard the news?
The storm has lifted and there's nothing to lose,
So swap your confirmation for your dancing shoes,
Because there never was no God.
Step out of the darkness and onto the streets,
Forget about the fast, let's have a carnival feast,
Raise up your lowered head to hear the liberation beat,
Because there never was no God.
There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We're all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.
No cowering in the dark before these overbearing priests,
Not waiting until we die until we restitute the meek,
No blaming all our failings on imaginary beasts,
Because there never was no God.
No fighting over land your distant fathers told you of,
Not spilling blood for those who have never spread a drop of blood,
No finger pointing justified by fairies up above,
Because there never was no God.
There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We're all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.
And I know you're scared of dieing man and I am too,
But just pretending it's not happening isn't gonna see us through,
So just accept that there's an end game and we haven't got much time,
And then in the here and now we can try and do things right.
Forget about the crazy things that people have believed,
And think of wondrous things that normal people have achieved,
'Cos I've known beauty in the stillness of cathedrals in the day,
I sang Glory Hallelujah! Won't you wash my sins away?
But now I'm singing my refrain and this is what I say,
I say there never was no God.
There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We're all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.
There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We're all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.
Thom and Jess Rainer's book, The Millennials: Connecting to America's Largest Generation, is FREE on Kindle right now.
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.
Dr. J.D. Payne is the Associate Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism and Director of the Center for North American Missions and Church Planting at SBTS. He was brand new when I was finishing up my Masters of Divinity in Missions and Evangelism. I took him for a church planting class knowing nothing about him.
I liked that he was doing some fresh thinking. He challenged my views of planting rather than just going through the motions. It's been a privilege to stay in touch here and there since I've left SBTS, and I jumped at the chance to get a look at his new book, Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today's Questions.
I love books on evangelism, have read dozens, and frequently go back to reread or review notes and highlights in them. A huge encouragement to me. I find most every book on the subject helpful in some way, even when not good on every subject. J.D. Payne has added a completely helpful book of substance to my library with this volume.
Some evangelism books give you a particular approach or model. Some are written in a certain era and are flavored with how the church views evangelism at that time and are dated. A few stand the test of time and become a resource for a long time. JI Packer's Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God is one of those. I believe Evangelism will be one of those.
It has 33 short chapters answering basic questions about evangelism moving toward more complex questions. There's a fiction dialogue at the beginning of each chapter between Roberto and Mark, to set up the chapter. For someone in my church who hasn't done much evangelism, those dialogues will be quite helpful.
The true greatness of JD's book is that it's a dialogue on evangelism. Even if you skip the Roberto and Mark discussion, it's treated as a progressive discussion where the next logical question is posed and answered. It's answered biblically and theologically, yet simply. That's a good word for this book. Simple. Or, straightforward, plain, without confusion or distraction. It's a non-flashy, to-the-point, solid book on evangelism. And I'm thankful for it.
Looking at my bookshelf with dozens of evangelistic books on it I realize that this may be the most helpful volume to give to a growing Christian in my church to lead them toward what a life of personal evangelism should be. And thankfully, as is so often absent, it has a couple of indexes in the back for easy reference.
I very much like this book and will recommend it to my church. I wish it dealt with a few things of particular interest to me (evangelistic preaching, open-air issues), but almost no books deal with those. That said, I know it will be a handy reference and refresher for me on a number of issues on evangelism in the years to come. If you are looking for something new and trendy, this book isn't it. Evangelism is as serious as the Gospel and as practical as a conversation. Pick up a copy.
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.
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...
Several weeks ago I had the privilege of sitting down with Richard Owen Roberts to discuss revival. He was interim at my church before I cam seven years ago and I've been able to sit with him from time to time and pick his brain. If you don't know, Mr. Roberts is a bookseller in Wheaton, IL, an author/editor, and a well-known expert and preacher on the issue of revival.
Toward the end of the conversation I asked him about open-air preaching. This was well before I wrote the five main posts on open-air preaching (as well as posting several quotes on Reformissionary and Twitter on the subject). I specifically asked for his thoughts about the role of open-air preaching and a desire for revival.
He first said that he thinks most open-air preaching is bad. His words were stronger than that, but I don't want to overstate. Then he said this (this isn't a direct quote, but close)...
I can't imagine that we will ever see revival without seeing preaching in the open-air again.
I hope to return to talk to him more about the subject.
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.
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