Monday, April 6, 2009

A Defense Of Open Air Preaching

I've only learned about Jon Speed and his ministry in the last few months, but I have really appreciated his work and commitment to sharing the Gospel to everyone he can. He has a great web site and a great story. I look forward to posting more from Jon soon.

Right: The Apostle Paul Preaches in Athens.

A Defense Of Open Air Preaching

By Jon Speed

By now most of the church family knows that Pastor Jon has
finally lost it; last Saturday (May 22, 2004) a group of ten
people from our church (two were actually from First Baptist in
Holley) went to the Lilac Festival in Rochester and did open air
preaching. Has Pastor Jon finally gone off of his rocker? What
would make a pastor in a comfortable church do something as
"unseemly" as making a public spectacle of himself and the
people who went with him?

It has nothing to do with making a spectacle of ourselves or of
our church. It has everything to do with literally preaching the
Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, can what we do on
Sunday morning be rightly called "preaching" at all? Should it
be? Should we even try to "preach" on Sunday morning? The
word "preach" means public proclamation of the message of
salvation. What we do on Sunday should be "teaching" the
saints to live godly lives. What we have in contemporary
evangelical Christianity are thousands of weekly evangelistic
services within church buildings where less than 2% of
believers invite unsaved friends and family to hear a paid
professional try to elicit some sort of decision for Christ. To
say that this kind of evangelism is woefully inadequate is a
gross understatement.

We could call this method of evangelism "in-dragging", as
opposed to Biblical "out-reach." It is something similar to a
fisherman fishing INSIDE of his boat rather than casting the
net outside of it. Only a foolish fisherman would try to catch
fish inside of his boat! What kind of foolish churchianity have
we created which accepts as normal this kind of evangelism?
It certainly is not Biblical; try to find this model in the Book of
Acts or anywhere else in the New Testament, if you can.
Is it any wonder that most regularly attending church goers are
Biblically and doctrinally illiterate? How could it be any
different? Most Sunday morning sermons are geared to reach
the three or four unbelievers who were invited to the church
service or the 50% of the congregation or more who are false
converts. As a result, the soundly saved saints continue in a
state of spiritual starvation, unless they happen to go to a
church which has a Biblically sound Sunday School program,
evening service, or discipleship group and they actually attend
these things (a breed of Christian even rarer than the churches
which still offer these things).

How is it that contemporary pastors have abandoned their
evangelistic zeal? A traveling missionary evangelist once told
this writer that in more than a decade of service he only had a
pastor go with him to seek and save the lost outside of the
church building once. Once! Another fellow pastor once
cautioned this writer against doing open air preaching because
it might inconvenience law enforcement. If it inconveniences
law enforcement to enforce the law regarding freedom of
speech…does this sentence even need to be completed?
There was a time when a pastor who did not do open air
preaching was not considered worthy of the title. We talk so
much about revival and it is nothing but talk because we do not
imitate the Biblical methodology of those who were used of
God to bring revival. Consider for a moment the people that
God used in the most powerful ways: John Wesley, George
Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, General William
Booth, R.A. Torrey. These men all preached open air!
I close this essay with a lengthy quote from the prince of
preachers, Charles Spurgeon. The quote comes from the book,
"Lectures To My Students". In this volume, Spurgeon spent
two chapters on the topic of open air preaching. This writer's
prayer is that these words will penetrate your heart and break
it to reach the 150,000 people who die every day, the vast
majority of which are going to Hell.

"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 something
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 opening 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. Do they imagine that a special blessing results from sitting
upon a particular deal board with a piece of straight-up paneling at their
back (pew)—an invention of discomfort which ought long ago to have
made people prefer to worship outside on the green grass? Do they
suppose that grace rebounds from sounding boards, or can be beaten out
of pulpit cushions in the same fashion as dust? Are they enamored of the
bad air, and the stifling stuffiness which in some of our meeting houses
make them almost as loathsome to the nose and the lungs as the masshouses of the Papists (Catholics) with their cheap and nasty incense? To
reply to these objectors is a task for which we have no heart: we prefer
foeman worthy of the steel we use upon them, but these are scarcely
worth a passing remark. One smiles at their prejudice, but we may yet
have to weep over it, if it be allowed to stand in the way of usefulness.
"No sort of defence is needed for preaching out of doors; but it would
need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who
has never preached beyond the walls of his meeting-house. A defence is
required rather for services within buildings than for worship outside of

Many of us fundamental evangelicals claim spiritual lineage to
Spurgeon and others who were cut from the same cloth. If the
cliché is true that the apple does not fall far from the tree, how
is it that we find ourselves in another orchard altogether?
Brothers and sisters, do not fear open air preaching. It is our
spiritual birthright, traced back much further than Spurgeon,
but going back as far as John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, Peter,
and Paul. May God have mercy on us for trading this glorious
birthright for a bowl of Campbell's soup. Appealing to our flesh
though it may be, it cannot compare to the riches of the
inheritance of a purely Biblical methodology.


Wayne Dawg said...

Hey guy's...maybe I overlooked it...what is Jon Speed's website?

Robert Tewart said...

It's in a link in the introduction paragraph. But here it is anyway.

Thanks for reading!!

Larryk12309 said...

As you know many churches frown on what they refer to as "Confrontational Evangelism!" They say it does more harm than good.

IMHO if I'm not mistaken all the experts out there (Ray C, Todd F. Trish R.) agree that not everyone is made the same so we don't have to all do things exactly the same way.

The harm comes from trying to be like someone else and not keeping it real.

I'm all for (And REALLY into) "Friendship Evangelism."

But I also want to perfect my street fishing skills because God has already used me at the bus stop and elsewhere.

Robert Tewart said...

I think that part of the resistance out there to "confrontational evangelism" (not sure what that is--the Gospel is an offense and a confrontation to the world)is that it steps on the toes of those that have done it the same old way since who knows when. You mention that not everyone is made the same way, but it seems as though most of the American church is content with the status quo. Some estimates say that less than 2% of professing Christians do anything to share their faith at all.

One of the best responses I have heeard to "friendship evangelism" is this: "Friendship evangelism is neither friendship NOR evangelism without the verbal proclamation of the Gospel." Remember that Gospel the power of God untou salvation... (Romans 1:16) Waiting for someone to ask about the hope that lies within you is just not enough.

Personally, I find it is only harder to share the truth with someone when I put it off. As time goes on, you sense that you have more to lose in this relationship. That clouds our thinking and we try to share in ways that usually just fall short.

I totally agree with you concerning the problem with trying to be like someone else. That never works and doesn't honor God. You won't find anyone at Living Waters/Way of the Master that will tell you that you have to do it exactly the same way every time. It's about using the biblical principles, not specific methodology. You can listen to Todd Friel and see that he is constantly sharing with variations in style.

I'm glad you have opened up at the bus stops, keep it up. You have to agree that there is no other feeling quite like it!! Keep up the good work and THANK YOU for posting you comments.

Robert Tewart said...

PS.(As if I haven't said enough)You wrote:

"As you know many churches frown on what they refer to as "Confrontational Evangelism!" They say it does more harm than good."

I'd really like to know where they get their data on it doing more harm than good. My data is the people I meet in the streets. Rarely do I share the Gospel with someone that they are all out offended with me. People are almost always interested and receptive to the conversation.

Larryk12309 said...

My church is doing a program this summer called "The Backyard BBQ Project." It's all about getting to know your neighbors. In the packet they say that the goal is of course to share our faith. And to give The Good News we must also preach "The Bad news."

Ummmmmm, with all due respect to my pastor he's telling us to be "Confrontational." So why did they have knock Street Preaching!

Hey it's all good. There's no such thing as a perfect church, just a perfect place for everyone. :-)

Ron said...

Not sure where this came from but I know it to be true in other venues today.

Read what Charles Spurgeon (1834 – 1892), wrote:
You that preach in the streets, go on preaching Him. I saw a man preaching the other day with no creature but one dog to listen to him, and I really thought that he might as well have gone home. But I met with a story yesterday, which I know to be true, and it showed me that I was making a mistake. There was a woman who for years had been is such dreadful despair that she would not even hear the gospel.
She became very ill, and she said to one that called on her, “You sent a man to preach under my window 3 months ago, and I got a blessing.”
“No,” the friend said, “I never sent anyone to preach under your window.”
“Oh,” she said, “I think you did, for he came and preached, and my maid said that there was no one listening to him. I did not want to hear him; and as he made so much noise , my maid shut the window, and I lay down in bed; but the man shouted so that I was obliged to hear him; and I thank God he did, for I heard the gospel, and I found Christ. Did you not send him?”
“No,” said the good man, “I did not.”
“Well,” she said, “then God did. There was nobody in the street listening to him; but I heard the gospel, and I got out of my despair, and I found the Savior, and I am prepared to die.”
Fire away, brethren! You do not know where your shot will strike, but “there’s a billet for every bullet.”

Robert Tewart said...

Thanks so much for that quote from Spurgeon, Ron. I'm going to use it in a new post. It's about time for something from the Prince of Preachers!

Share Christ said...

Thanks for that story Ron.