I still remember when I first felt God’s calling on my life to be a preacher. It was an unusual and unexpected event. There were many questions and concerns that I had at that time. How was I going to do this with no “formal” training? I had only been saved a little over a year. Why Me? I went to my mentor/pastor and shared with him the news and some of my concerns. He was nothing less than supportive and was willing to help me along my way. Little did I know at the time that those early days of my training would help shape my philosophy of ministry both in church and out of church.
It was at this time that I got my first experience in the “Open Air”. My mentor told me to contact a friend of his -Gary George – and set up an appointment with him to preach in the open air with his group. They met at the Worcester Galleria, gave away bibles, tracts and other literature. What is interesting is that Gary is a Calvinist and loves the Open Air. We remained friends since. Some of the Baptist brethren would take offense to the fact he was Calvinist and yet at the same time criticize Baptist preachers doing this type of ministry – let alone a Calvinist. History records two great men in Wesley and Whitfield; men who were opposites in many areas of doctrine and yet had a profound influence on the souls of men. Quite frankly I find it odd that a Baptist preacher -of all preachers – would find the open air outreach ministry offensive or outdated.
I met Gary at the Worcester Galleria and preached my first “Open Air” sermon. It was a windy day and my notes blew around. I had to resort to what I had memorized from scripture. I learned a lot that day. (memorize scripture) I had opportunities to talk with a number folks, many of which were from all over. To this day (some twenty years later) I still go down there to hold signs, preach and hand out tracts. This has been a tremendous blessing to me and the ministry here at Bible Way Baptist Church.
Why this blog – Is Street Preaching Relevant? To some this is a strange question, because the church you are involved in does this type of ministry and encourages soul winning outreach in all its facets. Sadly there are those in our own circles who look down with disdain at churches and pastors who encourage this type of ministry. Now I understand sometimes geographically it isn’t practical, there isn’t a common area where you can go and preach to masses of people. However, I do believe a pastor, if he really wants to, can find a place where people gather and preach the word of God in the open air – IF HE REALLY WANTS TO! I am finding that many are embarrassed by that type of ministry and don’t want that kind of “image” for THEIR church. This is shameful and is certainly NOT the kind of image Christ wants for HIS church. Reality is folks, the lost are in the streets and that is where you win them. There not coming to your church. They want nothing to do with church and most never will. Because there are no ambassador for Christ in the open air anymore, more and more people are feeling less of the sting of sin.
I did not want to blog endlessly on this subject so I included a number of links throughout the notes below. Some useful material for those interested. These are just some of my personal thoughts on the matter.
- It is a commanded and exemplified throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. This was and still is an effective medium for getting God’s word out to the publick. We see numerous examples of the apostles and even Christ himself. Their ministry was to go to where the people were and preach. I always think of Paul on Mars Hill preaching to the philosophers at Athens. What a scene this must have been. Lost folks are not coming to churches, but they will gather for a baseball game, car race or a common or mall area for an event. Gerald Sutek’s Handbook is a useful resource. Check it out at- Jack Chick
- The other reason why I think it is important is because open air was pre-eminent during both Great Awakening I and II and was the foundation of many of the revivals of the twentieth century. Edwards, Finney and who can forget Wesley and Whitfield to name a few. Thousands would come out to hear these men preach the word of God many of which got right with God. The power in their preaching and the presence of the Holy Spirit was felt in a way not seen since.
- It is also a spiritually healthy way of keeping the pastor “connected” with what is going in his community and in the world. It keeps men of God humble. They are not all they think themselves to be and street ministry brings to light many weaknesses. I have debated with all kinds of people from all walks of life. You learn real quick how much you don’t know. Many, not all, preachers have an air arrogance that stifles of the work of the Holy Ghost and I believe this limits the number of folks getting saved. It is too much of a sacrifice to go to where the people are at and try and minister to their needs. Pastor James Knox a man I had the privilege of street preaching with has some good insight into the benefits of it and in particular to the pastor – Benefits of Publick Ministry
- The benefits of this ministry towards the local church. Interesting one of the most frequent questions I am asked is “does it work?”. Far too many are focused on results in the ministry rather than the doing in ministry. The idea is not how many as much as how faithful you are and then you can see how faithful God is. At Bible Way we have seen folks visit, get saved, get back to church. We have seen groups of kids kneel down in prayer. We have folks who have received Bibles and have come to church as a result. The members of the local church are encouraged as well. Many cannot get out to the street and the stories and testimonies are exciting to hear. Besides it gives them something to pray about. Does it work Yeah faithfulness works.
I didn’t want to drone on, but certainly wanted to cover some of my perspective on this subject. Praying for revival and I think prayer is important, but now is the time to start rolling up the sleeves and getting something done for God. There are a lot of ways to reach the lost. I admire the bus ministries, door to door, any ministry that engages the lost where they are at. Street is one of many and should not be looked down upon, it is as important as all the rest.