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When We Think About Open Air Preaching

There are many thoughts that may run through a person’s mind when I say, “open air preaching.”  Some contend that this is not for today, that our society is beyond wanting to hear preaching (which means “raised voice”).  Others feel that we should keep religion a private matter, that the church should be the place someone should go to hear preaching and the church should not go out to preach in the streets.  Some contend that open air preaching pushes people away from Christ instead of toward Him (a point I have blogged on before).  Others feel that we should do more “helps” instead of preaching in order to show people the love of God.

However, I think a simple way to look at open air preaching is not to imagine the crazy man screaming at folks who happen to walk by nor should we envision a man fighting the crowds as he screams about the sins of the society but we should view evangelism as the biblical mandate to simply preach Christ as Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5).  The Bible is clear that we are to be witnesses for Christ (Matthew 28:19) and contrary to some views, we are to actually open our mouths and share the gospel with the lost (Romans 10:14-17).  The gospel is communicated (Acts 1:8; 5:20; 8:4; etc.).  Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that God is faithful to save people though the foolishness of preaching.  This doesn’t mean that we must be foolish in our preaching but rather the gospel itself will seem foolish to our hearers apart from the work of the Spirit to open their ears to the truth (1 Corinthians 2:14)

So when we consider open air preaching let us consider two things.  First, the gospel must be communicated.  So is the gospel being communicated?  In some cases, open air preaching is not preaching the gospel but merely agitating the crowds.  The gospel is not “God hates ______” but rather the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Secondly, the gospel calls people to repentance.  This is clear in the words of Jesus in Mark 1:15; Luke 13:5; 24:47.  The Apostles preached repentance in Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 17:30; 20:21.  Repentance is not merely saying “I’m sorry” for my sins but a complete change of mind and heart toward God.  True repentance requires the work of the Spirit (2 Timothy 2:25).

I have heard both the crazy open air preachers who seem to just want to make the crowds mad and then proclaim they are being persecuted when the crowds reject them.  Yet I have seen true open air preaching where the gospel is preached and yes people get angry because the gospel is offensive (1 Corinthians 1:18).  Our jobs must be to proclaim Christ.  I don’t mind if a person is not an open air preacher so long as they preach Christ.  Do you preach Christ when you feed the poor?  Do you preach Christ when you give money to someone?  Do you preach Christ when you build a person a shelter?  The gospel must be heard to be believed.  I don’t doubt good works open the door for this but preach Christ and allow the gospel to save sinners.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/28/2014 at 11:40 AM

Disarming Arguments Against Evangelism (Part 2)

This is part of a series of posts on this subject.  You can find the first post here.

Does it work?  This is the question that I often hear from pragmatic leaders in churches.  They want to know if the evangelism method I aspire works.  In other words, does it produce numbers?  Does it get people coming to my church?  Will my money increase?  Well they don’t ask this but this is the underlining motive I fear.  Numbers, sadly, are equated with success.  If your church draws large crowds, you must be doing something right.  In our day, churches do not revolve around doctrine but around methodology.  I know of Pentecostal churches that were planted and based off Reformed Calvinistic models and yet because the Reformed church has had success, doctrine is not an issue.  I know of other church leaders willing to travel to listen to T.D. Jakes or Creflo Dollar since they have large success and no one questions their faulty theology simply because of numbers.

Sadly, I also have had people bash certain forms of evangelism because, to them, “it doesn’t work.”  Take open air preaching.  I enjoy open air preaching.  I am nervous when I do it.  I fear more than anything that my words may not glorify God.  I want to honor Christ when I preach to the masses.  One brother was asked how many people had he led to Christ preaching in the open air and his response was great, “All of them.  I always lead people to Christ by exalting Him as Lord and Savior.”  Great answer.  True open air preaching should be focused on exalting Christ and lifting up the wonderful salvation that God has given to us in His Son.  In Acts 5, the angel gave instructions to the Apostles what to preach in verse 20.  This led to gospel conversations in verse 25.  Open air preaching should point people to Christ and hopefully produce one-on-one gospel conversations that could lead to someone repenting of their sins.

Yet how often do people criticize open air preaching!  Sure I have seen the “anger preachers” preaching in the open air.  They attack sinners by name and often will point out things from afar.  I know of one brother in the Lord who had longer hair.  He truly loved the Lord Jesus and was seeking Him.  While walking across a university campus he heard someone yelling, “Hey hippie, cut your hair you sinner.”  He turned to see an angry open air preacher pointing at him.  When he responded, “I love the Lord Jesus brother.”  The man replied that no true Christian man would have hair like a woman and proceeded on with his “sermon.”  This bothered my friend much that this man had judged him merely by what he saw and not by his heart.

The faithful open air preacher should preach both law and grace.  Ray Comfort teaches that we should preach “law to the proud, grace to the humble.”  The law of the Lord brings conviction of sin (Romans 7:7) and the law also humbles the proud and self-righteous (Romans 3:19-20).  Jesus used the law to humble the rich man in Luke 18:18-24.  Jesus used the law on the woman at the well in John 4:16-18.  Yet Paul used grace in Acts 16:30-34 with the Philippian jailer.  We should allow the Spirit of God to help us discern where people are when witnessing to them.  It is actually easy to see who is proud and who is humble when you begin witnessing to someone.

My point in all this is not to simply lift up open air preaching.  It is just one method.  The disciple of Christ can have various methods in evangelism but don’t make excuses for not sharing your faith.  Don’t say in your heart, “Well, I don’t like that so I won’t do that.”  Your pride may keep you from sharing your faith at all.  Certainly, there are methods I don’t like.  That doesn’t keep me from sharing my faith.  I want to obey Christ as Lord (John 14:15) and He said to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).  The heart of God is for the lost (John 3:16).  That should be our hearts as well (Romans 10:1).  We are called to imitate Christ (1 John 2:6) who said He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  That should be our heart as well.  Whether you pass out tracts, hold up a cross at a busy intersection, preach in the open air, one-on-one witnessing, doing good works for people to preach the gospel to them, etc. we all should be preaching the gospel to the lost.  Any form of evangelism that doesn’t preach the gospel is not evangelism!  The copout for the American church seems to be either friendship evangelism (in which people never share the gospel) or the social gospel where they feed the poor, clothe people, build houses, etc. but never share the truth of the cross.  How tragic that people will die and go to hell while Christians never bothered to share the truth of the gospel with them!  How tragic that people will go to hell who we helped but didn’t really help!

My earnest prayer to God is that the Church would exalt the Lord Jesus in our evangelism.  The focus should not be numbers.  The focus should be on discipleship (Matthew 28:20; Acts 2:41-42).  Don’t make excuses for not sharing your faith.  Don’t be lazy.  Don’t be full of self-righteousness and pride.  Go out and share the gospel with a lost sinner.  Remember the words of Paul the Apostle in Romans 10:14-17.  How can your lost sinful neighbors, co-workers, family members, etc. ever know the gospel if they don’t hear the gospel?  Don’t be lazy thinking that they will hear from TV or from the radio.  Be bold and share your faith.

May the kingdom of God come (Matthew 6:10) and may we all be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19)!

On Preaching to the Jehovah’s Witnesses

I had the honor to go with another brother to preach to the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are in town for their convention at our local arena.  This is attended by several thousand JW’s.  We set up right in front of the arena on the public sidewalk to preach to the people as they went inside.  We preached on salvation by grace through faith, justification, repentance toward God, repentance from dead works and works righteousness which can never obtain salvation, and we preached that Jesus is God.  I preached from the JW’s own New World Translation on how Isaiah 9:6 calls Jesus “the mighty God” and then in Isaiah 10:20-21 it says that the Jews will return to Jehovah who is the “mighty God.”  So the Jews would be returning to Jesus Himself who is the mighty God!

Overall I thought our open air preaching went well.  Ironically none of the JW’s would ever stop to talk to us.  Here we were on their turf yet they wanted to just run from us to get to the convention.  They will go door-to-door but when two lost souls appear at their own convention, they ignore us.  If they had the true gospel you figure they would want to correct us and show us our faults and errors and convince us that we need to be in Jehovah’s organization so we are not doomed in the battle of Armageddon.  But they didn’t.  Not one JW even tried to talk to us.  In fact, the JW leadership sent two men out to make sure that no one did stop to talk to us. They stood nearby and said to the JW’s coming in, “Just keep moving.  Don’t stop.  Keep moving.”

I cried out, “Think for yourselves JW’s!  Can you do that?  Can you think for yourselves or  do you have to depend on the Watchtower to think for you?  Read your Bible, not the Watchtower or Awake magazines!  Think for yourselves and flee this wicked organization.”  I pointed out that the Watchtower was wrong about Christ coming in 1914.  They were wrong about Him coming in 1925.  They were wrong about Him coming in 1975.  How can anyone trust such an organization that has lied and misled so many people?

We preached to several hundred JW’s.  I pray that the Lord saves them by His grace.  2 Corinthians 4:4 was true of the JW’s.  They are self-righteous and believe that their faith in Jehovah plus what they do (they call it exercising faith) is what will allow them to escape Armageddon.  They spend hours going door-to-door but they are not preaching the gospel (though they claim they alone are the only ones fulfilling Matthew 24:14).  But their gospel is not the gospel at all.  Their “good news” is that we can inherit paradise on planet earth as part of the great crowd of Revelation 7:9 if we are part of Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave” in the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.  This is not the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  In fact, it is a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9) that preaches salvation by works and preaches that Jesus is not in fact the Lord God but is Michael, an angel, a created being of Jehovah.

Our only conversation we had was with one God-hater who stopped to question why we were out preaching to the JW’s.  He was a college student and proceeded to try to question our faith in God whereas he had faith in science.  I spoke with Jason for a few minutes but saw that he was merely there to argue with me and wanted no dialogue whatsoever.  I told him that he knew there was a God but he simply loved his sin and refused to repent (Romans 1:18-19).  I warned him of the wrath to come and that he has no hope if he is not found in Christ.  I then moved on.

I pray that 2 Corinthians 4:5 was true of us.  I pray that the Lord will take the Word preached and open the JW’s heart to His grace.  They have no peace with God.  They know they deserve His wrath.  They know that they are still living in sin and have denied the gospel.  They know that Jesus is not an angel but He is much more and is the coming judge of all (Hebrews 9:28).  They know that they will not survive Armageddon for they can’t do enough to please Jehovah.  Pray for God to save these lost souls (Luke 19:10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/22/2014 at 10:40 AM

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