Mar
29

Open Air Preaching

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“I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone preaching in this town”. “I have never seen anyone preach here in my lifetime”. These are just a few of the comments that the open-air preacher will hear as he travels around Great Britain preaching from the Bible. The sight of a man standing on a street corner with a Bible, preaching the glorious Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, is baffling, amusing, and irritating to many in our society today. Rather than being considered as the norm in most high streets, the open air preacher is less frequent than the heretical Mormon missionary. What was a common practice in past generations, has been lost in society and in the Church today.

THE NEED FOR OPEN AIR PREACHING

Why should the Church engage in open-air preaching? The answer is the same reason that the Church engages in preaching the Gospel on the Sabbath day in their pulpit: to glorify God in the preaching of the Gospel to sinners.

Many in our land today are ignorant of the Bible. They know nothing of their sinful condition before a Holy God. They are unaware that they will have to stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment. They are blind to their need of salvation. The responsibility of the Church is not to leave men ignorant in their sin, but to make them aware of their sin, and call them to repentance.

That all men are sinners is their fault. That men refuse the mercy of God in Christ Jesus is their fault. That men do not hear the Gospel preached to them in earnest love and compassion, is the fault of the Church in our land.

In impressing upon the congregation at Rome the importance of preaching, the Apostle Paul asksĀ  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14)

THE BIBLICAL BASIS FOR OPEN-AIR PREACHING

The Lord Jesus Christ commanded his disciples: Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He did not confine them to buildings, worship services, or even the Sabbath day. Nor did Christ limit the disciples to those who ‘wanted to hear’. The command of the great commission instructs the Church that every man is to hear the Gospel.

In the parable of the marriage feast in Luke 14:23 we read: and the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel [them] to come in, that my house may be filled. Again, we see that the Gospel is not limited to a time, place, or even a particular people.

THE PROTESTANT HISTORY OF OPEN-AIR PREACHING

The names of George Whitefield and John Wesley are synonymous with open-air preaching. The reason is because their preaching was used by God to convert thousands under the sound of the Gospel. These men did not possess any special power of themselves, the power they had was the Holy Spirit accompanying their preaching with regenerating power in the souls of men.

Did Wesley and Whitefield have a vision and compassion for lost souls? Undoubtedly. Did they believe that God could save souls under the preaching of the Gospel? Definitely. Was their faith and trust in the Lord in vain? Absolutely not.

The Protestant Church has historically held that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17). This earnest conviction has persuaded Protestant preachers for centuries that the only way men can be saved, is under the preaching of the Gospel. The question we have to ask ourselves: do we still believe that today?

DIFFICULTIES OF OPEN-AIR PREACHING

Many ministers today are considered by their congregations to be organisers, social secretaries, congregational peace-keepers, and the man to blame for why the congregation is decreasing in size. Sadly, because of the high demands of a modern congregation, very few ministers have the time to preach in the open-air. The minister has been called first and foremost to give himself continually to prayer, and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Anything that restricts him doing so, needs rectified.

The ‘fear of man’ is another factor which limits open-air preaching. While no Christian should actively seek trouble or harm in the preaching of the Gospel, we should not shy away from it either. The Lord Jesus Christ and most of the Apostles were martyred for their faithful preaching of the Gospel, why should we expect a trouble-free experience when we do the same? The Lord Jesus Christ told the Apostles to expect trouble in preaching the Gospel: But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute [you], delivering [you] up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake (Luke 21:12).

In society today, the government has sought to restrict open-air preaching. The red-tape of permits and licences have been introduced to make open-air preaching less convenient and accessible. However difficult the process, we still have a duty to ‘preach the Word’ (2 Timothy 4:2).

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Many churches today have lost a vision for the importance of preaching the Gospel. They have exchanged it for entertainment meetings and social gatherings. Perhaps this is why our nation is in the spiritual mess it is in. Only the preaching of the Gospel, accompanied with the working of the Holy Spirit, can deal with sin, transform lives, inspire love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and impact the nation.

May God grant a vision for the unhindered preaching of His precious Gospel on every street corner in our nation.