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Friday, December 2, 2011

Open-Air Preaching #2

When it comes to preaching outside the church there seems to be an underlying belief that it is simply not acceptable in our culture.  This implies that at one time it was acceptable, but that it is not anymore.  In biblical times they did not have a church on every corner, no public announcement system, and no TV screens.  Thus, it must have been acceptable for people to preach outdoors.  It seems that the modern mind simply imagines that everyone in biblical times was accepting of the open-air preachers.  However, a quick examination of the best sermons ever preached outdoors (Matt. 5-7; John 1:19-34; Acts 3:11-26; 10:34-43; 17:22-34; and etc.)  will reveal that they were met with division, hostility, outrage, and even with prison and death threats.  There were those who repented and believed and there were those who wanted nothing more than to kill the preacher.

The world is not a good way to judge the things of God.  When the church stays inside and does not live out their faith, the world calls the church people hypocrites.  When the church goes outside and begins to live out its faith by proclaiming its message, the world cries out that the church has gone mad and they need to go back to their church buildings.  The world cannot be made happy by people living out truth.  The world tells the preacher to stop 'yelling'.  The world claims the street preacher is to judgmental.  The world claims that you cannot push religion down peoples throats.  The world claims that the preacher is self-righteous.  The world that crams all of their philosophies down the throat of the church is now offended when preachers stand and boldly proclaim the gospel in the open-air.

The religious people of the day are not a good barometer to judge the things of God.  The religious people are worse than the world on many occasions.  The religious people always claim that there is a better way, but fail to communicate what it is.  The religious people would rather be friendly, be relational, and pass out free hot dogs and water bottles (nothing wrong with that) than to actually verbally proclaim the gospel to dying sinners.  As a good friend once said, "A hot dog without the gospel is just a hot dog".  The religious people have found that the world will love them if they give them stuff, but if they actually confront the world with truth it will cause a stir.  The religious would rather have the world to thank them for all of their humanitarian deeds than to have the world offended by the truth that they proclaim.

The question of questions that the open-air preacher hears from the world and from the religious people,  "Is what your doing effective"?  In order to answer such a question one must ask another question, "How is effective to be defined"?  The Christian defines effective in the following way.  Effective - "Doing that which is pleasing to God for the glory of God because he loves God and doing it in a way that reveals his love for humanity".  This definition takes into account the two greatest commandments.  This definition has nothing to do with numbers, popularity, or denominational approval.

Now back to our 21st century context.  Is open-air preaching still a valid ministry?  The answer is yes and the answer is no.  Genesis to Revelation will reveal that the church has been birthed, built, and battle-proven through the public proclamation of the gospel message.  The greatest revival in recorded history was in a place called Nineveh.  A street preacher named Jonah came to a pagan city and publicly proclaimed, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be over-thrown".  The entire city was brought to repentance through the open-air preaching of Jonah.  The king all the way to the bottom of the social standing was brought to repentance.  The whole of the book of Acts was the birth of the early church and the key catalyst was public proclamation.  So the answer is yes.  However, do not miss the word that was said earlier, "church".  It is the "church" that as birthed, built, and battle-proven.  Open-air preaching apart from the local church has little credibility before the truth of Scripture.  God's will and work is always tied to the local church.  Open-air preaching that does not move men and women to a local church, discipleship, and accountability is weak at best and destructive at worse.  So, open-air preaching that is not tied to the local church is not a valid ministry.  Certainly there may be good that can come out of preaching any time it is done, but why aim low when one can aim high.  Preach for the glory of God in the midst of a dying world and build a church that will bring Him greater glory both now and in the years to come.

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