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Evangelism Gone Wrong? Pt. 5: The 3 “Do Nots” of Open Air Preaching

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My friend Paul Latour (who runs an excellent blog called “The Word Street Journal”) graciously granted me permission to re–post this revised and updated column from August, 2008. I noticed a few mistakes he made when he sent me photos from a Canadian Gay Pride Parade (it was only his eighth time preaching in the open air). Here are three tips that I offered to make his “irksome task” more winsome; you, too, may find these helpful. (Start at part 1 of the “Evangelism Gone Wrong” series by clicking here.)

The 3 “DO NOTS” OF OPEN AIR PREACHING

#1: Do Not hold a Bible when preaching in the open air.

“Wait a minute,” you protest. “Are you ashamed of the Gospel, God’s Word, the Sword of the Spirit, Pastor Steve?”

Readers of this blog know better. I just think that in this post-Christian, anti-Christian culture, a Big Big Bible being waved around is not a visual selling point. There is just something about a guy shouting and holding a black book  that builds fences around sinners’ hearts and minds before they even hear what I’m saying. I prefer to lure them in with some humor, trivia, interesting statistics, then WHAMMO!, they hear the Law and Gospel. I don’t want to blow my cover that I’m a Christian until it’s too late—for them.

Think about it like this: Before you were a Christian were you appreciative of a guy standing , hollering, and gripping his Holy Bible? Was your first thought Gee, I wonder what that guy is saying? I think I’ll walk on over and have a listen. Have you also noticed, Way of the Master acolytes, that Ray Comfort never holds one? (Discount this advice if you are devoted to the public reading of Scripture. By all means, bring your Bible then; but that is for a completely different purpose.)

The next “Do-Not” is really important…

#2: Do Not forget to stand on something.

Nothing stops a fiery sermon faster than a six-foot-four linebacker-Bigfoot who hates you, your message, your life, stands in front of you and blocks every last sound wave emanating from your preacherly mouth. The only time God’s Word returns empty is when it slides down a behemoth’s chest. Even little women with attitudes and hand held objects can stop you—if you have no elevation. Advantages to getting “on the box” are that your voice will carry farther and more people will see you.

#3: Do Not forget to smile every now and then.

We are pleading for sinners to repent; we’re not angry at them. We are out there because we care for their souls.

We are not preachers of hate.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “…he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

Let the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in your hearts…rise occasionally to your lips.

Remember Charles Spurgeon’s words: When you speak of Heaven, let your face light up, let it be irradiated with heavenly gleam, let your eyes shine with reflected glory. But when you speak of Hell, well, your ordinary face will do.”

The Good News: Paul Latour mended his ways after reading this article and had a photo taken of his new and improved preaching style, taking to heart the 3 “Do-Nots.

WAIT! There’s a fourth “Do-Not.” Click here to find out what it is.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 6 OF EVANGELISM GONE WRONG!

11 Comments

  1. Points well taken, brother. And thank you for that. Slowly, but surely, the more we learn, the more we do, the more effective we will be in the giving of the gospel in the streets.

    I take everything I can from the experts which is why I am here. This is why your ministry is so important, teaching and encouraging us newbies in the act of open air preaching.

    If I may, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage ANYBODY who feels the fire I felt to go out and preach, but feel inadequate as I have in the past, the following scripture verse written by Paul (the older one in the Bible, not me) was of great encouragement to me to just obey and DO:

    “”When I came to you brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise ansd persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1Cor 2:1-5)

    As Mister Pastor Mentor Steve says: “Go out and make…mistakes!”

    Thanks for the lessons, brother.

  2. Great “tips” (reminders, actually), Steve. Thanks for the post and thanks for your blog. It’s a great encouragement and a challenge. ~Greg

  3. You’re welcome, Greg. I look forward to hearing some of your tales!

  4. Thanks for the tips. Let me ask you something. What do you think about preaching in places where mostly passer-byers will see you, but not stop. For instance, on a street corner w/ only automobiles are passing, and there’s little/no chance of a crowd. If there are no other options, and if there is a specific audience you’d like to target, is that a good place to preach?

    Sometimes, I preach in very transient places. Meaning, no one is likely to stop. Usually, people will only hear for about 30 seconds. Down here in TX, people are pretty friendly, and not as many outspoken atheist, so a good heckler is rare. Because of that, I see holding up God’s Word respectfully is symbolic to truth, and in those 30 seconds, helps people understand why I’m there.

    I’ve struggled w/ this before, so I’m very open to your thoughts. Btw, Tony linked me to you on his blog. Thanks for your time.

  5. Frank: To answer your questions about passers-by, we do something called “Pure Speaking.” Go here to see what happens: http://www.evtales.com/index.php/2008/04/17/surrounded-by-the-police.html

    Definitely hold up God’s Word if you think that it won’t be a hindrance to your preaching. California is a whole different animal compared with Texas.

    I agree with Tony that we need to preach whether we have a crowd or not. The Word never returns void…

    God bless,

    Steve

  6. Good points ! I didn’t click on the 4th, wonder if it’s ‘do NOT fall off your soap box…

    I’m totally with you on the Bible-waving – we do need to remember what we were like in our “BC” days – only the LAW & GOSPEL saves people who have an ear to hear… waving a Bible=Nothing… Holding a sign saying :”Turn or Burn” = Nothing telling them “Jesus is coming soon!” = Nothing – only the Gospel, the Gospel, the Gospel – it’s the power of God unto salvation !!!

  7. I’d like to add… “DO NOT TURN IN CIRCLES AS YOU ARE PREACHING.”

    That’s what I did my first time. I spun in circles trying to get my voice out to all those standing in every direction. Not only did it look idiotic, but each side only heard part of the message.

  8. OK, so obviously I don’t have a dog in this fight, but let me add a little suggestion to #2 – make sure it’s something big and steady enough that you won’t fall off.

    It isn’t just that you’ll look like a fool (hey, I enjoy schadenfreude as much as the next guy), but injuries are bad. (Or to put it your way, “The Blood of Christ is a good thing – your own blood, not so much.”)

    And on that subject, when you get up on your soapbox, try not to get hurt if you stick the dismount.

  9. I have found that holding, not waving, my small Bible has actually helped. Last 4th of July we were at the local park for the city festivities and found ourselves near a clown from a local church who was giving a horrendous Gospel presentation and reassured all the kids that once they recited his prayer they were going to Heaven.

    Parents were furious when they found out what the clown was doing and wrote in to the local paper. They were upset because the sign he stood behind said nothing of his show being Christian based. My wife actually pulled our kids away when she heard his man-centered evangelism. When the paper’s article appeared online numerous comments followed. Interestingly, we were mentioned in several of them. The one that really stuck out for me was when one lady said she felt deceived by the clown but the guy on the stool several yards away holding the Bible made it evident what he was there to do.

    I think it will depend on your crowd as to whether you hold a Bible while OA’ing or not. Either way we must ensure the Gospel is preached biblically!

    SDG!

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