WHY DO WE STREET PREACH?
I’m sure there is but open air preaching has a rich history. First let’s define the word preach, iy means to ‘raise the voice, utter publicly, lift the voice, to urge publicly, loud and to exhort in an officious or tiresome manner.
We find a preacher in the first book of the Bible. NOAH did not keep his belief in God personal and private, he was a “preacher of righteousness” (2Pet.2:5), public preaching what is moral and the coming judgment to unrepentant ears as he built the ark. Noah was not ashamed to proclaim God.
AMOS WAS A STREET PREACHER!
“They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly” (Amos 5:10)
ISAIAH WAS A STREET PREACHER!
God told Isaiah to “CRY ALOUD; SPARE NOT; LIFT UP THY VOICE LIKE A TRUMPET, and show my people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their sins” (Is. 58:1) and notice where he preached “they lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate…” (Isaiah 29:21)
JEREMIAH WAS A STREET PREACHER!
“The Lord said unto me, Proclaim all these words….in the streets….” (Jer.11:6) and “Thus said the Lord unto me, Go and stand in the GATE of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the GATES of Jerusalem; and say unto them, Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem that enter in by these gates: Thus saith the Lord…” (Jer.17:19-20)
”The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Stand in the GATE of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:1-2).
An interesting point about these men is that most of them spent most of their time not reaching those in other countries, or the most reprobate sinners, but God’s “chosen people” who had scriptures and priests, as they entered the house of God to worship the LORD!
“Thus saith the Lord; Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah…and thy people that enter in by these GATES” (Jeremiah 22:1-2)
“Then read Baruch in the book of the words of Jeremiah in the house of the Lord…at the entry of the new GATE of the Lord’s house, in the ears of all the people”
The PROPHETS of GOD in the Old Testament did not use “low-key-subtle” (see Genesis 3:1) approaches, such as literature tables, passing out tracts, invitations to religious meetings, traveling Gospel singing teams, meals, coffee, etc., etc. These methods have some limited value, but again, what is the MAIN method of outreach in the BIBLE?
What is the most effective way to reach the most people at the least expense? What is the method that most ACCURATELY REFLECTS THE REAL CHARACTER OF GOD? And lastly what is the one method that receives the least amount of teaching, encouragement and promotion?
“The word of the Lord came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord…”
In JUDGES 9:7 when Jotham had a message to get to a crowd of people in Shechem (who wanted to kill him), how did he do it? Not with literature, or invitations to religious services, or any other “subtle” methods. “Jotham went and stood in the top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and CRIED, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you” (Judges 9:7). Jotham found a safe place from which they could all hear him, and LIFTED UP HIS VOICE. Jotham was an open air preacher (1300 B.C.)
JONAH – Preaching in the streets and warning that city of the Judgment of God. He is a example in the OLD TESTAMENT of a foreign missionary is JONAH. GOD sent him to warn Nineveh. Did he rent a hall and invite people to come to a scheduled meeting, enticing them with “special music” and Gospel entertainment? No. Jonah was charged to preach to Nineveh (as we are to the world!), not only to those who would attend his meeting, but to the whole city. The BIBLE says Nineveh was “an exceeding great city of three days journey” (Jonah 3:3); i.e., it took 3 days just to walk around it. Diodorus confirms that Nineveh was 60 miles in circumference (Herodotus records that a day’s journey was 20 miles). Jonah 3:4 says “Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he CRIED, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” Jonah went “a day’s journey” into Nineveh, a city of 3 day’s journey, and CRIED. He was PREACHING as he was walking, i.e. OUTDOORS. Jonah was a STREET PREACHER, walking the streets as he preached his message of judgment and truth.
Was it just an Old Testament thing……NO!
JOHN the BAPTIST was the first PREACHER in the NEW TESTAMENT and he open-aired. He was a voice crying in the wilderness, not as in weeping but crying out loud and I doubt he would be invited to many Baptist Churches today. Simply by his dress of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins, not to mention calling people names like “generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” And when he preached on Jesus he said anything about love but; “he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Wow, is this the way to start a New Covenant?
Was John having a bad hair day or something, maybe his message should be more positive, perhaps music and entertainment? John was an OPEN AIR PREACHER and his message was simple: “In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, REPENT YE, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.3:1-2; Mk.1:4; Lk.3:3). Matthew reads that; Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan came out to hear John preaching (Matthew 3:5-6). John was baptizing people in the river Jordan, which was a hub. He did not baptized people in a small creek in the back woods but a place of heavy traffic, with large crowds. Where people repented of their sin in that body of water as this was a main artery and let us not forget that John rebuked the king for his sin and was jailed for such.
JOHN THE BAPTIST WAS A STREET PREACHER!
JESUS CHRIST was an open air preacher. In all the 4 Gospels we find Him working with large crowds that followed Him and how do you communicate to large crowds, but raise your voice so they can hear you. Here are a few examples in the Gospels where He ministered with MULTITUDES and again how can one speak to multitudes without raising the voice? (see Matt. 4:25; 5:1; 8:1,18; 12:15; 13:2,34; 14:14; 15:10,30-35,39; 17:14; 19:2; 21:8,11……). The Gospel of John records “In the last day, that great day of the feast, JESUS STOOD AND CRIED, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Jesus raised His voice not once but twice in John chapter 7. One of the most famous sermons delivered by Jesus was OUTDOORS. That would be the sermon on the mount (Matthew chapter 5-7). In Luke 6:17 he preached to a “great multitude” in “the plain” or outdoors. The “Olivet discourse” (Mt.24) was delivered on the Mount of Olives or outdoors. His parables were mainly preached to “great multitudes” or by “the sea side.” He even sat in a boat once and taught the multitude on the shore and just how could Jesus teach and preach to these people without raising His voice? Jesus fed thousands of men not including women and children twice, then taught them. How could this happen without Jesus not raising His voice? Connect the dots, JESUS OPEN-AIR PREACHED!
Just to be clear, the main method of outreach found in the Scriptures is open air preaching.
JESUS not only did it, but He commanded His disciples to preach in public:
“What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light, and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops”
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven”
Jesus said “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” therefore IF the Spirit of God dwells in your heart as many believe, it would be confirmed by your words for your mouth. As you should be able to preach one on one or one on one thousand.
Lastly they were commissioned by Jesus to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel TO EVERY CREATURE.”
AND WE KNOW THERE ARE MANY CREATURES THAT NEED TO HEAR THIS MESSAGE!
The Apostles in Acts were no strangers to outdoor out loud preaching as per the Day of Pentecost where Peter being filled with the Holy Ghost “lifted up his voice” (Acts 2:14). Stephen also was a public preacher as he proclaimed a salty message in Acts 7. In Acts 17:17 we find Paul “disputed in the market daily.” Why the marketplace? As with the GATES, location, Location, LOCATION, for the crowds are there. The early Christians had no church buildings so their sermons were preached outside of the four walls. Yes, the apostles’ evangelism often involved “DISPUTING” and judgment, not just preaching GOD’s love as per see Acts 6:9; 9:22,29; 11:2; 15:2,7; 17:2; 18:19,28; 19:8,9; 28:23; see also Neh. 13:11; 17,25; Proverbs 28:4; Ephesians 5:11; I Thessalonians 2:2; Jude 3,9; see also examples in Matthew 22; John 7,8).
The EPISTLES exhort the Church to PREACH and let their light shine, here are a few verses:
“And how shall they preach, except they be sent?….”
“Whom we preach, WARNING EVERY MAN and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in CHRIST JESUS”
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine”
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”
“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”
WHO WILL ARGUE THAT OPEN-AIR PREACHING IS NOT BIBLICAL? NO ONLY DOES THE VERY WORD ‘PREACH’ MEAN TO RAISE YOUR VOICE, WE HAVE COUNTLESS EXAMPLES OF MEN CRYING OUT, RAISING THEIR VOICE AND PREACHING IN PUBLIC. IT DOES NOT STOP THERE AS WE HAVE A HISTORY LIKE NOT OTHER MINISTRY, FOR EXAMPLE:
The ANABAPTIST has a history of Baptist continuing the acts of the Apostles (see TRAIL OF BLOOD by J.M. Carroll) for full of examples of men preaching outdoors as they were persecuted for their boldness and put to death.
THE ANABAPTISTS WERE STREET PREACHERS!
PETROBRUSSIANS, followers of Peter of Bruys, made enemies of the Papists as they preached open air in France in the 1100s.
THE PETROBRUSSIANS WERE STREET PREACHERS!
WALDENSES in France in the 12th century sold their possessions and gave the money to the poor, and travelled by twos through the villages of Europe, reading the Scriptures to multitudes in their own language, and preaching in the markets. The Pope launched Inquisitions against them to stamp them out.
THE WALDENSES WERE STREET PREACHERS!
HENRICIANS, followers of Henry of Lausanne, also preached in the street of southern France in the 12th century. They preached against images and infant baptism.
THE HENRICIANS WERE STREET PREACHERS!
Raymund Lully another shining light from the followers of Francis was (or Ramon Lull, or Raymundus Lullus, 1232-1315). He had a burden to preach to Muslims on their own turf: he wanted to travel to North Africa and evangelize in the streets of a Mohammedan town. His dream came true when he was in his sixties, when he traveled to Bugia in North Africa and “found his way to a public place, stood up boldly, and proclaimed in the Arabic language that Christianity was the only true faith.” He was promptly arrested and deported. He returned, however, when he was in his eighties, and “came forth into the open market and presented himself to the people as the same man whom they had once expelled from their town. … Lull stood before them and threatened them with divine wrath if they still persisted in their errors.” This time Raymund Lullus was stoned to death by the mob. He died a martyr, preaching in the streets of a Muslim town, in 1315.
RAYMUND LULLY WAS A STREET PREACHER!
The DOMINICANS were founded by Dominic (1170-1221), who traveled with Diego and journeyed from town to town conducting open air debates. Some Dominican preachers were again so popular that they had to preach outside the church to accommodate the crowds that came to hear them. Such a Dominican preacher was Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419).
THE DOMINICANS WERE STREET PREACHERS!
Before Luther and the Protestant Reformation came along, the groundwork for their success was laid by several groups that rose within the Catholic Church and questioned papal authority to the point of getting excommunicated. Three such groups arose in France in the 12th century and were started by STREET PREACHERS. The HENRICIANS were started by Henry of Lausanne (died 1148), the PETROBRUSSIANS by Peter de Bruys (died 1126). They worked together denouncing romanist doctrines like infant baptism and transubstantiation (both were eventually condemned as heretics and martyred.). They also rejected Church buildings, and “preached on the streets and in the open places.”
THE HENRICIANS AND PETROBRUSIANS WERE STREET PREACHERS!”
The WALDENSES were started by Peter Waldo, a wealthy merchant in Lyons, France in the 12th century. One day he asked a theologian what he should do to gain eternal life. He was answered with the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler, to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Christ. Waldo took this literally, selling his business, giving away his wealth. Together with his followers, they traveled by twos, preaching in the streets, reading passages of Scripture which they translated themselves into the common language. According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs the Inquisition was originally launched against the Waldenses.
THE WALDENSES WERE STREET PREACHERS!
LOLLARDS were taught by John Wycliffe(1330-1384) in England “the morningstar of the Reformation” preached in the streets and marketplaces against the errors of popery. Wycliffe translated the first English Bible and influenced all later Reformers. The Papists dug up his dead body from its grave, condemned him as a heretic, burned his body, and threw the ashes into the Thames river.
THE LOLLARDS WERE STREET PREACHERS!
JOHN HUS was told by the archbishop of Prague to stop preaching and asked the university to burn Wycliffe’s writings. Hus refused to comply, and the archbishop condemned him. Meanwhile, Hus preached against the sale of indulgences, which were being used to finance the pope’s expedition against the king of Naples. The pope excommunicated Hus and placed Prague under an interdict-roughly meaning that the entire city was excommunicated and could not receive the sacraments. To relieve this situation, Hus left Prague, but he continued to preach in various churches and in the open air. Formally condemned, he was handed over to the secular authorities to be burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. On the way to the place of execution, he passed a churchyard and saw a bonfire of his books. He laughed and told the bystanders not to believe the lies circulated about him. Arriving at the place of execution, he was asked by the empire’s marshal if he would finally retract his views. Hus replied, “God is my witness that the evidence against me is false. I have never thought nor preached except with the one intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins. Today I will gladly die.” The fire was lit. As the flames engulfed him, Hus began to sing in Latin a Christian chant: “Christ, Thou Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me.”
JOHN HUS WAS A STREET PREACHER!
WILLIAM FAREL (1489-1565), who paved the way for John Calvin to come to Switzerland, and has been called “the pioneer of Protestantism in Western Switzerland,” was a STREET PREACHER. “He turned every stump and stone into a pulpit, every house, every street, and market-place into a church.”
WILLIAM FAREL WAS A STREET PREACHER!
The PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH was founded in Scotland by John Knox (1513-1572), who started out as a bodyguard for a STREET PREACHER named George Wishart. After Wishart was martyred in 1546, Knox took over as leader of the reformation. Wishart was not allowed to preach in the churches and so preached in the market-places and fields. John Knox accompanied him on his preaching tours, sword in hand, to protect him from violence.” Later, when the Church of England was established in Scotland, Protestant preachers were banned from their pulpits and became field preachers, proclaiming their message in the open air. Some of these Scottish Presbyterian field preachers included Richard Cameron (1648-1680) and Donald Cargill (1619-1681).
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH WAS STARTED BY STREET PREACHERS!
GEORGE FOX began his outdoor preaching with a limited education, without any special training, and without special advantages of any kind. He so preached that men got the shakes. The name Quaker was attached to Fox and his followers because of the quaking of the men who came to scoff but stayed to pray. Though he made others shake, no man could make him shake. Walking bare-footed through the crowded market at Litchfield, England, this man in the leather suit upraised his hands and voice, shouting, “Woe unto Litchfield, thou bloody city! Woe unto Litchfield!” He feared neither man nor the consequences of his tirade. At first the crowd was amused, then serious, then terrified. No religious or political reformer was ever imprisoned as many times as George Fox, and oh, what prisons! But his times in prison were missionary labors. Not in solitary confinement, he always had a congregation. But he made converts. His fame spread and people came in crowds to hear him.
FOX WAS A STREET PREACHER!
WILLIAM PENN in 1670 Penn fell into trouble by preaching in the street in violation of the Conventicle act. He was promptly arrested with Captain William Mead and taken before the lord-mayor, who sent them to the Old Bailey. In the remarkable trial that followed, the jury, who were kept for two days and nights without food, fire, or water, brought in a verdict of not guilty, for which each juryman was fined forty marks and sent to Newgate, while Penn and Mead were also fined and imprisoned for contempt in wearing their hats in presence of the court. They appealed to the court of common pleas, where the decision of the lower court was reversed, and the great principle of English law was established, that it is the right of the jury to judge of the evidence independently of the dictation or direction of the court.
WILLIAM PENN WAS A STREET PREACHER!
The METHODIST CHURCH, co-founded by George Whitefield (1714-1770) and John Wesley (1703-1791) is an example of this period. These two were Anglicans, but being banned from speaking in churches since they were not “licensed,” they took to FIELD PREACHING, boldly proclaiming GOD’S WORD to large crowds in streets and markets. Whitefield spoke to estimated crowds of up to 20,000 people in the open air. They traveled throughout England and the American colonies, and were instrumental in the GREAT AWAKENING, a mighty revival that swept the colonies in the eighteenth century.
THE METHODIST CHURCH WAS STARTED BY STREET PREACHERS!
GEORGE WHITEFIELD stated: “I believe I never was more acceptable to my Master than when I was standing to teach those hearers in the open fields.” … “I now preach to ten times more people than I should, if had been confined to the Churches.” Also from John Wesley: “I am well assured that I did far more good to my Lincolnshire parishioners by preaching three days on my father’s tomb than I did by preaching three years in his pulpit.” … “To this day field preaching is a cross to me, but I know my commission and see no other way of preaching the gospel to every creature”. A friend of Whitefield and Wesley’s started a great revival in Wales called the Welsh Revival. His name was Howell Harris, and is another example of a man known to be a FIELD PREACHER. WHITTEFIELD WAS A STREET PREACHER!
GIDEON OUSELEY was another great Methodist outdoor preacher at this time was (1762-1839). He traveled on horseback and preached several times a day, without dismounting, in streets, fairs and markets throughout Ireland. Methodists were also instrumental in America’s second Great Awakening, typified by outdoor Camp Meetings, started in 1800 by James Mcready, and also featuring the preaching of Peter Cartwright (1785-1872) and Lorenzo Dow (1777-1834).
The REFORMED churches, PRESBYTERIAN churches, and METHODIST churches, and the MODERN MISSIONS MOVEMENT were all started by STREET PREACHERS!
WILLIAM TAYLOR was a Methodist was asked “Why do you preach in the streets and highways?” His answer was BECAUSE IT IS A DUTY ENJOINED BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIS AND IT IS SUPPORTED BY DIVINE AND APOSTOLIC PRECEDENT AND EXAMPLE, CONFIRMED BY DIVINE ATTESTATION
A great Baptist Revival in Scotland was the result of the FIELD PREACHING of Robert (1764-1842) and James (1768-1851). Haldane and Rowland Hill (one of the founders of the Religious Tract Society, and an early advocate of vaccination). They were Anglicans, but converted to Baptists when the established Church forbade their field preaching. Robert and James left their business and sold their estate to devote their time to preaching the Gospel.
WILLIAM CAREY, the ‘father of modern missions,’ went to India and preached in the streets of the brothel district of Calcutta. His assistant, Chamberlain, would go to the Ganges river and preach to crowds of Hindus there. One of their converts was a British sailor, Robert Flockhart, who returned to Scotland and preached in the streets until his death.
THE MODERN MISSIONS MOVEMENT WAS STARTED BY STREET PREACHERS!
AMERICAN COLONISTS who were Baptists impressed Jefferson and Madison with their views on religious freedom. Baptists were often jailed in Virginia, where they would preach to crowds outside through the window of their jail cell. Jefferson used to enjoy pulling up a camp stool and listening to Baptist outdoor preachers. (Encyclopedia of Religious Freedom: “Baptist Dissenters in Virginia”)
BAPTIST HAVE ALWAYS OPEN AIR PREACHED, UNLIKE TODAY.
THE HALDANE brothers, who along with Rowland Hill founded the Religious Tract Society. These Baptists started a great revival in Scotland in the 1800s as they preached outdoors.
SPURGEON, the ‘prince of preachers’ and pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, started out preaching in the streets and taught open air preaching to his pastoral students. As Charles Spurgeon testified: “No sort of defense is needed for preaching out of doors, but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his meeting-house. A defense is required for services within buildings than for worship outside of them” and “It would be very easy to prove that revivals of religion have usually been accompanied, if not caused, by a considerable amount of preaching out of doors, or in unusual places”
CHARLES WAS A STREET PREACHER!
DWIGHT L. MOODY (1837-1899) was a well known preacher in the Chicago area. The Moody Bible Institute bears his name. “One of his regular practices in the late sixties was to exhort the passersby in the evenings from the steps of the court house. Often these impromptu gathering drew as many hecklers as supporters”
MOODY WAS A STREET PREACHER!
The SALVATION ARMY started out doing a lot of STREET PREACHING! William Booth would pointed to sinners and called them specifically to repentance. When William Booth preached the first of nine sermons in that tattered tent, he did so under the name of the East London Christian Mission; Thirteen years later, it became the Salvation Army. William and Catherine realized that they had to meet more than spiritual needs: the physical needs were just too great. And that is what they did.
R. A. TORREY said Open-air meetings are portable, you can carry them around. It would be very difficult to carry a church or mission building with you, but there is no difficulty about carrying an open air meeting with you. You can get an open-air meeting where you could by no possibility get a church, mission hall or even a room. You can have open-air meetings in all parts of the city and all parts of the country. You can reach men in an open-air meeting that you can reach in no other way. I can tell of instance after instance where men who have not been at church or a mission hall for years have been reached by open-air meetings. The persons I have known to be reached and converted through open- air meetings have included thieves, drunkards, gamblers, saloon-keepers, abandoned women, murderers, lawyers, doctors, theatrical people, society people, in fact pretty much every class.