In 2013, this debate exploded into the open-air preaching community with the release of Tony Miano’s book, Should She Preach?: Biblical Evangelism for Women. As a former employee of Living Waters Ministries, Tony Miano advocated a position in opposition to Ray Comfort. He argued that only men should open-air preach. Previously, he had held to Ray Comfort’s view which allows women to preach outdoors, but they should not preach during a worship service. A discussion at a large open-air outreach caused Tony Miano to reconsider his views. This led to the writing of his book.
In 2017, the debate continues. Some evangelists may ask the question, “Why does this matter? What is the big deal?” These individuals would argue that getting the gospel out is more important than discussing this issue. While some Christians can have unprofitable arguments over insignificant issues, this is not one of them. Our Lord has consistently given instructions to differentiate the disparate roles of both genders. Second, the heart cry of a Christian should be, “Am I obeying the Scriptures?” As believers who love God’s Word, we should continue to strive to conform to it in our attitudes, thoughts, and actions.
In the following series of blog posts, I will argue that only spiritually mature Christian men should open-air preach. By contending that women should not preach, I am not saying that women cannot share the gospel. Instead, I am concentrating only on preaching. I define preaching as the public proclamation of God’s Word in order to urge individuals to accept it. In this situation, only a man should stand as God’s representative to plead with a crowd to come to Christ.
Does this mean that women cannot evangelize? No! I am not arguing that a woman is forbidden from passing out tracts, sharing the gospel in one-on-one situations, discipling younger women, teaching a women’s class, or instructing their children in the ways of our Lord. I encourage women to serve the Lord in these ways. In the open-air preaching context, however, a woman should not get on the box to proclaim the Bible.
In this first post, I will examine four Scriptural passages which give separate roles for men and women. These roles are anchored in the creation account from Genesis 2.
1. Genesis 2:18-25
God created Adam first to rule over the creation. In verse 18 the Lord says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” God makes woman from out of man to be his helper. Even though she is equal in value, Eve serves as an assistant to Adam to help him with his responsibilities. His task is to rule over God’s creation.
In verse 23, Adam gives his partner a name. “This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” By naming the woman, the man shows that he will be her leader. The man has the responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect his wife.
In regards to open-air preaching, the proclamation of the gospel is exhibiting leadership by urging a group of people to repent and believe. God created men to lead. When a woman open-air preaches, she reverses the creation order by taking the leadership responsibility from men.
2. 1 Timothy 2:11-14
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he instructs his mentee on gender roles in a worship service. A woman must be quiet during the service. She is not permitted “to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” Paul supports his teaching from Genesis 3. He wrote in verses 13 and 14, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Even though both Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Satan deceived Eve and not Adam. Adam knew that he was breaking God’s law. Yet, he did it anyway. Therefore, a woman should not teach or have authority over a man.
Most conservative evangelists agree with this interpretation. They would not advocate for women preachers in a worship service. The demarcation line revolves around this question: Does it extend to outside a worship service? I would argue in favor. Paul prohibits a woman teaching over a man. This is consistent with the leadership role assigned to man from Genesis 2. For more information, I would recommend Douglas Moo’s chapter in the book, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
If you think that this passage should only be applied to a worship service, then here are a few questions to ponder. Can a woman teach men in a Sunday School class since it is not a worship service? Can a woman teach men at seminary? Can a woman preach at a Christian conference on a Friday since it is not the Sunday gathering? Can a woman lead a mixed gender small group?
Besides these considerations, if a woman open-air preaches, she will be teaching Christian men. There may be Christian men who walk past a woman preaching. When this takes place, she is teaching him about the Scriptures which is clearly a violation. Furthermore, if the woman preacher has men in her group, then she will be preaching to them the whole time. Christian brothers and sisters have gathered publicly to participate in certain elements of worship. Usually groups have a time of prayer before the preaching. Some outreaches will have individuals sing to gather a crowd. On occasion, men will read the Bible if they are not gifted to proclaim. Then, there is the preaching of the Word. These actions involve the same elements for worship on Sunday but in an informal way. Therefore, only the spiritually mature men should preach.
3. Ephesians 5:25-27
Paul explains that the husband is to sacrificially lead his wife as Christ sacrificed for the church. One of the husband’s responsibilities is to cleanse “her by the washing of water with the word…” Just as Christ took the initiative to cleanse the church by His Word, a husband should lead his wife consistently to the Scriptures. God will use this as a means to help both the husband and wife grow in maturity.
If you think that a woman may open-air preach, then you must concede one point. If she is a married woman, she should not be preaching while her husband is present. This would usurp his responsibility to wash his wife with the Word. Since the couple has been joined as one flesh, the woman is able to participate in her husband’s open air ministry if he is gifted and spiritually mature, but her role is to be a helper to this ministry in ways other than proclaiming the Word herself.
4. 1 Peter 3:1-6
In Peter’s epistle, he addresses a situation between an unbelieving husband and a Christian wife. How should the wife respond? How should she try to win her husband to Christ? Verses 1 and 2 state, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”
Peter commands wives to evangelize to their unbelieving husbands through their actions and not by their words. If the unbelieving husband asks his wife questions about Christianity, then she should submit to her husband by answering them. At some point, she may want to provide literature or have a man from the church teach her husband if he is willing. By living godly lives, then the Lord may use the good fruit of Christian wives to bring their husbands to Christ. This answer would seem to be counterintuitive. Without this passage, we may conclude that the believing wife should take the husband’s responsibility to teach and lead since she is a Christian. She will be more likely to follow God’s Word which will lead to a more obedient home. However, the husband’s responsibility is not based upon being a Christian but upon being a man. Even though he is a pagan, he is still the head of the household.
Since a wife should not use words to win her husband to Christ, then why should she raise her voice to win other unbelieving men? If in the most intimate human relationship a woman is not to teach, then why would it change when she encounters a group of men while she preaches from the box? Why should an open-air woman preacher be able to teach an unbelieving man if this man’s Christian wife is prohibited from doing it? This passage proves that the creation order is not suspended when Christian women interact with non-Christian men through open-air preaching.
After reviewing these passages, the burden of proof is on the advocates of women open-air preachers. They need to answer these questions: Why should the creation order be followed in the home and the church but suspended when preaching in society? How is it that men who are responsible for the teaching in the home and mixed groups in the church can be joined by women to preach in the open-air? Where in the Scriptures does God teach that the creation order of authority should be applied only in the home and in the church? Despite the proponents’ claims, the creation order is not compartmentalized to only two spheres of application.
In the previous blog post, I covered the following four holidays: New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Mardi Gras. Now I will examine the next four holidays.
5. St. Patrick’s Day
The Catholic church chose March 17th to honor Patrick, who was a missionary to Ireland. How do people celebrate this man’s zeal for bringing the Gospel to the pagans? They act like pagans. In Boston, New York, and Chicago, thousands line up on the street to watch a parade. The people are dressed in green. Many look forward to using the day as an excuse to get drunk.
In Springfield, IL, the community hosts an annual parade too. The last four years I have gone with a group to open-air preach and hand out tracts. Last year, we set up at the beginning of the parade to proclaim God’s glorious salvation. How did the community organizers respond? They shut us down. One organizer had a cop come over to stop us from preaching with amplification. We decided to move to another corner where we were not bothered. Afterwards I meditated on the hypocrisy of celebrating a man’s life by shutting down the same message that he proclaimed. It would be like reading Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at the start of a Lincoln parade only to have the organizers stop you. While this is frustrating, we must remember that the god of this age has blinded people spiritually.
What is the best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Proclaim the gospel! 1 Peter 2:24 summarizes Christ’s crucifixion:
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
When you stand up to preach, give a brief overview on Patrick. Explain that God called him to go back to Ireland to proclaim the gospel among the pagans. Talk about his missionary zeal. He went back to the island where he was enslaved, so that they might have life. Then, transition to proclaiming the same message which Patrick announced. Christ Jesus came to die as a curse on the tree, so that we may have forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.
The remembrance of our Lord’s resurrection is a perfect occasion to direct our speech and preaching to eternal matters. Many schools take Good Friday and following Monday off. Shops will have Easter decorations and sales to encourage holiday purchases. Cultural Christians will make a point to go back to church after missing several months since Christmas. Use these cultural rhythms to point people to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 summarizes the hope that we have in Christ:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.”
Since Jesus was raised from the dead, then we who are in Christ will be raised. If you preach outside during Easter, keep pointing people to their coming death. It is guaranteed to happen, but no one knows when it will be. Ask them, “Are you afraid to die? Where is your hope in death? What comfort do you have?” Then, proclaim that Jesus is a risen Savior. Since He lives, then you can live if you come by faith. Since He died as a substitute for sinners, then you can have your iniquities removed and be at peace with God on the judgment day. Hallelujah!
7. Memorial Day
Memorial Day honors military members who died in the service of their country. This is not to be confused with Veterans’ Day which honors all military personal who served. Memorial Day is meant to be a somber tribute which recognizes the ultimate sacrifice. These men and women died, so that we may live in a free society.
The theme of sacrificial death is at the heart of the gospel. Jesus laid down His life for His sheep, so that they may live. 1 John 3:16 poignantly instructs us:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
When preaching this text, ask the following question, “What is the greatest sacrificial death in human history?” Of course, it is Jesus. Follow up by saying, “What makes it the greatest?” There are three reasons. First, the One who sacrificed Himself is the greatest. Jesus is not an ordinary man. He is the God-Man. He is the spotless, undefiled, and unblemished Lamb. God died for man. Second, there is a great divide in character between Jesus and man. Jesus who is without sin took the place of His enemies who do nothing but sin. He died a convicted man’s death even though He is innocent of all sin. Third, the purpose of the sacrifice is greater than any other. Jesus died for His sheep, so that they would be forgiven of their sins and have everlasting life. In battle, a man sacrifices his life for another, so that his friend can live maybe fifty or sixty more years. However, he will still die. With Christ, His death secures eternal life. All who repent and believe will not have just a lifetime to live, but they will live forever.
8. The Fourth of July
Independence Day celebrates the founding of the United States of America through the Declaration of Independence. The colonists took the bold step of proclaiming that the British Empire no longer had authority to rule over them. They listed their transgressions against the people and against God. Therefore, it gave them grounds to seek freedom from the Redcoats’ authoritarian rule.
Since the main theme of this holiday is freedom, we must exhort people to seek liberty from their bondage to sin. John 8:31-38 gives Jesus’ promise that a person can be free indeed:
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Go to the park, lake, or stadium where the community gathers to watch the fireworks. Then, lovingly tell them that their greatest need is to be set free from their sins. All have sinned against a holy and righteous God. Due to our iniquity, we are condemned. In our nature, we are slaves to the flesh. We love sin and must obey its command. Jesus proclaims that there is a key to unlock the shackles of sin that encompass us. It is the gospel! Beg the people to come to Jesus Christ by faith, so that they will be saved from the power and penalty of sin.
Holiday celebrations are opportunistic times to open-air preach. By taking a theme that is tied to the day, an open-air preacher can transition to the Bible’s declarations on the same topic. Jesus uses this technique through the Gospels to point individuals from the material to the spiritual. In John 7:38, he says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” He makes this statement on the last day of a holy day. It was the Feast of Booths which celebrated the end of the harvest and God’s provision to the Jews during their forty-year wilderness campaign. During the eight-day feast, the Jews would take water from the pool of Siloam and pour it on the altar of the temple while reading Isaiah 12.
Jesus used this tradition to point the Jews to Himself. Isaiah 12:3 says, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” For eight days, the leaders have been drawing water out of the pool. Isaiah 12 foretells a figurative drawing of salvation from the waters. Therefore, Jesus used this to say, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus is the well from whom we draw the waters of salvation. From a preacher’s perspective, Jesus used the familiarity of the holiday to shift the focus to true salvation in Him.
By following Jesus’ example, we can use the coming holidays to pivot our preaching on the streets from a well-known holiday to an unknown Savior.
1. New Year’s
New Year’s is a time for football games, watching the ball drop, and celebrating a new year. For many people, they use it as an opportunity for a new beginning by making resolutions to eat healthier, lose weight, and exercise. Unfortunately, few use it to contemplate that they are a year closer to death. They are a moment sooner to standing before the Holy Almighty God.
If you open-air preach around New Year’s, point people to the reality that time passes quickly. You can say, “Doesn’t it seem like yesterday that we celebrated New Year’s? Now it is here again.” Preach from Psalm 90:10:
“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”
Many people look forward to the new year with a positive mindset. However, millions of souls will die in the year 2017. When you preach, ask, “Who will have on their tombstone the death date 2017? Who of you has celebrated their last New Year?” Take the lost souls to Hebrews 9:27 to show that they have an appointment with death. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…” Since we do not know when we will die, today is the day of salvation while we still have breath in our lungs.
2. Valentine’s Day
This day is synonymous with love. Couples set aside time to buy their love a box of chocolates or a sparkling necklace. A husband makes a reservation at the nicest restaurant in town to display his devotion and affection for his wife. While this day makes singles nauseous and the unromantic critical, the theme of love can direct any sermon to Jesus Christ.
In John 15:12-14, Jesus explains what true love looks like: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
When you are on the box, proclaim the greatest love story ever told. It is the good news of Jesus Christ. The King of Glory came from heaven in humility to seek and save the lost. Mocked and scorned, he died a guilty man’s death on the cross despite being innocent. He had the army of hosts at His command to stop the execution. Yet, He submitted to the Father’s will, so that His death would bring life. He paid the debt for all sinners who repent and believe.
When a professing believer approaches you, ask them if they love Jesus. Then, show them His commandments. Probe to see if they believe what Jesus taught. Explain that love is not just a feeling but an action. While we are not saved by works, true faith produces good works. By allowing Jesus to define love, your preaching will broadcast that Jesus Christ’s crucifixion is the greatest example of love. All people should respond by loving Him in return.
3. President’s Day
The government created this holiday to honor all past Presidents of the United States. Due to the numerous federal holidays, it was not economical to give multiple days off for every President. Hence, the day is placed in February which is the birth month for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. While most people in private enterprise must work, public schools and federal and state government offices are usually closed.
Even though the United States does not have a king, we can apply Psalm 2:10-12 to our government. While citizens spend their day shopping at the stores, proclaim that Jesus Christ is King whether they acknowledge it or not.
“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
Preach to the crowd, “While Presidents can only serve eight years in office, Jesus Christ has always been, is, and will be King. He will not exit His office due to death or a majority vote. All people including kings and presidents must bow the knee to Jesus Christ and fear Him. If the elite of society must repent and believe in Jesus, then we who are the average citizens must do the same. Come kiss the Son by confessing your sins and believing that only through Him can you be saved.”
4. Mardi Gras
This holiday is translated from the French as “Fat Tuesday.” It is a Catholic celebration which allows a person to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh before he must give up certain items during Lent. Besides New Orleans which has celebrations nightly leading up to Tuesday, most Catholic cities have a Mardi Gras parade on the Saturday preceding it.
For example, St. Louis is a historic Catholic community. The city has a parade which starts at Busch stadium and ends in a residential area. The streets at the end of the parade are closed, so that people can drink and party. This presents a unique occasion to preach the Gospel to college students and young professionals who are living a life of hedonism.
The Bible speaks of the eternal consequences for engaging in this sin. Paul warns the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
The beauty in this text is found in the juxtaposition of the law and gospel. Paul explains that these examples of unrepentant sin will end in hell. Paul warns them to not be deceived into thinking that they can be Christians and participate in this debauchery. Then, he gives them the good news. In Corinth, God has graciously saved individuals from their bondage to sin. Through Jesus Christ, they have been forgiven and unbound from their slavery to sin.
Imitate Paul by telling the drunkard that he is on the path to hell. Warn the fornicators that their sinful pleasure now will lead to everlasting torment. Exhort homosexuals to stop being deceived by society and believe the Word of God. Then, tell them of the hope that is found in Jesus Christ if they repent and believe.
Pastor Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History, from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity, and a PhD in Historical Theology in 2021 from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. He is also an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. He is married to Karise with whom they raise Ian, Elizabeth, and Patrick. He is interested in history, especially Charles Spurgeon, and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.