For most people nursing homes are places to be avoided. The worst facilities come across as cold, damp, stale, and dreary. The building is not a home but an institution. Germs are pervasive, and the smell of cleaning chemicals ubiquitous. The hallways are filled with people in wheelchairs who may be sleeping, yelling—because they have dementia—or scooting around to find a person with whom to visit. Yes, nursing homes can be unpleasant.
Yet, they are filled with gospel opportunities. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 15,600 licensed homes in America in 2014 with 1.4 million residents. With the aging of the baby boomer population the need will increase. For the next eleven years, 10,000 people daily will turn 65. The need for long-term care is going to exponentially grow in the next 30 years.
Who is going to bring these people the gospel? As the title suggests, if you are an open-air preacher, consider ministering at your local nursing home. The fields are rich for the harvest. Here are seven reasons why you should take your gospel “combines” into a nursing home.
1. Most nursing homes have weekly worship services.
Generally, these facilities offer a Sunday service and possibly a mid-week. In my community, the churches take turns in leading the services on Sundays while the mid-week is dedicated to a few pastors. The opportunity exists and usually the nursing home staff is looking for people who can fill these slots. Just as open-air preachers go to bus stops, outdoor festivals, and sporting events to find a crowd, nursing homes provide a consistent audience to hear God’s Word.
2. It is an opportunity to preach the gospel to the lost.
No one from the nursing home staff will censure your message. Therefore, you can preach the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly. Pretend that you are on the street. Unfortunately, many of the residents are lost. They have heard a gospel of works from the Catholic church. Or they think that they are a good person. Maybe, they have not attended church for years. Due to health issues, many are on the cliff’s edge of eternity. They are one disease, one infection, one breath from standing before God. Someone must go and tell them about their need for a Savior.
Will it work? Is it too late? Are they too hardened? Absolutely not! If God gave us a spiritual resurrection while we “were dead in our trespasses and sins,” then He can save those who are almost physically dead. Preaching in this setting shows a person’s trust in God’s power to save and not man’s.
3. It keeps heresy out.
Since nursing home directors are trying to find people to fill the slots, they may without discernment allow false gospel preachers to come. Between the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, and mainline liberal denominations, there are many false gospels which could be preached. If you fill the slot, then you protect the hearers from listening to Satan’s lies.
4. It is an opportunity to encourage Christians.
Imagine, as a lover of God’s Word and Sunday worship, you become ill and are admitted to a nursing home. Consequently, you are not able to commune with the saints. Think of the discouragement that it would cause. The best of days—the Lord’s Day—has now been taken from you. Therefore, you become depressed and feel isolated from the body of Christ. Now apply the Golden Rule. Show the type of love to others that you would want shown to you.
Friends, by preaching at nursing homes, you can edify your brothers and sisters in Christ. You can bring the worship of God to them. They will be reminded of God’s promises. He has not abandoned them and has a plan even in this trial. They will hear the sweet gospel which has saved their soul and will rejoice.
5. It allows you to minister to the staff.
Besides the residents, nursing staff is usually present in the services or outside of the room. By using your outdoor preaching voice, you can evangelize the nurses and aides too. The Lord may use it to bring a younger generation to Christ.
6. There is a need for the younger generation to replace the older ministers.
From my observations, the average age of the preachers at the nursing homes is not much younger than retirement age. Those who are faithfully preaching the Word will suddenly become the residents. Who will replace them?
With the resurgence of the doctrines of grace and reformed methodology, there has not been a desire for younger pastors to go to the nursing homes. Why? They may not have seen it modeled. Or they are too busy. Or they know that it is not glamorous and will not increase attendance or giving to their churches. Or they have never considered doing it. With the increasingly aging population combined with disinterested younger pastors, there will be a shortfall of gospel ambassadors to nursing home residents.
7. It will produce the fruit of humility.
For a preacher who has spent time in his study to craft a message, it is humbling to see half of his hearers slouched over in their wheelchairs and only a few making eye contact. Nursing home ministry is not about boasting in yourself or promoting your ministry. It is hidden from the Facebook live feed or Instagram pictures. It will not make other Christians perceive you as a zealous, courageous, maverick follower of Jesus. All of these thoughts are temptations when an open-air preacher exhorts publicly on a street corner.
Instead, the nursing home will help you die to yourself. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.” You will not receive fame or street credit from other preachers. On the contrary, your actions will probably be forgotten by everyone but Jesus.
If God has stirred in you a desire to minister at nursing homes, please talk to your pastor first. Ask your pastor for advice, including if you have the maturity to do this ministry. Do not be an autonomous renegade Christian. As believers we need the accountability of elders and the local church for our soul’s well-being (Hebrews 13:17). Once you have your church’s support, then call around to the nursing homes. Remember you will be more credible to the nursing home director if you are representing an established church body and not just yourself.
May the Lord bless your efforts to sow the seed of the gospel to the young or old, healthy or sick, poor or rich.
After an evangelistic outreach, it is natural to exhale. Leading up to the event, you have been praying for God to move mightily in the hearts and minds of the hearers. You have felt nervous to once again stare into the temptation to fear man. By being on edge, you missed out on a full night’s rest since your mind could not shut off in preparation for the event. Your stomach is growling since you fasted in order to depend more on the Lord. Mentally, you feel fried after having a conversation with Catholics about being justified by faith alone and disputing with a woman about the proper context of not wearing mixed fibers from Leviticus. After serving the Lord and feeling physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted, you desire to rest.
With the advent of Bible apps for smart phones and waterproof Bibles for the foul elements, memorizing scripture does not seem to be a necessity for the open-air preacher. With fingertip availability of the Bible, open-air preachers may fall into the trap of thinking that knowing where the verse is in the Bible is just as satisfactory as memorizing it. While we can justify ignoring Scripture memorization for the sake of the efficient use of time, we must admit that this is an excuse. For many of us we do not memorize out of laziness and a lack of commitment. We do not believe in the power of the memorized Word of God to sanctify us and improve our preaching to the glory of God.
Throughout this series on women open-air preachers, you may have had certain passages of Scripture come to mind to refute my position. In this blog post, I will focus on three common citations which are used to support the validity of women preaching in the open-air. The most common exegetical mistakes involve either making category errors or failing to understand context. By reviewing each passage, you will see that these examples do not strengthen the arguments of those who advocate for women open-air preachers.
1. Deborah and Barak (Judges 4:1-24)
Deborah, a prophetess and judge in Israel, summons Barak to remind him of the Lord’s orders. He is to go and destroy Sisera’s army. Barak responds by pleading for Deborah to come with him. “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” (Judges 4:8). Deborah will satisfy his request, but it will cost Barak his glory. Deborah said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” (Judges 4:9). At the end of the narrative, another woman, who is called Jael, kills Sisera with a tent peg. She receives Barak’s glory.
Those who advocate that women can open-air preach will use this passage as justification. They argue that Deborah is an example of a woman who preaches God’s Word. As a prophetess, she received divine revelation and communicated it to others. Therefore, advocates of women open-air preaches say that females can follow Deborah’s example.
There are four reasons to reject this rationale. First, the main message of the book of Judges is “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The descriptive narratives should not necessarily be taken as imperative commands on ordering the practice of preaching. Instead, we should use the principle of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. Therefore, we should start with the clear passages that instruct us on who should teach and preach (1 Tim. 2:9-14; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Tim. 2:1-2; Titus 1:5-9; James 3:1) before jumping to these descriptive examples which are set in unidealistic times.
Second, we must not equate prophecy with preaching. Prophecy is receiving direct revelation from God and saying, “Thus says the Lord!” Preaching is publicly explaining the divine revelation which has been inscripturated so that the hearers will accept it. I hold the position that the gifts of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 have ceased. Dr. Sam Waldron promotes the cascade argument with which I am in agreement. He argues that since the gift of Apostles has ceased, then there are no gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues, or miraculous healing. Therefore, a woman open-air preacher is not a prophetess like Deborah. She is not receiving new divine revelation. Due to this distinction, it is inappropriate to parallel Deborah’s ministry with women open-air preachers.
Third, Deborah’s ministry has a different context than open-air preaching. Verse 5 says, “She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.” This verse suggests that her ministry consisted of personal counseling to individuals who would seek her out for guidance from the Lord. While she is conducting the ministry outdoors, she is not going to the city gates to preach to the people a message of repentance. Her ministry is dissimilar from preaching.
Fourth, God judges Barak for not leading as a man should. He asks Deborah to come with him to the battle. Apparently, he received comfort in having her present. This suggests passive, cowardly leadership. Because he did not embrace his responsibilities to lead as a man, God gave the glory of winning the battle to a woman. Ultimately, this main point undermines women preachers. The consistent teaching in Scripture is that men should lead God’s people into worship and into spiritual battle. As Genesis 3 teaches us, Satan keeps trying to reverse the roles. This contributed to the uncertain circumstances in the book of Judges.
2. The Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42)
In John 4, Jesus has a gospel conversation with a Samaritan woman. He turns the conversation to the gospel by offering living water which will bring eternal life. Then, Jesus demonstrates His deity by communicating the woman’s personal history with men. She quickly transitions the conversation to a dialogue on worship. Jesus responds in verse 24, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Afterwards Jesus gives a positive declaration that He is the Christ.
The woman leaves Jesus to go back to the town after the disciples arrive. She goes with haste to tell the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” Many of the townspeople go to find Jesus. The Lord provides an impromptu retreat where He teaches them the Scriptures for two days.
Advocates of women open-air preachers say that this is an example of a female preaching. She went to a public place in the community and ordered the people to come and see Jesus. Her announcement is public and regards spiritual matters. Therefore, the Samaritan woman gives female Christians an example to follow by preaching the gospel.
There are three reasons to reject this interpretation. First, the Samaritan woman’s example is descriptive and not prescriptive. John narrates the woman’s actions, but this should not be taken as a command or justification for women to preach.
Second, the Samaritan woman does not preach but testifies. She does not open the Scriptures to “rightly divide the Word of truth.” Instead, she comes back from the well excited since Jesus told her specific details about her life. Now she is telling the people to go to this same Jesus. It would be similar to a woman telling a group of people about the impact the Bible has had on her. She excitedly encourages everyone else to read it too. We certainly would not consider this testimony to be preaching since it is not an authoritative delivery of God’s Word. On the contrary, the woman is directing people to read the Word. They are to go hear Jesus’ voice in the Scriptures.
Third, Jesus is the preacher in the passage and not the woman. The townspeople go to Jesus and not the woman to receive instruction. Jesus spends two days with them to open up the Scriptures. In verse 42, the people said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” Her testimony did not bring them to saving faith. Now they believe, because they have heard directly from Jesus’ mouth.
3. Philip’s Daughters (Acts 21:7-14)
Paul and Luke find hospitality in Philip the evangelist’s house when they arrive in Caesarea. Luke mentions that Philip had four daughters. He notes that all of them prophesied. After a few days, another prophet named Agabus comes from Judea. He prophesied that the Jews in Jerusalem “‘will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” Of course, this predicts Paul’s imprisonment and relocation to Rome in order to stand trial before Caesar.
This passage illustrates the prophetic ministry. The Holy Spirit gave Agabus a message to speak to Paul. This message tells of future events which only the Lord could know. Therefore, the prophetic gift is different from preaching and teaching. It requires God to set aside a person to receive ongoing authoritative revelation from Him. Since the prophet’s message is from the Lord, then it is binding upon the recipients’ conscience.
A person cannot appeal to women prophets in Scripture to justify women open-air preachers without making category errors. The Greek word for prophesied means, “to speak under the influence of divine inspiration, with or without reference to future events” according to Louw-Nida. In contrast, preaching is not giving new special revelation. Instead, preaching publicly proclaims what God has already revealed in His Word.
This means to appeal to prophetesses in Scripture to support women preachers is poor exegesis. Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), and Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14) are not examples of women preaching. Instead, they held an office which is no longer in effect. With the completion of the canon, prophecy has ceased. The Scriptures are the sufficient revelation for any believer in Jesus Christ. Consequently, the prophetesses’ examples cannot be applied to the ongoing debate of women open-air preachers.
In the previous two blog posts, we examined Biblical arguments for only having qualified men preach in the open-air. In this third installment, we will study the teaching and practice of George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon.
Before we look at their ministry, we must remember their historical context. These men lived in a day where the question of women preachers was rarely addressed. I have not found in their writings or secondary sources where the question of women open-air preachers is specifically answered. Since they lived in a period before the prevalence of feminism, they either did not think about this question, or it was not important enough to address.
If Whitefield and Spurgeon did not address this question, then why are we reviewing their material? Both men had clear teachings on who should preach in a worship service in a church. Nowhere did they argue that women could preach. Also in their writings, they referred to open-air preaching as a service. In their understanding, preaching outdoors is the same as the worship on Sunday morning in a church. Therefore, it is appropriate to apply their understanding that only men can preach in church to open-air preaching as well.
I am arguing that these men would apply the principles of 1 Timothy 2:12 to open-air preaching since they considered it to be a worship service. To support this position, we will review the reasons why these men preached outdoors and examine their understanding of the open-air service.
A. Reasons Why Whitefield and Spurgeon Open-Air Preached
1. Did the location have a church building?
In Arnold Dallimore’s biography on George Whitefield, he referred to The Church of England’s policy on preaching outdoors. It “did not entirely prohibit out-of-doors preaching, but actually allowed it where no church was available, and it was on this principle that missionaries to primitive peoples, had always acted” (George Whitefield Vol. 1, pg. 250).
On this basis, Whitefield preached his first open-air sermon at Kingswood to two hundred people. Since the location did not have a church, then Whitefield did not have to ask permission from church authorities to preach there.
2. Did the churches refuse to allow Whitefield to preach in them?
After using the previous principle to start preaching outdoors, Whitefield expanded it to areas where the local churches declined to open their buildings to him. Dallimore wrote, “…he had developed the idea that in any instance in which he requested the use of a church for his evangelistic and charitable purposes and it was refused, he might look upon that area as in the same category as Kingswood, and that he would be within his rights in entering it and preaching there out of doors” (George Whitefield Vol. 1, pg. 257).
If God did not give Whitefield the use of a church building, then He gave him the use of the open-air to conduct services.
3. Was the crowd too large for the church building?
Griffith Jones, a Welsh pastor in the 18th century, was a trailblazer in open-air preaching. Many times he took his church services outdoors due to the crowds. Dallimore commented, “…whenever they were too many to be accommodated within the building he transferred the service to the churchyard or an adjacent field” (George Whitefield Vol. 1, pg. 260).
God blessed Charles Spurgeon with the same problem. Spurgeon’s autobiography recounts a visit to Scotland. The editor wrote, “The new church could not hold the multitude of people who came to hear, so Mr. Spurgeon kindly said that he would preach in the open air, and the 17th of May proved to be the first lovely summer day of the season. (C.H. Spurgeon Autobiography: Volume 2, pg. 254).
4. Are there people who would not come to church to hear the gospel preached?
In Spurgeon’s Lectures to His Students, he references to people “who have not fit clothes to worship in…” with garments “so filthy, so odorous, so unapproachable, that the greatest philanthropist and the most leveling democrat might desire to have a little space between himself and their lively individualities” (Lectures to His Students, pg. 269). These citizens either do not have appropriate clothes to meet their standard for attending church, or their filthy rags would embarrass them.
Spurgeon gives another reason for why a person may not come to the service. “There are others who, whatever raiment they wear, would not go into a chapel upon any consideration, for they consider it to be a sort of punishment to attend divine service” (Lectures to His Students, pg. 269). These individuals had distasteful memories from their previous church attendance.
What was his solution? Take the service to the people. “The open-air evangelist frequently picks up these members of the ‘no church’ party, and in so doing he often finds some of the richest gems that will at last adorn the Redeemer’s crown…” (Lectures to His Students, pg. 269). This is why Spurgeon recommends a young pastor to start open-air preaching when he moves to a town to take his charge (Lectures to His Students, pg. 274-275). He proposes that pastors in large towns should “find a vacant spot where you can obtain a right to hold services at your pleasure” (Lectures to His Students, pg. 274-275).
In Whitefield and Spurgeon’s minds, open-air preaching is a service. For the reasons listed above, a preacher takes the service outdoors. He leads the worship of the people through the preaching of the Word. Since it is a worship service, then their prohibition of women preaching in a worship service would apply.
B. Whitefield and Spurgeon’s Understanding of the Open-Air Preaching Service
1. Both men incorporated congregational singing.
Whitefield chronicled in his journal about a service he held at Kennington Common. He wrote, “All stood attentive, and joined in the Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer most regularly” (George Whitefield Vol. 1, pg. 289). Whitefield took Psalm singing and reciting the Lord’s Prayer outdoors since he considered the gathering to be a worship service to God.
When Spurgeon preached outdoors on September 10, 1862 in Cheddar, he began the service with a hymn. Pastor T. B. Field wrote down his eye witness account. “A temporary platform had been erected for the preacher, and Spurgeon commenced the service by saying, ‘Let us make these old rocks resound to the praise of God.’ The first hymn was, ‘All people that on earth do dwell’; and another that was sung was, ‘Rock of ages, cleft for me.’” (C.H. Spurgeon Autobiography: Volume 2, pg. 90). Spurgeon viewed his open-air preaching as being a service. He approached the worship as if he was leading the congregation at The Tabernacle.
2. Whitefield only allowed ordained men to preach with one exception.
George Whitefield applied the same standard to preaching indoors and outdoors. Only ordained men could preach. Dallimore wrote, “Whitefield did not favour lay preaching. In the exalted views that he held of the Christian ministry, he placed strong emphasis on the necessity of the Divine call, on adequate preparation and on ordination” (George Whitefield Vol. 1, pg. 304). Whitefield only made one exception to this rule. His friend, Howell Harris, sought ordination several times through the Church of England, but they denied him since he was with the Methodists. Whitefield declared that God had ordained him even if the church would not recognize it.
While I do not take Whitefield’s strict view on who can preach, it shows that he did not have separate standards. He had the same qualifications for preaching in a church building or for preaching outdoors. Since he viewed both as worship services, then he applied the same credentials. During this time, The Church of England did not ordain women to preach. Therefore, we can conclude that Whitefield would not permit women to open-air preach since they are not allowed to preach in a church.
3. Spurgeon referred to the open-air meetings as a service.
In a chapter on open-air preaching, Spurgeon gave advice on the preacher’s placement in respect to the sun. “Practiced preachers do not care to have the sun directly in their face if they can help it, neither do they wish their hearers to be distressed in like manner, and therefore they take this item into consideration when arranging for a service” (Lectures to His Students, pg. 274). He refers to the open-air preaching event as a service. The man is leading the people to worship Christ by faith.
In Spurgeon’s chapter on the history of open-air preaching, he quotes an account from the famous outdoor sermon involving John Livingstone in Scotland. In the days leading up to the sermon, “There had been many of them there together for several days before the sacrament, hearing sermons, and joining together in larger or lesser companies, in prayer, praise, and spiritual conferences” (Lectures to His Students, pg. 251). These outdoor meetings had all of the elements of worship. Instead of holding a conference in a church building, they worshiped under God’s glorious sky. Spurgeon would agree with the assessment that open-air preaching is a service.
4. Spurgeon referred to the preacher’s location as a pulpit.
Spurgeon recounts Whitefield’s first open-air preaching sermon at Kingswood. Since Whitefield went to preach in the field, Spurgeon commented, “Now he was the owner of a pulpit that no man could take from him and his heart rejoiced in this great gift” (Lectures to His Students, pg. 257-258).
Besides going to a field, a preacher can find an unusual portable pulpit. Spurgeon described Gideon Ouseley’s ministry by writing, “His pulpit was generally the back of his horse…” Lectures to His Students, pg. 260).
By using the language of a pulpit, Spurgeon links the preaching in a church building as being the same as preaching in the open-air. At the Tabernacle, Spurgeon’s pulpit stood powerfully at the center. This continued the protestant reformed tradition that the preached word is the center of worship and not the Lord’s Supper. This background illuminates how Spurgeon connected open-air preaching with conducting a worship service.
Whitefield and Spurgeon never conducted a church or an open-air service with a woman preacher. Since they believed that women could not teach or have authority over men, then they only allowed men to preach in public worship. They did not invite women to open-air preach because they understood the meetings as being a worship service. Therefore, these great preachers would not permit women to open-air preach.
In my previous post, I argued that the creation order forbids women from preaching during a worship service and outside during an evangelistic event. I examined passages from Genesis 2, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, Ephesians 5:25-27, and 1 Peter 3:1-6 which consistently cite the creation order as justification for separate roles for men and women. The Bible does not give an exception clause where this principle is not applied on the street corner. If a woman is not to teach her believing husband, unbelieving husband, and men in the church, then why is she to preach to unbelieving men outside of the church?
In this post, I will be scrutinizing a false assumption. When a person argues that a woman cannot preach in a church on Sunday, but they can open-air preach outside the ballgame on Saturday, then they are assuming that those two preaching ministries are intrinsically different. This creates two classes of preachers based upon context. Therefore, they must conclude that open-air preachers have different qualifications from Sunday indoor preachers since they are preaching outdoors. This allows the qualification of being a man to be removed from the list.
However, the Bible does not make this distinction. Preaching is preaching. Whether a person preaches in the pulpit or on the street corner, the qualifications should be the same. If preaching is the public proclamation of God’s Word in order to urge individuals to accept it, then context does not change the qualifications. If a person is not qualified to preach in the pulpit, then he should not be preaching on the street. Therefore, a woman should not open-air preach since she is not allowed to preach during the worship service.
By looking at five categories from the Bible, I will show that God does not create a false dichotomy between indoor and outdoor preaching. Indoor preaching on Sunday is the public proclamation of the Scriptures. It is not private instruction for only Christians. All people are welcome to hear the Word of God preached just as all individuals are invited to hear the Scriptures proclaimed on the city square. Since all preaching requires a herald to publicly proclaim God’s Word, then preaching is the same event without distinction to time, place, or audience.
1. Moses is proclaimed in the synagogues.
Acts 15:21 states, “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
The word, proclaim, is the Greek word, κηρύσσω. Louw and Nida defines it as “to publicly announce religious truths and principles while urging acceptance and compliance.” This is the main word translated as “preaching” or “proclaiming” in the New Testament. The word, εὐαγγελίζω, which means “to communicate good news concerning something” can also be translated as “preach.” Finally, the word for teach is διδάσκω which refers to “formal or informal instruction” and is translated as “teach”. This word is not translated as “preach” in the New Testament. The Scriptures distinguish between preaching and teaching. They are not synonymous activities.
Why do I make this distinction? Preaching is inherently public. κηρύσσω refers to public proclamation in every use. In Acts 15:21, the counsel at Jerusalem cites the ancient practice of Scripture reading in the synagogues. Luke uses the word for public proclamation even though the Scriptures were being read in the synagogue building. Reading from the Pentateuch was a public and not a private activity even though it took place in a building.
2. Jesus’ disciples proclaim in the communities.
Luke 9:2 states, “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.”
Jesus sends His disciples to the communities to proclaim the Gospel. The same word from Acts 15:21 is used here. Jesus commands them to publicly announce the Gospel message and implore people to accept it. If they do not believe, then they are to shake off the dust of their feet as a testimony against the people.
Jesus only sent the twelve men to perform this task. He did not send out women to minister across the town in order to publicly call sinners to Jesus Christ. Elsewhere in the New Testament, κηρύσσω and εὐαγγελίζω are not used to describe women. Men are the only ones who preach evangelistically in a community or to the local church.
Acts 8:5-8 says, “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.”
After the persecution in Jerusalem, Philip travels to Samaria to publicly plead with the citizens to believe in Jesus Christ. Luke does not record if Philip’s preaching took place outside or in a building. These details are not necessary. His point is that God used Philip to preach, which by definition is a public ministry.
3. Paul proclaims the Gospel.
In Acts 9:20, the new convert Saul, who is called Paul, publicly preaches Christ. “And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’” The same word, κηρύσσω, is translated as “proclaimed.” This word refers to a herald announcing the words of a King in public. He is the sovereign’s mouthpiece to inform the public of the king’s decree. In the same way, Paul entered the synagogue to proclaim the true way of salvation to the Jews who were persecuting Christians.
In Acts 20:25, Luke uses the same word to describe Paul’s ministry to the Ephesians. “And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.” In his farewell address, Paul testifies that he ministered the whole counsel of God to the Ephesians. He publicly proclaimed Christ to the city which created a remnant as a church. Then, he continued to publicly preach to those Christians about the Scriptures.
These two instances show that the changing contexts did not create two forms of preaching. In Acts 9:20, Paul preached to unbelieving Jews in a synagogue. In Acts 20:25, Paul testifies to preaching to the Christians in Ephesus. The time, place, and audience did not change the definition of preaching. It is a public proclamation of God’s Word with the aim of imploring the hearers to accept it. Paul did not embrace a dichotomy in preaching based upon the circumstances of the sermon delivered.
4. Paul commands Timothy to preach the gospel.
2 Timothy 4:1-2 says, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
In Paul’s last epistle, he continued to disciple Timothy. He has entrusted him with the Gospel message in order to preach. Timothy is to find other men who he can disciple and train for the gospel ministry as well (2 Tim. 2:2). These men are to imitate Paul and Timothy by teaching the gospel to others. In Paul’s discipleship program, he requires the faithful men who are students to become teachers.
When Paul chooses the next generation of preachers, he does not select any women. His pastoral epistles are directed to Timothy and Titus. They are required to find faithful men to lead the church as elders and to become teachers of the gospel. Paul commands Timothy to preach the Word of God. This is central to the gospel ministry. However, he does not give instructions for Timothy to find women to preach the gospel. The only reference to women teaching takes place in Titus 2. It is the context of older women teaching the younger women to be godly wives and mothers. The charge of public proclamation is only given to faithful men like Timothy.
5. John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed the gospel.
In Matthew 3:1, John the Baptist preached the gospel outdoors. “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea…” As the forerunner to the coming Messiah, he publicly proclaimed the message of repentance and faith to the Jews.
When the Messiah came, he continued to preach the same message under different circumstances. Unlike John, Jesus proclaimed the gospel in the Jewish synagogues. Luke 4:4 says, “And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” Jesus’ preaching ministry included open-air in Matthew 5-7 and in the religious establishment’s house of worship. In both contexts, Jesus kept the same message and method of delivery. He preached the Word publicly, so that the audience would accept it.
John the Baptist’s preaching and Jesus’ proclamation contained the same elements. First, they both preached the gospel message. Second, God had sent both to preach. Third, they declared these truths publicly. The society considered the synagogue to be a public place. Fourth, they urged their hearers to accept the message. These elements were present in both ministries. Therefore, there are not two separate categories of preaching.
The Bible does not teach that a person can both be disqualified from preaching in a worship service, and yet qualified to preach in the open-air. Instead, the Scriptures ask, “Are you qualified to preach?” Since the most common words for preach, κηρύσσω and εὐαγγελίζω, are not used to command or describe a woman engaging in this ministry, then a person must conclude that a woman must not preach. The time, location, or audience does not determine if a woman is qualified to preach. Contrary to society norms, God has not made women to preach. The Bible presents a preacher as a faithful, Christian man whom God has called and other men have affirmed to preach the gospel under all circumstances.
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.
In my previous blog post, I covered four ways in which an open-air preacher can be a glory thief. First, we rob God of His glory when we accept rather than deflect praise. Second, we are glory thieves when we praise other open-air preachers without referencing God. Third, we steal God’s praise when we try to solicit praise from others. Finally, we take away God’s honor when we engage in false humility. In this post, we will examine the last four actions that steal God’s glory.
5. We rob God of His glory when we take credit for conversions.
Ephesians 2:8 states that salvation is a “gift from God.” Through the preaching of the Word by regeneration of the Holy Spirit, a sinner is miraculously born again. God rips out their heart of stone and gives them a heart of flesh. While God has ordained men to preach the gospel so that people will be saved, our preaching does not cause regeneration. This is the Holy Spirit’s work. We rob the Holy Spirit of His glory when we boast of conversions as if we caused the person to come to Jesus. This comes out when a preacher has a running tally of conversions as if it is a notch on his belt. We must not take credit from the Holy Spirit for whom credit is due.
Our example is the unworthy servant in Luke 17:7-10. The servant who is off out in the field plowing or keeping the sheep comes in to serve his master. He provides a meal and will eat later once his master is finished. Does this servant deserve praise, honor, and glory since he is simply following the master’s orders? Jesus answers in verse 10. “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” If you are preaching the gospel on the streets, then praise God! However, you are simply following our Lord’s command to make disciples of all nations. I praise the Lord for your faithfulness, but it is the Lord who should be glorified.
When you are tempted to be puffed up with pride for the conversions in our outreaches, remember our Lord’s words from John 11:4. “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus allowed Lazarus to die so that He would be glorified through Lazarus’ resurrection. In the same way, Jesus allows us to participate in the salvation of sinners, so that He would receive the honor for saving the lost.
6. We rob God of His glory when we have unrighteous anger towards the apathetic.
There are few things which test the self-control of an eternally-minded man than apathy. Multitudes of people walk up and down the streets thinking about shopping, dinner, the football game, or their vacation plans. Yet, they have not considered how they will one day die and stand before the living God who is a consuming fire. When they walk by the preaching of God’s glorious Word which exalts Jesus Christ for His free offer of salvation, they do nothing. The apathetic person continues to live life as if death will never come.
As an open-air preacher, I am tempted to become irate. How is it that they will not listen? How are they so blind to their spiritual condition? How do they live as if death is a mirage? If you are like me, you may even become sick of preaching to the lethargic. You tell yourself that they do not deserve to listen to this good news. You just want to grab them and shake them out of their apathy. Has there been a time when you just stopped and packed up for the day due to your anger?
When we have unrighteous anger towards the apathetic, we forget the grace of God which opened our eyes. We rob glory from God for our conversions. We are not better than them. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” We too were apathetic towards the glorious riches of the gospel. If not for God’s gift, then we would walk by the preaching and do little more than yawn.
When we are tempted to steal God’s glory for converting us, then remember Paul’s writing to Titus. Chapter 3 and verse 3 states, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” Paul never forgot that he would still be a persecutor of Christians if God did not set His grace upon him. When we preach, we must remember that but for the grace of God we would be apathetic too. When we forget this truth, we steal God’s glory from our conversions.
7. We rob God of His glory when we tell outreach stories as if they are fish tales.
As open-air preachers, we generally enjoy fellowshipping at a restaurant after completing an outreach. On several occasions, the conversation will center on a specific doctrinal issue or a personal life situation which needs counsel. However, there are occasions when preachers will compare stories from past outreaches. This can turn into a competition over who has been persecuted the most. It is like a fish story which men tell at the coffee table. They bring up fishing expeditions from the past in order to show who is the manliest or has caught the largest fish.
In a similar vein, open-air preachers do this when their stories try to boost their credibility among the brethren instead of resulting in praise for God. In 1 Peter 1:7, Peter wrote, “So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” As evangelists, our faith will be tested through the trials of persecution. The details may be different, but we share in being vilified for proclaiming Christ and Him crucified. When we tell these stories, may our goal be to bring praise and glory and honor to Christ. Refuse to give into the temptation to make you the hero of the story. Instead, make Christ the hero since He protected you from the trials of persecution for His glory.
8. We rob God of His glory when we have unnecessary division.
When ministering with other brothers, there are appropriate times to divide. If a preacher has fallen into the error of Pelagianism (denying that humans are born with a sin nature), then you must part ways. If a brother refuses to come under the authority of a local church by becoming a member, then you must warn him and move on. If a preacher continues to listen to heretical televangelists despite your warnings, then you can no longer partner together. While these division are necessary, others are based upon pride, personality differences, or immaturity.
Romans 15:5-6 says, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul exhorts the Romans to live in harmony. By doing so, it will lead them to glorify God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ with one voice and not many. The opposite would be true as well. When we divide over unnecessary reasons, then we are not able to glorify God with one voice. We do it with many. This robs God of the glory of seeing His servants united in praising Him. Our preferences become more important than glorifying Jesus Christ.
If you have separated from a brother, what was the reason? Was it over bad doctrine? Or did he rub you the wrong way? Were you fighting over who would be the leader of the outreach? Did you have a miscommunication which led to a dispute? Did you offer forgiveness and reconciliation? Or did you move in bitterness? If you are a younger man, did you split from an older mentor because you were tired of being told what to do? Or you did not like his methodology? Did you stop because he gave constructive feedback on your sermon? Or he told you that you should not preach until you matured in the faith by conquering certain habitual sins?
There are many wrong reasons for division but there is only one who deserves all praise, glory, and honor. As ambassadors of Jesus Christ, may we not forget that our end goal is to bring glory to our Lord and Savior. May 1 Timothy 1:17 be the cry of our hearts so that we are not guilty of being a glory thief:
“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History and from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity. He is a PhD student in Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City and an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. In April 2016 Brandon accepted the call to pastor at Faith Baptist. He loves history and reading and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.