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.
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.