Pastoral ministry is fatiguing. Between sermon preparation, visitations, funerals, weddings, counseling, church programs, and elders’ meetings, a pastor has an overbooked week. This does not include the time that he should spend with his family. As a pastor, I sympathize with your hectic schedule. However, I also know how easy it is for us to prioritize our favorite and most comfortable activities during the week. For many pastors, open-air preaching would be a stretching experience since it requires us to interact with rebellious sinners. In contrast, sermon preparation does not bring you face to face with the fear of man. It is easy to use your other responsibilities as an excuse to avoid committing to this evangelistic task.
This is my exhortation to pastors. Set aside one hour per week to open-air preach in your community. Make a commitment between you and the Lord to go to the same location at the same time to preach the gospel. As pastors, we spend countless hours preparing to preach. Yet, we may only proclaim God’s truth 35-45 minutes a week. By taking up this challenge, you will be an even better steward of the preaching gift which God has given you. Beside this outcome, your time investment in this endeavor will grow you as a preacher and as a fervent pursuer of the lost. Here are my first four reasons for making a commitment to open-air preach regularly.
1. Open-Air Preaching Helps Kills the Fear of Man
The pressures of being a pastor can feed the fear of man. A vocational elder depends upon the church for his salary, housing, and insurance. These realities can influence a pastor to seek appeasement when there is conflict in the church. If he gains value and worth from being accepted, then he will try to avoid these hard conversations. He may shy away from the difficult Biblical texts which could upset a section of the church. While this is not common in all pastors, the temptation to fear man due to these circumstances is always present.
Matthew 10:28 says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” When a man open-air preaches, he confronts the fear of man straight on. It forces you to die to your reputation. The people will say, “What is he doing? He is crazy!” You must die to being wise. The passers-by will think that you are a fool. When you do it in your own community, then your friends and acquaintances will see you. After you preach to your insurance man on the town square, you will have to look at him in the eye when you go to renew your policy. By weekly confronting this fear, the Lord will use it to grow in fearing Him.
2. Open-Air Preaching Helps You Be a Good Steward
According to 1 Timothy 3:2, a pastor must be “able to teach.” If you went to Bible college or seminary, then you have taken several classes on preaching. Besides this, you have honed your homiletical skills by preaching hundreds of sermons. God has gifted you to preach His truth, and He has given you opportunities to become seasoned. In contrast, a lay open-air preacher does not have these advantages. Usually he has not taken any classes on preaching, and he has not had a regular preaching ministry in a church. With your gift in communication, I would encourage you to exercise your skills in proclaiming the gospel on the street corner.
3. Open-Air Preaching Will Improve Your Preaching
When I went to seminary, I took three classes on preaching. The professors helped me to develop logical outlines, engaging illustrations, and clear oratory skills. When I started doing pulpit supply, the mechanics of preaching overwhelmed the message which I tried to communicate. I concentrated on being so precise that it took away my effectiveness. I would manuscript my sermons, and then I would try to memorize them thought by thought. This made me stiff and languid in the pulpit. Open-air preaching forced me to move away from a scripted sermon. While I had an outline in my head, I gained the freedom to concentrate on preaching the message of the cross.
Some pastors are still tied down to their manuscript and notes. This causes them to have very little eye contact with their congregation. It results in making their sermon unpassionate. Open-air preaching will force these pastors to learn how to preach without a manuscript. It will improve their ability to speak extemporaneously and to connect with people through eye contact. These skills are transferable to your pulpit ministry. If you are a preaching professor, it is my contention that open-air preaching should be required in any entry level seminary preaching class. When preaching seminars combine the sermon outline skills from a class with outdoor preaching, then it brings together logic and fire.
4. Open-Air Preaching Sets an Example to Your Church
In several places, Paul exhorts Christians to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14;) In Second Thessalonians 3:7-9, Paul commands them to imitate his hard work. While Paul could take financial contributions for being a preacher of the Gospel, he worked in order to give them an example. In the same way, a pastor sets an example to his flock. While you may not publicly call them to imitate you, the sheep will subconsciously look to you. Your strengths will become the church’s. At the same time, your weaknesses will be imitated by the flock.
When a pastor makes evangelistic outreach a priority, it sets a good example to his church members. Seeking and saving the lost becomes part of the DNA of the body. Pastor, if your church is weak on evangelism, is it following your lead? If the congregation is afraid of sharing the Gospel with others, has it adopted your fears? If this is the state of your church, then make a commitment to lead. Go preach the gospel on the streets! By asking the congregation to pray for your outreaches, it will keep evangelism on its mind. By being faithful in open-air preaching, it will challenge others to boldly evangelize with you. The sheep will only go to the lost if their shepherd is leading the way.
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.