I talked to a pastor last month and he wanted to know if open-air preaching is the most effective way to reach people in America. He wasn’t belittling street preaching. This pastor was genuinely questioning and thinking about this as he asked the question out loud. This pastor is a former missionary. He has done open-air preaching himself, but never in America. He has seen people come to salvation right on the spot after hearing the Gospel proclaimed in the open, but again, that wasn’t here in America. His thought was that Americans have already heard the Gospel. So he truly wonders if it is the most effective method to reach Americans.
I can’t say that it is the most effective way, but I can say that it is a way. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23: To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
Open-air preaching is one way to reach the lost. So why wouldn’t we do open-air preaching? It is one of many evangelistic tools. Is it more effective than tracts? Is it more effective than one to one witnessing? Is it more effective than inviting people to church? Is it more effective than holding signs? Is it more effective than witnessing through social media? Is it more effective than sidewalk messages? Is it more effective than yard signs? Is it more effective than prayer booths? Is it more effective than bumper stickers?
Is open-air preaching the most effective method? I don’t know that it is the most effective way, but it is one of many ways to reach the lost and it is biblical. We are called to preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Jesus said what you hear in the ear, preach from the housetops (Matthew 10:27). Everywhere Jesus went, He preached the Gospel (Luke 8:1). The Son of God also sent His disciples out two by two and they preached that men should repent (Mark 6:12). The apostle Paul also preached the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Open-Air preaching is biblical and we should still lift up the name of Jesus in the streets like a trumpet. On December 12, 2014 several friends and I were street witnessing in downtown Springfield, MO. We were street preaching and a car drove by with the passenger window down. The name of Jesus was being lifted up on a street corner and one of the guys in the car yelled out “what about Mohammad?” Aaron said something to the young man. They pulled around the corner and walked over to us and Aaron had a great conversation with these two Muslims for over an hour. They even agreed to meet with him at a later date to continue their discussion.
Then while Aaron was open-air preaching, I got into a conversation with a couple of teenagers. One of them just wanted to talk about marijuana and why God would have made it if He didn’t intend for people to get high. I pointed out to him that God also made poison ivy, but you never hear about anyone smoking it. I tried to explain to him that we live in a fallen world and that we have a sin problem (Genesis 3).
In the meantime I was trying to talk to the other young man and I asked him if it bothered him if he died tonight that he would go to Hell? He said yes, it bothers him. We talked some more and he basically believes that as long as you are “saved” then you can be a homosexual, drunkard, drug addict or whatever habitual sinner that you want to be and that you will still go the Heaven after you die. I couldn’t get him to see that when God saves you, He changes you! When you are truly saved, you become a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
After a while this young man told me that his brother does this. I said does what? Then he said that his brother street preaches too. I asked him what his brother’s name is and he said Tyler. I then asked him if his name is Cody and he said yes. I then told him that I pray for him; that he’s on my prayer list. (I pray for his salvation). His eyes got real big and he was really surprised to hear this. In six years of street witnessing, I’ve never witnessed to someone “randomly” on the street that I actually pray for. We serve an awesome God! I don’t know if open-air preaching is the most effective method of evangelism, but it is a method and it is biblical. So I personally will continue this form of evangelism in addition to many other methods.