“I believe I never was more acceptable to my Master than when I was standing to teach those hearers in the open fields…I now preach to ten times more people than I would if I had been confined to the churches.” -George Whitfield
My friend Steve McCoy has been wrestling with something for awhile. We’ve talked about it some privately, and my heart has been captured by what he’s been thinking. I’ve begun thinking about it too…
Today he posted an article on his blog that lays a challenge out there to pastors like me: What if evangelicals hit America with 200, or 500, or 1,000 theologically strong, gospel-centered pastors who start preaching in open-air and public places in their cities, beyond their Sunday morning worship services, at least once a week for the rest of 2011? What would happen?
To the modern ear, this sounds almost ridiculous. Preach in a public place? Who would do something like that? In fact, the suggestion probably brings to mind the image of someone with a bullhorn, yelling angrily at people as they walk buy, maybe even carrying a large sign with phrases like “God hates sin” or “Turn or burn”. But that is not what Steve is talking about.
For centuries, it was common for preachers to proclaim the gospel in the public square – Wesley, Whitfield, Spurgeon… great men of God like these and many more spoke plainly of Jesus and his work of salvation to many who would come to listen.
In more recent years, evangelicals have adopted an almost exclusively slow and private approach to sharing their faith – build a friendship, earn trust, and look for opportunities to speak about Jesus. This is good and right – we should do this, and far more often than we currently do. But it’s not the only way…
I’m excited to think about what might happen if winsome, theologically sound, humble, prayerful, Spirit-dependant men of God took the challenge to find a way to begin to preach publicaly – what might God be pleased to do?
Not angry, unnecessarily controversial preaching – but the firm news of our sin and the gracious news of the gospel proclaimed with gentleness, passion, and love.
Not setting up a step stool right outside a restaurants patio seating and disrupting people’s meals, but finding a public setting in which those who wanted to listen could, and those who would rather not can continue on.
I want to be a part of this, and am praying about what God might have me do. I can think of a million excuses not to do anything like this, but at the end of the day most of them come down to my own insecurities, fear of men, and wanting the approval of others. I’ve tried, but I don’t think God is going to let me neglect his prompting because “it makes me uncomfortable”.
So what do you think? How and where could this work? Is it a dream dependent on a culture that no longer exists, or is there a way to make it work today?