Being a modern-day open-air preacher in the United States carries a lot of unwanted baggage.
March 11, 2021
Let me tell you about a very personal and memorable incident in my life. On December 5, 2004, I turned fifty-five. A month earlier, a friend called from Texas and asked if he could fly to California to take me and my wife, Sue, to a “nice restaurant” for my birthday. It seemed a little strange, but I said that would be fine. He also said he had a gift for me that he wanted to hand-deliver.
For the next month, Sue and I were trying to guess why he had to hand-deliver a gift. There was nothing in this world that I wanted or even needed. Kirk knew what the gift was, but he wouldn’t tell me. He just said, “You will never guess what it is!”
Each weekday for the previous 20 months, my son-in-law, E.Z., and I preached the gospel to a line of people who stood outside of a courthouse. These were different folks every day who came from different walks of life. They were accused of misdemeanor crimes and were waiting to see the judge. My Texas friend asked if he could come to hear the preaching and film it as well.
On Friday, December 3, there were about ten people crowded into my office waiting to pray before we preached. These included another out-of-town friend who had come to hear the preaching; my two sons, Jacob and Daniel (who didn’t normally come to hear us speak); a few other members of the staff; and, for some reason, the director/producer of our TV show who showed up with a shoulder camera. It seemed a little strange, but I didn’t give it much thought. I had enough on my mind because in three minutes I would be preaching.
Moments later, I was standing in front of a crowd, collecting my thoughts, when my youngest son, Daniel (who was in his late 20s), said to me, “Don’t worry about it, Dad. Jacob and I will take it from here.” I said, “Huh?” He added, “Jacob and I will preach this morning…why do you think all these people and these cameras are here?” He immediately walked toward the waiting crowd.
My Texas friend then stuffed a packet of tissues into my hand and walked off. I sat down and stared in unbelief at my son as he introduced himself to the crowd and began preaching.
I must explain something to you at this point. My wife was born in England. She is typically English—quiet and shy. She got that disposition from her parents, and my boys have inherited the same disposition. So for them to get up and preach open-air to strangers took a great deal of courage. Believe me, I know what it takes. The first time I ever stood up and preached open-air, I was terrified. But this was worse. I was alone when I preached for the first time. They had the added pressure of preaching in front of their dad (and their mom, who was watching from a distance), in front of members of our staff, and with two cameras rolling. I was very nervous for them.
“Let gratitude fuel you to reach out to the unsaved—those who will end up in Hell if they die in their sins without the Savior.”
After Daniel had faithfully gone through the Commandments and the reality of Judgment Day, he said to the listening crowd, “I will now hand it over to my brother, Jacob, who will share the good news with you.” Jacob then stepped forward and preached the gospel.
A month earlier, my Texas friend had called them and said that he had a gift in mind for their dad, and wondered if they would be willing to help him give it to me. They both just about died when he asked them to preach open-air as a birthday present to me, but immediately agreed to do it. The interesting thing was that both of them said that God had already been speaking to them about having more of a concern for the lost. As I sat and listened to them preach, I nearly burst with pride, and I did use the tissues to wipe away tears of joy.
Kirk was right. There was no way I could have guessed what the gift would be. This was infinitely better than a new car, a world trip, or a cash donation to our ministry. As we walked away from the courts, Jacob smiled and said, “After today, the rest of my life will be a piece of cake.”
Here is my point. If my shy boys can open-air preach to strangers, you can do one-to-one. Do it as a “gift” to your heavenly Father. Present your body as a present to God, “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Let gratitude fuel you to reach out to the unsaved—those who will end up in Hell if they die in their sins without the Savior.
Compel them to come in. Let urgency drive you. Do all you can to be the best you can, to reach as many as you can…and the way to do that is to simply do what Jesus did.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Only by imitating the spirit and the manner of the Lord Jesus shall we become wise to win souls.”