The following is a transcript of the video.
Today, I’m going to be talking about open-air preaching and I’m going to hit an overview. So I’m going to go fast. I’m going to hit some highlights, mainly the things that made a difference in my life, in my experience of doing open-air preaching, what got me past the real obstacles, what those obstacles were. So hopefully, we’re going to do that.
I’m really glad and happy to be able to share these things with you. I just turned 60 this year so I’m happy to be anywhere. And I’ve been preaching the gospel in my community on Friday nights, every Friday night. It’s going on 10 years now and I don’t know how that happened, but it did. And with Ray down at Huntington Beach every Saturday.
Open-Air Evangelism is Normal
So I want to direct your attention, kinda set the tone for open-air preaching. And in Isaiah chapter 58 is one scripture. Verse 1, it says, “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgressions.” This is the command of God to His prophets and saints. And there’s another one that struck me as so pertinent to open-air preaching and the times we live in. I think it’s very appropriate. This is in Jeremiah 23:17 and forward where God is talking about the prophets in those days who He didn’t send and they weren’t speaking His counsel and His words, and this is His complaint against them.
And then he gets to this verse, verse 22 and boy, I circled it and colored it. “But if they had stood in My counsel and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.” And that’s what I and everybody at Living Waters and all of us really have in mind is to stand in the gap, so to speak, to proclaim the things of God. We can’t change people, but God’s Word never goes out void. He can change them. And so what we’re talking about here is the open proclamation of God’s Word and let God do the rest.
So why do open-air preaching? I always like to start there. Certainly, you’ve heard E.Z.: because we love God and we love our fellow men, the two greatest commandments. Also, because it is God’s normal method when you go through Scripture, when you walk through it and you see how God communicates His message through prophets and through people, through the spoken word. They didn’t have cell phones and the internet and all that stuff back then. Always, the message is communicated from one person to another. So it’s the normal method.
Open-air preaching, proclaiming things in the open and in public, is as old as the Bible itself. And you think of a few examples like Noah; 2 Peter 2:5, Noah was a preacher of righteousness. We wouldn’t have known that unless that was in there. But what a thought that he was preaching righteousness in the gospel, a man who was perfect in the eyes of God in his generations. Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, all preached in the streets, at the city gates where people gathered. Jonah was sent to Nineveh, 600,000 were converted. John the Baptist, all the region came out to see him, to hear what was being said. Peter preached, 3,000 were converted. Paul preached open-air from city to city, in the markets, in the synagogues, and you and I are a direct result of that preaching and proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.
But the greatest example of all is Jesus Christ Himself. Nearly all of His teachings were in the open-air, was open proclamation. So that’s all we’re talking about is just normal Christianity. It’s not something extraordinary. It’s the normal thing that we should be doing. And I hope to convince you of that right off the bat.
It’s a Command
The command. There’s a reason why we do this open-air preaching from a scriptural standpoint. We’re commanded to do so. Think of Mark 16:15, one of the scriptures that you always see attached with Living Waters. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” In 2 Timothy, “Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season.” That word preach I want to focus on. You see a definition of it. It’s the word “kérussó” and it means “to be a herald.” Now a herald was somebody that went out in the city. He had the message of the king and he was to proclaim it to all the people of the city so that they knew what the decree was from the king.
“There’s a reason why we do this open-air preaching from a scriptural standpoint. We’re commanded to do so.”
So it was in all authority and with a loud voice, open proclamation so that everybody could hear. It’s not something that was hid in the corner or passed from person to person till it filtered through everything. It was the loud proclamation, and that is the word that is used over 60 times, 95% of it is in the New Testament. Just every place where you see the word preach, it is talking about an open proclamation. It’s talking about being a herald. It’s talking about cry aloud with a loud voice, lift up your voice like a trumpet. It’s not the one-to-one witnessing that we are so used to thinking about. So that was really eye opening for me.
Let’s look at just a couple of those scriptures, Matthew 10:27. “What I tell you in darkness,” now this is Jesus speaking, “that speak in light and what you hear in the ear, preach, openly proclaim from the housetops.” There’s no question of what He means there. And He commanded us to preach unto the people and to testify that it is He, which was ordained of God to be a judge of the living and the dead, who commanded us to openly proclaim, to be a herald. 1 Corinthians 1:21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Boy, that takes on a bit of a different light.
“This is what’s normal, is the open proclamation of the Bible, so we need to get busy doing it.”
We look at the guy on the street corner last night, “You’re giving a bad name to Christ!” That was what was yelled at me from the lines at the theater and the guy was just talking, talking, talking. And you get that all the time. People have been conditioned to look at anybody that stands up and raises their voice like some kind of freak or something. This is the normal method that God has always used, so get used to it and change your paradigm, change your perspective and don’t be taken in by what Satan would have you believe and his control over the masses at all. This is what’s normal, is the open proclamation of the Bible, so we need to get busy doing it.
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” One who openly proclaims. “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful,’” this is from the Lord, “’How beautiful are the feet of them that openly proclaim the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!’” Boy, what a promise that is. What a reward it will be to be pleasing to the Lord. I don’t think there’s anything that will compare, not any kind of treasure or riches or anything as much as the approval of God. And here’s that promise for preaching.
Fear’s Many Deceptions
So what prevents us from standing up and openly proclaiming? Well, fear. Who doesn’t have fear? Who wants to stand up and make a spectacle of themselves, draw attention to themselves? The first thing that comes to mind, “Well, who are you? Who are you to say these things? Who are you to stand up like you’re some authority or something?” And on and on it goes, and you’re saying those things to yourself. I was talking before I came on. The root of fear is really pride. We’re concerned about how others perceive us, even if it’s other Christians that we might stumble them or “I might not do well” or “I might not remember a scripture or misquote it or stumble.” What’s that? That’s pride. And so that’s what really gets attacked is our pride. That’s a lot of where fear comes from.
So I want to talk about some things about overcoming fear. I first saw Ray do open-air preaching at 3rd Street Promenade. You heard he’s talked about that, and it was amazing. This was back in 2000. And what I saw both thrilled me and it scared me to death because I was not an open-air preacher—maybe I had seen others and I thought about it but I wasn’t capable of that. I didn’t have that kind of background. I didn’t know that much. Who was I? I’m still learning. I’m still reading. But it was amazing to see the things of God being spoken of openly out on the street, and there were hundreds at times that were gathered. It was thrilling, it was electric, it was open-air preaching.
And I saw that and I was thrilled to death and I thought to myself, “I could never do that.” And why did I say that? Because I sure did want to. I sure did want to be the guy that was standing for Christ, that was standing for God and saying something rather than holding back and sitting back and not saying anything, just going to church and the Bible studies and reading my Bible and not exercising the very things that I was commanded to do and learning to do. I didn’t know all this stuff I just shared with you but inside, if you’re born again, if you’re born of God, the Holy Spirit is bringing those things up all the time. I’m not really telling you anything new. I’m just affirming those very things that are inside that you’ve been hearing for a long time.
I know a lot of you are struggling with these things. So what I’m sharing here are my struggles because I’m a weak vessel and because I was scared to death and I didn’t think I could ever do this and I couldn’t see myself really doing it. Any time I would say something like that hanging around Ray, Ray would say, “You know what you just did?” “What?” He says, “You just qualified yourself.” God in His wisdom has chosen the weak things of the world and the base things and the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.
As I finally did get up on the box and of course, I was very nervous and everything, but I just had to go through the fear and get up there. And it was great because there were other people going out and so there was that support, and it made it a lot easier. But God began to speak to me about my community. And so I started to pray about it and lo and behold, a farmer’s market opened up because I thought, “No, where am I? I don’t have Third Street Promenade. I don’t have six million people coming through Covina every year.” So I set the bar way up and I realized most of us do that. We say, “Well, it’s not the right place,” or, “I live in a small town,” and things like that. God will use you if you’re available and wherever there’s people, that’s where you need to do this.
And so this farmer’s market opened up and I thought, “Yeah.” And then I thought, “No.” Because I had an excuse as long as it wasn’t the right place to do it. And so one by one, I saw my excuses just melt away to nothing because God had me on a particular path and I knew that he had opened this door for me to exercise what He’d been training me for in Santa Monica and hanging around Ray. But it’s one thing to get up and preach the gospel with a lot of other people. Everybody else is doing it. It’s another thing to go out by yourself. And I had bought a soapbox and an easel and flipchart and had never used it. I had it in the garage for quite some time, ready to go.
Ignore the Fear
I found myself one Friday night with my soapbox and easel on the way down to the farmer’s market. And as I was going, I couldn’t believe it, and how I was going to actually do it, I didn’t know. Each step was a major decision to take the next step but it was God, it was the Lord` Jesus Christ that encouraged me and got me to the next step until I found myself in the middle and I got up and opened my mouth and realized that none of my fears were true. It’s a straw man. It’s a paper lion that Satan and darkness holds in front of you saying you’re going to get eaten alive. But when you walk through it, you realize it’s nothing at all. And the only thing that’s stopping you is your pride, your fear. God will be with you and He was with me and He’s been with me ever since.
“The courageous are those who have fear and go through it and go past it. So it offers you the opportunity to stand up and to be courageous for God.”
Every time I get up on that box, I’m afraid and people a lot of times don’t believe me because they see me and it doesn’t look like that, but I am. I recently came across a picture of myself getting up on the box for the first time. My heart is pounding and the fear is changed. I’ve got a lot of experience but the fear never goes away. I prayed that it would. It never did and I said, “What’s going on?” And I realized the fear is what gives an opportunity for courage. The courageous are those who have fear and go through it and go past it. So it offers you the opportunity to stand up and to be courageous for God.
How many of you are fearful and have trembling and are afraid of doing open-air, standing? Everybody. Everybody should be raising their hand. You know what you’ve just done? That’s right. You qualified yourself to be an open-air preacher. So I want to see everybody down in Huntington Beach this afternoon. You can do it and it isn’t that big of an obstacle. I’ll show you an illustration in just a little bit. But a simple answer for overcoming fear. Ray has a saying. You know how Ray is. Well, here’s his saying: “Just ignore it and do it anyway.” Just ignore it. What? The fear. You make a decision not based on fear but on faith.
The Righteous Are Bold
Here’s another one. The next one is “The wicked flee when no man perceives, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” That one really helped me a lot. In this sense, I didn’t want to be acting like one of the wicked. The wicked will hear rumor of war in the street and they won’t go out the door to find out what’s going on. The wicked or criminals, they are in debt and everybody they meet, they think is a bill collector or they steal something and they’re paranoid that everybody they meet is a police officer undercover. I didn’t want to be acting like that. The righteous are bold as a lion. We have the Lion of the tribe of Judah; we’re supported by God. He upholds us with the right hand of His righteousness. And so that scripture was a help to me.
When you let fear rule your actions, it’s a betrayal of Him who has sent you. It is the opposite of faith. It is faithlessness. It is the opposite of trust. It is unbelief. The deceiver would have you look at yourself, but God would have you look at Him. “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness.” A sense of weakness causes us to go humbly, but drawing back because of weakness is no excuse at all. So just put that one aside.
You remember Moses, when he complained of his inability to speak and God was angry with him because of his modest excuses and he rebuked Jeremiah because he said, “I’m only a boy”? He says, “I am your God. I will be with you.” And so don’t expect any sympathy from God because of your excuses. Just be obedient. There are many things that fuel your fears and as I’ve mentioned a couple of times already, the roots of it is pride. Ray has a saying, “The degree to which you fear is really a measure of your pride.” That one takes a little thought.
Practical Open-Air Tips
So let’s go on and talk about open-air itself. Preparation. Pray, of course. You want to pray for a location, you want to pray for boldness and strength. Paul preached for boldness to preach the gospel when he went to Jerusalem and everywhere and a location in wisdom. Study, memorize scriptures, memorize illustrations. That’s going to be a big help. You can start by talking about a current event. Last night, I talked about the captain of the cruise liner who abandoned the ship, and the Bible calls Jesus Christ the Captain of our salvation because He goes down with the ship to save a place on the lifeboat for a survivor. And you don’t need any more than that and go on from there. What’s going to happen to you when you’re done.
Scout locations. Go out to the local theater or the malls or skateboard parks or wherever. Find out where people gather, whether it’s on a Friday night or a Saturday or Sunday after church. Start scouting places. You’ll get encouraged. You’ll begin to get the ball rolling and God will show you things. That’s how you get started. You pray about it. You study. You get prepared. Go out and do the homework and look for places and think about those things. I actually do physical exercise. I don’t have time to tell you how that came about but the Lord did it and I didn’t even realize it was happening. But if you concentrate on your diaphragm, sit ups. I’m talking about physical exercise. You think of all singers and people like that, it’s your support to have a louder, stronger voice. Are you serious about this? Are you serious about obeying the command of God?
“Study, memorize scriptures, memorize illustrations. That’s going to be a big help. You can start by talking about a current event.”
Obligate yourself. If you’ve already got a stool, well set it aside. You say, “I’m going to use this for open-air.” I had spent money on a flip chart and it helped me because I kept seeing it sit there and made me think, “I got to use it. I’m wasting my money.” Locations. Again, I didn’t have a Third Street Promenade and it kind of threw me but now that I’ve been doing open-air and looking around, I can’t get to all the places. Truck stops, walks at lunch, I would run into people, farmer’s markets, town centers, swap meets, store parking lots, courts, DMV, county services, college campuses. I’ve done open-air at all of these places and there are just too many. I can’t get to them. So that’s not an excuse either. You just have to have eyes open and a willing heart. When you have eyes closed and you’re not willing, we’ll you don’t see a thing.
Once you begin to preach open-air, you will never look at a line of people or a crowd the same way again. You’ll see a bunch of people and your heart will start pounding and you’re all nervous and you’re, “What is that about?” And then you realize that it is a presentation, an opportunity to preach the gospel and the only thing that’s stopping you is your fear. So let’s not make any more excuses and get to work at once. That was a quote from Spurgeon. By the way, in his book Lectures to My Students, he’s got two chapters in there devoted to open-air preaching. That’s just some really, really good stuff as well as all the stuff Living Waters has.
Study the Structure
The next thing I want to look at is have a structure. We talked about study, memorizing scriptures and illustrations and a structure. Well, this is just an example of one but be prepared also by memorizing a basic structure, what you’re going to say, and practice it out loud in front of the mirror. Practice what you’re going to say. I don’t mean anything elaborate, I mean just a gospel presentation. So this one here is an example of when you start in the natural. We all know this. Use a springboard or an illustration and use it to swing to the spiritual.
I use the Law, the Ten Commandments, to bring the knowledge of sin and the knowledge of righteousness. It’s a high standard. And then justice, Judgment Day, that justice will be served. There is punishment for crimes. Nobody’s getting away with a thing and that punishment is Hell and the second death. Then I go to the cross, Jesus Christ, who He is, what He did, His sinlessness, His sacrifice on the cross and what that meant, resurrection and the victory over death, and the opportunity that we have. Then repentance and faith, godly sorrow. Without godly sorrow, there’s no reconciliation with God. Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation.
Then I instruct people, I come back around, read your Bible, obey what it says, whatever instructions. And then I often repeat and ask the question, “So what do you have to do to be saved?” Because so many times, I go through it but there’s a lot going on and open-air sessions can be quite dynamic and so you refocus people because that’s really what you want them to walk away with. And so I end there. And the thing about a structure is when you get diverted, Satan will throw everything in the world at you, people that he controls.
If you want to see the spiritual side of the spiritual world, go open-air preach. I wasn’t really seeing any of that and wondered, “Where is this stuff?”; until I started open-air preaching. And that’s when the demons come out and you really begin to recognize, “Hey, this isn’t a real battle and we don’t fight against flesh and blood.” So all of this that you see in front of you and all the distractions, there’s a power behind it. So it is quite a calling. It is quite a calling to be called of God to preach the gospel and He calls all of us to do it.
Give Yourself an Advantage
Favorable conditions when open-air preaching. Wind is number on the list. First thing we look at when we go down to Huntington Beach, which way are the flags blowing? Because we want to be preaching with the wind. The wind will carry your voice. If you’re preaching against the wind, it’ll stuff it right back down your throat. In a calm day, it doesn’t make any difference. And also, it doesn’t matter if you can’t preach with the wind, then preach against the wind but by all means, preach the gospel. All I’m giving you is things that are helpful to open-air preaching. So with the wind, Whitefield was heard as much as a mile away under the right conditions of the wind.
“First thing we look at when we go down to Huntington Beach, which way are the flags blowing? Because we want to be preaching with the wind.”
Elevation: give yourself a lift. Make yourself a spectacle. Stand up where people can see you. You’re there to draw people to you. Quit feeling like, “Well, I don’t want to be putting myself up on a pedestal.” No, that’s exactly what you’re doing and that’s exactly what you have to project. That was one of the things that I saw that was a big difference between what I was doing and what Ray was doing. I’d try to gather people and nothing was happening and then Ray would get up there and he was talking to people in the parking lot and he kept that level up. So elevation certainly helps that. It gives you a certain authority over people just by being higher than they are, and it would be a protection for you.
There’s an article that Ray wrote called Give Yourself a Lift. And by the way, all of the articles in the Evidence Bible on open-air preaching are available to be read online, so you have all of those. Noise, avoid noise, streets, fountains, other performers. Rising ground, think of the beach. Rather than preaching down towards the water, preach where there’s rising ground and it’s a natural amphitheater. Buildings, sometimes you can use those to bounce your voice in the right direction.
Watch your back and keep your hearers in mind. Do all the good that you can to people while you’re doing it. You don’t want them in danger in the street or in the mud or sun in their eyes, I don’t know. You think of it. Wesley said do all the good you can to all the people that you can and all the times you can, and you’ll help open the doors. Keep your hearers in mind.
Drawing a Crowd
How to draw a crowd. We once had a mannequin with a fan motor in his head so his head would turn, and we had to take a car battery with us and this six-foot mannequin with a $2,000 chimpanzee outfit or a gorilla outfit on him. The extent that you can go to draw a crowd, there’s no limit. Some guy broke him in half. He pushed him once and that was interesting, but it certainly did draw a crowd.
We use placards and flipcharts. We yell out trivia questions and give away dollars. Now, we’re giving away 180 DVDs for anybody who answers the question correctly. Use whatever talent you may have and try new ideas no matter how crazy they are. You’ll have fun doing it, and it will keep both you and the crowds interested in what you’re doing. You’ll work on things and almost can’t wait to take it out and give it a shot. Ray just loves doing those things.
Your best draw is going to be hecklers and humor. If you can make people laugh, people laugh and everybody goes, “Hey, what are they laughing about? I don’t want to miss out on that.” And that draws people. But hecklers also. Hecklers will draw, will take a crowd of a few people and can actually build it to hundreds in minutes, even seconds, because loud voices and elevated voices and passionate sounds. “Hey, what’s going on over there? Fight!” And everybody comes rushing over. It’s almost that kind of thing, and so you’ll gain experience.
“When you get up there, the surest way to fail is to do it half-heartedly, to not use all the volume that you have. Go way past what you’re comfortable with.”
Don’t worry if you’re afraid of handling a heckler. You just always persevere back to Judgment Day. They’re not getting away with the thing no matter what their excuses are. They can believe whatever they want, but they’re like everybody else. They’re going to die and they’re going to stand before God in judgment and they’re going to have to give an account to Him. And you can let them rant and rave and just bring them back to that because that’s the equalizing thing. We’re all in this world together and it’s a sinking ship and everybody is going to answer to God. We’re going to return to the God who made us and so are they. That’s a basic way to handle hecklers. That’s one of the main principles that I use especially when I am flustered.
Timidity, we talked about this. When you get up there, the surest way to fail is to do it half-heartedly, to not use all the volume that you have. Go way past what you’re comfortable with. You’re not comfortable with your own voice, so that’s why I say practice in the mirror and things like that where you’re using your voice and using it loudly. It’ll take you a little while to get used to it, and you’ll realize that you can project a lot more and you need to find that level where you can sustain that projection and keep the volume up. And that was again one of the main things that I saw Ray doing differently than me.
Tips for Friends in the Crowd
A crowd draws a crowd. If you can get other people to go with you, have them stand around, because people will stop when they see others stop. And when people start to leave, well, the rest of the crowd starts to filter off. So people are like sheep and it helps. This is a good time to talk about crowd etiquette though. Crowd etiquette, now this is for you. This is for people that come out to support an open-air session. How do you act as one of the people that’s part of this thing being in the crowd? It’s very important because people are keying off of you. Like I said, people do what others do.
And the trivia questions, first of all, the dollar is not for you so don’t answer the question correctly, all right? That’s the first thing. And if you don’t know the answer and you start throwing out guesses, how do you know you’re not going to guess right? And you are going to take the dollar if you answer it right. A lot of people go, “Oh, no, no, no.” But we make them take it. Applaud and cheer every chance that you get. More noise, more things going on help people to get people’s attention and draw them to come over. That’s the whole point of what you’re doing there so that when you speak of the things of God, you have as many hearers as you can get.
Don’t engage a heckler. If somebody does speak up, don’t interfere with that. The person doing the open-air, you need to make sure that he stays the focus of attention and is the one being talked to. Even if a heckler turns to you and says, “What do you think about that?” You say, “I don’t know. Ask him.” And turn back and face the speaker. You might have a great answer, but you’re taking attention away. You’re dividing the crowd and suddenly, people are paying attention to the conversation that’s going over here and the poor guy you’re trying to support is pouring his heart out and nobody’s listening. That’s real hard. That’s real difficult. So you make sure you support that person when you go out with them and they’re going to help you when it’s your time to get up there.
Don’t answer questions. Don’t have your back to the speaker and in another conversation. Keep your attention on the speaker. Don’t engage listeners. Don’t pass out tracts to the people that are listening. You move to the back once people start gathering. Hand out tracts to people that are leaving or say, “Hey, what do you think about that?” And engage people out there, but make sure you encourage the focus on the listener and the interaction that’s going on between the two because people are listening and they have the same objections. And even though they’re not involved, there they are involved and you just don’t realize it.
Holding a Crowd
How to hold the crowd. Let’s talk about that for a minute. Keep a quick pace. Energized, quick, don’t be slow about it. That’s why you want to have a structure so that you’re ready for it, that you’re going through certain things, you practice it. Keep a quick pace and energized voice and an elevated voice. Keep your volume up even when you already have somebody. You know what, you have a tendency to start out loud but then it starts to slow down and starts to become quieter and quieter. And then a lot of times, people will walk up and you’re there and they’re here and the crowd’s out there, and you’re talking to this guy instead of keeping them back and it turns into a one-to-one witnessing encounter, except you’re standing on a pedestal trying to witness to one person. Nobody hears what’s going on.
So we always keep the person back. Sometimes, we’ll move them way back and we bring another stool for them to stand on so that they have to speak loud and everybody is involved in the conversation. And when you talk, you’re talking to everybody. And don’t worry about them taking offense. “Why are you talking so loud?” Well, so everybody can hear me because this isn’t a one-to-one conversation. Use many illustrations. The Evidence Bible is full of them. There’s all kinds of examples and everything that we put out. Memorize them, use lots of illustrations. Spurgeon said, “In the street, a man must keep himself alive and use many illustrations and anecdotes and sprinkle a quaint remark here or there.” Boy, Ray is good at that. You don’t have to be a Ray Comfort, but it is fun to watch him and you get a lot of laughs and you learn more.
Humor, interject humor whenever you can. Ray, when speaking about evolution, uses some photoshopped pictures and will talk about transitional forms. “Have you ever seen one? Well, how about one of these,” and will show them this picture. “This is called a bird-dog. Have you ever seen one of these? How’s that for your transitional form?” And they’re all, “No, it’s photoshopped.” And he goes, “Well, have you seen one?” “No, I haven’t seen.” “Well, maybe you’ve seen one of these, a catfish. No, you’ve never seen a catfish?” “Well, where’s these transitional forms that you’re talking about?” And it’s ridicule, yes, and it’s silly but it’s humorous and it makes people laugh and it opens the door and it can calm things down a little, too. So I like to use those.
More Open-Air Tips
Get their name. This is probably one of the most powerful tools that you’ll have in being able to have something to control, to drive an open-air with, is the person’s name. I could never remember people’s names. And so you have to use it right away but when it gets unruly and everybody is having their own conversation, if you have the name of the person, you can call out their name, “Hey, John!” and get the focus back and get it back. And also, it means a lot to people that you remember their name even if you have to ask it twice and use it right away. For me, I really had to work on that for a long, long time before I remembered to do it.
“Get their name. This is probably one of the most powerful tools that you’ll have in being able to have something to control, to drive an open-air with, is the person’s name.”
Avoid Christians. “I think what you’re doing is great, but,” and there’s always the “but.” “I don’t think you’re doing it right.” They’ll try to come through the back door. “Well, what did Jesus do? Didn’t He love people? I don’t know.” And then others will be real blatant about it. Listen, nothing will kill an open-air as quickly as two Christians arguing about doctrine. That’s not going to work. So you know what I do, it’s one of my qualifying questions when I say, “Who here is a good person who’d like to go for five bucks or whatever? Are you a Christian?” “Yeah, I’m a Christian.” “Well, you’re disqualified. I’m not looking for Christians. I’m looking for good people.” And that tends to get a rise out of people, so it’s two prongs and I enjoy that style.
I’m going to read to you some of these because they are so good. But if I preach the gospel in the same way I speak, I’ll never hold the crowd. It is important that I am motivated by love but if I don’t keep the preaching on the edge, I will lose my hearers in minutes, if not seconds. John Wesley: “In the streets, a man must from beginning to end be intense and for that very reason, he must be condensed and concentrated in his thought and utterance.”
Be Passionate, Be Encouraged
When you think about when Jesus was proclaiming the gospel, there were people, the religious leaders, that hated Him and it was an intense situation and an intense encounter. That was the open-air that was going on in Jesus’ day. They hated him. What did Jesus said? “Do not think I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” And that dividing Word of God separates the tender-hearted from the hard-hearted. It divides, and it separates that line between righteousness and holiness and God and our wickedness and our sin. And that’s exactly what we’re to bring about. It’s going to divide the household, father and son, and mother and daughter, and so on and so forth.
Passion. No man who preaches the gospel without zeal and without passion is sent from God to preach it all. Preach like you believe it. People may not agree with what you have to say, but let them know for certain that you believe it with all your heart and that’ll come through. E.Z. mentioned 2 Timothy 2:24-26: “A servant of the Lord must not strife but be gentle to all men.” That’s another good one to memorize. It was one of the first ones that Ray had pointed me to as far as Scripture and open-air preaching.
I want to give you a quick encouragement. I told you I’ve been preaching the gospel at AMC Movie Theater. This October, it’ll be like 10 years, something like that, every Friday. It’s not Huntington Beach. It’s not Third Street Promenade. It’s a few people most of the time and because I have a flipchart, I’ll take people through that and I do get a chance to do open-air, too. You’re going to get discouraged especially if you look at others and try to compare yourself with them, but don’t let it get you. Don’t be discouraged by the circumstance.
I was discouraged mid-point. I’ve been doing it for six years and wondering whether I should continue doing it or move on to something else. I had just finished an open-air and a young man walked up to me, and his name was Eric. He told me he knew of an atheist who had heard me preach here, and this was the very night that I was praying about these things, who had heard me speak there at the theater a number of years ago and as a direct result of that is now a Christian and is following the Lord and going to church and walking after God. I thanked him. I thought that was neat, and he started to go away. I usually don’t pursue those things, but I was prompted to and I said to him, I said, “Who?” And he stopped and he turned around, he looked me in the eye and he said, “Me.”
He had his little boy with him, and his wife was with him and she had a big smile on her face. His name is Eric and he said, “I wanted to tell you about this. I wanted you to know.” I’ve written it down because my memory’s not good but he said he wanted me to know that I had made a difference out here and not to doubt it and don’t stop doing what you’re doing. And that was a big encouragement to me. God is with you and He knows where you’re at, and He will encourage you and uphold you in this thing by the right hand of His righteousness. Quit looking at yourselves, quit making excuses. You’re commanded to do so, to preach the gospel in the open-air, and I hope that you will put your trust in God and just ignore the fear and do it anyway.