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Open Air Preaching/Street Ministry. Is it for today?

Twenty five years ago or so...
I was reading scripture when suddenly it occurred to me that the gospel went forward to where people were gathered. They preached right out in the open. I discussed this with Johnny. I remember saying, "You know, we never do that these days! We don't preach out in the open!" We wondered if street preaching was still for today. So, we prayed, "Lord, if street preaching is for today, show us."
Two weeks later we got a call from our pastor. At that time it was Pastor Meyers. Pastor Meyers related that a pastor friend had given him a call. A street preacher, Jed Smock, was going to come and preach at our local campus, then Mansfield State College {now Mansfield University}. He wanted Pastor Meyers to show Jed around the campus. Pastor Meyer related that he was going to be out of town and asked if Johnny and I would show Jed around. Yes, we did. God was about to show us something, we just weren't sure what we would see.
Jed, Johnny and I arrived at the campus. Jed selected a spot by the cafeteria and said that he was going to start preaching at noon. We visited and chatted and wondered what would happen at noon. At noon, Jed stepped to the spot he selected. Held up his Bible, pointed a finger in the air and began...
"It has been reported that there is immortality on this campus!" he shouted. People stopped and stared.
"It has been reported that there is homosexuality on this campus!" he continued. More people stopped and stared.
"And the Bible says that you need to repent!" The crowd multiplied. People began heckling. Jed preached for hours. And, it was a whirlwind of activity! Girls gathered into a chorus line and chanted, "We like fornication" as they kicked their legs together.
Wow. Johnny and I had never seen anything like it.

That night we discussed it. We knew that people were stirred. But we weren't sure of the end results. So, we decided to follow Jed to his next destination: Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. It wasn't hard to find him... we just went to the crowd of about 500 students. It was a repeat of what happened at Mansfield times 4 or 5!

Johnny and I each brought an armload of Bibles. Johnny was in one location, I was in another. For the next few hours, we were surrounded by people asking us questions and asking for Bibles. They were stirred to wonder and think about God. It was an incredible time to witness.

There were two groups of Christians on the campus & two entirely different response to Jed's ministry.

One group approached Johnny and I and said, "Please shut him up! He is making people angry. He is going to ruin the work that we are doing for God. And, his message is all wrong. He shouldn't be talking about sin and repentance. He should be telling people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives!"

The other group said this, "If you have ANY influence over him, see if you can get him to come back again. He was here two years ago. For weeks after he left, the campus was buzzing with spiritual conversations! We had more opportunities to witness then than we ever had before or since - please get him to come back soon!"

Here was our conclusion. Street Preaching, Open Air Preaching, IS STILL for today. It is a ministry that 'breaks up the ground' so that the seeds of the Good News of Jesus can be planted, cultivated and eventually harvested. Those who think they have a 'corner' on how the gospel should be presented won't like it. But, those who are taking every and any opportunity to share Christ, will like it and help bring in the harvest.

We didn't agree with everything Jed said. One thing in particular he talked about was the sin of premarital kissing. The kids went crazy over that, "You've got to be kidding, one said to me." I responded, "Well, I don't know if I see eye to eye with him on than, but let me tell you what his main message is. That I fully agree with..."

It was a fruitful time for Johnny and I. It seems that God is multiplying the number of Open Air Ministers. The question we need to ask... is our response going to be like the first group that approached us? Their response determined that they would reap no fruit. Or, is our response going to be like the second group?

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Comment by Juanita on August 12, 2009 at 11:36am
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