After the influential preaching of Ray Comfort in the last several decades, open air preaching has become a massive phenomenon in Evangelicalism. Both Reformed and Arminian type folks have taken to the street corners of the world and preached in the open air. I have personally seen so much good come from this trend. However there are some things about open air preaching that presents dangers to the witness of the Church as well. Anytime anything becomes a “trend” it runs the risk of pragmatism; no less is true with the recent explosion of evangelistic zeal that is open air preaching. Pragmatism is not a good thing here. It often means folks who should not be open air preaching are. I have ran into several instances where people have wanted to engage in preaching alongside our church and group who were not qualified to do so. From sincere sisters who think God is calling them to preach, or people not associated with a local church and who outright reject the need to be in membership at a church, to young converts who carry their zeal without knowledge and merely parrot what they have heard not what they have learned. The reality is, not just anyone can or should open air preach! Even further than this, not everyone who preaches in one context should preach in another. For example, those who are younger in the faith, should be careful when engaging in more academic settings such as the University campus where more academically challenging questions may come. Failure to do so may actually end up compromising the glory of Christ and His Church. I personally would never stand up in front of a large crowd of college students if I did not sincerely believe I could obey 1 Pet. 3.15 there:
1 Peter 3:15 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
This verse can and should be faithfully obeyed by all believers. However to intentionally place one’s self in a position where he/she cannot do this would be dangerous. Too many would-be open air preachers today are standing up unequipped and as a result often resort to poor apologetics which results in undermining the very thing one set out to do i.e. faithfully testify to Christ with an able defense of the gospel to the glory of God. If you have not studied, Bibliology, Cannonicity, Textual Criticism, Systematic Theology, Church History and of course Apologetics and World Religions— the academic setting e.g. campus preaching, where you assume to take on “all comers”, is probably not for you. This is because we are not called to side-step people’s questions, not even with a presuppositional formula; we must give an answer to anyone sincerely inquiring about our hope!
The aim of this post is not however, to discourage anyone in apologetics or evangelism but to encourage and equip the would-be apologists disguised as open-air preachers to be able to give a defense by accurately handling divine truth. The following reading list is a good place to start:
(Note: If you are tempted to think, “this would take me several years to read a list like this!”, that’s how long it took me).
These first three should be read in that order.
Also begin to work through the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin as well as Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck
Bibliology and Textual Criticism:
Also begin to work your way through History of the Christian Church (8 vol.) by Phillip Schaff.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.