The Opposition From Open-Air Evangelism
by John Duncan
"The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it,
that the works thereof are evil." (John 7:7)
Even when open-air preaching is done
ethically (above and beyond reproach), you can't and won't please
everybody. Perhaps because this method is "louder" and draws more
attention than a quiet book table, the opposition received from certain
members of the audience also tends to be more boisterous.
The truth is, you can not let non-Christians dictate what we
do. Secularism has been successful and gaining ground every year. Christ
has been taken out of Christmas, prayers have been taken out of public
functions, the Ten Commandments have been taken out of public areas, and
even High School kids have been told not to wear Christian clothing or
Yes, secular humanists would like to shut up religious
speeches in public areas because they do not agree with the content of a
message. If we do not stand and use our right to preach in public areas,
we will eventually lose this right. Open-air preaching can be seen as one
of the most obvious preservers of the First Amendment Right. It is
imperative to let people speak out whether you agree with what they are
saying or not.
Some Save By Fear
Jude says, "And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others
save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment
spotted by the flesh." (v. 22-23)
According to the above verse, it takes all kinds of methods to reach
some. The "Hell, fire, and brimstone" guy will reach people that the "book
table" guy will never reach and vice-versa. We can speak from
experience on this. I grew up in a loving home with a loving church but
completely got absorbed in the party scene in college. I always took for
granted that God loved me and thought that He would surely take me in. I
knew how to talk the talk but my walk was inconsistent with my profession.
Christian book tables did not do anything for me. I was living a
compromised Christian life by the time I met an open-air preacher and
opposed him at the University of Alabama. I left the meeting angry, not
realizing that this "anger" was due to the fact that my heart was gripped
with conviction for my backslidden state. A few weeks after my
confrontation with this preacher I soundly rededicated my life to Christ.
It was the fear of God that brought the beginning of wisdom
into my life. Not only do I speak from personal experience, but the Bible
is also FULL of godly examples of "Hell, fire, and brimstone" preachers.
Turning People Off
Professing Christians usually get offended when someone stomps off a
meeting and accuse the open-air preaching of "turning people off." I would
like to present some arguments here to
respond to this accusation:
1. You can not turn people OFF that are
already OFF: People are either ON or OFF for Jesus. You can not kill a
dead horse, and you can not turn people away who are already away. Again,
this is in the context of ethical open-air preaching.
Let me say right here that those who say
that "people like you turn me off" are engaging in manipulation and are
not being honest with themselves. The person who is "turned off" usually
has had contact with "nice" Christians, have attended "nice" church
before, and have still walked out of those places unconverted. This was so
well illustrated to me one day at the UGA campus. A student accused us of
being the reason why he was not serving Jesus. I asked him, "have you ever
been to a nice, friendly church?" He answered, "yes, of course!"
I then asked him, "Then why are you not saved yet?" To this he had
no answer, but had to admit that he had not come to Christ yet because
he just simply did not want to. This is simply a manipulative tactic
to get us to stop preaching the Gospel.
2. You can not turn people OFF that are ON for Jesus: If
someone loves Jesus Christ with all their hearts, there is not a preacher,
problems, or tribulations that will cause the on-fire convert to leave the
One he loves.
3. Every method of evangelism turns some people off: If you
gather around the pole to pray at High School you will turn people off. If
you wear a Christian t-shirt you will turn people off. If you pass out
tracts you will turn people off. If you invite them to a "pizza party" and
give them the gospel afterwards you will turn people off. Even seeing a
Bible in and of itself will turn people off! So what are we to do as
Christians? Hide in the closet so as not to upset anybody? I can assure
you that is what the devil wants us all to do. The devil would want
everybody else can come out of the closet with their sins, while
Christians should tuck their tails in between their legs and go hide
someplace where they are not seen or heard at all.
Open-Air Preaching: The Audience