Open Air Work
Ian Campbell, South Shields, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
For the purpose of street preaching, I use a magnetic board, very similar in principle to the decorator’s pasting table, which is hinged and can be opened out. The upper section is a black magnetic part and the lower half of the board has an attractive display of tracts, and the verse John chapter 3 verse 16 and contact details. Additional reading material is also available for any genuine seeker: John’s Gospel as well as a selection of suitable booklets, such as John Blanchard’s Ultimate Questions. The board, because of its weight, is wheeled onto site where it is mounted on three metal legs. The top half is then opened out and secured, after which it is ready to take the laminated text and graphics that make up the sermon.
A sermon example: The Seven Wonders of the Cross:
- It was the Creator of all things hanging there;
- The fullness of God’s love was seen there;
- God’s amazing grace was there;
- Many Old Testament prophecies where fulfilled at the cross;
- Three great physical events occurred at the cross (earthquake, the darkness lifts and the temple veil is torn);
- Sin was dealt with once and for all;
- Eternal destinies are decided by one’s attitude to the cross.
The pieces, which are backed with strips of magnetic tape, are stuck on to the board as the address is developed, and by the end of the preaching the board is covered with all seven points. This method of presenting the gospel has two benefits: it allows someone who comes midway through the preaching to follow the preacher’s reasoning; and, it can be left up on the board even when the preacher has finished. The message is still doing its work!
Many of the UK city centres are now pedestrianized and usually offer a good number of places where the board can be set up. Care is taken not to obstruct any right of way and one needs to be sensitive to the feelings of nearby shop owners. As the board can be a hazard in strong winds, it is wise to secure it with appropriate weights or have one of the workers hold it. Public liability insurance is also strongly recommended. Generally speaking, permission to preach is not required. The use of an electrical amplification system, in my opinion, is not needed. The volume could give any would-be complainant a reason for objecting. But remember, ‘How shall they hear without a preacher’, and how shall they hear unless the preacher speaks loudly? – ‘ye shall speak into the air’, 1 Cor. 14. 9! The Open Air Mission advises their workers to use a voice recorder just in case a false accusation is made against the preacher.
For obvious reasons, it is best to work in a group. Not everyone in the group may feel gifted to preach, but they can still do a tracting work, and their presence and willingness to assist brings much encouragement. If someone stops to listen, the co-worker should not approach to offer them a tract; just let them listen. Once they turn to go, that’s the time to ask their opinion about the message. There’s nothing more discouraging for the preacher than when, having got the attention of the passer-by, one of his own fellow-workers breaks the listener’s attention by speaking with them.
The advantages of doing a weekly work on the same day are clear. The preaching group becomes known in the town and friendships can be formed and bridges built. Sometimes a weekly work is not possible, but a monthly or bimonthly effort could be undertaken; ‘your labour is not in vain in the Lord’, 1 Cor. 15. 58. 1
Those who oppose the gospel usually bring up one of two arguments: ‘evolution’ and ‘suffering’. Sadly, the theory of evolution currently dominates the thinking of the youth. Once, when preaching in Durham, a student passer-by shouted out repeatedly, ‘Science, science, science!’ According to his thinking, evolution had destroyed the notion of a Creator God and the gospel was, therefore, mere fiction! There are several Creation websites that provide helpful material. 2
Those venturing on to the streets with the gospel can be guaranteed opposition at some time. I would suggest three ways of dealing with a heckler:
- Answer the issue he raises, publicly, by addressing the crowd;
- Stop preaching and speak privately with him;
- Have a member of your group take him to one side to answer his objections. 3
Leaving our comfort zone can be a hard thing to do, but the words of John Wesley should inspire us, ‘It is no marvel that the devil does not love field preaching! Neither do I; I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit. But where is my zeal if I do not trample all these underfoot in order to save one more soul?’
1 For those who feel they lack the ability or the time to create their own material, The Open Air Mission offers free downloads of over fifty sermon ideas - https://www.oamission.com/resources.
2 See www.creation.com and www.answersingenesis.org.
3 The Evangelical Alliance has produced a helpful publication, Speak Up: The Law and Your Gospel Freedoms. https://www.eauk.org/assets/files/downloads/Speak-Up-FULL.pdf.
AUTHOR PROFILE: He is in fellowship in the assembly at South Shields. He was commended to the Lord‘s work in 1994 and is now heavily involved in school and children‘s work all over the UK, as well as sharing the gospel through the development of ‘Creation’ presentation.