Open Air Preaching – Elder’s Position Paper

As elders of Goodwood Baptist Church:

We affirm that open-air preaching is a natural & Biblical part of fulfilling the great commission, in as much as it brings the gospel directly to the lost (Mt 28:18-20). We deny that a friendship or relationship with an unbeliever is a necessary pre-requisite for gospel witnessing.

We acknowledge that such open-air preaching has rarely been well received in both Biblical & church history (2 Cor 11:25 / 1 Cor 1:21). Yet this lack of popularity does not diminish its place in the purposes of God. It does however mean it would be prudent to go as part of a group, for both accountability & prayer, and a degree of personal safety; also, to guard the preacher against bitterness or the impulse to quarrel and return evil for evil.

We recognize that all believers have the duty & liberty to evangelize generally. But we affirm that not all are called to the ministry of preaching specifically. Therefore, those who undertake street-preaching within the ‘street evangelism ministry’ of Goodwood Baptist Church must first have the confidence of the church elders to do so. The ministry functions under the oversight of the local church eldership. This is to ensure that such persons fulfil some basic Biblical qualifications with regards to character and competence, while being active members in the local church (Col 4:5-6 / 1 Pt 2:12 / 1 Pt 3:15 / Titus 2:5-10 / Heb 10:25). Such recognition of a man for this role does not equate with ordination or becoming an elder. We affirm that ‘desire’ alone is not sufficient, but that a level of competency and skill in both hermeneutics and homiletics is necessary to be recognized by the leaders for this role.

We affirm that only men (males) who fulfil the above qualifications could be called to the ministry of preaching – whether in the church or in open air (1 Tim 2:12-15). We deny that this is any way diminishes the role of women, who serve faithfully in a complementarian role in many other capacities.

We affirm that the content & focus of such preaching must be the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as it is declared in Holy Scripture, expounded faithfully and simply for the ears of the lost (Rom 1:16-17 / 2 Tim 3:13-17). As such, it will inevitably centre on sin, judgement, the person & work of Christ on the cross, the message of justification by grace through faith, and repentance towards God. We reject the use or need of worldly methodologies, distractions, or arguments in the ministry of the Word (1 Cor 1:21).

We affirm that the preaching must be undertaken in love, and in keeping with aspects of Christian character mentioned above (Mk 12:31). Compassion for the lost is a critical requirement in any who undertake any form of public ministry. We deny that it is unloving to speak of sin and judgement, and we acknowledge that true Christian love compels us to make the fullness of the gospel known, so that sinners might hear and be saved (Ezek 33:6-9). We affirm that this must be done with the authority inherent to the Word, the commission, and the act of preaching (Titus 2:15 / 2 Tim 4:1-2). We reject any sinful, abusive or meanspirited behaviour, or language, in this or any ministry (James 1:20).

We affirm that the preacher’s own personal devotion to Christ and humility are paramount in this ministry (Jn 21:15-19 / 2 Cor 11:3). Accordingly, his own personal worship of God expressed in prayer, the study of Scripture, fasting and Christian fellowship must be established and maintained.

We affirm that God is glorified through the proclamation of the gospel, and as such all who hear the message will respond in either faith or unbelief (Rom 9:22-23, Luke 15:10). We deny that the success or failure of such a ministry should be measured by the number of visible conversions.

We affirm that this is a ministry undertaken entirely in dependence upon the Lord God, who by His Spirit alone will persuade sinners of its truthfulness through regeneration and the gift of faith. (John 3:27 / John 6:44 / John 15:5 / 1 Cor 3:7). Accordingly, we affirm the great need of prayer and a commitment to preach the Word, which God is pleased to use to bring conviction (2 Thess 3:1 / 1 Thess 5:25 / Heb 4:12-13). We reject the use of manipulation or any departure from Scripture truth as a methodology in persuading sinners (2 Cor 4:2).

We affirm the place of the church in offering such prayer, support and at times training, for those street preachers as are recognized by the church leadership (2 Thess 3:1 / 1 Thess 5:25). Accordingly, we undertake to regularly bring this ministry to the attention of the congregation for prayer, and to encourage attendance at said ministries for the same purpose. We also affirm that the street preacher much point those who respond with conviction back to the local church, for further engagement & discipleship, as this is necessary for true and practical Christian living (Acts 2:42-47).

We affirm that any street preacher must co-operate with law enforcement, and operate within the laws of the land, as far as is possible without compromising any command of Holy Scripture; and that with gentleness and respect (1 Pt 3:15). We declare our need for humility and wisdom in any such interactions with civil authorities should they arise (Mt 10:16).

Further reading – “A Certain Sound: a Primer on Open Air Preaching” by Ryan Denton & Scott Smith