For many years, the newsletters for Open Air Outreach were only published through email. Those newsletters were not posted online. We are now in the process of archiving these old newsletters online so that they are available to the body of Christ at large to read and be encouraged and edified by them.
The contents from this post was an email newsletter sent out on 5/12/2005
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Wisdom in Witnessing
Points for Preaching
By Jesse Morrell
1) The art form of preaching
We must first recognize that open-air preaching is an acquired skill, as opposed to being a supernatural gift. Such a notion is in fact a great myth-conception. Public speaking may come more naturally to some and seem quite fearful to others. Open-air preaching will not be easy for everyone who is supposed to do it. Once we view preaching as a skill, we can learn to improve our skills to better present the gospel to the lost. It’s been said that “the worst tragedy of your life would be if you step on the stage of history and can’t remember your lines.” This is our chance and our time to make an eternal impact for the King of Heaven. My prayer is that we all be well equipped for the war that is in front of us. May this help feather your arrows and sharpen your axes.
2) Passionate, fiery preaching
History has shown that people will listen to anybody talk about anything so long as it is said with passion. Even the wicked Hitler had a mass following that believed his lies because he spoke with passion. If you want others to believe you, you must first believe yourself. The Israelites followed “fire by night” (Ex 13:22) and in this dark hour we need our lamps to shine the brightest in order to lead the multitudes out of bondage and into the Promised Land.
C. H. Spurgeon tell us: “If I were asked – What in a Christian minister is the most essential quality for securing success in winning souls for Christ? I should reply, ‘earnestness.’ And if I were asked a second or a third time, I should not vary that answer, for personal observation drives me to the conclusion that, as a rule, real success is proportionate to the preacher’s earnestness. Both great men and little men succeed if they are thoroughly alive unto God, and fail if they are not so…’The God that answers by fire, let him be God’; and the man who has a tongue of fire, let him be God’s minister.” So important and so valued this one characteristic was to this Master Orator that he went on to say “No man who preaches the gospel without zeal is sent from God to preach at all.”
As a general rule, monotone preaching is not very moving preaching. You will sooner see a row boat tugging an ocean liner or a go-cart toeing a Mac truck before you see a monotone preacher persuading those who are dead in their sins towards repentance. Fire begets fire. Passionate preachers will create passionate converts. Preaching that is cold and dry will typically not create hearts that are ablaze for the Lord. “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29)
If passion and urgency belong anywhere at all, they belong in preaching repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ. If men can be passionate about earthly things, how much more can we be passionate about eternal things?
Michael Brown said “Here is an overwhelming truth. Every human being will experience either eternal life or eternal loss, eternal peace or eternal pain, eternal blessing or eternal burning.”
Oh! That we may preach as though we truly believed this! May the lost see the seriousness in our eyes and hear the urgency in our voices. Jeremiah spoke with tears in his eyes and fire in his words. “His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” (Jer. 22:9)
Charles G. Finney said “Go to a sinner, and talk to him about his guilt and danger; and if in your manner you make an impression that does not tell correspond, you in effect bear testimony the other way, and tell him he is in no danger. If the sinner believes at all that he is in danger of hell, it is wholly on other grounds than you saying so. If you live in such a way as to show that you do not feel compassion for sinners around you; if you show no tenderness, by your eyes, your features, your voice, if your manner is not solemn and earnest, how can they believe you are sincere?”
A preacher once asked a successful actor how it was that he was able to attract multitudes of people to watch him perform, while he was struggling to get crowds to hear him preach. The actor responded with, “I present made up stories as though they were real, while you present real stories as though they were made up.”
3) Be a story-teller
A good preacher is a good story teller. While people may not remember the words they heard, they will remember the images and pictures that they imagined. We must aim to bring people through an experience of the imagination, rather then having them merely receive information. We want the message to be felt, not merely heard. We do this through using illustrations that will engage their imagination.
A. W. Tozer said “The value of a cleansed imagination in the sphere of religion lies in its power to perceive in natural things shadows of things spiritual. It enables the reverent man to ‘see the world in a grain of sand…and eternity in an hour.”
C. S. Lewis said “all our truth, or all but a few fragments, is won by metaphor.”
The Master of Metaphors, Christ Jesus, taught with what I call “profound simplicity” that both children and theologians would say “I get it”. Christ was profoundly simple and therefore he was simply profound. He spoke about the birds of the air, the grass of the ground, the trees of the woods, the fields of the land, the seeds of the farmers, the vines of vineyards, and pulled out divine truth from ordinary objects.
Oswald Chambers said “Learn to associate ideas worthy of God with all that happens in nature-the sunrises and the sunsets, the sun and the stars, the changing seasons, and your imagination will never be at the mercy of your impulses, but will always be at the service of God.”
While ministering on a beach you may say “living in sin is like swimming in the ocean. It certainly is fun, but it wears on you through time. You can’t swim forever! If you try you will certainly die. You need to get onto dry land and be restored in strength. True repentance is just that. Turning away from sin and to the solid rock of Jesus Christ because you know that if continue to swim in sin you will die.” Or you can say something like “God’s grace is not simply sun-tan lotion to keep you from getting burned when you play under the sun of sin. God’s grace is like a full grown tree providing shadow for those weary of being beaten by the scourging rays of sin.” When preaching on a college campus you may say “God will not ‘grade on the curve’ and there is no way that you can skip the Final Exam that He gives.” When you are arrested for preaching and are brought before the courts, ask the judge if he is ready to stand in The Court Room of the Judge of Judges. Take something that people know in order to teach them something that they don’t know.
Warren W. Wiersbe said “It’s by using metaphorical language that you turn people’s ears into eyes and help them see the truth.”
Use your words to take sinners on a tour of hell. Let them see the souls in tormenting flames crying out in continual pain and eternal agony. Let them smell the burning flesh and the burning sulfur. Let them feel the great and terrible horror of God’s true and righteous judgments. Then take them on a tour of Heaven to see all the wonders and glory of God. Let them hear the praises of the heavenly hosts. Let them see the glorious and victorious Lamb that was slain; to see the precious red blood that was spilt for them. Let them feel the peace of God’s prepared resting place for all His Saints.
4) Preach life from your own life
A testimony is a powerful weapon in the hands of a witness. As the famous saying goes “a man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument.” Who can argue with your personal testimony? Who can tell you what you did or did not experience? What is a witness if he is not someone who testifies to that which he has seen and heard? It is of such high important that we use our testimonies when testifying that the bible mentions it multiple times, and God is typically not one to repeat himself! “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Ac 4:20). “For thou shall be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard”( Ac 22:15), “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ”(1Jo 1:3). “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Re 12:11).
I would recommend telling the crowd your testimony, even if it is brief, as soon as possible. This can lay the firm foundation of rapport for the rest of your message and will also serve by shattering any “holier then thou” misconceptions that they might have. Give people water to drink out of the wells of personal experience.
5) To know what to preach, know to whom you preach
We must know our audience if we are going to preach to our audience. The crowds are quite different if you are preaching on a college campus, or if you are preaching in front of a bar. What will stir up people in one place; will fall on deaf ears in another.
The words of you’re preaching needs to match the lives of your hearers. You find out where the people are in order to know where to take them. If we are going to preach against the sins of the people, we need to know what their prevalent sins are. On a college campus you may attack sexual immorality and humanistic philosophies, while in the downtown areas late on a Saturday night you would attack the sin of drunkenness. If people are to be personally convicted for their sins, we must not be afraid to preach against their personal sins.
One dark night I was walking to my car to drive home as I got my keys out of my pocket. When I put my key into the car door I found that it wouldn’t turn. I struggled and struggled to make it turn, remembering that sometimes it gets stuck. No matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t turn. Rather then breaking the key in the door I stopped and took a step back to try to figure out what I was going to do. As I stepped back and looked at the car I realized the problem, it was the wrong car! It was the right key, just the wrong car. But in order to notice it was the wrong car I needed to step back. Many preachers do the same thing as they walk into the pulpit or stand up on a street corner. They don’t step back and take a look at the crowd so they too often are preaching the right words to the wrong crowd, then getting frustrated when they fail to get the result they wanted.
While preaching in Daytona during a college spring break I realized that I needed to adjust my message. The typical message that I would preach in a normal park would not grab the attention of those there who were so focused on sin. I would have merely been a single buzzing fly in the midst of a jungle full of animals. Taking a step back and looking at those I was trying to preach to, I fitted my message to fit their lives. Everyone was walking around with alcohol, men had cameras to film sin, and women were wearing what some were scarcely call and others would dare to call clothes. “People, put your alcohol down! Men put your camera’s down. Women, put your clothes on! The wages of sin is death, turn to God and live!” It wasn’t until we fitted our message to the audience that we got a reaction out of the audience, because the bullets were now hitting home. Peter did this when he said “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.” (Ac 4:10)
Charles Finney said “bring up the individuals particular sins. Talking in general terms against sin will produce no results. You must make a man feel that you mean him. A minister, who cannot make his hearers feel that he means them, cannot expect to accomplish much. Some people are very careful to avoid mentioning the particular sins of which they know the individual to be guilty, for fear of hurting his feelings. This is wrong. If you know his history, bring up his particular sins. Kindly, but plainly; not to give offense, but to awaken conscience, and give full force to the truth.” This revivalist goes on to say “Preaching should be direct. The gospel should be preached to men, not about them. The Minster must address his hearers. He must preach to them about themselves, and not leave the impression that he is preaching to them about others, He will never do them any good, further than he succeeds in convincing each individual that he is the person in question.”
6) God’s Word, not our words, never returns void
While preaching the gospel, quote the bible as much as possible even if the audience doesn’t know you are preaching scriptures. Nothing that we can say will be more powerful then what God has already said. We must take the time to remember the scriptures that will be relevant to those who are living in sin. Scriptures that are perfect would be: “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23), “God calls all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a Day when He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:30-31), “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3), “God demonstrated His love towards us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8), “unless a man is born-again, he will by no means see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Fill your heart to the full with the Words of God so when you go to preach, they will flow out of you rather then being forced out of you. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (Joh 7:38)
7) Go for the jugular
It can be very easy to run off on a rabbit trail answering an objection. Never lose sight of what our mission truly is. Warren W. Wiersbe reminds us “As we walk down the middle of the broad road, we meet lost people face to face; and our task as witnesses is to warn them that the map they’re using is all wrong and the destination they’re heading for is named destruction.” Go for the real issue, seek to solve the serious problem, and be “determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2)
Use every effort to turn every single answer to an objection back around to the message of repentance. If a man says that the bible is not true, reason with him as to why the bible is true. Then say “because the bible is true, then it is true that God is calling you to repent. You must do that today.” If someone says “Science disproves the bible”. Answer their objection and say “so because science confirms the bible, you need to obey the bible and repent.” While it is good to be on the defense at times, defending the faith, we must also learn how to switch it back over to the offense, over turning every stone until we come upon the snake of sin to kill it. Remember that it is God who is true, and every man a liar. (Ro. 3:4) It is the sinner that must be on the defense. He should either be defending his sin from the Spirits attacks or surrender the fight, yielding his life wholly to God.
The aim, the goal, the desired result by both Christians and Christ is a spiritual conversion, not merely a spiritual conversation. If you have thoroughly explained both “the goodness and severity of God” (Rom 11:22) then do not be afraid to stress immediate repentance. Our main objective is simple and clear: “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations.”(Luke 24:27). All down through the New Testament we are told that they preached repentance. John the Baptist: “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt 3:1-2.) Jesus: “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 4:17) and “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Lu 13:3) Peter: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” (Ac 3:19) “Then Peter said to them, “Repent” (Ac 2:38) Paul: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,” (Ac 17:30) James: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Jas 4:8) And all the disciples: “So they went out and preached that people should repent.” (Mr 6:12). Is this message foreign to many of our preachers? Leonard Ravenhill said “The evangelists today are very often prepared to be anything to anybody as long as they can get somebody to the altar for something.” We must preach one message: “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mr 1:15)
There was a time that I become do dependant upon all the equipment that I brought out to help me with open-air preaching. I started feeling as though I couldn’t preach if I didn’t have my microphone with easel and displays. Yet no one in the early church had any of those things, they didn’t even have a bible to carry in their hands but they did have the Word in their hearts! I stood up to preach at a bus stop once and I heard a women say with horror in her voice “Oh no! Not him again! He always says the same things!” I put myself in a box that God never intended for me to be in. Don’t be afraid to break out of your box. Once when I was preaching someone yelled out: “let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. My canned response was “I am not throwing stones; I am throwing a rope to save those drowning in sin.” However rather then saying what I always say, I said “who is without sin? God is without sin and He has ten stones which He will one day throw. Those ten stones are his Ten Commandments etc etc.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said “We are not going to fight this modern battle successfully by repeating the sermons of the Puritans verbatim, or adopting their classifications and sub-divisions, and their manner of preaching. That would be futile. We must learn to hold on to the old principles but we must apply them, and use them, in a manner that is up-to-date…The moment that we become slaves to any system – I do not care how good it was in it’s age and generation – we are already defeated, because we have missed this whole principal of adaptability.”
We must witnessing using solid biblical principles, and be careful of falling into a set pattern of witnessing. Each individual is different, and yet each individual is the same. They all have the same problem: death and hell without Christ. Though a set pattern will not reach everyone, set principles such as Law before grace will.
9) Humor and Entertainment
While it would be great if we could simply preach a 20 minute message out there on the streets to an attentive audience, it typically won’t work that way. Normally those on the streets are rather busy in their own lives, and it will take more then the average sermon to break them out of that. We must be entertaining. Even the prophets had to do out-of-the-norm acts to get peoples attention. Isaiah walked around barefoot and naked, Jeremiah walked around with a yoke, John the Baptist was quite the spectacle himself wearing camel’s fur, a leather girdle, and eating bugs. However we don’t always have to be “strange” to captive people’s attention. Some people are rather humorous; don’t be afraid to use your humor for the Lord. Some people are musically talented; use your talent to draw a crowd. What is your gifting and talents? Don’t be afraid to be creative.
We also must remember that we are called to preach the gospel, not entertain people or make them laugh. While entertainment and humor has its place, we must always be aware that we can entertain people and make them laugh even while they are on their way to hell. That is not doing a bit of good. We are to be much more then just another street entertainer, we are called to be preachers of the Gospel!
10) We must be engaging to keep the crowd
While many people won’t stop to listen to a 20 minute sermon, many will stop if you are having a dialog back and forth with someone. While you’re preaching, ask questions and then pause to give someone walking by a chance to answer. “How many of you are out here to get drunk tonight?” as a crowd walking by starts to cheer. “But the bible says no drunkard will inherit eternal life. You guys are in big trouble. What are you going to do on Judgment Day?”
Be as inviting as you can for people to ask questions. Let them know that you want to dialog. You can say certain things that will stir up a potential heckler like “I just can not believe why a logical, reasonable person wouldn’t believe and live by the bible, it’s just so foolish not to” or “Does anyone here not believe in what I am saying?” Don’t be afraid to stir up a heckler. If you want to keep your crowd, you must connect with the crowd. Preach until you get a heckler, and use your heckler until you get a crowd. Then preach the Law until they are wounded, and then grace until they are healed.
While preaching at an “Earth Day” the only response I got from the crowd was strange stares, but no crowd. I studied the audience and saw a man dressed up as a Wizard with a hat, cape, and staff. As he was walking by I said “Wizards, witches, and warlocks God will judge” which got his attention really quick. He stopped and started heckling me which created quite a scene. Groups of people stopped, some sat in the grass, to see the man with a bible and the man dressed as a wizard verbally battle back and forth. Through that one heckler I was able to secure an engaging crowd that lasted for quite some time.
11) To preach the gospel, you must live the gospel
There is a true story of a well known preacher when he was young. The young man who just recently decided to be a preacher said to his Pastor “I’ve decided that I’m not going to preach anything that I am not living first.” The Pastor, after his many years of experience said “Then you’re not going to have many sermons.” The young man a bit stunned from his pastors response quickly thought about it and said “Well, at least they’ll all be good!”
Andrew Bonar said of Robert Murray M’Cheyne “from the first he fed others by what he himself was feeding upon. His preaching was in a manner the development of his soul’s experience. It was a giving out of the inward life. He loved to come up from the pastures wherein the Chief of Shepherds had met him- to lead the flock entrusted to his care to the spots where he found nourishment…His heart was filled, and his lips then spoke what he felt within his heart. He gave out not merely living water, but living water drawn at the springs that he had himself drunk of, and is not this true gospel ministry?”
If you are to preach repentance, you must be walking in repentance. If you are to preach the gospel, you must be living the gospel. This is not an option; it is a direct order from God. “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” (1 Co 9:14). A river never raises higher then its source. You can not expect others to live holy if you yourself are not. Civilians are not likely to keep the Laws that they see the government officials breaking.
Do you see a man who is battling with temptation? Then you see a man who is just like the Lord, who was Himself tempted yet without sin. (Heb 4:15). Do you see a man battling against sin? Then you see a man fighting a good fight, in fact you see a man fighting the most serious battle of all time. Some do not feel qualified to preach the gospel. And some truly are not qualified to preach the gospel. But the man who battles against sin is preciously the type of man who is qualified to preach open-air. So long as you are battling against sin and not surrendered to it, you can go out and recruit others to do battle against it as well.
John Wesley, one of histories most successful open-air preachers, wrote in his Journal “I was much buffeted with temptation; but cried out and they fled away…and herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.”
12) Prayer; most power and yet most neglected weapon
The area of most vital importance seems to be the area most are weakest in. Prayer is our most dangerous weapon in this battle, and yet seems to be the most neglected weapon as well. If you are not willing to pray, then neither should you be willing to preach. I charge you prayer-less Christian, if you any love for the lost then pray for the lost. Do you suppose to win souls without praying first for them? I suppose you expect birds to fly without wings as well! We’ve many men who want to preach yet so little men who want to pray.
Martin Luther said “prayer, meditation, and temptation make a preacher.”
Pray before you go out witnessing, while you’re witnessing, and after you have witnessed. It is not the public ministries of the showmen that change the world, it is the private prayers of the Saints that does.
Samual Chadwick said “Satan dreads nothing but prayer. The Church that lost its Christ was full of good works. Activities are multiplied that meditation may be ousted, and organizations are increased that prayer may have no chance. Souls may be lost in good works, as surely as in evil ways. The one concern of the devil is to keep Saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayer-less studies, prayer-less work, prayer-less religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”
Is there a greater service to God and all of mankind then prayer? Prayer-less preaching is damaging preaching because you will be hardening the hearts of sinners, so their condemnation will be worse on Judgment Day. Continually rub a dull knight on your hand and you will callous your skin, but if you sharpen that knife you will cut yourself. If we ever hope to pierce the hard calloused hearts of sinners with conviction, and see them converted rather then left in a worst state, we must sharpen our words through prayer until our words are sharper then a two edged sword.
Prayer serves as our reinforcements in this end time siege for souls. It must be our last resort as well as our first! Is there no power in your preaching? I may safely assume that there is no praying in your preaching either! Wherever our preaching goes, there also our praying should go. As a faithful follower, and as a trust worthy friend, our prayers must do the work of preparation and the work of follow-up.
A Christian cannot live anymore without prayer then a man can live without breathing. And when we see those around us dead in their sins, prayer is a spiritual “mouth to mouth” which breaths back into the dead the living breath of God in order to resurrect, restore, and revive them again to life.
John Wesley said “For if all your arguments and persuasive fail, there is yet another remedy left, and one that is frequently found effectual when no other method avails. This is prayer.”
13) Love as Christ loved
And finally we must love those to whom we minister. We must not merely say we love them, we must show that we love them. Love them enough to make yourself a fool. Have compassion enough to convict of sin. ”Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.” (Pr 27:5) Many in our day wrongfully mistake being “friendly” or “nice” as love. And because they do not want to ruin a friendship or ruin their image of being nice, they will not rebuke men for their rebellion against God. This is very unloving. Do you love God and the lost enough to be cast away by men that they may draw near to God? If you care about the man, you must warn the man to “flee from the wrath that’s to come”. (Mat 3:7).
Walter Russell Bowie said “The Christian Church does not need more popular preaching, but more unpopular preaching.”
O. S. Hawkins wrote “Many modern appeals are superficial or designed to make hearers feel good. Some churches even rejoice in the fact that people can attend their services without being made to feel guilty about their lifestyles, whatever it may be. Simon Peter’s appeal did not have that effect. It cut and pierced his hearers to the heart. Perhaps that is the reason 3,000 were saved and baptized that day, but also the reason one out of four churches in today’s greatest missionary-sending denomination cannot even baptize one new convert in an entire year! Until a person recognizes there is no hope within himself to satisfy the righteous demands of God’s Law, the cross is simply a farce to him…one must take personal responsibility for the death of Christ…Conviction always proceeds conversion.”
We must remember that those whom we are preaching too, are the very ones for whom Christ did. We must love them as He loves them.
A well experienced and long term street preacher named Gerald Sutek wrote:
So now, when you go out into the world to preach the gospel, remember to yourself “I am now on the stage of history.”
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