Public open air preaching (street preaching) is the original method of New Testament evangelism, and it has God's Scriptural stamp of approval.
John Bunyan street preaching in the mid 1600's
Here are a few biblical and historical reasons every God-called preacher should practice street preaching…
1. The Lord Jesus Christ Practiced Street Preaching
Throughout the Gospels, we read the record of the open air preaching ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Spurgeon reminds us,
"Our Lord himself, who is yet more our pattern, delivered the larger proportion of his sermons on the mountain’s side, or by the sea shore, or in the streets. Our Lord was to all intents and purposes an open air preacher." (Lectures To My Students, Vol. 3, Lecture 4., "Open Air Preaching And Its History.")
Our Lord Jesus Christ was an open air preacher. He preached the gospel to sinners where they were, and commands us to do so in the Great Commission.
2. The Apostles Practiced Street Preaching
From Peter's open air sermon on Pentecost to Apostle Paul in his missionary journeys, the apostles faithfully practiced evangelistic street preaching throughout the book of Acts. Here are a few examples of the apostles' public gospel preaching…
- Peter preached the gospel publicly to an international multitude on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:14-40)
- Peter preached the gospel to the Jews at their own temple. (Acts 3:1-11, 12-26)
- Peter preached the gospel before the Jewish council. (Acts 4:1-7, 8-22)
- Paul and Barnabas preach the gospel publicly to heathen idolaters at Lystra. (Acts 14:14-18)
- Paul preached the gospel publicly in the Jewish synagogue and in the market at Athens. (Acts 15:15-17)
- Paul preached the gospel in jail (Acts 16:31-32)
- Paul preached publicly to the heathen philosophers at Mars Hill, a monument of idol worship. (Acts 17:22-31)
- Paul preached the gospel "publicly, and from house to house" at Ephesus. (Acts 20:20-21)
- Paul preached the gospel in court (Acts 22:2-29)
- Paul continued to preach the gospel while under house arrest. (Acts 28:30-31)
The enemies of the gospel accused Peter and the apostles for having "filled Jerusalem" with their doctrine (Acts 5:28). Preacher, could that accusation be made of you, that you have filled your city with the doctrine of the gospel?
Note: Preachers who were not apostles were also open air street preachers.
Stephen (not an apostle) preached the gospel publicly to the Jewish council (Acts 7). Philip the Evangelist preached the gospel publicly in Samaria and to the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:5-8, 30-38).
3. Our Baptist Fathers Practiced Street Preaching
Among our Baptist fathers through history, street preaching was a normal ministry. These men were not content to preach the gospel only indoors in a church setting. They faithfully preached the gospel in public.
Examine the ministries of some of our Baptist fathers. Here are a few familiar names and groups, all of whom practiced public open air preaching:
- The Anabaptists across Europe practiced street preaching and were mocked as "hedge preachers" by the Roman Catholic church.
- John Bunyan practiced street preaching.
- Shubal Stearns (the father of the Baptists in the south) practiced street preaching. Open air preaching was a common ministry among the Separate Baptists.
- C.H. Spurgeon practiced street preaching and trained his pastoral students to do so.
- James A. Stewart practiced street preaching.
- J. Frank Norris practiced street preaching.
- Ralph Sexton, Sr. practiced street preaching.
- Percy Ray practiced street preaching.
- Rolfe Barnard practiced street preaching.
This article doesn't begin to scratch the surface concerning open air preaching in Scripture and in Baptist history. It simply reminds us that street preaching is a biblical method of evangelism that can be defended Scripturally and historically.