Monday, May 14, 2012

The Way of Jesus (Part 2)

"I am just doing what Jesus did."  That has been used by many, including me, to defend the ministry of open air preaching.  Now, if you read part 1, you know that I am in favor of open air preaching.  My purpose here is to address some imbalances that I fear have manifested themselves.  As a pastor, my heart is concerned with what some of these issues have done to the Church.

When we say, "I am just doing what Jesus did," we are doing a couple of things whether we realize it or not.  First of all, we are assuming that by preaching to an unsuspecting crowd outside of a sporting event is the same as what Jesus did when He gave the Sermon on the Mount.  As I said in part 1, the difference is that Jesus' crowd came to Him for the purpose of hearing Him.  That is not the case with our crowds.  Again, that does not mean we should not do it.  It just means we should pause before we compare it to what Jesus did.

The other thing we do is make the statement that the other person is failing to be like Jesus by not joining us in open air preaching, thus they are a poor follower of Jesus.  Granted, maybe they are being more like Jesus in prayer than we are, but that doesn't matter in that moment.  As I said before, while I believe that every Christian should be sharing Christ with others, I do not necessarily believe that every Christian should open air preach, unless they are called by God to do so.  Telling someone that we are simply doing what Jesus did presents ourselves as more faithful followers of Jesus than they are.  Even if we can make a case that our open air preaching matched that of Jesus, it is still only one area of the Christian life.

Me and Ray Comfort (2009)
Sometimes we can portray open air preaching as a mandate for every Christian.  As I stated before, I believe every Christian ought to be about the business of sharing Christ with others.  However, to assume that every Christian is to take up the ministry of open air preaching goes directly against 1 Corinthians 12, which makes it clear that every part of the Body of Christ serves a different role.  For example, I believe that every Christian ought to spend time with God daily in prayer.  However, I do not necessarily believe that every Christian is called to devote 4-6 hours a day in prayer.  Yet we have come to a point where the two can debate each other over which ministry is more important, and even question each other's salvation.  What we should realize is that the Body of Christ needs those who will open air preach, while it also needs those who will devote 4-6 hours a day in prayer, while it also needs those who will look after the orphans and the widows.  But we want everyone to do what we are called to do.  All the while, the Body of Christ needs each one to serve the role God has assigned to them.  

In evangelism, we can become very critical of other Christians.  After all, we have been through wonderful training programs like The Way of the Master.  And now, if anyone says anything remotely different, we condemn them and attack them.  I actually heard someone criticize a Gospel presentation because the person did not go through the 10 Commandments and call people to repentance.  I went back and listened to the Gospel message in question.  The preacher actually did talk about how the 10 Commandments show us our sin, but he didn't say, "Have you ever told a lie?"  The preacher also called the audience to repentance, but he called them to turn away from their sins.  Same message, different words used.  Nevertheless, we must be cautious in that others have not studied to see the importance of an accurate Gospel presentation.  We can yell, scream and call people heretics, or we can patiently teach in love as Scripture calls us to do.  

Speaking of The Way of the Master (which is a tool that I love and use), I believe one of our greatest struggles is that we have equated The Way of the Master with open air preaching.  I have heard from several people who have had struggles in their churches with trying to start Way of the Master training because their is an assumption that it is an open air preaching training tool.  I feel it is vital that we get back to the heart of what The Way of the Master was intended to be - a road map for sharing the Biblical Gospel, and open air preaching being just one of the ways to apply it.

So, my original intention was to question whether Jesus' open air preaching was the same as our version of open air preaching.  I do not believe it is.  But I will say that we see in the prophets and with Paul and others throughout church history, models of the type of open air preaching done today.  I have tried to get us to ask some questions as to how and why we do what we do.  I will be expanding more on this coming up.

But my purpose for this post was to help us consider a few other issues that are associated with our type of evangelism.  Street evangelists often become used to debating people on the streets and we forget to shift out of "street mode" when we are around our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We have become so infatuated with open air preaching that we forget to emphasize that one of the lessons from The Way of the Master is how to share Christ with your Grandmother!  Instead, we have become combative, not only with people on the streets, but also with those closest to us.

I pray that my thoughts still to come may help recast a vision for reaching those who do not know Christ, as well as ministering to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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