Street (or open-air) preaching is something that many people have been able to witness at some point in their lives, at least in certain parts of the United States. It is not, however, something that many of them would remember as pleasant, inviting, or worth listening to, and, as we are naturally bent to, we tend to throw the baby with the bathwater and say, “These people are usually hateful in their approach, God is love, therefore street preaching is not of God.”
While it is true that many so-called “open-air preachers” do not show the love of Christ in their voices or show discernment on when and how to wield the sword of the Scriptures (yes, there is a place for that done in a certain way), we still need to face the following question: Is open-air preaching Biblical or not? How we answer that question will say a lot of our walk in the Lord. How highly do we hold His Word? Do we hold it as supreme, or do we hold man’s traditions, feelings and experience as sovereign over all things? The latter is a mindset that comes not only from unbelievers, but even from within Christendom. Many Christians, greatly influenced and affected by liberalism and postmodernism, use verses like Colossians 4:5-6 to give a “Biblical” defense against open-air preaching.
Colossians 4:5-6 reads as follows,
“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
The reasoning is sort of like this: Preaching near businesses is unwise because it violates the principle of conducting yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders. Not only businesses, but really anywhere where there are outsiders. The reason it violates this principle is because the street preacher adds offensiveness to an already offensive message unnecessarily, and this is not “conducting yourself with wisdom toward outsiders.”
A brilliant article by Tony Miano, host of Cross Encounters Radio, titled “Colossians 4:5 and Street Preaching” presents a Biblical case for open-air preaching from Colossians 4:5-6. We must beware of practicing eisegesis (reading into the text) and instead practice exegesis (reading out of or from the text). I encourage you to read it here.
I’m not an open-air preacher myself, but articles like these certainly encourage me to continue to share the true saving Gospel of Grace of Jesus Christ to a sinful world full of those elect of God, whom He has prepared to hear, receive, and appropriate by faith the righteousness of Christ through the preaching of the Gospel.