Adapted from The World’s Greatest Preachers by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. Open-air preaching is as old as preaching itself. Throughout history God has used open-air preachers to bring the Gospel to the multitudes. There are right and wrong ways to preach in the open-air, but like swimming, you can’t really learn until you “take the plunge”. This post contains helpful tips for anyone who desires to preach the Gospel publicly to those outside the church’s walls.
Qualifications of an Open-Air Preacher
• A good voice.
• Naturalness of manner.
• Speaks with confident assurance.
• Good at using illustrations to make a point.
• The ability to think on your feet.
• A good knowledge of Scripture and of human nature.
• Ability to adapt to any crowd.
• Be utterly convinced that God wants you to open air preach, and that by His grace you are willing to obey Him no matter the cost.
• Check your motives. Open air preaching is not about proving how devoted you are or about being a martyr. Your motive should be a sincere compassion for the souls of others, and a selfless desire to take up your cross and glorify Christ no matter what the cost.
• Learn as much as you can about public speaking.
• Practice! Watch yourself in front of a mirror. Record yourself and listen to how you sound.
• Study up. Be prepared to face a host of objections from hecklers, and know how to answer them. This skill will be strengthened
through experience, but do your best to be prepared ahead of time.
• Recognize your utter dependance on the Holy Spirit.
• If you are a beginner, bring someone with you who has done open air preaching before. If you can’t find someone, ask a couple of friends to come with you and so they can give you feedback afterwards.
• Understand your success depends entirely on God. He is the one who will convict and convert, your job is to be faithful in sowing the seed. No matter what happens during the open-air meeting, God is in control. “Surely I am with you always”
• Preach only on public property. Check with the authorities and get necessary permits before you begin.
• Elevate yourself by standing on a small step stool or crate. People can see you more clearly, your voice will carry farther, it gives you a sense of authority, and the crowd will be more inclined to think what you are saying is important.
• Use the surrounding environment to amplify your voice. Speak towards buildings so your voice will bounce off.
• Never stand with the sun behind you, or it will get in the crowd’s eyes when they look up at you.
• Preach with the wind, never against it.
• If possible, choose a location away from music, fountains, cars, and machinery of any kind.
• Avoid narrow sidewalks. The police can legally break up your meeting if your crowd clogs the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians out into the street.
• Bring some supportive friends with you. A crowd draws a crowd, and their friendly company will help to keep the crowd orderly. Give them tracts and encourage them to start conversations with the other hearers. But they should not interfere with hecklers, as they are best handled by the preacher. Nor should they hand out tracts to active listeners as it will distract them from the preacher’s message. They should give out tracts only after the preacher is done, or to people who are aren’t
listening or who have listened but are now leaving.
Drawing a Crowd
• Grab their attention right away! Try a “mock funeral” (have someone lay on the ground covered with a sheet and surrounded by pallbearers), or give out money in response to trivia questions.
• Begin in the natural and then swing to the spiritual. News stories or the recent death of a celebrity can be excellent springboards
into the subject of death and the afterlife.
• Nothing draws a crowd like a good heckler.
• Bring some supportive friends with you. A crowd draws a crowd. But make sure they face the preacher and give him their attention. If they turn their backs or talk amongst themselves, it sends a message to passers-by that the preacher is not worth hearing.
• “Thick skin” in the face of mocking and ridicule.
• Zeal, discernment, and common sense.
• A large, loving heart.
• Sincere belief in everything you say.
• Entire dependance on the Holy Spirit for success.
• A close walk with God by prayer.
• A consistent walk before men by a holy life.