Archive for March 11th, 2015


Charles Spurgeon’s thoughts are drawn out from his book Lectures to My Students from “Open Air Preaching–A Sketch of its History” (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to My Students: For the First Time–All Four Books in One, Complete & Unabridged. Pasadena TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1990).

Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, has thoughts on open-air preaching that I think is invaluable.  He provides a sketch of its history from times of Jesus through the church.  History cannot be disconnected from this lost art.  Lives have been saved from Hell and babies have been saved from the abortion mill. Jesus and the disciples have ministered in this manner too.  Many of them were kicked out of synagogues and had to resort to the open fields and public square.  Christians also in ages past ministered in this art form and many acts of God were displayed (i.e. revivals, reformation, etc.).  Although there are nomadic open-air preachers out there who are not connected to their local church nor held accountable by their elders; as well as those who only preach law and no grace, should not in anyway deter us away form this art form of preaching.  We cannot let these people hijack this important form of ministry.  Without further adieu, I will let the prince speak now. Here are some quotes that I think you may find helpful. You could see that Spurgeon is drawing out from Scripture and the positive effects it had on history in order to argue for open-air preaching.

As for Jesus, Spurgeon says: “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.  He did not remain silent in the synagogue, but he was equally at home in the field.  We have no discourse of his on record delivered in the chapel royal, but we have the sermon on the mount and the sermon in the plain; so that the very earliest and most divine kind of preaching was practised out of doors by him who spake as never man spake” (54-55).

As for the disciples’ ministry of preaching after Jesus’ death, Spurgeon says: “…Within walls, especially that in the upper room; but the preaching was even then most frequently in the court of the temple, or in such other open spaces as were available.  The notion of holy places and consecrated meeting-houses had not occurred to them as Christians; they preached in the temple because it was the chief place of concourse, but with equal earnestness ‘in every house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ'” (55).

As for the apostles, Spurgeon says, “The apostles and their immediate successors delivered their message of mercy not only in their own hired houses, and in the synagogues, but also anywhere and everywhere as occasion served them.  This may be gathered incidentally from the following statement of Eusebius.  ‘The divine and admirable disciples of the apostles built up the superstructure of the churches, the foundations whereof the apostles had laid, in all places where they came; they everywhere prosecuted the preaching of the gospel, sowing the seeds of heavenly doctrine throughout the whole world.  Many of the disciples then alive distributed their estates to the poor; and, leaving their own country, did the work of evangelists to those who had never yet heard the Christian faith, preaching Christ, and delivering the evangelical writings to them.  No sooner had they planted the faith in any foreign countries, and ordained guides and pastors, to whom they committed the care of these new plantations, but they went to other nations, assisted by the grace and powerful working of the Holy Spirit.  As soon as they began to preach the gospel the people flocked universally to them, and cheerfully worshiped the true God, the Creator of the world, piously and heartily believing in his name” 55).

As for the dark ages, Spurgeon says, “As the dark ages lowered, the best preachers of the gradually declining church were also preachers in the open air; as were also those itinerant friars and great founders of religious orders who kept alive such piety as remained” (55).

As for Reformers before the Reformation, Spurgeon says, “When Antichrist had commenced its more universal sway, the Reformers before Reformation were full often open air preachers, as, for instance, Arnold of Brescia, who denounced Papal usurptions at the very gates of the Vatican” (56).

As for the Reformation, Spurgeon says, “I have no time for even a complete outline, but would simply ask you, where would the Reformation have been if its great preachers had confined themselves to churches and cathedrals?  How would the common people have become indoctrinated with the gospel had it not been for those far wandering evangelists, the colporteurs, and those daring innovators who found a pulpit on every heap of stones, and an audience chamber in every open space near the abodes of men?”

As for Whitefield and Wesley who were denied pulpits on many ocassions, and who did not receive support from some of their friends, Spurgeon says, “(Whitfield) As the scene was quite new, and I had just began to be an extempore preacher, it often occasioned many inward conflicts.  Sometimes, when twenty thousand people were before me, I had not, in my own apprehension, a word to say, either to God or them.  But I was never totally deserted, and frequently knew by happy experience what our Lord meant when he said, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’  The open firmament above me, the prospect of the adjacent fields, with the sight of thousands and thousands, some in coaches, some on horseback, and some on the tress, and, at times, all affected and drenched in tears together, to which sometimes was added the solemnity of the approaching evening, was almost too much for, and quite overcame me” (68).

“Wesley writes in his journal, ‘Saturday, 31 [March, 1731].  In the evening I reached Bristol, and met Mr. Whitefield there.  I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if had it not been done in a church.’  Such were the feelings of a man who in after life became one of the greatest open air preachers that ever lived!

I plan on doing a part two post on open-air preaching from Charles Spurgeon’s analysis.  Stay tuned.

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