Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is Open-Air Preaching Effective? Ask Elizabeth

By Tony Miano

Recently, I wrote:
"I repeatedly receive emails from Christians who are led by presumably well-trained pastors, who seem to check hermeneutics and exegesis at the door of evangelism. While I will always be there to encourage my discouraged brethren, I will never again engage theologians who allow their prejudices and fears to cause them to swap exegesis for eisegesis. I will never do it again, because of the Matts in the world.

"As long as the Lord gives me a voice and breath in my lungs, I will continue to preach the gospel in the open-air."
The Lord encouraged me again, yesterday, to not bother arguing about the relevance, propriety, and effectiveness of open-air preaching.

I spent yesterday afternoon at the North Hollywood Metro Station. I was blessed to be joined by Pastor Geoff Kirkland and his family of Christ Fellowship Bible Church, of St. Louis, MO. Together, Pastor Geoff and I preached for more than two hours.

During my last open-air, I noticed a young lady standing about 10-15 feet to my left. I could tell by the look in her eyes and her facial expressions she was intently listening. Not long before I finished preaching, I noticed the lady approach Pastor Geoff.

I stepped down from my step ladder and began to pack up, while watching Pastor Geoff's conversation from a short distance. I thought of joining the conversation, but thought it better to watch from afar. Even from a distance, I could tell something beautiful was happening.

The lady (I would later learn her name was Elizabeth), had tears rolling down her cheeks. I watched as Pastor Geoff excitedly, yet gently, showed Elizabeth passages of Scripture in his Bible. Even though her cheeks were tear-stained, she had a smile on her face...a look of joy.

Pastor Geoff asked me for a pen, which I didn't have. I offered Elizabeth a Bible. I later learned the Bible I gave her would be the first one she ever owned.

Pastor Geoff borrowed a pen from a nearby vendor. He wrote detailed directions for Elizabeth to help her find and attend Grace Community Church.

Elizabeth had to go, so we said our good-byes. I told Elizabeth we would be praying for her. Her eyes were still filled with tears; and the smile never left her face. I had a sense, by her demeanor and the look on her face, Elizabeth didn't want to leave. It seemed to me she wanted to stay and continue talking and fellowshipping with us.

When Elizabeth walked away, I asked Pastor Geoff, "Well? Don't leave me hanging! What happened?"

According to Pastor Geoff, Elizabeth approached him and, with excitement in her voice, asked, "How do I become a part of this? Who do I talk to? I want to get involved!"

Pastor Geoff asked Elizabeth the obvious and most important question: "Well. Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior."

Elizabeth, a non-practicing Roman Catholic who was disheartened by many things she experienced in the religion, said, "I don't know."

Pastor Geoff shared the law and the gospel with her. And, with as much certainty one person can have about another person's salvation, Pastor Geoff believed the Lord had brought Elizabeth to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

While visible emotion, in and of itself, is not necessarily a reliable indicator of conversion; Elizabeth's demeanor, expression, and words certainly left us with the reasonable hope that God had performed a miracle in Elizabeth's life.

Is open-air preaching effective? Ask Elizabeth.