Charles Spurgeon On Open-Air Preaching
The great benefit of open-air preaching is that we get so many newcomers to hear the Gospel who otherwise would never hear it. The Gospel command is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” but it is so little obeyed that one would imagine that it ran thus, “Go into your own place of worship and preach the Gospel to the few creatures who will come inside.” “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in”— albeit it constitutes part of a parable, is worthy to be taken very literally, and in so doing its meaning will be best carried out.
We ought actually to go into the streets and lanes and highways, for there are lurkers in the hedges, tramps on the highways, street-walkers and lane-haunters, whom we shall never reach unless we pursue them into their own domains. Sportsmen must not stop at home and wait for the birds to come and be shot at, neither must fishermen throw their nets inside their boats and hope to take many fish. Traders go to the markets; they follow their customers and go out after business if it will not come to them; and so must we. Some of our brethren are prosing on and on to empty pews and musty hassocks, while they might be conferring lasting benefit upon hundreds by quitting the old walls for a while, and seeking living stones for Jesus.
I am quite sure, too, that if we could persuade our friends in the country to come out a good many times in the year and hold a service in a meadow, or in a shady grove, or on the hillside, or in a garden, or on a common, it would be all the ketter f or the usual hearers. The mere novelty of the place would freshen their interest, and wake them up. The slight change of scene would have a wonderful effect upon the more somnolent. See how mechanically they move into their usual place of worship, and how mechanically they go out again. They fall into their seats as if at last they had found a resting place; they rise to sing with an amazing effort, and they drop down before you have time for the doxology at the close of the hymn because they did not notice it was coming.
What logs some regular hearers are! Many of them are asleep with their eyes open. After sitting a certain number of years in the same old spot, where the pews, pulpit, galleries, and all things else are always the same, except that they get a little dirtier and dingier every week, where everybody occupies the same position forever and forevermore, and the minister’s face, voice, tone are much the same from January to December -you get to feel the holy quiet of the scene and listen to what is going on as though it were addressed to “the dull cold ear of Death.”
As a miller hears his wheels as though he did not hear them, or a stoker scarcely notices the clatter of his engine after enduring it for a little time, or as a dweller in London never notices the ceaseless grind of the traffic; so do many members of our congregations become insensible to the most earnest addresses, and accept them as a matter of course. The preaching and the rest of it get to be so usual that they might as well not be at all. Hence a change of place might be useful; it might prevent monotony, shake up indifference, suggest thought, and in a thousand ways promote attention and give new hope of doing good. A great fire which should burn some of our chapels to the ground might not be the greatest calamity which has ever occurred, if it only aroused some of those rivals of the seven sleepers of Ephesus who will never be moved so long as the old house and the old pews hold together….
In a tract published by that excellent society “The Open-Air Mission,” I notice the following:
QUALIFICATIONS FOR OPEN-AIR PREACHERS
- A good voice.
- Naturalness of manner.
- A good knowledge of Scripture and of common things.
- Ability to adapt himself to any congregation.
- Good illustrative powers.
- Zeal, prudence, and common sense.
- A large, loving heart.
- Sincere belief in all he says.
- Entire dependence on the Holy Spirit for success.
- A close walk with God by prayer.
- A consistent walk before men by a holy life.
If any man has all these qualifications, the Queen had better make a bishop of him at once, yet there is no one of these qualities which could well be dispensed with.