I have been part of the open-air preaching subculture for more than eight years. As a result, I have developed many friendships that I'm confident will last a lifetime. My participation in the activities of this subculture has opened extraordinary doors for ministry, for me. I have learned much that is good and right and biblical along the way. And I've been blessed beyond measure with every opportunity given to encourage a brother or sister in Christ to do their God-commanded part in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Sadly, the good does not outweigh the bad and the ends in no way justifies the means.
For better or for worse, I am presently seen as one of many leaders within the subculture. It has been a weighty responsibility, but I've come to realize it is a responsibility God never intended for me. Furthermore, I do not believe God intends any Christian man to serve in the role. The reason: the open-air preaching subculture presently functions in an unbiblical manner, with a defacto, unbiblical leadership model, which has led to the unintended undermining of the authority of the local church.
Presently, the open-air preaching subculture is a mess. As a loose-knit organization and as a growing organism, it's a spiritual train wreck. It functions unbiblically outside the authority of the local church and is led by self-appointed (or appointed by popular demand) quasi-leaders with absolutely no ecclesiastical authority over the people in the loose-knit subculture. I should know. I've been one of those "leaders."
While I would never assert the following about every person who sees themselves as a member of the open-air preaching subculture, the following statements are true about too many people in the subculture.
The open-air preaching subculture is awash with men and women who are engaged in hypocritical, prideful, arrogant, haughty behavior. Some within the subculture insist they love the lost when their rhetoric on social media platforms expresses an open disdain, even hatred, for brothers and sisters in Christ. Members of the subculture are quick to deem others heretics or unsaved while showing themselves to be utterly unteachable and unwilling to receive the gentlest of correction, failing to understand the spirit with which such correction is given.
The open-air preaching subculture is an unbiblical community in which some people sinfully idolize evangelism, especially open-air preaching and open-air preachers. There is a growing “groupie” mentality within the subculture toward those who are seen as leaders. There are married and unmarried women paying an inordinate amount of time to married men in the subculture.
The open-air preaching subculture is an unbiblical community in which some people commit adultery against God and against the family, with evangelism being the mistress. Some men and women are neglecting their marriages and their families in order to self-medicate an obsessive compulsion, even an addiction to evangelism. God has not called a single married man to love evangelism as Christ loves the Church. He has called every married man to love his wife as Christ loves the Church. Furthermore, God has called every married woman to submit to her husband, not to her evangelism team leader.
The open-air preaching subculture is an unbiblical community that in which some people hypocritically operate with the same pragmatism of "seeker" church models they openly revile. They put too much stock in the size of the crowd, the size of the event, the amount of opposition faced, and negative interaction with law enforcement when determining how effective or fruitful their time on the streets is.
The open-air preaching subculture is an unbiblical community where there is competition among some to see who can have the best and biggest conferences when almost every conference is saying/teaching the same things. Many of these conferences are being held in "rented" church space instead of being approved and overseen by the local church.
The open-air preaching subculture is an unbiblical community that includes people who coddle and, dare I say, are fearful of boisterous Christian women who talk like men—women who seem drunk with pride and maybe even feminism unaware—women who talk to their Christian brothers as if they are ready to ask them to "step outside," all because their Christian brothers dare to assert that God's preordained and creative order specifies different roles for men and women in His service. Some Christian women act this way because their Christian brothers have, for far too long, encouraged them to act like men—inadvertently encouraging them to sacrifice their beautiful, God-given femininity in the process.
The open-air preaching subculture is an unbiblical community, which includes some people who claim to be biblical complementarians, that is, until they step outside the doors of the church. They then turn egalitarian to protect the status quo and to avoid admitting to mistakes made regarding the involvement of Christian women in open-air preaching.
The open-air preaching subculture is an unbiblical community that includes some people who have a dangerously deteriorating view of Scripture and the Church—a community, which left unchecked, will create more apostates as a result. This unbiblical community has already created too many apostates.
I am brokenhearted.
Not long ago I had to contact a man who, for years, I thought was my brother in Christ. I had to call him to repentance, warning him that if he goes on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth there will no longer remain for him sacrifice for his sin, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God's adversaries (see Hebrews 10:26-31). I had to warn him that lest he repent, he will one-day stand before Christ in judgment and hear, "Depart from me you worker of lawlessness; I never knew you" (see Matthew 7:21-23).
This man for many years was a much-beloved and respected leader in the open-air preaching subculture. Today, at this moment, he is an unrepentant liar, a fornicator, an adulterer, and a murderer-at heart. I pray the Lord will save him—a man who for years just couldn't seem to bring himself under the authority of a local church, like so many others who call themselves "open-air preachers." And now, because the Bible commands me to do so, I must treat him as an unbeliever. I hate it! I hate what this man has done to his family, what he has done to another family, what he has done to the reputation of the Church, what he will likely do to the reputation of the gospel in the minds of those with whom he has shared the gospel when they find out he has fallen, and what he has done to bring reproach upon the name of Jesus Christ—the One to whom he had professed allegiance as his Lord and Savior.
I am brokenhearted.
I am brokenhearted about all of the sin, which is legion, within the open-air preaching subculture. I'm heartsick about the repeated times I have stumbled in sin and for times when I have decided to wallow around in the cesspools of pride, false-humility, insensitivity, lack of charity, and lack of love. I'm heartsick about the times I have evaluated the effectiveness of "my ministry" based on what people in the open-air preaching subculture say.
"Who's gonna read my post? Who's gonna watch my video? Who's going to retweet my tweet? Who's going to pat me on the back for saying things they can't bring themselves to say? Who's going to "friend me?" Who's going to "unfriend me?" How will this affect my family's support?"
Sorry, friends. I'm no hero. I'm only a saint by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone—not because you like me or my ministry.
I'm heartsick, grieved about the vainglory, the people worship, the idolatry of self, the vying for position and attention, the complaining about the local church, the pragmatism, the tomfoolery, and the outright clowning around on the streets—characteristics that are not only present, but growing trends within the open-air preaching subculture. I'm heartsick and grieved by the part I have played, whether knowingly or unwittingly, in what has become a false community that now appears to be imploding.
Unless self-appointed, self-called, self-anointed members of the open-air preaching subculture are willing to reform their thinking (as in making changes for the better—to think and act more biblically) regarding the Word of God, the Church of God (Christ’s Bride), and the Gospel of God, I say let it implode. I for one, knowing what I know now, having seen what I’ve seen and having heard what I’ve heard, can no longer remain quiet. It’s time to rattle a more biblical saber.
Open-air preachers, it’s time to go home.
It’s time to return to the Church. It’s time to serve as an arm, foot, hand, eye, ear, nose, or mouth within the Body of Christ. It’s time to scrub toilets, change diapers in the nursery, and do more than eat the food at men’s breakfasts. It’s time to ask our pastors and elders, “How can I serve you,” instead of insisting our pastors and elders serve us. As a subculture within the Body of Christ, we cannot continue, we must stop trying to lop off parts of the Body of Christ (real people—real Christian brethren) that do not serve Christ as we do, but yet still serve Christ for His glory and for the love of the rest of Christ’s Body—the Church. It’s time for the open-air preaching subculture to be re-grafted into the Body of Christ—no more independence from the Church, but dependence upon the Church. It’s time to go home.
Continue the friendships. Continue the fellowship, whether online or in person. Continue the Gospel-proclaiming partnerships. Continue the encouragement, love, support, and mutual respect. Continue praying for and with each other. But let's all go home!
Home is the local church. Home is not Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or radio show chat rooms. Home is not the conferences or outreaches that feel like wonderfully edifying family reunions. Home is not the evangelism team, organization, or society. Home is not a nomadic existence in a blasphemous clique called "club frustration." Home is the local church.
Let's go home, brothers and sisters!
I am not calling for the disbanding of all evangelistic teams, societies, and ministries. Although some of them should be disbanded, for some of them are unbiblically led and run. Let's simply take all of our teams, societies, and ministries home, where they belong, under the loving protection and biblical authority of the local church—our real homes.
While I certainly did not establish today's open-air preaching subculture, it would be disingenuous for me to deny that I've had a hand in actively encouraging and participating in its growth and, to a very small extent, helping to lead it over the last eight years. I know I bear a certain amount of responsibility for every complaint I've levied against a subculture of which I have been a part for many years. Be that as it may, I believe it's time to either reform (correct, change) or disband the open-air preaching subculture as we know it.
It's time to go home.
Member of Faith Community Church (Newhall, CA)
Founder and Director of Cross Encounters Ministries
Santa Clarita, CA
If you are in agreement with what I have written above and you would like to be included as a signatory, please email email@example.com with the following information:
Title (i.e. pastor, elder, etc.—if applicable)
Church/Ministry (whether you are a member or in leadership)
City/State where you live
Only those who provide ALL of the above information will be included as signatories.
1. Justin Edwards
Creekside Bible Church - Indian Trail, NC
2. Jon Speed
Christ is King Baptist Church
The Lost Cause Ministries
3. Frank Rollberg
Gracelife Church of the Shoals
Muscle Shoals, AL
4. Bill Streger
5. Sean Golden
Westwood Baptist Church
Newark, OH 43055
6. Mark Escalera, Sr.
Arbuckle Community Church
7. Chris Raymond
Member / Coordinator, Las Vegas Outreach Team
First Baptist Church of the Lakes
Las Vegas, NV
8. Paul A. Kaiser
New Covenant Baptist Church
9. Adam Gray
Albemarle Reformed Church
Elizabeth City, NC
10. Shane Dodson
Berry Road Baptist Church
11. Fred Triplett
Jr. High Sunday School Teacher
Berean Baptist Church
12. Geoffrey Bischoff
Assistant Sunday-School Teacher (Adults)
Tri-City Baptist Church
Chandler, AZ, USA
13. Mike Peek
Sylvania Church - Tyler, Texas
14. Gary B Carter
Deacon/Church Witnessing Team Leader
Calvary Chapel Reno-Sparks
15. Davis Austin
First Baptist Church
16. Steve Bauer
Ft. Collins, CO
17. Marv Plementosh
Owner/Founder One Million Tracts
Faith Family Church
18. Aaron Womack
Cofounder of EFMission
Winchester Baptist Church (Winchester, VA)
Capon Bridge, WV
19. Chris Tringali
Senior Pastor/Church Planter
Turning Point Church of Utica
20. Stephen Obregon
Calvary Hill Baptist Church
21. Jose Lopez
Bread of Life Fellowship (Wayne, NJ)
22. Ed Leese
Pendleton Street Baptist Church
23. John Barros
St. Andrews Chapel
24. Jason R. McMurray
Member/Assisting in Ministry to Senior Citizens
First Baptist Church Lindale
25. Josh Williamson
Pastor / Evangelist
Craigie Reformed Baptist Church
Perth, Scotland, UK
26. Angela Wittman
Zion Evangelical Church (Millstadt, IL)
27. Ryan Woodhouse
Grace and Truth Bible Chapel
28. Chris Basnight
Calvary Revival Church Chesapeake
29. Dedra Galyon
Immanuel Lutheran Church
30. Gary Perez
Berea Baptist Church (Evans, GA)
31. Brad Kennedy
Morningview Baptist Church
32. Len Pettis
Sunday School/Youth Leader
Highland Community Church
33. Kevin H. St. John
Longview Community Church (Longview, Alberta, Canada)
Okotoks, Alberta, Canada
34. Joseph Jaco
New Covenant Baptist Church
35. Rev. Howard Sloan
St. Paul's Reformed Church
36. Richard C Lopez Jr.
Calvary Chapel Valle Vista
Valle Vista, CA
37. Michael Coughlin
Berean Baptist Church (Pickerington)
38. Nate Steuer
Emmanuel Baptist Church (Great Cacapon, WV)
39. Steven D. Stanley
Trintiy Christian Fellowship
40. Daniel Weekley
Young Married SS Teacher
First Baptist Church
41. Joe Hamper
New Life Baptist Church