Fifty Anniversary Reprint: Word to Young Preachers

This article from the pen of the former editor contains excellent principles and practical suggestions for all with an exercise to spread the gospel.

In our last article, we ended with the suggestion to begin public speaking by telling your conversion. Let us now notice WHERE to begin. There is no better training for a young man than STREET PREACHING.

Before attempting open air work of this kind, it is a good rule to seek first the fellowship of older brethren in your assembly, and if possible, have an older or more experienced brother accompany you. Thus you will be spared an embarrassing experience such as the one I heard our departed brother Mr. T.D.W. Muir relate many years ago. When a short time saved, he was asked to go to an open air meeting and help with the singing. A crowd gathered, but when Mr. Muir looked around for the preachers, they had disappeared and left him to face the crowd alone. He had never spoken in public before, yet he felt something had to be done. Looking to the Lord for help, he began to preach. God must have helped him, for at the close an elderly woman put her hand on his shoulder and said, “Young man, God has opened your mouth, don’t let the Devil shut it.” Mr Muir added, “I often call that my ordination.”

Now let us consider a few practical observations.

(1) As the fisherman goes where the fish are, so we should select a street corner where there are people to gather.

(2) Do not stand with heads bowed in prayer waiting on one another. Do your praying at home, and come ready to preach.

(3) Good hearty singing is a great asset. If a number of good gospel hymns are memorized, it enables one to carry on without hymn books if necessary.

(4) Short messages are essential. Long preaching almost invariably scatters a crowd.

(5) Do no attempt to give a complete outline of the Gospel message, but rather press one thought home, especially when there are a number of brethren to take part. For example, if one emphasizes the guilt of man, others may follow with the grace of God, the simplicity of the way of Salvation, the shortness of time and the warning of judgment to come.

(6) Avoid grotesque movements and mannerisms. Be natural and do not try to mimic another preacher in tone or manners. Reality and sincerity are two essentials.

(7) While one should speak distinctly so as to be heard by as many as possible, yet generally speaking the conversational tone is to be preferred. Preaching TO the people is better than preaching AT them.

(8) The Message is, “Preach the Word”, as Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Tim 4:2).

(9) If an illustration is used, let it be short and to the point, casting light, like a window, upon your subject. The illustration is more effective if it is timely and apparent. I recall how effectively our brother Mr. John Silverster, at a conference “open air” outside of Massey Hall, illustrated his subject, “The consequence of sin,” by suddenly pointing to a large sign outside a nearby theater, and calling, “Look at it”. The sign, giving the name of the play inside, read, “The Price of a Good Time.” Very solemnly the preacher told of the price of sin, and the certain harvest from the sowing of sin.

(10) If one of the brethren gives away tracts during the meeting, let him give them to those who are passing by, not to the listeners.

(11) Avoid unnecessary whispering and talking to each other while one is preaching. This is not good manners, and it will not encourage close attention by the stranger if inattention is noticeable in those in the ring.

Should open air addresses by prepared beforehand? While there is more of an informality and freedom in open air preaching than in the hall, yet there is surely a need for preparation for any service for God. There is need for preparation of soul and mind, yet there should be a readiness to be guided as the Spirit leads and as circumstances may necessitate.

Sometimes patience is tried by an interrupter, especially one under the influence of liquor. Usually it is better to ignore the interruption, and preach away “Answer not a fool according to his folly lest thou also be like unto him” (Prov 26:4). There are occasions, however, when the Lord gives an answer which silences the objector. “Answer a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own conceit” (Prov 26:5). How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction? As one old brother said, “It all depends on the kind of fool you have to deal with.” This requires wisdom. Interruptions are not unmixed evils, for sometimes they draw a far larger crowd than otherwise would be gathered, and God can bless the Word to the curious. Needless to say, it would never be profitable to show anger. “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” Neither would it be wise to call the police. Such a course was once followed when an intoxicated man gathered a large crowd by his occasional interruptions. Someone called the police and the man was hustled into the police van. The crowd melted; we had perfect order, but no audience.

While open air work is largely sowing rather than reaping, yet we should look for a definite blessing upon the seed sown. At the close of the meeting before the crowd disperses, good Gospel tracts should be given to each one. Where individuals have listened with interest throughout the meeting, they should be personally contacted. Two years ago in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, we noticed a young man listening intently at the open air meeting. A conversation at the close revealed that he was not saved, but was quite interested, and he accepted an invitation to the meeting in the hall. This in turn resulted in his coming out night after night to the Gospel tent until he was saved. He is now in assembly fellowship.

Soon the sinner’s harvest will be past and his summer ended. May we hear the Savior’s “Go ye”, and grasp the opportunity that is ours, for “the night cometh when no man can work”. There is just a little while longer to serve the Master in the great harvest field, and then we shall “Bind the sheaves and sing the harvest song”, as we enter the harvest Home.

Till you know how deep the pit is into which you have fallen, you will never properly praise that hand which raises you out of it.