It's been good to see the positive response people have been having to Steve McCoy's post on open air preaching. I mentioned in my own post that I hope to contribute to the conversation with the advice I've found from some of the great preachers of our tradition. Well I've found some. The preacher I have in mind is R.A. Torrey. He preached around the world with D.L Moody, was one of the first deans of BIOLA University, as well as an itinerrant preacher. His legacy include a lot of devotional and theological works worth your time, Moody Bible Institute, and the streets.
A few years ago, I came across his book How to Work For Christ. It is a great collection of ideas on how to get out and minister to people evangelisticaly. The chapter I linked to is called Open Air Meetings. Torrey believed in open air preaching and in this chapter gives some reasons to go outdoors, how to conduct meetings, and practical advice for the minister. Some of the information is outdated (unless you have a gospel wagon), but a lot of what he says still rings true. For instance, he warns that you should find a place to preach where you won't get dishwater thrown at you. It would be pretty distracting to be in the middle of a gospel presentation and all of a sudden end up wet. (I think he spoke from experience). He also advises to preach in the shade on warm days. Great practical advice that I hope helps you in your work. But I wanted to share advice that seems to apply at all times. For instance.....
Don't Be Dull
He writes "Dullness will kill an open air meeting...do not preach long sermons. Use a great many striking illustrations... Be energetic in your manner. Talk so people will listen. Don't preach, but simply talk to people".
Don't Do It Alone
Torrey believed this was a group activity so you should find some fellow workers to go with you. You don't have to do all the heavy lifting.
Don't Antagonize Your Audience
Forgive my bluntness, bit preachers who go out just to call women "whores" and men "fornicators" are complete idiots. Please don't be that person. All you will do is close off ears to the gospel and perpetuate the crazy street preacher stereotype.
Don't Be Long
10 to 15 minutes is what he advises. Past that and you'll lose your audience. Though today it might be even less than that.
Depend on God
He's the one who will touch people, not you.
Depend on God's Word
Torrey believed in the power of the Word of God. He advised that know how to show someone their need for Christ, how they may be saved, and assurance of salvation and discipleship. Spend time in the word. Better yet, memorize it.
What about modern technology? Does it have a role in our outdoor witness? It might surprise some to see that Torrey believed in using the latest technology. For instance, on the chapter called "The Use of Autos, Trailers etc..." he says about films
We all recognize the use of the visual in attracting and holding attention. Biblical pictures on inexpensive films can be effectively used on children and grown ups, for, remember, no one is ever too old to be interested in pictures.
Those of us living in the age of youtube, power point, and flickr, might have use to the church yet.