Friday, November 21, 2008

Stepping on the Box.

I suppose it has been about 3 years now since I was walking in the West End of downtown Dallas. Last I was there I saw a young man standing on a step stool preaching. To that point, in my 30-some years of life, I don't think I had ever witnessed anybody ever preaching in the open-air. I had seen people in the past wearing sandwich boards or holding up signs but never had I heard a person preach in public outside of a church. I had certainly heard about people doing this in the past; I had even heard a few preachers talk about what they use to do back when they had "zeal without knowledge". But I had never seen it myself.

Oddly, one of my initial responses to the preaching of the Gospel in public was embarrassment. The difficult part to understand though is that the embarrassment was not necessarily for the man yelling from the stool, it was for myself. I felt strangely uncomfortable, like every eye in the gathering crowd might at anytime turn toward me. It was kind of like watching a television program where the characters are in a very awkward and embarrassing situation and somehow their embarrassment is transmitted to you. I always end up watching those shows through cupped hands. That is how the preaching made me feel.
There was also a hint of anger that I felt toward the preacher. I thought he sounded arrogant, angry and hateful. His message was true but somehow it lacked the love that I knew Christ held for the lost. After about 10 minutes of watching the preaching we left and jumped into the car. I am quite sure we ridiculed that poor guy the entire ride back to Duncanville. I think we all felt that the preacher was courageous but he lacked love and was likely ineffective.
As I lay in bed that night and considered everything that I had witnessed that evening I became honest with myself. Honest about my embarrassment and honest about my angry reaction toward the preaching. Ultimately, I had to concluded that my embarrassment and anger was due to a singular fact; I was ashamed of what the man was saying and I was mad that I lacked the courage to do what that man did. I certainly believed in what he was saying and I had up to that point even dared shared my faith with non-christians. But something within me that night wanted to find a shovel, dig a hole and jump in.

One thing I was absolutely sure of that night was that I would never do what I saw that man do.

Fast forward about a year, my good friend Chad Cossette, who I actually led to Christ in high school, gave me a message to listen to; Hell's Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort. I instantly loved it, but what I did not realize at that time was that one message would have more impact on me than any other message I had ever heard. That message altered the course of my life. As I began to seek out more teaching by Ray Comfort I discovered that his ministry had a daily two hour radio show called Way of the Master Radio. The radio show often played clips of Ray Comfort preaching open-air. I absolutely loved it and it didn't take me long before I started to fear that I would one day soon find myself preaching from on top of a box.

This past July, a mere two years after I swore my oath of never publicly proclaiming the Gospel, I did it. This Independence Day I stood on a concrete barrier and preached the very same message that had once caused me so much embarrassment. It was my Independence Day, I was exercising my liberty and freedom from the bondage of shame, anger and pride. Since that July 4th I have preached in the open air about 15 times and was even blessed with the opportunity to be personally trained by the man whose message had meant so much to me. Preaching in the public square has proven to be the most terrifying thing that I love to do.

I now find myself in a very privileged line of preachers, Ray Comfort, Todd Friel, Tony Miano, David Wilkerson, Dwight Moody, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, John Knox, Stephen, the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter, Jesus Christ and it is my hope that you will one day join me and experience the absolute pleasure of heralding the Good News of Salvation!

"No sort of defense is needed for preaching out-of-doors; but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his meetinghouse. A defense is required rather for services within buildings than for worship outside of them." C. H. Spurgeon


Sam said...

Hey Joshua. Thanks for this post from the heart! I take my hat off to you! Well Done! I hope to join you soon in that long line!

Joshua Elsom said...

Hi Sam. Welcome.
I see that you are from down under. Have you looked at

Joshua Elsom said...

Hi Sam. Welcome.
I see that you are from down under. Have you looked at

Sam said...

Hey Joshua, Yeah - those guys are doing a great job! You want a fair dinkum gospel presentation, the Appointed Time podcast will give it to ya...

ExPatMatt said...

Hey Joshua,

I must admit, it takes some serious guts to get up there and preach what you practice; fair play to you.

Of course, the idea of Ray Comfort imparting wisdom makes my sides split, but that's just me (and a few others).


Ryan said...

I feel I am on my way to open air preaching, even though much have my life has been controled by fear. It is amazing what God can do. I am watching a video on operation513. God bless you brother

Joshua Elsom said...

Bless you Ryan. I can tell you this much, almost all the fear leaves the moment you start speaking. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. And keep watching those videos they will inspire you.