Open-air preaching or street preaching by definition is the act of evangelizing a religious faith in public places. It is an ancient method of proselytizing a religious or social message and has been used by many cultures and religious traditions, but today it is usually associated with evangelical Protestant Christianity. Supporters of this approach note that both Jesus and many of the Old Testament prophets often preached about God in public places. It is one of the oldest approaches to evangelism.
Street preaching is a very broad category and a big spectrum of behavior. In history they date back to the 18th century, traveling from village to village and spreading the good word of god. Nowadays it looks closer to the people waving signs on the side of the road.
One of the earliest open-air preachers of Christianity, according to the gospels, was Jesus Christ, whose first recorded sermon was the Sermon on the Mount, which took place on a mountainside in the open air. (Luke 6:17–49), it was recorded that Jesus also gave an open-air sermon known as the Sermon on the Plain. In Mark 16:15, street preaching is seen as a commandment from Jesus as a way to warn people about sins and their consequences.
Naturally one will arrive at the simple question of “why?”. What provokes a person take to the streets and preach? Some may presume it’s a way to spread the good news of Christ’s salvation to the world. To praise and worship the King of Kings. Others could presume it’s to earn favor with god, like the knee crawl to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some Christians might feel it is their duty to do such a thing.
Whether this is legitimate or not may depend on which denomination you ask. Some Christians feel it is a duty to “stand boldly for Christ” in the “culture wars,” and might feel this is one way to do that. It is believed that you will be blessed for spreading the Gospel, a reward awaits this brother in heaven. That bold action exemplifies being on the front line in the battle.
Playing devil’s advocate – what you are getting is unrequested information being sent to you through advertising. Many may be offended by a religion that uses this approach. I think, a question to ask ourselves is, ‘why does our society take more offense at gospel being offered than say at a tv commercials product being advertised?’. Do we write this off as another one of the million ads we face a day? Even the smallest advertising can carry influence. This is nothing new. Historically this is what we the people do. Ex. from politics dating back to the beginning of time – to Nazis soiling the Jewish reputation with viscous cartoons posted throught towns.
Gotta love living in the bible belt. If you’ve ever been to places like Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, etc? All the billboards are for churches, strippers, or sex shops. I’ve always wondered how that works. The stretch of i75 that goes into Florida is the epitome of my point. If you’ve ever driven on the highway, after endless alligator counting and acres of wetland desert, you will be bombarded by 100ft x 100 ft, giant full-color billboards with subject matter ranging from machine-gun gun shows in town, anti-abortion baby killing propaganda, to Jesus and his military tanks behind him. Seeing such things fit right into middle America’s aesthetic and religious beliefs.
As an iconic character, Jesus Christ is arguably the most globalized figure and the most commodified name on the planet. I believe it’s only natural that it synced with the corporate American capitalist machine. Graphically it’s a perfect canvas. The souvenir shop needs products and evangelists need to spread – it is an ideal collaboration. The gift shop space has since ravaged middle America’s pocket cash and capitalized off these such “holy purchases”. Every gas station sells Jesus bumper stickers, keychains, hats, shirts, air fresheners, lighters, billboards; the list goes on – “Ye, shall not escape the message of the lord”.
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
~ Mark 16:15.
Branching into street culture, Kanye West released his 9th album JESUS IS KING in 2019 under “Ye” Its rollout came with a gospel quire, Sunday services, and a full merch apparel line boldly branding using JESUS as the center-fold. The collection was to be desired, with resale prices skyrocketing in value.
I see how spreading positivity is a beautiful thing, I think it brings joy to those out on the front line to imagine what goes through the minds of the motorists that pass it. It gives comfort to believers and maybe a nudge to non-believers that you just don’t know who might need to see that message.