Reading Scripture Open Air
A number of years ago while in New York City with CCN, Wendy broke the sound barrier by reading John 3:16-19. Before she did this, she was very against open-air preaching and said she would never do it, because she is naturally shy. But she agreed to read the scripture, and she launched right into a short testimony afterward. It was a touching and incredible moment for me, and for the crowd which had gathered. In the years that have followed at the Repent and Witness Camp in New York, I have had several first breaks the sound barrier in this manner. Two fellows on my team stand out; they are from Nevada (the hinterlands) and they have never seen as many people in one place as when they had come to NYC. Their names are Ryan and Bryce. They desired to preach in the open air, but they had never done it, especially with so many people present. I suggested that they would come up with a chapter and read it open air.
Ryan is a piece of awesome talent music-wise but was a bit shy about breaking the sound barrier. With a little encouragement, he read John 3 in the open air at Penn Station. When he was finished, I went to pray with him, and he was shaking like a leaf. This approach to reading God’s word should be an example to us all. We should take the word seriously, and should tremble before God as we approach his holy Word. (Like in 2 Kings 22, Ezra 10)
Bryce is also very shy, and being real techno- gadget guy, he had the scripture on an I phone and some notes so he could share with people about the good Shepherd, Jesus. Both these guys from NA-VAH-DUH really stepped out of their comfort zone to honor God and proclaim His Word by simply reading it in the open-air.
Reading Scripture draws a crowd!
I use lots of different methods to draw a crowd; my favorite right now is simply reading scripture. It glorifies God no matter what happens, but it also usually draws a crowd. In urban settings, you just go where there is a crowd, like a bus stop, or a park on a Saturday. In my town, there are parades and festivals like the Fourth of July. There are also music festivals like the Sonshine Festival where there are thousands of professing Christians who gather to hear the Word preached. There are natural crowds all over. In New York City, one of the best ones is at Battery Park, where THOUSANDS of people lined up for hours to go on a boat to see the Statue of Liberty. When there, we opened up the Project Ezra prescribed reading of Romans 5.
It is also beneficial to read the Word as you are waiting underground for the Subways, buses, and even sometimes as you are walking! As far as drawing a crowd, we have experimented at a number of different spots. As an example, in Union Square Park (NYC) we were trying to draw a crowd so that many could preach. Debra, a fellow Ambassador, stepped up and read Romans 5, and this drew some real interest. We then began preaching the good news of God’s great love and the crowd grew larger. I wonder if the strangeness of reading the Word of God in the open air has something to do with it? I think that for some, it was a very unique and curious thing. For some, they were convicted and we had instant hecklers! Whatever it was, God’s Word was read and heard all over Manhattan.
Another amazing place to read in the open-air is a University campus. My team and I will often go on campus and begin reading. For many of my students, their first experience breaking the sound barrier comes with reading a familiar passage of scripture.
Pictured above is Calvin, a CCN student who broke the sound barrier for the very first time by reading the scripture, and then naturally launched into a message about the scripture he had just read. This led to many conversations with University students who had heard him read and share the good news of the Gospel.
Reading Scripture Starts a Conversation!
When you read the scripture in the open air, oftentimes someone will stop you and want to talk about the scripture you had read. In Union Park, this meant the ‘Black’ Hebrew Israelites (It’s a real strange cult), the Jehovah’s Witnesses, some Catholics, and even the Rastafarians got involved.
Reading the Word…..
Many people, even people who claim to be Christians, have never really read the entire Bible. In many churches, the Bible is an afterthought. To actually hear it read is a shock to the system, and it confronts beliefs that people have about Jesus Christ and their faith! This is why so many wanted to have an in-depth discussion over the scripture, because of their tightly held beliefs that the scripture refutes. I personally have had some awesome discussions directly after reading the scripture in the open-air.
Reading the Scripture naturally launches Preaching
When someone reads the scripture aloud, one can exegete it aloud. The urban setting allows for this to happen. You can literally preach a Sunday-like message (gospel-centered, of course) to the crowd which has heard the reading. You can hand out Bibles or Gospels of John’s to the crowd and we invited them to follow along as you read and preach from those books.
This is not a new method. It does not matter if you are the only one listening! I encourage you to find a place where people are, like a park, a movie theater line, the main street, wherever. Just open up a chapter of the Word and read it. You will see some incredible changes in yourself and the people who hear you.