Monday, August 22, 2011

Open Air Service

Yesterday marked the beginning of a short season for me as a preacher at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church. Careful worship preparation emphasized the theme "Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn" in so many ways - by music, prayers and visuals. I particularly appreciated the prayers said by three members of the congregation (miked up but sitting among the hundreds gathered) which really expressed need and trust in ways with which we could all identify. This was real from the heart stuff! Also, my sermon was deliberately interrupted half way through as the congregation sang a response: "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy." Several people said how helpful it was to respond in this way. I need to be willing to do this again! At the end, anyone needing prayer ministry was invited to remain seated for prayer team members to come to them. I could see a few, in different parts of the church receiving ministry long afterwards. It is a privilege for an itinerant preacher to belong in such a congregation, even for a few weeks.

But now to the open-air service. I continue to think about this and its dynamics:

  • Its very strangeness (only the second time for Elmhurst churches) must be taken into account. I cannot just preach as though (safely) within four walls.

  • Its evangelistic opportunity is high level. Who knows how many people may "overhear" the gospel as they walk past or live in surrounding apartments.

  • Its boldness requires a clear message that can be understood by everyone and that issues in practical outcomes.

  • Its inclusion of communion means a wonderful opportunity to do something for Jesus publicly that will "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" ( 1 Cor 11: 26).

In preaching we sometimes talk about the importance of "contextualizing the message." It needs to be appropriate for its hearers. Oh, yes. That's what I need to be aware of as I work this week!

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