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Bold Open Air Preaching, Needed Now More Than Ever

volume 19, number 38, September 3, 2020

. . . that I may speak the word of God with boldness.” -Ephesians 6:19

While we were preaching last week at Wildwood, New Jersey, Michael Spangler was preaching from Psalm 2, “Kiss the Son lest He become angry and you perish in the way,” when a young mother walked by with her young daughter who seemed to be about four years old. As the mother heard Michael’s preaching she said very loudly as she covered her daughter’s ears with her hands, “I love Satan. I don’t want my daughter to hear this.” She complained to two nearby policeman about our preaching but they ignored her. I think they liked what we were doing. 

What shall we do in the face of such hardheartedness when people so violently hate God and His word? Consider the ministry of the Apostle Paul as a worthwhile example of how we ought to engage in ministry. Nothing has changed. On his second missionary journey, after heeding the Macedonian call to go into Europe and preach the gospel, Paul made his way from Philippi through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica. Luke tells us that according to Paul’s custom he went directly to the Jews, spending three consecutive Sabbath days, reasoning with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer, and rise again from the dead. This idea of Messiah dying such a shameful death on a cross was scandalous to the Jews. It is to Muslims too. “How could Messiah, who was to reclaim the glory of the Davidic reign, be executed as a common criminal? Impossible!” The Greek word for reason is dialegeto which means to appeal to the mind with the intention of changing the will. In other words, this was not a mere intellectual exercise. This is made more clear when Luke quotes Paul as saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” The Jews were interested and many of the prominent women and God-fearing Gentiles believed Jesus to be the Christ. Their leaders became jealous and turned the crowd into a mob, seeking to kill Paul. He then turned and took the gospel to those who would listen—the Gentiles, the unclean, wretched idolatrous sinners of the region. Many believed the gospel. Two things are clear from Paul’s second missionary journey—wherever he went he faced severe persecution in the form of beatings and imprisonment, and many believed the gospel, calling on the name of the Lord to save them. Paul did not “survey the situation” for several weeks in order to know his audience. He did not soft pedal the message. He later reminded them that his gospel did not come in word only but in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5). He also said that after he had been mistreated in Philippi he had the boldness in God to proclaim to them the gospel of God amidst much opposition, that he had a fond affection to impart to the Thessalonians, not only the gospel but also his very life because they had become dear to him (1 Thessalonians 2:1-8). He loved them and willingly offered up his life so that they might hear the gospel, turn from the their idols, and serve the true and living God. Consequently they willingly and eagerly took the gospel to the rest of the people around them. They were so successful that Paul told them he no longer needed to preach in that area because all had heard the word of God through their efforts (1 Thessalonians 1:8-9). 

Hubert Lindsey[1] was born in 1914 in Georgia and moved to Birmingham, Alabama as a young man. He was converted to Christ at the age of fifteen and began preaching the gospel of grace. He became a powerful evangelistic, holiness preacher and preached alongside men like Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, Gypsy Smith, Bob Jones, Sr., Donald Grey Barnhouse, and Mordecai Ham. He memorized the entire New Testament and two-thirds of the Old Testament. A Jewish rabbi was converted through Lindsay’s ministry and spent fifteen years with him, teaching him the Old Testament with profound depth. His preaching resulted in at least thirteen Baptist churches being planted over the years. He wrote five books, preached for sixty years in fifty nations, and reports 3.5 million people called on the name of the Lord through his preaching. He was a bold, hellfire preacher who called people out on their sin, warning them to flee the wrath of God and run to Jesus as the only means of deliverance. Many loved him. Others hated him. He was beaten numerous times by those who opposed him. Twice he became blind from the beatings but God gave him back his sight. Another time he was shot and survived that too. A gang attacked him with a knife as he preached. By the mid 1960’s he was hearing of the radicals and the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley and determined that he must preach to them. By then he was fifty years old. He stood amongst the radical marxists, Hell’s Angels, Black Panthers, Hare Krishnas, Maoists, fornicators, homosexuals, and drug addicts and warned them to run to Jesus lest they end up in hell.
It is remarkable to realize that though Hubert was preaching hellfire the students at Berkeley, even the radicals, respected him. Consider the following tribute to “Holy” Hubert Lindsey.

Sproul Plaza is hallowed ground for Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement, but the FSM can’t claim a monopoly on Sproul Plaza: Hubert Lindsey preached fire and brimstone at and near UC’s Sproul Plaza from the mid 1960s until the mid 1970s. “Holy Hubert” was an ordained Southern Baptist minister. In Berkeley, he was a street or open-air preacher whose energy and quirky personality established him as a Berkeley fixture, a true son of Sproul Plaza. In Berkeley, he claimed to be friends with Mario Savio (“The most level-headed radical I’ve ever met”), Yippie leaders Jerry Rubin and Stew Albert, Peter Camejo of the Socialist Workers Party, and Berkeley Barb publisher Max Scherr. He claims that in May 1969 he tried to warn James Rector to stay away from the People’s Park demonstrations, and that Rector’s failure to heed his warning cost Rector his life. Lindsey was fascinated by the counterculture, and he advertised in the Barb with a simple sentence: “If you have problems and need help, call Hubert Lindsey.” Whatever the truth in his claims of being friends with famous radicals, the Left tolerated Hubert, even admired him for his outsider status. Articles in the Barb about Lindsey were sympathetic, and the story reporting on his return from a national campus tour was simply “Hail Hubert!”

Lindsey’s faith and politics were largely traditional. He railed against homosexuality and was particularly scornful of Cesar Chavez and the grape strike in Delano. Although he opposed the war in Vietnam, Lindsey did not support demonstrations against the war, but instead urged individual spiritual revolutions.

Lindsey was confrontational, even combative, humorous, and relentless in his preaching. His signature line was “Bless your dirty heart,” a phrase which he used as the title of a 1973 autobiography. He claimed to have converted thousands of Berkeley students to his brand of Christianity and he saw the University as largely Christian by the mid 1970s.[2]

If people are truly lost and on the road to destruction, if Jesus is the only way to the Father, if God’s appointed means of salvation is the preaching of the gospel, if we are debtors to God’s grace, then should we not take the gospel to the lost of our communities? Shall we not ask ourselves the question—do I have that kind of zeal? Am I willing to be a fool for Jesus? If not, why not?

What is missing in most of our evangelistic efforts today is the awareness that people are dead in their sins, unwilling and unable to hear the gospel. The gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. When our preaching comes in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction then something happens to the hearers. There is conviction of sin. Some bow before the preaching in humility, asking, “What must I do to be saved?” while others hate it and seek to kill the propagator. Many in the Reformed community, while espousing the total inability of man to believe the gospel, nonetheless sound like Arminians. They seem to believe the lost person holds the “ace card”, the final say, that he has the ability to repent and believe. He clearly, however, has no such ability (Romans 3:10ff). The only way for a sinner to be saved is for a profound conviction of his need to overwhelm him and this only comes through the Holy Spirit applying the law and gospel to the sinner’s conscience, bringing about regeneration which enables him to repent and believe the gospel. He must see his need or he will never truly come to Jesus. Paul knew this. So did Hubert Lindsey. This truth, the total inability of man to believe the gospel, ought to inspire not hinder evangelistic work. The doctrine of unconditional election, instead of thwarting evangelistic outreach, ought to motivate us more and more to engage in it, knowing that we are to keep on preaching, for God has many people in this city (Acts 18:9-10). Be like Paul and Holy Hubert. 

1.   For more detail on Lindsay’s life go to <> “Not By Sight” Some of his recorded sermons are also found there.
2. <> Holy Hubert Lindsey, Preacher (1914-2003) by Tom Dalzell, 1914.

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