Greetings! I want to encourage each of you to enter into the harvest for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ. We find ourselves at a pivotal time to engage our culture and I want to give you some specific reasons to support open-air preaching. Before doing so, however, I would like to briefly introduce myself.
My name is Bill Roach and my wife’s name is Molly. I am originally from Salem, IA, and Molly was raised in Clemmons, NC. We have been married for six years and we currently reside in Wake Forest, NC and attend Grace Baptist Church. I grew up in a very religious community. Salem was a Quaker town surrounded by farmland inhabited mainly by Roman Catholics. My parents were divorced. My mother’s side of the family was all Roman Catholic. My father’s side did not attend church regularly. Forty miles to the east was Nauvoo, IL, which is the location of a significant Mormon Temple in the Midwest. Thirty miles to the west was Fairfield, IA and the Maharshi School of Transcendental Meditation. Forty miles to the north was Iowa City, which homes one of the most atheistic and secular universities in our nation. Even though people believe the Midwest is nothing more than flatlands filled with people who generally adhere to simple midwestern values, this is not the case. The region is a melting pot of opposing ideologies and in many ways, it is a microcosm of the United States at large.
I came to Christ in high school when a farmer’s wife paid to send me to a church camp near Eldora, IA. I kept claiming that I couldn’t go because we didn’t have the money. Truth be told, we probably didn’t have the money, but God in His providence saw it fit to use that camp to bring me to saving faith. Before coming to Christ, I was radically opposed to the gospel. I remember hating Christians and thought Christianity was absurd. How do you know God exists? Why should I trust the Bible when the Mormons told me it was corrupt? Why should I believe in salvation by faith alone when my family has told me I needed the sacraments and the saints? These types of questions plagued my thinking and were smokescreens I used to not embrace the gospel. Then, while at church camp, a local pastor and a few other people answered my questions and clearly explained the gospel to me. I remember coming home a converted teenager. But what I did not expect was the reception I would receive from my family and friends. Immediately Roman Catholic family members and friends started to rebuke my mother for letting me become a Protestant. I lost all of my friends at school because my newfound faith couldn’t be reconciled with their secular atheism. For the next several years, whether engaging friends in high school or serving a local church in Chicago, IL, I either had to find questions or stop sharing my faith. I chose the former because the latter undermined the teaching of my Lord.
In the providence of God, I moved to Charlotte, NC to study at Southern Evangelical Seminary, which at the time was the premier school of apologetics and evangelism. I had the special privilege of studying underneath some of the top apologists in the world and eventually came to serve as Norman Geisler’s personal research assistant. After completing my undergraduate and graduate degrees at SES, I came to Wake Forest to pursue a Ph.D. at Southeastern. Throughout this entire time, God allowed me to immerse myself in the languages, history, philosophy, biblical studies, and apologetics. I also had the opportunity to speak before groups at churches and universities. However, one thing I still lacked: I knew that my education had to go beyond the walls of the local church and finely mannered university classrooms. God had been convicting me that I needed to get into the fray of ideas in a way beyond the sanctuary and classroom; God was calling me to become an open-air preacher/apologist.
For far too long churches have failed to recognize that our society has shifted to embrace a variety of ideas contrary to the gospel. We have relegated ourselves to our ghettos of ideas when all along the world was changing around us. Francis Schaeffer warned of this situation facing evangelicalism and the necessity of engaging our post-Christian worldview; loving engagement, engagement, nonetheless. Schaeffer discussed the apologetic situation of our day and coined the concept of taking the roof off your opponents’ worldview. This is done by showing the incoherence of their claims and ideas. However, when a person’s worldview is destroyed and they are left without any foundations, it is a very dangerous and pivotal time in their life. Schaeffer asserted it was at this very point we must proclaim the gospel to the person and demonstrate the coherence and superiority of the biblical worldview. In our day and age open-air preaching is essential because it gets Christians outside of our ghetto of ideas to engage our age of unbelief. No one is better positioned than the open-air preacher, whether it be at festivals or sporting events, street corners or side roads, to demonstrate the folly of the non-Christian worldview and proclaim boldly the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ