The Prophetic Movement and the Open Air Preaching Movement

I believe that there are two moves of God going on right now that every Christian should try to be involved in–to some extent. The PROPHETIC MOVEMENT and the OPEN AIR PREACHING MOVEMENT. Only now am I realizing that each of these two movements have fed my spirit since 2006 or so, and have led me to call myself an “Evangelical mystic.” Since then, I realize that using the word “mystic” usually gets me in more trouble than it’s worth, so now I mainly opt for the word “Pentecostal” or “Charismatic.” But really, I am still a “mystic,” because I believe in Christian contemplative prayer like the Catholic saints of old. The contemplative life is a phrase that the saints used to signify those who lead a life that is strictly geared toward fasting, solitude, silence, and contemplation: so that they can more often experience dreams, visions, and the voice of God. The active life is a phrase that they used to describe the saints that barely ever prayed, fasted, and contemplated; but rather, most of their sainthood was gained by doing good works for the church, such as helping the sick and poor, or preaching and teaching theology. The mixed life started to appear as a phrase around the 1200s with St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic of Osma. It is an approach to the Christian life that tries to mix the two into a contemplative-active life. In my opinion: the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, Christ, and the apostles–all lived a mixed life.

The Prophetic Movement: A Contemplative Life Revival

When I use the phrase “the prophetic movement,” I am referring to what began in Kansas City Fellowship in the 1980s with Mike Bickle, and the “Kansas City prophets” Bob Jones, Paul Cain, John Paul Jackson, James Goll, Larry Randolph, and others. Dreams, visions, the voice of God, impressions, signs, and coincidences were brought to the attention of young pastor Bickle in the early 80s, through the gift of prophecy operating in Bob Jones. As Pastor Bickle embraced these gifts in his church, other would-be prophets arose, and also ventured to prophesy their dreams, visions, and prophetic words. Paul Cain and Bob Jones became the senior leaders of these prophets; and were mainly influenced by William Branham from the 1950s Healing Revival with Oral Roberts and Jack Coe. Eventually Jones and Cain fell into sexual sin, and brought great embarrassment to Bickle, as well as to John Wimber–leader of the Vineyard–who had temporarily embraced the movement, and then disbanded Kansas City Fellowship. Other areas of “prophetic inaccuracy” led to the decline of their influence: mainly in the area of misinterpreting dreams and not using strict Bible-based discernment against demonic revelations. In 1996, Mike Bickle published Growing in the Prophetic, in which he explains the triumphs and tragedies of his experience with prophetic ministry in the church.

But 1996 was not the end of the story. The prophetic movement is still very much alive today, but its just not localized at Bickle’s church. Since then, Bickle has changed the name of his church and ministry to the International House of Prayer. This is a unique place where Charismatics come to a prayer room that is open 24 hours and 7 days a week, by a volunteer worship staff. There is now talk of a side-move called “the prayer movement” being led by Bickle, Lou Engle, Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets, and James Goll. In the midst of all this, there has not only been a proliferation of “prophetic manuals” of the prophetic ministry since the early 80s, but also throughout the 90s, and early 2000s. One recent one that just came out is called The Seer by Jim Goll. It has been on bookshelves for several years now. It is a basic introduction to dreams and visions by one of the “Kansas City prophets” who has survived a lot of the calamities, trials, tribulations, and storms in his life and ministry. He is very seasoned and experienced, and has written many other books along these lines. I have been spiritually impacted by several of his books. Another great book of his is called Wasted on Jesus, in which he goes in depth about contemplative prayer, and borrows thoughts from Richard Foster’s Prayer and Mark and Patti Virkler’s Communion with God. (It is worth noting that Richard Foster has always been indirectly involved in the movement.) Today, the movement is mainly known to independent Charismatic churches, and is largely unknown or even rejected by traditional Pentecostal churches. Any Charismatic churches that have any spiritual, theological, or historical ties to John Wimber, Mike Bickle, the Toronto Blessing, or the Vineyard–are basically impacted by the prophetic movement. But it is true that there are still classic Pentecostals embracing the “prophetic ministry” such as Dr. Bill Hamon, Jonas Clark, and others. And many of them still reject the Toronto Blessing, but embrace prophetic ministry.

The Open Air Preaching Movement: An Active Life Revival

In the 1200s with St. Francis and St. Dominic, open air preaching was also revived after centuries of disuse. Into the 1300s and 1400s, the Franciscan and Dominican orders were known as the “preaching friars” orders or preaching monks. But it was mainly the Dominicans, which to this day, are also called the Order of Preachers (O.P.), and put a stronger emphasis on theology than the Franciscans did. These street preachers focused on universities and town squares. Then John Wycliffe (d. 1384) arose in England and translated the Bible into English. He preached against various Catholic doctrines in the streets and marketplaces, but was never burned at the stake. He died of a stroke later in life. George Wishart (d. 1546) and John Knox (d. 1572) both had the gift of prophecy, both were Gospel street preachers, and both were the founders of the Presbyterian Church. I think modern-day Presbyterians would do well to follow the examples of their lives recorded in The Scots Worthies by John Howie. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Presbyterian with the gift of prophecy or one who was street preaching! I would like to be convinced they exist today. Richard Cameron (d. 1680) and Donald Cargill (d. 1681) were later Presbyterian open air preachers, who preached in the fields of Scotland. George Whitefield (d. 1770) and John Wesley (d. 1791), the founders of the Methodist Church, were great Gospel street preachers. In their times and after, many other Methodist open air preachers spread their denomination everywhere they could by horseback. Peter Cartwright (d. 1872) was a later Methodist open air preacher who was one of the major voices in the Second Great Awakening. Charles Spurgeon (d. 1892)–the “Prince of Preachers,” D. L. Moody (d. 1899), R. A. Torrey (d. 1928), and Billy Graham were all active street preachers at times in their lives; for this, they were known as “Evangelists” and were the forerunners of modern “Evangelicalism” and “Evangelicals.”

In the 1960s at the University of California at Berkeley, during the hippie revolution, a fiery Baptist street preacher from Georgia named Hubert Lindsey or “Holy Hubert” as he was nicknamed, became the sparkplug of the Jesus movement. He was a very harsh and rude holiness preacher, but made the hippies think about Jesus seriously, and many of them got saved. In 1975, Jed Smock or “Brother Jed,” began The Campus Ministry USA, in which he draws from Holy Hubert’s influence, but takes it to another level of harshness by supporting what he calls “confrontational evangelism.” It is probably because of Smock that most street preachers have a bad name today. I doubt that he is even saved at all. He is the most rude, hateful, obnoxious preacher I have ever heard. He also openly preaches about dirty pornographic topics in the most explicit and filthy ways possible. I pray he will get really saved some day. Throughout the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, many street preachers have come and gone: most of them following in the harsh and confrontational footsteps of Holy Hubert and Brother Jed. In reaction to these awful examples of street preaching, and terrible misrepresentations of the Gospel, softer and less confrontational methods of evangelism were developed, such as friendship evangelism, one-on-one witnessing, and “God’s love” to the exclusion of any mention of “Hell fire and brimstone.” Charismatics have a new thing called “treasure hunts.” Its where they seek visions and words of knowledge from God, to go find one-on-one witnessing opportunities, so they can go and share “God’s love.” But is any fiery repentance preaching going on? Justification by faith and sanctification by obedience to God and the Spirit? No, not at all. Public crowd preaching is shunned. Everything is this passive one-on-one stuff you barely ever find in the Gospels and the Book of Acts! In a couple of years, some new “soft” evangelism method will probably be invented. ANYTHING BUT OPEN AIR PREACHING!

Ray Comfort, from New Zealand, changed the open air preaching scene around 2002 (10 years ago) with his TV show called The Way of the Master, co-hosted with Kirk Cameron. This has truly sparked a revival in the area of traditional open air evangelism. Looking back to old-time open air preachers like Whitefield, Wesley, and Spurgeon has shown Comfort and many others that the modern church has largely lost the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the primary objects that the modern church has lost, according to Comfort, is the usage of God’s commandments as a means of bringing conviction of sin to the human conscience, and moving man to repentance and true conversion. In the current scene, SOAPA is an organization that carries a lot of very harsh and “Holy Hubert” type of street preachers. YouTube has enabled many open air preachers thousands of views from around the world. The most popular are Kevin Farrer with Cry to God; Kerrigan Skelly with PinPoint Evangelism; and Jesse Morrell with Open Air Outreach. Skelly and Morrell are both around 30 years old, and preach repentance and holiness at college campuses and on the streets. However, I regret admitting that both Skelly and Morrell have a strong 100% acceptance of virtually everything that Charles Finney said in his Systematic Theology. And they especially despise the concept of natural inability to obey God’s commandments, which has led them to reject the traditional orthodox doctrine of original sin. This is Pelagianism, and Morrell makes no apologies for it: he openly admits to being a Pelagian; he also seems to follow in the footsteps of Jed Smock somewhat. But I pray for God’s best in the lives of Skelly and Morrell, because I still believe that God is using them greatly to convict college students across America.

Do you see anything wrong? Then GET OUT THERE YOURSELF AND PREACH AS YOU BELIEVE CHRIST WOULD! That is one of my goals in life. The best open air preacher I know of right now is John Duncan from Georgia. He was originally one of the founders of SOAPA, but when he began to incorporate healing evangelism into his street preaching, SOAPA kicked him out. His main influences are John Wesley, William Booth, and other Wesleyan holiness Gospel preachers. And in the area of healing, John G. Lake, Curry Blake, and–John Wimber–author of Power Evangelism and Power Healing, and who, for a while was involved Bickle’s prophetic movement mentioned above. [12/21/11--Recently Mr. Duncan told me that he does not wholeheartedly approve of everything Curry Blake and John Wimber said or wrote. He has only gleaned from some of the things they have said about divine healing.]

12/13/11 – Today it dawned on me, that a lot of the time, I have never seen Ray Comfort draw a very large crowd and preach the Gospel to them. Most of what I have seen on his TV show is one-on-one witnessing with Gospel tracts. I have a lot of respect for Ray Comfort, but I don’t think he’s got all the evangelistic stuff worked out perfectly. I certainly don’t. I’m learning as I go. Then I look at Kerrigan Skelly and Jesse Morrell–and those guys can draw a crowd of 50 people in 20 minutes at any college campus. Why? Because they are confrontational evangelists. They are harsh. They rebuke sin over and over. And they never stop talking about obeying God, repentance, and exposing sin. They dwell on sin, repentance, and holiness very much. THIS DRAWS A CROWD! I saw one video on the Internet from 6 months ago–where Ray Comfort had actually gotten into some confrontational rebuking of an atheist woman. It drew a crowd of 100 people. Hmm. Yet the atheist woman was not converted, but left angry. I hope to think that some in that crowd were saved. But did Jesus say, “Go into all the world, and confrontationally rebuke every creature”? No. He said, “Preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

You may reason, “But if I simply preach the Gospel, it will not draw a crowd. People will get bored. I’ll get nothing but passersby.”

My answer to you would be, “Then you don’t know the real Gospel. If you knew the Gospel, then you would go on and on about justification by faith, regeneration, and holy living. And that will draw a crowd. We don’t need confrontational evangelism or friendship evangelism–we need Wesleyan evangelism. Read the sermons of John Wesley and George Whitefield–then go and preach what they did. Go see if that draws a crowd; it worked for them. And if you want to incorporate divine healing into your preaching, then read John G. Lake, Curry Blake, and John Wimber.”

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About John and Rebekah Boruff

John Boruff is a Philosophy and Religion graduate of UNC Pembroke. In his free time, he street preaches, blogs about the Christian life, and has interests in evangelism and prophetic ministry. He is currently in the process of writing, and has posted his e-book "How to Experience God" on this site. John and his wife Rebekah have been married for 5 years, and are happy to be walking with Jesus together. They have a beautiful 4 year-old daughter named Mary Elizabeth; and live near Raleigh, North Carolina.
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